Ireland is a peaceful green oasis whose grassy meadows and rolling hills will entrance you. There’s a good reason why they call it the Emerald Isle.

If you have never been to Ireland, you are in for a treat. On this page is a whole lot of Ireland travel tips and inspiration! Plus, maps and travel tips to help you plan Epic trips to Ireland.

What’s to love about Ireland?

  1. The slower pace! It’s a great place to leave the craziness of the world behind (unless you are headed to Dublin, and then you’re probably looking for a busy city vibe.)
  2. The people: The Irish people are the salt of the earth, laid back and warm but with that spunky nature that makes them so endearing. They are without a doubt one of the best things about Ireland! So, strike up a conversation with an Irish person!
  3. Irish Pubs: Lively Irish folk music, traditional Irish dance, world famous Irish whisky and loads of merriment can be found in an Irish pub! good times! and so much fun!
  4. Prehistoric sites, some older than the pyramids themselves! Come for Ireland’s rich history!
  5. Lush ferry forests with moss covered rocks
  6. Rugged coastlines, with crashing jewel toned waters and stunning views…Ireland’s natural beauty is second to none!
  7. Idyllic pastoral scenery with roaming sheep and horses and green hills!
  8. Ancient castles, built to keep invaders at bay
  9. Hearty grub AND MICHELIN fine dining establishments

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Ireland for the first time!

about Ireland

Ireland, one small island, two countries! the southern 80% of the island of Ireland is the Republic of Ireland (ROI), a self governing autonomous country. The northern 20% is a separate country, called Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom (along with Scotland and Wales.) There are no border crossings between the countries, so you are free to move about the island without restriction.

official name: The Republic of Ireland / Northern Ireland

population: Republic of Ireland (5 million) Northern Ireland (1.9 million)

size: 84,421 square kilometers (Wikipedia)

major cities: Dublin (592,713) Belfast (293,298) Cork (222,333) Limerick (102,287)

climate: mild and rainy, it rarely snows

Official Irish language: English and Irish (Gaeilge) are the official languages in the Republic of Ireland. Less than 5% of Irish are fluent in Irish Gaelic but in recent years the country has taken the initiative to bring it back. In Northern Ireland it’s English. You’ll find Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas predominantly along the west coast, where Irish is widely spoken.

in case of Emergency: In the Republic for Ireland dial 112 for police (An Garda Siochana or just Gardai) and medical assistance. Northern Ireland uses 999 for police (Police Force of Northern Ireland) and medical assistance.

Irish Flag Republic of Ireland: (There is no official flag for Northern Ireland, instead the Union Flag or Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom is flown in Northern Ireland)

Republic of Ireland Flag
Republic of Ireland Flag

time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Ireland is usually anywhere from 4-8 hours ahead of the US, depending on where you are located and time of year. They have one time zone and participate in Daylight Savings Time. They move the clock forward 1 hour on the last Sunday of March, and back on the last Sunday in October. Save yourself a lot of trouble with calculations and just ask Google “what time is it in Ireland?”

Date: In Ireland the day comes first, then the month. Example: 3/12/23 is December 3, 2023. This is a VERY important thing to remember when booking hotels, activities, tickets, etc.

Time: Ireland uses the 12-hour clock, but you may want to familiarize yourself with the 24-hour clock (what we like to call military time.) Half-seven is 7:30, not 6:30.

the metric system / commas and decimals / temperatures

They use the metric system in Ireland. However, imperial measures are still often used alongside their metric equivalents.

Temperature conversion: Temperatures are denoted in Celsius. 28 C is 82 F, 37.8 is 100, 32 is 0 (freezing)

Ireland Attractions Map

Follow this link to be redirected to an interactive Google Map of Ireland’s best attractions.

Ireland Landmarks and attractions map, photo links to interactive Google map
Ireland Landmarks and main attractions map, photo links to interactive Google map

Ireland points of interest by state

Find the best Ireland attractions to add to your first visit, listed by state, add them to your travel itinerary!

