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. Real good old fashioned honest ones.
It throws you a little bit does Ireland.
It’s part of Europe (Northen 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 countries in the world.
Ireland is like nowhere else you will have ever been. 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.
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We visited Ireland in September for a month with our two kids (teenagers actually – they go mad if I call them kids). It was the first time in Ireland for all of us and we LOVED it. You will do too.
Before you leave for Ireland (after you have ticked off every point on your 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.
- 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 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 lightweight, waterproof rain jacketand a good travel umbrella.
- 230V/50Hv. The plug outlets are the same as the UK, the ones with the three prongs. Don’t forget your travel adapter!
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 doctors. 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
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. Here’s why.
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!
So yes. The Dublin Pass. 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.)
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.
We bought a car from the UK and drove it over to Ireland on the ferry, but that’s a whole different story.
We traveled the world with the kids and were looking for ways to fund the trip. Buying a car in the UK and shipping it back to New Zealand three months later was all part of that plan. I’ll tell you about how it all went one day, but not now.
Back to transportation.
Yes, hire a car. Nothing 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.
As I said, we didn’t hire a car in Ireland, but I have heard excellent reviews from this car rental company if you want to check them out.
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 is true. To get around this, and to save yourself hundreds of euros, make sure that your insurance company allows for this excess waiver.
The BEST insurance for travel, without a doubt, is World Nomads. We have always used them and will continue to do so. Last year they saved us thousands of dollars on car hire insurance excess (we hired a car and drove around Italy for a month) and emergency dental treatment.
You may have your insurance already but just make sure that you are covered for car hire excess or you’ll end up out of pocket.
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 traveling 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.
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.
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.
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.
Talking about friendly locals.
- 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.
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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…
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.
Cell Phone Coverage
I Thought I’d put this one in here, especially if you are traveling 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.
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!
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 this tour of 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!
Accommodation in Ireland
I can’t help you out much here as when we were in Ireland for a month we were Housesitting. I know this isn’t for everyone but we loved it and it saved us thousands of dollars on accommodation, literally, $$$’s.
We stayed in an apartment in Dublin and a farmhouse just outside Kilkenny. Both were beautiful.
If you need to know more about house-sitting in Europe please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will help you whichever way I can, we have done loads and loads of house sits and cannot recommend it highly enough for discovering a country or city at your own pace.
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And last but not least…
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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That’s it! I hope you enjoyed these Ireland tips and can use some of them when planning your big first trip to this beautiful country! 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!!