Ireland. You’ve read the blogs and guide books, listened to the stories from your Great Grandfather who was born there, but what is Ireland really like?
If you are visiting Ireland for the first time, then you need some Ireland tips. Some real good old fashioned honest ones.
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Visiting Ireland. A Few Tips.
It throws you a little bit does Ireland.
It’s part of Europe, (Northern Ireland we are talking about here) the people speak in English (well, not quite, but more about that later in the post), and the countryside is comfortingly familiar.
Yet somehow, the minute you step foot on Irish soil you know that you are in one of the most unique destinations in the world.
Ireland is like nowhere else you will have ever been. In the world EVER.
Without sounding too woo and coming over all purple velvet and crystal bally, the famous saying that Ireland is like a balm for your soul is never more real than when you land in Ireland for the first time.
We visited Ireland in September for a month when we were travelling with our two kids (teenagers actually – they go mad if I call them kids).
It was our first time in Ireland for all of us and although we made some major mistakes while planning the trip to Ireland we LOVED it.
You will too.
Love it I mean. Not the mistake part.
Before you leave for your vacation of a lifetime to Ireland (after you have ticked off every task using our awesome travel checklist) take note of these essential Ireland travel tips and you will be all good to go.
Ireland Tips For Those Visiting For The First Time.
Let’s get this one out of the way first and then we can move on to the good stuff.
Yes. The weather in Ireland. It is changeable. If you are wondering to wear, read my what to pack for Ireland post. It covers all weather possibilities.
One morning you fling open the shutters to a beautiful soft yellow glow, run outside to pick wild mushrooms and clover leaves and then, the next minute, you find yourself drenched wet through up to your knees in mud.
We live in New Zealand where the weather is very similar, so are used to it, but if you are coming from America to Ireland then be prepared. It’s changeable. Pack the best rain poncho you can afford and a good travel umbrella.
17 things you will be glad you took to Ireland
- 230V/50Hv. The plug outlets are the same as the UK, the ones with the three prongs. Don’t forget your travel adapter!
For Pinterest ⇓
#3: Getting Sick In Ireland
Australia and Ireland have a reciprocal health agreement meaning that Australian visitors are entitled to receive emergency public hospital treatment.
If you are not from Australia then here are your options:
Go to the pharmacy. These are all over and have the big green cross sign outside.
Go to the doctor. Make an appointment and pay approx €60 Be aware that the doctors in Ireland (especially those outside big cities) are run on a 9 – 5 Mon- Fri system, so try not to get sick at the weekend.
If you need the hospital (hopefully, this will never happen), you can go to any A&E department in Ireland without a referral from a doctor. Wait to be seen. This service will cost you approx €100.
Make sure that you have excellent Ireland travel insurance – that way, you can relax.
#4: Accommodation in Ireland
Housesitting in Ireland
When we were in Ireland for a month we were Housesitting.
We are big fans of housesitting. We estimated that while housesitting throughout Europe, we saved ourselves approximately ten grand.
Honestly, I can’t understand why more people don’t do this!
It’s VERY straightforward: You make a profile and then twice a day you are sent emails (such as the screenshot from my phone below) listing available properties in Ireland!
I know this isn’t for everyone but we loved it and it saved us thousands of dollars on accommodation in Europe, literally, $$$’s.
We stayed in an apartment in Dublin and a farmhouse just outside Kilkenny. Both were beautiful.
I can not speak highly enough about Housesitting. It is the best thing in the world if you want to travel more, experience lots and spend less.
It costs a small fee to sign up for a year and twice a day you will be sent through a list of available places around the world.
I have also enclosed a screenshot of the email alert that I received this morning (and every day) and you can click here to see all the current housesits in Ireland (PS: It’s FREE To look!).
Click here to see all available housesits in Ireland!
Believe me, when I say it’s a fabulous way to see Ireland like a local and don’t forget if you decide to go ahead and join Trusted Housesitters, use my exclusive discount code to save yourself 20% by Clicking here.
#5: Saving Money And Getting Around Ireland
Staying in Dublin
If you plan on staying in Dublin then you HAVE to get the Dublin Pass.
Am I an affiliate for them? You bet I am – they saved us a fortune when we stayed in Dublin. We bought a 3-day pass, and I tell everyone I meet to do the same.
