Ireland: What to Know Before You Go

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Deal Expert, Chicago
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tralee

Tralee, Ireland

  • When to visit: Anyone who has been to Ireland will tell you a common conversation between tourists and locals is when the “best time to visit” really is as the country is known for its undependable weather. It’s hard to argue that the most pleasant months and longest days are May, June and July — for travelers who can afford the higher price-tags. July and August are also extremely popular times to visit; waits at some of the biggest attractions can be long and hotel rates are at their highest. Should season (the weeks and months surrounding peak dates) here runs March and April then September-November. Bargain shoppers with a heavy coat can find great bargains after Christmas through winter.
  • Length of stay: For people visiting for less than a week: choose what kind of experience you hope to have. You can explore historic cities and visit museums, spend time in the countryside and just about everything in between. Fitting it all in might be possible, but you’ll come back from vacation exhausted after spending more time getting around than actually being there. About two days in each city is usually enough to see most sites.
  • What kind of travelers would enjoy Ireland:
    • {X} Architecture & Design
    • {  } Adventure
    • {  } All Inclusive
    • {X} Arts & Culture
    • {  } Beach
    • {X} Culinary
    • {X} Escorted
    • {X} Family
    • {X} Golf
    • {  } Last Minute
    • {X} LGBT
    • {X} Luxury
    • {X} Nature
    • {X} Nightlife
    • {X} Romance
    • {  } Shopping
    • {X} Singles
    • {X} Spa
    • {  } Ski
  • Visa: As a member of the EU, Ireland does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
  • Airlines: Direct flights from the United States, Europe and Britain arrive at the main hub of Dublin Airport. Regional airports are in Shannon, Cork, Knock and Belfast.
  • Flying into Belfast vs. Dublin: For people coming from the East Coast of the United States, consider flying into Belfast vs. Dublin. More and more low-cost airlines are flying into this smaller airport, which can result in big savings.
  • How to get around
    • Public transportation in the cities: For those worried about navigating in the city, fear not. Overall, it’s not hard to get around on public transport in Dublin, and our Deal Experts have found that people would go out of their ways — including to stop and ask if I needed help or directions — to be helpful.”
    • Bus passes: In Dublin, we recommend buying a ticket for the ‘hop on, hop off’ bus. It’s a double-decker bus guided tour of the city that goes to more than 20 sites. Tickets are good for two days and cost about 12 euros, and you can get off and on where you please with buses running every 15 minutes.
    • Traveling by rail: From Dublin, it’s easy to set off to the other sites, even for those who don’t want to navigate Ireland’s winding country lanes on the left side of the road. If you book your tickets online (irishrail.ie), then you can reserve your seats ahead of time. Otherwise, you just have to find an open seat once you get on the train. Trains between major cities (Dublin, Cork, Galway) run almost hourly. Open return tickets allow for lots of flexibility: check out any final sights in the morning then head to the train station whenever you’re done without worrying about making a specific departure time.
    • And yes, the roads: Driving in Ireland is not for the faint of heart. Once you get over your fear of the “other” side of the road, but it can be replaced by a fear of the hairpin turns, narrow roads, fearless drivers and lack of streetlights at night. Some travelers make it easier on themselves and don’t drive at night, but it does shorten the time you are able to spend in towns on day trips. An absolutely must? Renting or bringing your up-to-date GPS.
  • Currency: The euro is accepted across the country.
  • Calling code: The telephone calling code here is 353.
  • Taxes: Like many European countries, Ireland has a high VAT (value added tax) on goods and services, ranging from 9%-23% depending on what you purchase (2014 rates). Remember that as tourists you can obtain refunds at the airport, so be careful to save receipts along the trip.
  • Tipping: The standard tip for services and meals is 10% and is discretionary.
  • Internet access: Most medium to large hotels have strong and fast internet connections, and internet cafes are still prevalent as well. When in doubt, head for a McDonald’s for their free Wi-Fi.
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