The Emerald Isle is home to Celtic folklore, historic castles, and fertile farmlands. The coastal country is world-renowned as one of the most picturesque countries. Yes, there are many reasons to visit Ireland. But for those who've never been, you'll want to check out these helpful tips for visiting Ireland before you book your trip.
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The Draw to Visit Ireland
As I've written before, I've always been intrigued by Ireland. Knowing that much of my ancestral heritage is Irish, visiting Ireland has always been high on my list. I was never really sure what to expect in Ireland, but, for some reason, I felt drawn to see the lush island country.
Unlike other countries I've visited, Ireland felt instantly welcoming. There's a friendliness that permeates the humid air, wrapping you in a warmth that no coat or scarf can provide. Approachable and accessible, Ireland is a great place for families and solo travelers. It's definitely a place I see myself returning again and again.
With so many things to do in Ireland, it's easy to see why you might be searching for tips for visiting Ireland. Hopefully, this post will help you sort through your options and get a game plan for visiting Ireland.
Best time to visit Ireland
As I'm sure you've heard, the weather in Ireland is a bit unpredictable. Average temperatures hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain is a regular part of the daily forecast.
We visited in March, which, along with April, is known for milder temperatures, plenty of blooming flowers, and sunny days. Most people visit during the summer months to take advantage of the long daylight hours.
Summer is considered peak season for tourists, so be ready to pay a bit more for your Irish experience. Temperatures don't vary much in the summer, so plan to bring layers.
Take Guided Tours
Ireland is steeped in history. Everywhere you turn, there's something historic or culturally significant. Trying to explore Ireland on your own is like groping in the dark for your glasses. You can see, but not well.
One of the best tips for visiting Ireland that I can give you is to take the guided tour. Why travel across the globe to experience a country without truly diving in deep with a local tour guide? You'll get all the details that guidebooks and blog posts can't give you.
Prepare for the Weather
Ireland is known for having rainy, overcast weather. So, it stands to reason that you'll need the right travel gear to stay dry and warm.
You should definitely plant to bring water-resistant clothing and shoes. Try grabbing a pair of water-resistant boots, a thick rain jacket, and a pocket umbrella before you go. Make sure you've invested in a few pair of good socks, too.
While it can be quite cool, it's not cold. You'll want to layer, giving you the flexibility needed to feel comfortable both indoors and out.
Take Your Time
Dublin is smaller than you might think, so take your time exploring if you don't plan to leave the city. While there are several areas to see, this is the kind of city you should take your time to explore.
If you do plan to take day trips from Dublin, you need only estimate a few hours of travel between destinations. The country is small, so navigating between towns and cities shouldn't take long either via car or public transportation.
Remember that the best part of visiting Ireland is the culture, which you can best experience when you're taking your time to chat with locals and immerse yourself in your surroundings.
Use The Public Transportation System
Dublin has a terrific public transportation system that you can use to navigate the city easily. If you plan to stay in Dublin for the duration of your trip, pick up the Leap Visitor Card which will give you access to all forms of public transportation in Dublin for one small price.
The best thing about the Leap Visitor Card is that it includes transport to and from the airport at no extra cost via Airlink 747 & 757 (public buses). Leap Visitor Cards are only available in certain locations; pick yours up at the Dublin airport in both terminals 1 & 2. Once you have your pass, you'll get unlimited access to buses, DART trains, and commuter rails for the duration of your pass.
Also, the Irish Railway system seems pretty advanced, too. A quick little ride down the coast to Kilkenny only took a few hours in a comfortable, spacious rail car. For those looking to fully experience Ireland via rail, consider purchasing a Rail Europe Irish Rail pass which provides you with unlimited use of the Irish Rail system for either 3, 4, 5, or 8 days in a month. The pass can be used on consecutive or nonconsecutive days, giving you the flexibility to stay as long as you want in each location.
One of the most helpful tips for visiting Ireland is to do your research if you plan to rent a car in Ireland. Ireland is one of the few countries that requires you to purchase a separate Collision and Damage Waiver policy through the car rental agency, meaning your credit card's CDW policy is not valid. There may be additional fees and charges required, so be sure to read the fine print.