The initial outlay for the pass may seem a bit pricey and you might very well think you can do things cheaper but honestly; if you plan on staying in Dublin for one, two three or even five days you will not find a better way to save money.
(And I know because I am the queen of doing things on the cheap!!)
Here’s why you will love the Dublin Pass:
FREE Entrance to over 30 attractions (we worked this out – it saved us roughly $96 per person!).
They send you the pass straight to your phone and then all you have to do is flash it whenever you go to an attraction (or if you prefer you can collect it in Dublin or they can send it to your home address in a proper parcel)
Here’s why I loved it the most: When you purchase ANY Dublin Pass you get a FREE 24-hour ticket to ride the hop-on/hop-off bus around Dublin! My kids LOVED this as it meant we could get to know the city properly (we actually spent almost all day just riding around with our coffee and pastries – it was fabulous).
You also get a free airport shuttle included in the price of the pass too!
Click HERE To Find Out More About The Dublin Pass. It’s the only way to get discount prices AND a free day on the sightseeing bus (perfect if you have tired legs, little kids or lazy teenagers like me.)
#6: Hiring A Car And Exploring Ireland
If you are going to explore a good chunk of Ireland and there is more than one of you, then I suggest you rent a car. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to see Ireland.
The cheapest way to hire a car in Ireland is by using this Ireland car hire company.
They saved us a fortune on car hire because they do all of the hard work for you and compare the best deals.
We worked out that this car rental programme saved us approx 30% than what we were quoted by other car hire companies in Ireland and that extra cash pays for a couple of pints of Guinness!
Click here to check out car hire in Ireland.
Hiring a car in Ireland is easy, but remember, don’t hire anything too big! The roads are pretty narrow and windy, and if you are coming from America, you won’t be used to them.
When I say narrow, I mean narrow.
#7: Insurance For Ireland
You will hear a lot of people saying how renting a car in Ireland is super expensive due to the waivers they insist you have; this can be true. To get around this, and to save yourself hundreds of euros, make sure that your insurance company allows for this excess waiver.
Make sure that you have excellent Ireland travel insurance.
We are travelling around the world for a year with our two teenagers, so as you can imagine, my husband researched extensively which insurance company would be the best for us.
This is the company that we use and that we will always use. They are called World Nomads, and they are brilliant in every way. We have made three claims over the past four years (sorry, guys!), and each time they have been superb.
If you are looking for the BEST travel insurance out there, don’t bother spending hours searching for the best company (my husband already did that for you). They are here. Take three minutes to fill in the instant quote form, and you’ll see what I mean.
I hate to admit it, but my husband was right. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ll let him have this one.
Seriously. You may have your Ireland insurance already but just make sure that you are covered for car hire excess (and delays, health, dental etc.), or you’ll end up out of pocket.
#8: Cost Of Eating Out
Lots of people warned us that Ireland was expensive. Like SUPER expensive.
Regular readers of this blog will know how annoyed I get when people give you ‘well-meaning travel tips’ because you take the advice that they give you as being true and their travel tips almost always end up being a load of rubbish.
Yes, Ireland can be expensive, but it depends on what you are doing and where you are eating and drinking. Use your common sense.
Look for the places that are slightly off the beaten track, and you will be rewarded with a hearty Irish meal for no more than what it would cost you at home.
#9: Food in Ireland
Everything you’ve heard about the food being good in Ireland? Times it by 10. The food is amazing. Wholesome, earthy, delicious. Yum.
If eating Irish food doesn’t remind you of being at your Granny’s on a Sunday afternoon, then I don’t know what will.
Here’s a very brief summary of my favourite food in Ireland and what you can expect when it arrives:
- Irish Stew. Made with Lamb, potatoes and vegetables. Sometimes made with goat or beef and sometimes has a can of Guinness thrown in for good measure.
- Bacon and Cabbage. Exactly what it says on the label. The bacon is chunky and salty, the cabbage is green and fresh, and usually, thick delicious gravy is poured over the top. I am actually drooling while I write this.
- Irish Soda Bread (also called brown bead).I can’t describe to you how good this bread tastes as my mouth will start to water and I can’t have moisture on my keyboard, but know that so Irish soda bread is delicious. Toast it and slather it with Irish butter and marmalade. Damn it. Now my mouth is watering.
