Introduction to Ireland
The Republic of Ireland is an island nation situated in the North Sea off the northwest coast of Europe. It shares the island with the small nation of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. As an active participant in the European community, Ireland is one of Europe’s richest countries today, with strong links in the financial services and IT industries. Visitors will likely find themselves in either of the two largest cities, Dublin and Cork. Dublin is the largest city and is the country’s capital – a popular place as Europe’s fourth most visited capital.
Passports & Visas
Citizens of EU and EEA countries, most of North and South America, Japan, Israel, Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa to visit Ireland.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
Embassy of Ireland
Provides consular assistance to U.S. citizens
42 Elgin Road
Telephone: +353 1 668-8777 During Business Hours
+353 1 668 9612, for emergencies involving American citizens
Ireland Tourist Information
Culture and History
Check out this timeline of Irish History. By clicking on each event you can drill down for more detail.
Currency in Ireland
Ireland is now using the Euro as a member of the Eurozone. Cash machines (ATMs) are available throughout the country and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. While Irish banks do not charge fees for foreign credit cards, be aware that your bank might.
Driving in Ireland
Driving in Ireland features a mix of British-like rules and European measurements. Cars drive on the left side of the road, which means you’ll need to yield to the right when reaching a traffic circle. Signs and mileage are posted in kilometers and are normally posted in both English and Irish.
Roads in the republic can be treacherous, at best. While Motorways and the primary routes are in good condition, some secondary roads and local junctions are very narrow and have no shoulder. Pay close attention in rural areas, where farmers (and their animals!) make common use of the roadway.
Electricity in Ireland
Electricity is 220 volts and outlets require “British standard” three-pronged plugs. Make sure your appliances can accept the higher voltage of power (American outlets provide 120 volts) or you’ll need a converter and an adapter. Some appliances and computers can accommodate either 120 or 220 volts either automatically or with just the flip of a switch on the appliance. (Check it out before you buy.)
The term ‘police’ is never used here, although you will be understood. The more correct word is Guard, derived from the Irish term Garda. If you need help, dial the UK emergency number, 999, or the European number, 112, from a mobile or landline. Both work just the same.
Etiquette in Ireland
While the Irish are a very friendly population, they respect personal space and if you happen to bump into someone on the sideway, you’ll be expected to apologize. Shouting or speaking loudly is frowned upon and considered rude. Similar to America, it is customary to shake hands as a greeting both before and after a meeting.
Public Hours in Ireland
Banks; 9:30a.m. – 4:30p.m. (Mon-Thur) Shops; 9a.m. – 6p.m. (Mon-Sat)
Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT), so Ireland is on the same time as the UK.
Tipping in Ireland
Do not tip in pubs for drinks ordered at the bar. Restaurants mostly charge a service fee to cover the tip; otherwise a 10% tip would be sufficient. Cafes do not charge service fees but often have a “tip jar” near the cash registers for loose change. Taxi drivers do not expect tips but welcome them for good service.
Ireland is an extremely safe country; the biggest problem you might expect is to encounter a few rough drunks during the weekends. Do be mindful of your belongings in public spaces and use common sense.
Weather in Ireland
Ireland is known for its weather, but not in a good way. You may have heard the local saying about the weather: not a day without sunshine, not a day without rain either. The fickle and ever-changing forecast means you’ll need to be prepared for almost anything.
The best times to visit are between March and September, when you can take benefit from the longer days and somewhat warmer temperatures. There is less rain in the summer as well, although keep in mind it can still sprinkle almost every day. Temperatures in the winter rarely go below freezing due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic ocean; in summer, temps can reach near 65F (17C).
Getting Around Ireland
Ireland has a total of nine airports, including major gateways in Dublin, Shannon, and Cork. Reaching Ireland by air is relatively inexpensive given that the country’s two main airlines, Aer Lingus and Ryanair, are low cost carriers.
Bus service is primarily provided by Bus Eirann. If not travelling by car, you’ll need to use the buses to reach the more remote destinations. Checking timetables in advance is required, as some bus service is run on an infrequent basis.
Boats and Ferries
Being an island nation, there is plenty of ferry service to both the UK and mainland Europe (France). Irish Ferries serves Wales from Holyhead and provides a joint service with Brittany Ferries from Cork to France. Stenaline also provides Ireland-UK connections.