Map of Ireland
Map of Ireland from Nations Online Project
Map of Counties in Ireland
Map of Counties in Ireland from Wikipedia

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

These are some of the most popular attractions in Ireland by state:

(You’ll find the famous Wild Atlantic Way along Ireland’s west coast)

  • Kerry
  • Tipperary
  • Kilkenny
    • Kilkenny
  • Cork
    • Cork
    • Cobh
  • Antrim (Northern Ireland)
    • Giant’s Causeway
    • Dark Hedges
    • Titanic Belfast Museum
  • Clare
    • Cliffs of Moher
  • Galway
    • Galway
    • Aran Islands
  • Dublin
    • (Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar, Trinity College, Famine Statues, Molly Malone Statue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral)
  • Meath
    • Bru’ na Bo’inne Visitor Center (Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth)
    • Hill of Tara

Must see additions for your Ireland Travel Itinerary

Hiking and Biking: Check out the Komoot website to plan out your trail activities. (Europe’s answer to All Trails!)

Booking tours and experiences

My favorite place to book is through Get Your Guide.

Free Ireland Itineraries

affordable castles to stay at in Ireland (under $300!) (check out Ballintotis Castle, have the entire castle to yourself!)

(struggling to plan your own Ireland itinerary? 6 Simple steps for planning your dream trip)

Traveling to Ireland Basics

getting into Ireland (legalities)

Do I need I need a Visa to travel to Ireland from the US?

US citizens do not need a visa to travel to Ireland from the United States. You are permitted to stay in Ireland up to 90 days without a visa. For more information check the US Department of State. Non US citizens can check with Ireland Department of Affairs or the UK Government website.

ETIAS 

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is an electronic travel authorization for visitors to the European Union or Schengen area who are visa exempt. This system is expected to go into effect sometime in 2024 or 2025. Neither Ireland nor Northern Ireland are expected to participate in the ETIAS program.

Passport validity

There is no minimum passport validity requirement for U.S. citizens entering Ireland. – US Department of State. To enter the United Kingdom, your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your planned stay.

top 5 major Irish airports:

(all offer direct flights to the US except for Cork and Kerry)

  • Dublin Airport (DUB)
  • Shannon Airport (SNN)
  • Cork Airport (ORK)
  • Ireland West Knock Airport (NOC)
  • Kerry Airport (KIR)
  • Belfast Northern Ireland (BFS)

(source: World Data Info)

Ireland Airports Map
Ireland Airports Map

surrounding countries

The island is home to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that’s it. However, these countries are just a short ferry ride (or plane ride) away:

  • Scotland (only 17 miles from Northern Ireland at their closest point)
  • Wales
  • Isle of Man
  • England

smoking?

Smoking is quite common in Ireland. Although prohibited in most businesses and restaurants you may not be able to escape the smoke on the patio at restaurants.

staying connected

You’ll want to stay connected while in Ireland. The best ways to use your phone to stay connected include:

your cell carrier
Most cell phone companies offer rates for international travel, but it can be costly, around $10 per day. Check your provider for rates.

These are some low cost or free options for staying connected:

getting free wi-fi
You’ll either need cell phone (mobile) service or wi-fi to use these options. You can usually find free wi-fi at hotels, tourist hubs, and Tourist Information Centers.

WhatsApp
Is an app where you can make calls, send texts, and video chat through a wi-fi connection.

Facebook messenger
Make calls and video chat with your friends at home who are also on Facebook.

Purchase a phone or a SIM card upon arrival
You can pick up an inexpensive phone when you get to Ireland. Alternatively, you can purchase an eSIM or SIM card to replace the one in your phone. This inexpensive option will run you less than $30 per month.

Wi-fi calling
Find the “allow wi-fi calls” setting on your cell phone. Even though we don’t have cell service in Ireland, we are able to make and receive phone calls from the US when connected to wi-fi.

Transportation when traveling in Ireland: Getting around Ireland!

by train

The public transport system in Ireland isn’t quite as extensive as the one’s you’ll find in mainland Europe, and travel times may be longer. Trains can be pricey but are a great way to get around if you are fearful of driving on the left! Irish Rail is the official website.

Ireland Rail Map, travel Ireland tips
Ireland Rail Map from Iarnród Éireann

by bus

Buses are cheap but slow. Check Bus Eireann for bus travel, or Rome2Rio to plan routes.

Tips for using public transportation:

  • Consider purchasing a rail pass.
  • return ticket = round-trip
  • trains in Ireland can be very punctual, so arrive on time!
  • get on the front of the bus and exit the rear
  • you may need to push a button to open the doors, and may need to alert the driver that your stop is approaching.

You may be interested inpublic transportation for beginners

Driving in Ireland

If you’re like me, you want to explore the countryside and smaller towns so you may be considering a road trip. A car allows you to get off the beaten track, my favorite place to be! Be mindful that you may experience very narrow roads in rural areas. I call them lanes! Slow down and be alert. If you meet a car someone may need to back up!