- Colcannon. Another potato dish and the perfect comfort food. Potatoes mashed with plenty of butter, salt, pepper and kale. Great for vegetarians and for those that like to tell everyone how much superfood kale they consume in a day.
#10: Going To A Real Irish Pub.
Please. Pretty please. When in Ireland, visit Kilkenny and go to one of the little pubs hidden down amongst the side streets. You won’t have to look far, Kilkenny is packed with historic alehouses. I haven’t got time now, but I will write a post just on Kilkenny. It is far more beautiful than any other Irish city we visited.
Now, back to the pub.
Going into a pub in Ireland for the first time can be somewhat daunting. Honestly, I get you. I stood outside an old pub in Kilkenny for about five minutes with my two teenagers before I was brave enough to open the little goblin sized front door and enter inside.
But do it. Please! Because once inside you will feel as though you have stepped back in time or onto the set of an Irish film. A really cool one.
Say hello nicely to the bar person, find yourself somewhere to sit, order a Guinness and a pot of stew and take it all in.
You may get lucky as we did and happen to catch a couple of musicians entertaining the crowd. Avoid the tourist places – pluck up the courage and go local. I’m the biggest scardey cat out there and if I can do it, so can you.
Check Out Our Video Of A Real Irish Pub!⇓
Talking about friendly locals.
#11: Friendly People
- The Irish people are lovely. Really lovely. We didn’t meet anyone that wasn’t keen to stop for a chat and ask us about our travels. Know that the Irish people are some of the friendliest folk you will meet in the world.
- Don’t hesitate to ask someone for directions or help; yes, you may get their life story, but that’s ok. We like that.
#12: The Language
Yes, the English language is spoken in Ireland which makes going on vacation to Ireland a tad easier, but, there’s a slight catch.
Apart from the rambling Irish accent which leaves your ears straining (especially if you are having a conversation with an older ‘out of town’ person), you will have to face up to the fact that in Ireland…
#13: In Ireland, They Swear. Quite A Bit Actually
Just be prepared.
If you are a prude like me, then it may come as a bit of a shock. When you are stood talking to the butcher about the price of a lamb neck, and he suddenly comes out with a dozen fecks and sh*tes, it takes you back a wee bit.
In saying that, I did my homework so that you don’t have to, and although the word ‘feck’ is used prolifically in the Irish language (by young and old) you shouldn’t take too much offence. According to an Irish friend of mine, the word is considered the same as saying damn.
As my mum used to warn us: say it again, and I’ll wash your mouths out with soap.
#14: Cell Phone Coverage
I thought I’d put this one in here, especially if you are travelling to Ireland with kids as we did.
My 17-year-old son is addicted to his phone, and I can safely tell you that he only looked up from his darling device about four times in the whole month that we were in Ireland, which means that throughout Ireland, the cell phone coverage is obviously excellent.
#15: Taking A Tour in Ireland
If you are in Dublin, you can NOT miss taking a tour of the Guinness factory. I’m sorry, but it’s the law.
Even I who can’t stand the stuff enjoyed discovering the fascinating history (and my free pint at the end!)
Make sure you book your tickets in advance though – it can get busy in peak season. If you are taking kids don’t be put off. We have taken our kids on tours in some of the best cities in Europe and my son still raves about this one!
*Top Budget Tip! If you purchase The Dublin Pass entrance (and skip the line) to the Guinness Factory is FREE!
Cliffs Of Moher, Burren & Galway
If you appreciate the calmness of Ireland and want to spend a peaceful day being taken to see stunning scenery by a local guide, then you will love the Cliffs of Moher, Burren and Galway. It’s an all-day tour, and for what you get, the price is fantastic value.
Sometimes, I find it is more relaxing to sit back and listen to a guide while I look at the scenery rather than having to try and entertain the kids all day!
#16: Coffee On A Budget In Ireland
If you are a coffee fan then you are going to love Ireland, but here is a little tip for those travelling on a budget as we were, those who don’t have the money to keep going to cafes (especially with two greedy teenagers!)
- There is a coffee company in Dublin called Frank and Honest. They make the most delicious coffee by using their specially invented all in one machine.