Car Rental companies include the standard set of brands, and it is recommended to make your booking before leaving home. American citizens are permitted to drive with a U.S. driver’s license for the duration of a visit to Ireland; i.e., as long as their status is that of tourist and not resident.
A taxi can be hired on the street in major cities like Cork or Dublin, but it is usually best to have your accommodation call and make a booking. In rural areas, calling for a taxi is the only option and you’ll want to make sure you call ahead to make the reservation or be prepared to wait.
Slainte is the Irish word for ‘health’ and is used as a frequent greeting. If you need medicines, a pharmacy can be easily identified by a green cross outside. These only carry prescription medicines; head to a standard supermarket for a large variety of non-prescription medications. To reach a doctor, ask your hotel or accommodation to phone the nearest practicitioner. If you happen to fall ill outside of normal business hours, it is best to wait if possible. Otherwise, again have your accommodation try to contact the out of hours doctor. Only in extraordinary circumstances should one head to the emergency room, called the ‘A&E’ (Accident and Emergency). These are often overcrowded and are really intended for serious medical treatment only, although they are overrun with those whose symptoms could have waited for regular treatment.
No permit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Lodging in Ireland
The major cities offer both backpacker-style accommodation, rented apartments, and a plethora of hotels. Rural locations are more suited to bed-and-breakfasts, house rentals, and other types of accommodation. Be sure to check out our Dublin Hotel recommendations.
Main Sights in Ireland
Most major sights are in Dublin – check out our Discover Dublin page for more information.
Other popular stops include
• the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle, near Cork. • the Cliffs of Moher
• the Medieval town of Kilkenny
• the crystal shops in Waterford
• the Ring of Kerry
Public Holidays in Ireland
New Year’s Day (1 Jan)
St. Patrick´s Day (17 March)
Halloween (31 October)
Christmas Day (25 Dec)
Telephones in Ireland
Dialing in Ireland can be a confusing experience so here are a few tips:
– From Canada or America, dial the international access code 011, then add country code 353 for Ireland, then the “area” code (without its 0) and then the local number. Example: 0011 353 73 999 8888 – From within Ireland dial the number as it is usually written, that is dial 0 and the “area” code followed by the local phone number. Example: 073 999 8888
– From within the county, drop the area code at the beginning. Example: 999 8888
+353 1 Dublin +353 402 Arklow
+353 21 Cork +353 66 Dingle
+353 73 Donegal +353 42 Dundalk
+353 65 Ennis
+353 91 Galway
+353 45 Kildare
+353 64 Killarney
+353 61 Limerick
+353 71 Sligo
+353 62 Tipperary
+353 506 Tullamore
+353 51 Waterford
+353 53 Wexford
Useful Country Codes:
USA and Canada 1
Returning to the US
Customs,VAT & Duty Free
When you return to the U.S., you’ll need to declare everything you brought back that you did not take with you when you left. If you are traveling by air or sea, you may be asked to fill out a Customs Declaration Form provided by the airline or cruise ship. Keep your sales slips. Try to pack the things you’ll need to declare separately. Read the signs in the Customs area; they contain helpful information about how to clear Customs. For complete information on Customs, look at the U.S. Government Customs Website
Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Information We have found it such a hassle to try to reclaim the VAT tax that we simply do not bother. If however, you will be spending a great deal of money, it might be worth the many steps you will need to go through. Also, remember that a 7 percent V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) tax is added to rates for all restaurants and hotel rooms. Service is included. This 7% V.A.T. tax on services is not refundable.
Travelers to Ireland from outside the EU are entitled to a reimbursement of the 16 % V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) they pay on all purchases as long as the purchases add up to no less than 90 Euros in the same store and on the same day. The vendor must provide the purchaser with a duly filled out invoice which includes the price of each good, the V.A.T. paid for each item, as well as the identification (name and address) for both vendor and purchaser. The goods must be brought out of the European Union within three months from the date of purchase.
At the time of departure from Ireland and final departure from the European Union territory, and before checking in your baggage, you must bring your invoice(s) and the merchandise purchased to the Irish Customs in order for them to process your V.A.T. refund claim (there is a specific booth for this purpose just prior to the entrance to the international area at the international port, gate or airport).
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.