In Ireland they drive on the left side of the road. The driver sits on the right side of the car. This can be a nerve-wracking situation if you are used to driving on the right. The very best tip I got, “the driver is always in the center of the road.” That should keep you on track!

Can I drive in Ireland with a US Driver’s License?

You can drive in Ireland for up to 12 months on a US Driver’s License as a tourist.

Rules of the Road:

For rules of the road check the Irish Road Safety website or the UK Government website. Speed limit signs in Ireland are in KM per hour, in Northern Ireland MPH.

Road signs:

Be aware that if you are traveling to areas where Gaeilge is still spoken you may not be able to read the road signs! Be sure when you are planning your trip that you make note of both the English and Irish names.

paying tolls

Ten of Ireland’s eleven toll roads have conventional barrier toll plazas. Unless your car has an electronic tag, you will need to stop and pay your toll in cash.

renting a car:

Rental cars are expensive in Ireland. Staying in the city? You don’t need a car. Parking in the lot (car park) is expensive and there are other ways to get around.

Rental Car basics:

  • you’ll need a valid driver’s license
  • explore your options on Expedia, then book with the rental company direct
  • if you aren’t used to driving on the left, consider spending extra on an automatic
  • check to see if you will need an International Driving Permit
  • INSURANCE: Confirm rental car coverage with your credit card. I recommend asking for a letter stating such coverage and carrying it with you. You may be pressured to buy insurance by rental car companies otherwise. If your card doesn’t cover you, you will need to purchase additional insurance from the car rental company.
  • Consider adding the navigation to your rental. You may not be able to rely on Google Maps and your phone.

getting gas (petrol):

You may find that your credit card doesn’t work at the gas pump, or that it requires a PIN. I use a debit card at the gas pump. Be sure you know your PIN number.

Ireland Tours

If you aren’t comfortable with driving, your best option may be to book a tour. Tour guides are knowledgeable about their home country and they’ll do the driving for you! You can book day tours from a home base, or book multi-day tours. I like to shop for tours on Get Your Guide.

accommodation tips

where to stay in Ireland

Accommodations in Ireland run the gamut from luxury accommodations to hostels. My favorite places to stay are charming cottages, especially the thatched roofed kind! and castles!

(Book your accommodations in advance: Especially during peak season.)

Ready to book your accommodation? use this link and I’ll get a small commission which helps me fund this website! thank you! For vacation rentals my favorite place to book is VRBO.

shopping

I’ve noticed that shops, even in tourist areas, close pretty early. So, if you plan to do some shopping you’ll want to pay attention to opening hours or you may miss out!

what to buy in Ireland

Popular Souvenirs from Ireland include:

  • Irish whiskey
  • Emeralds, why not pick up an emerald when you’re touring the Emerald Isle?
  • Waterford Crystal
  • Claddagh Rings
  • Irish breakfast tea
  • Aran sweaters

Bring your own bag
European countries are, in general, very environmentally conscious so bring your own tote bags or shopping bags. If you forget to bring one along you will be offered a bag, but you’ll be charged a small sum for the bag.

Eating in Ireland

Dining etiquette

Be prepared to use basic dining etiquette: No elbows on the dinner table, put your cell phone way, avoid making loud noises while eating, such as slurping, or chewing loudly. It is considered polite to finish all the food on your plate. In general, it isn’t common to share entrees or ask for a doggie bag. Cheers! ‘sláinte’ (pronounced ‘slan-cha’).

tipping

That brings us to the matter of tipping. A 10% tip is generally sufficient for good service. Before you tip check your bill to make sure a service charge hasn’t been added already. If you want to pay the tip with a card tell them what the total should be BEFORE they run the card.

water

It’s ok to ask for tap water at restaurants in Ireland. However, they are not required to provide it free of charge.