Experience the Cultural Attractions
Ireland is filled with cultural attractions, from historic castles to coastal rock formations. While you may be tempted to spend your time in pubs, I encourage you to put down the pint and explore this culturally rich country.
Another one of the most helpful tips for visiting Ireland is to plan your itinerary ahead of time. Some of the most famous cultural attractions have limited hours or require reservations.
Newgrange is a great example of this. The World Heritage Site requires advanced reservations, so be sure to book yours well in advance of your arrival. Grab a Lonely Planet guide to start planning your best Ireland adventure.
Respect The Patriotism
We timed our visit to Dublin at just the right time for someone who's looking to learn more about their Irish heritage. Our March 2016 trip to Ireland happened to coincide with the Centennial Anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Seeing all the patriotism was inspiring. I suddenly felt sorrowful, longing for some semblance of this united interest in my home country. There's something magical about being surrounded by people who truly love their country.
Hearing our Irish family talk about Ireland was like listening to a love song playing on the radio. Their words speak of longing, while the melodies are buoyed with hope. They know nothing is perfect, including their small slice of paradise. But they're optimistic about the future, which isn't true of all people.
While the Irish may be jovial and friendly, things may quickly get heated if you or anyone in your party insult their country or heritage. And rightly so!
Travelers should alway refrain from disrespecting the culture or beliefs of places they visit. Know that the Irish are particularly proud of being Irish, so tread lightly. Consider that one of the most helpful tips for visiting Ireland or any country!
Check out more of my European Adventures
Expect to Eat Good Food
Unsurprisingly, Ireland boasts an abundance of natural, organic food. Irish chefs and cooks take locally-sourced to the next level. We're talking intoxicating cheeses, melt-in-your-mouth beef, and savory game. Pair any of these with exceptional wines from small-batch European wineries for an unparalleled sensory experience.
But fine dining isn't the only way to experience delicious Irish fare. One of the tastiest dishes I experienced in Ireland was a simple toastie: a pressed sandwich filled with creamy Irish cheddar and fresh Irish ham. Soda bread and Irish smoked salmon, Irish beef stew, and shepherd's pie are more examples of traditional Irish fare that shouldn't break the bank.
And like the UK, the Irish love their fish and chips. Pop into any "chipper" for take-away fried cod and french fries cooked to order. Don't forget the malt vinegar for an authentically Irish meal.
Truth: the Irish people are hearty folks who can handle their liquor. They're made of stronger stuff than me, that's for sure. Trust me, folks. If you listen to none of my tips for visiting Ireland, you'll want to listen to this one.
Pace yourself when having drinks in Ireland. It's tempting to pound the pints, but what you don't realize is that the Irish are serious about the nightlife. Dinner and drinks is more of a marathon than a sprint.
After dinner drinks quickly dissolves into a lock-in all before you even realize. Suddenly, you'll find yourself surrounded by traditional songs sung by a handsome Irish chap with a flag draped around his nape.
It's powerful stuff, the kind of cultural experience you conjure up when daydreaming about life in Europe. Somehow, in your dreams, it's not quite as hazy as it seems in real life. That's the pint's fault, my friend.
Take the Day Trips
Whether you plan to be stationary or transitory, Ireland has plenty of reasonable day-trips and ample transportation to accomplish your travel goals. If you're renting a vacation home in Dublin to save money, you'll still have plenty of options to experience Ireland even without a car.
There are several manageable day-trips available via coach or train. Once again, if your goal is to visit as much of Ireland as possible, you may want to purchase the Rail Europe Irish Rail pass and hop from city to city.
Howth is a popular day-trip destination from Dublin. Only 30 minutes from Dublin, this small coastal town is easy to reach via the DART. Don't miss this quaint little slice of picturesque paradise. You'll be transported into another world when you step into The Summit Inn Pub. While you may feel awkward at first, you soon relax into the welcoming leather stools in this beer-scented spot.
This should go without saying, but it's especially important in Ireland to be friendly to strangers. The Irish are people's people.
Full of joy and genuine care for their comrades, the Irish are some of the nicest people I've ever met. This is one reason that Ireland is perfect for solo travelers.
Take the time to ask questions and listen. Gifted storytellers, the Irish people are keen to share their story with you anytime.
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