- I know what you coffee connoisseurs are going to say, and yes, I agree wholeheartedly, coffee is best made by the hand of an experienced barista. But.
- Not in this case. We have had coffee from all over the world and Frank and Honest coffee rivals all of them – even those from Italy.
And here’s the best part.
Frank and Honest have their machines set up in lots of different convenience stores. Meaning that if you pop into the local grocery store to pick up some Irish butter, you can grab a delicious coffee and some pastries, take them down to the local beauty spot and enjoy your morning coffee fix for half the price of what a cafe would charge you.
And last but not least…
#17: Be Open-Minded And Ready For Adventure
- The best way to see Ireland for the first time is to go there with your eyes wide open and your sense of adventure intact!
- There are so many opportunities for impromptu fun in Ireland that you really do have to be flexible and ready.
- Be open-minded and ready to go with the flow in Ireland, talk to people, walk up streets that are not on the tourist map. I promise that you will be rewarded with a memorable experience.
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I hope you enjoyed these Ireland tips and can use some of them when planning your big first trip to this beautiful country.
Remember, if you have any travel tips for Ireland that you would like me to add, please comment below or send me an email. And lastly, if you know of anyone that would love this post as much as you did, then please SHARE!!
I have to admit, I was laughing quite a bit reading your post. My twin brother and I took 2 weeks and drove from London to Ireland, took the ferry to Wales, then Scotland, and regrettably back to London to fly home. It was a trip I will never forget. I really had a good laugh about the cursing in Ireland. We were sitting in a pub, and this old duffer starts a rambling on and when he was finished I looked at him and said “I think you forgot a sh**e in there.” He looks at me with a grin and says “I don’t fe**in care!” Everyone started laughing, it was a glorious night ad they say. Well I plan on taking my wife to Ireland next year, we were going to this year, but she had a new job. But she has never been to Ireland, I asked her if she was born under a rock. I got a good smack for that! SMIRK But have some good advice some things I had forgotten about. We are planning on renting a car, I really enjoyed driving in Ireland, love those winding country roads. Live for the adventure, but thank you for a good post, I sent it to my wife for her homework. Have a beautiful day.
And to you too Kurt! Thank you for your comment and I hope you can convince your wife that Ireland is the best place on earth!! 🙂
Thank you for your lovely glowing comments. Delighted ye had a great holiday here. I’m from just outside Cork (the real capital lol!) Hopefully we will see ye back here again soon! X
You can count on it Lilly! X
I am from Ireland and usually when I read these I cringe but with yours I really feel that you have captured the real Ireland. So happy to hear you enjoyed your time here and thank you for writing so kindly about our little country!
Thanks Kelly, that means a lot to hear that from a local! 🙂
Hello. My husband, sister, brother in-law and I are going to Ireland this September and I would really like to hear more about the housesitting. My sister is a very anxious person and I’m not sure she would like it, but I think it would be an interesting way to meet wonderful people. Any information would be helpful. Thanks for your post!
Hi Catie, I have included a link to the post I wrote about housesitting, it tells you everything you need.
No need to be anxious ( to be honest, the owners are always more nervous than you!) It is probably just what your sister would need as it gives you a chance to relax in someones home rather than having the ordeal of hotels etc. Hope this helps and enjoy Ireland! X
Great blog! One way to save costs is to buy Vodafone SIM cards at Spar which the arrivals lounge in Dublin had. We got four for our family at 25 Euros each and we got 5 GB data and I think 1000 min which you can top up whenever you need. Much cheaper than our NA carriers roaming plans for Ireland. Our now local phones came in handy making calls, sending emails and going online on the go to check out restaurants, places of interest etc.
Thanks, Sindy! Great tip! 🙂
This was such great info! I have never commented on a travel post except this one! The housesitting was brand new to me! How have I never heard of this?
Going to Ireland next summer and can’t wait to check out your recommendations then!Thanks! 🍀
Thank you so much for your lovely comment, you don’t know how much that meant to me today (and how much I needed to hear that!!), If I knew who you were I’d come a give you a big X (with my Covid face mask on of course…)
Thank you again – have a wonderful time in Ireland – Liz x
As someone who lives in Ireland and has had contact with a lot of visitors from elsehere I’d strongly recommend that you bring a good sweater. Weather here that has us locals on the point of meltiomng seems to the visitors that it’s freezing, so be prepared to wrap up even if the locals are sweating rivers.