Irish Food

Some popular dishes to try on your first trip include:

  • Fish and Chips, they do it best here! (if you haven’t figured it out yet, French fries are called “chips” in Ireland and the UK.) Stop by the “chippy” and get ya some!
  • Hearty Irish Stew, tender stewed meat (usually lamb) and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots
  • full Irish breakfasts: bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, beans, soda bread or toast, tomatoes, mushrooms, and white or black pudding…and it is FILLING! Don’t make plans for lunch! “pudding?” black pudding is blood sausage made with animal fat and oats or grains. White pudding is the same, less the blood.
  • scones with jam and clotted cream (think American biscuits and fluffy butter)
  • afternoon tea service: a delightful and delicious tradition!
  • soda bread
  • Colcannon and champ: Champ is mashed potatoes with chopped spring onions (scallions) and milk. Colcannon is Champ with the addition of cabbage.
  • Boiled bacon and cabbage
  • Boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake
fish and chips, popular dish in Ireland and the United Kingdom
fish and chips, my favorite go to meal in Ireland!
Irish Stew, foods to try when you travel to Ireland
Irish Stew
soda bread, foods to try when you travel to Ireland
soda bread

health and safety tips

Ireland travel restrictions and safety concerns

Is traveling to Ireland safe?

Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world. The US Department of State is your best resource for keeping yourself safe and informed.

enroll in Smart Step Services

Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) travel advisory program to receive security updates on the country you will be traveling to and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you travel Ireland:

health insurance and travel insurance coverage

Some health insurance companies don’t cover expenses incurred overseas. You’ll need to contact your health insurance provider to check coverage. Covered? great! You may want to consider additional coverage. These inexpensive policies cover things like emergency medical evacuation, accidental death, natural disaster evacuation, lost luggage coverage and more! IMG Global is a great place to shop for these types of policy.

Many people prefer to protect their trip with travel insurance. I shop for mine at Travel Insurance.com. (check out their Cancel For Any Reason policies!)

Safety Precautions

Ireland is a relatively safe country, but it is still important to take necessary common sense precautions to avoid any potential dangers. Here are some Ireland tips on safety:

  • Pickpockets are an issue, especially in larger cities, crowded tourist hotspots, and transportation hubs like train stations. One of my favorite ways to combat pickpockets and theft is with a money belt.
  • If you think you might fall asleep on a train or bus, be sure to secure your belongings by wrapping the strap around either your arm or leg.
  • Use crosswalks (zebra crossing) and don’t cross against lights. It’s safer for you and Jaywalking in a ticket able offense in Ireland. Fines can be stiff but are hardly ever enforced.
  • Basic rules for big cities apply: Stay in well-lit areas at night and avoid walking alone in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Money Matters

They use two different currencies in Ireland. The official currency of the Republic of Ireland is the Euro (broken down into cents.) Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK, their official currency is the Pound Sterling (broken down into pence.)

Euros European Currency of the European Union
Euros. The currency of the European Union
pound sterling notes, King Charles, UK currency
King Charles pound sterling notes, UK currency. Ah, I really miss the queen! © Bank of England

Exchange rate

The exchange rate for Euros to dollars is close to 1:1, but often in favor of the Euro.
Check the Euro exchange rate here: Google Finance. The exchange rate for the Pound Sterling is usually around 1:1.27, in favor of the pound. Check the Pound exchange rate here: Google Finance.

Cash and how to get it

Most but not all places accept credit cards. It’s a good idea to always have some cash on hand.

ATM (Cashpoint): Hit an ATM upon arrival, it’s the best way and one of the best places to get cash, you’ll get the best exchange rates at Bank ATM’s. You can use debit cards to withdraw a large sum upon arrival, and it generally gets me through the trip if I’m using my credit card for most purchases. This reduces the amount of ATM fees.

Credit Cards

Most places in tourist areas accept credit cards. You’ll want to be sure to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Our American Airlines and Chase Preferred cards don’t charge these fees. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Europe. You’ll have a difficult time finding a place that accepts American Express or Discover.

Don’t forget to put in a travel alert with your cards. When using a card, always ask to pay in the local currency (Euros or Pounds), you’ll pay more if they convert the purchase to dollars.

VAT refunds

You can get a refund for sales tax on goods. Check here for more information on recovering the Value Added Tax in Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

Planning Your Trip, Ireland travel Tips

Use these Ireland travel planning tips to plan your next Ireland getaway:

The Best Time to Visit Ireland

Ireland experiences four seasons, however, they may not be as pronounced as some other areas of the world. Irish weather can change in an instant, so be prepared for anything and everything! One minute you can have sunshine and the next minute rain and blustery winds.

Summer: Summer months are popular for outdoor activities, festivals, and sightseeing. However, this time of year is also peak tourist season, which means higher prices and larger crowds.

Winter: Winter can be cold and dark. Prices are lower and crowds are sparse, but many attractions are closed down for the winter.

Shoulder season: Both Spring and fall are considered shoulder seasons. These months offer mild weather, lower prices than the summer season, fewer tourists, and are a great time to visit Ireland. Spring and fall are the best months to visit in my opinion!

Opening hours

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, it’s best to check and make sure that attraction you have your heart set on will be open the day you plan to be in town. Otherwise, you can rearrange your schedule to be there on another day.

budgeting

Compared to travel in the United States, Ireland is quite affordable to travel!

Discount Passes:

If you are on a tight budget, or just like to save money, you’ll want to read How to Budget for a Trip to Europe. I will go over how you can get the best prices on accommodation, transportation, food, experiences, and a whole lot more!

How much money do I need to travel to Ireland?

You can get by on as little as $55-$85 per day for meals, transportation, and accommodations (Hostels and cheap eats.) Mid-range travelers can expect to spend around $110-$160 per day, while luxury travelers can expect to spend $220 or more per day. (more for big cities)

You may be interested in: Fly for free: We fly to Ireland for free. Learn how you can too!

Ireland travel tips on Choosing Destinations

Beautiful Ireland! So much to see and do! But how do you choose???? Here are some ideas to get you started:

The best Ireland travel guide:

Here’s what I do: I get a Rick Steves Ireland travel guide (the single best Europe travel Guides on the market!) and I read it cover to cover.

Rick Steves European travel guides collection best Europe Travel guides
My collection of Rick Steves European Travel Guides

booking tours and admission to attractions:

Looking for ideas? simply enter your destination into Get Your Guide for tour and attraction ideas!

festivals and events

(complete list of Irish Holidays and Festivals)

St. Patrick’s Day

March 17 is the day that we celebrate Irish culture and everything Irish! St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig), is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Celebrations often include parades and festivals, music, dance, food, drinking copious amounts of Irish beer and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.

(can’t make it to Ireland yet? Make my super simple St. Patrick’s day feast at home!)

St. Patrick's day Ireland
St. Patrick’s Day Ireland

Halloween

Halloween is a big holiday in Ireland. The holiday originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland.

The Irish town of Derry hosts Europe’s largest Halloween Celebration. The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival is a four-day festival featuring a variety of events, including a haunted house, a fireworks display, a parade, and live music.

The Bran Stoker Festival in Dublin includes fun activities such as lighted displays on the River Liffey, a freakshow theater, The Macnas Parade (Cnámha La Loba) on the Eve of Hallowe’en, cemetery tours, theatrical experiences, workshops and a whole lot more!

Tourist Information

Almost every little town has a Tourist Information (TI) Office. They provide helpful information on attractions, tours, events, nightlife, train and bus schedules, and more. They even helped us make a phone call once! If nothing else, stop in for a map of town. Look for this symbol:

tourist information Ireland
tourist information Ireland

Packing Tips for Ireland

Here are some tips for packing for a trip to Ireland:

  • Pack light: It is especially important to pack light if you plan to travel via public transportation. It can get cumbersome lifting large luggage in and out of trains and buses, and those wonderful cobble streets can be a pain with a large suitcase! Also, many of those quaint accommodations don’t have an elevator (lift), you may be hauling your stuff up a lot of stairs!
  • Pro tip: If I plan to do a lot of shopping, I like to bring a packable duffel bag. If my purchases surpass my luggage space, no problem! I can free up space by putting clothes in the duffel!
  • Rain gear for rainy days: don’t let it rain on your parade! Bring your rain gear (waterproof footwear, umbrella, raincoat, or poncho etc.) and plan to get out and go, rain or shine! ESPECIALLY in wonderful rainy Ireland! (There’s a reason why it’s so green!)
  • Layers: Layering is a great way to combat ever changing temperatures.

electronics

Type G plug adaptor:
Ireland uses a Type G plug which also works for the United Kingdom. My favorite place to buy these is on Rick Steve’s website. They’re cheap and efficient! I’ve had trouble with some of the fancier ones not wanting to stay in the socket.

UK Travel adapter for Ireland
Travel adapter for Ireland

It’s also important to note that the voltage in Ireland is 230V, so make sure to check if your electronics are compatible with this voltage (it should say somewhere on the appliance) otherwise they may get ruined. Alternately, you can purchase a 230V converter (this is different than the plug adapter)

That’s it! You have plenty of “travel tips Ireland.” It’s time to start planning!

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