For eating – avoid the big name and familiarplaces – like MacDonalds, Burger King and go for fish and chips (I’d recommend the smoked cod if it’s abailable), Proper cjips are what you might call ‘steakhouse fries’ (we never considered the potato flavoured matchsticks to be chips)
Don’t ignore the north – we have a totally undeserved reputation and we don’t go round constantly shooting visitors or starting riots for entertainment.
A lot of signs are in Irish – if you aren’t sure which is the ‘Gents’ (Fir) or ‘Ladies’ (Mna) – ask a local. It can be very frustrating trying to work out which gender which washroom is (trust me on that one – I had that problem one time in Genoa when I couldn’t decide which was signore and which was signori).
If you’re staying in an area for a while, listen while you’re in the pub to hear what people say as they enter. In Clare, it’s very common for the first thing to be said is ‘God save all here’ when someone enters. In Irish speaking areas, ‘Dia sa teach’ (jee-ah sah tyack) is common. If nothing else it will give you an approving nod from the locals.
The national anthem (when sung) is in Irish – NEVER in English and it’s just the chorus – locals can be a tad upset as their pints go flat because some visitor wants to sing ALL of it (three verses and choruses)
Don’t complain if the TV seems to ‘flicker’ – we run 25 frames per second as opposed to the US standard of 30 fps
But – just enjoy yourself and relax – remember, when God made time, he made lots of it
Oh! You star Daithi! That’s what I love about having a blog…that people like you find my little space on the internet and take the time to write such helpful comments that will help people. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate you taking the time to help others enjoy beautiful Ireland. Liz x
Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I am reading as much as I can as I’m looked forward to visiting Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and then Scotland May 2021 (vaccine pending) as the same trip planned for 2020 was cancelled by Covid. And I won’t stop, as if May is not allowed I will reschedule for fall of 2021. I enjoy reading these travel blogs as they are so much more personal than travel books.
Thanks so much, Lee, that means a lot to me. And thank you for the inspiration. We travellers need to share each other’s stories and hearing that you will never stop travelling warms my heart 🙂 Let me know how you get on?
We visited Ireland this summer, and oh my God!!! I fell in love instantly the moment we left the harbour and drove thru Dublin!!! The countryside on either side of the island was just fantastic! Breathtaking! I can’t find words. We spent our time in wonderful Airbnb properties and felt like locals. The Irish are a wonderful people and man, do they love to chat! 😀 Whenever we asked for directions or other information we felt like we met the neighbors for a Saturday chat. I loved that!!! Hardly ever do I find anyone who talks even more than I do! I had to smile through your whole post because I felt like I was back in Ireland. Soda bread! Yessss!!!! Good Irish food!!! Yesssss!!! Pubs!!! Oh hell yes!!!! 😀 Thanks for sharing your travel impressions, it is a great read! Best wishes from Sabine, from Germany
Thank you so much for this wonderful comment Sabine! I can tell from your words that Ireland had the same impression on both of us! 🥰 Sending lots of love from New Zealand to Germany!
So happy to have found your blog Liz! My sis and I are planning a short trip (only a week 😔) to Ireland to look around the place where our ancestors resided. Love love your information and that from your readers. I’m interested in finding out more about house-sitting after reading Abt your adventures. Do you address this in a blog? Thank you!
Thank you for your lovely feedback and kind words, I appreciate it very much. Yes! I do have a blog post on housesitting (we are BIG fans of housesitting and it was super easy to do in Ireland!) I think you will love it!
Here is the post, enjoy and please let me know how your trip goes! Liz
Great advice! Not just for Ireland, but any international destination. Now I’m making a mental note to always check hospital care. We lived in Paris for 3 years and some of our guests didn’t understand to pay extra for an international phone service, plan, or sim card. Relying on Starbucks wifi is a mistake 😂🤦🏽♀️…esp for maps!!
Glad that you enjoyed it Tina! Thanks for reaching out to say hi, I really appreciate it 🥰
My husband and I are headed to Ireland in September. Loved this post. Really helpful info! Thank you for sharing!!
You are very welcome Heather! Enjoy Ireland! x