One of the most popular posts on Infinite Ireland is my 31 Practical Ireland Travel Tips article. It’s been a couple of years since it was published and I thought it was time for new and more helpful list.
Most of these Ireland travel tips can’t be found in a guidebook, not because traditional guidebooks aren’t useful, but because they focus on different things. This list focuses on the ‘how-to’ rather than that ‘what to do’. The ‘how-to’ is kind of my specialty and so, of course, it’s a little long. So grab a cup of tea and settle in, I hope you’ll find these trusty tips helpful.
Before You Go
#1 . Use a local library to start your travel planning. Most libraries have an excellent travel section and it’s free to check out as many books as I need. I pour over the sections that describe the areas we want to travel. When it comes time to buy my own books, I usually have a pretty solid idea of which ones will be the most helpful.
#2. Search for photos of place you want to visit on Flickr or Google. The collective images help me to see the type of place it is from different perspectives, not just what it’s like on their website. For example, type in Skellig Michael to Flickr or Google Images. Don’t those photos make you want to hop on a plane right now? (me too!)
#3. Pick a zone. This maybe contrary to popular opinion, but Ireland travel is so much better if you go deeper instead of wider. If you are traveling for a week, pick an area to explore. I promise there is enough to do in each zone. Got two weeks, pick two zones. Only 10 days? Pick a zone and a nearby town in another area. You’ll be driving less, experiencing more and loving the people you get to meet!
#4. Plan to stay at least two nights in each place. The reason? It often takes one day to drive to a location while stopping to see the amazing sites along the way. You need another day to actually enjoy everything in or very near by the place you are staying.
For example, take one day to drive from the Cliffs of Moher to Killarney stopping in Bunratty, Limerick and Adare along the way. Then you will have another full day or more to actually enjoy (and see!) many sites in Killarney before moving on to your next stop.
If you follow this rule throughout your trip, you will find you have a much more immersive experience than most.
#5. Pack a power strip to plug-in all of your electronics without needing an adapter for each one. Plus, you will be less likely to forget your charging cords and adapters since all of your electronics will be in one spot. Bonus: you’ll make lots of friends at the airport. :-)
#6. You can’t bring too many Ziploc bags. They are thin and light weight and come in super handy when you want to bring home a bottle of whiskey or need to transport a wet washcloth.
#7. Pack as light as you can. I usually start by putting out everything I want to take to Ireland on my bed. Then I put half of it back. It ends up being about the perfect amount (here’s my ultimate packing list).
#8. Pack a scarf. Admittedly it probably sounds like fashion advice and not travel advice, but packing a scarf is one of the most useful items in my suitcase. Not only can I bundle up on a cold airplane or a windy cliff side, I’ve got a makeshift picnic blanket, towel, eye mask, pillow, or knapsack at my immediate disposal.
Once when visiting Kylemore Abbey, the gnats were really bad (like so bad that the grounds were deserted and most people just toured the abbey and left). I wanted to keep walking around the gardens and exploring, so I bundled my scarf around my head covering basically everything but my eyes. I was well protected had the whole garden to myself because no one else wanted to battle the bugs. It’s actually one of my favorite memories of that trip. All because I had a scarf with me.
#9. Trim your nails. Dirt, germs and all sorts of other unpleasant things live underneath the nails. If you keep your nails short, there is less space for the nastiness to hide out and you will be less likely to unknowingly transfer germs to your mouth.
#10. Use disinfectant wipes. They are always handy when traveling on the plane, in the car or even after a messy meal. We use them to wipe off all the surfaces that we might touch during our transatlantic flight to keep those yucky airline germs at bay (be sure to get the unscented ones in case anyone near is allergic).
Universal Travel Advice
#11. Photograph your luggage. If you ever lose your luggage on a flight, you’ll be asked several questions about its size, shape and make. If you’ve got a picture, it will make the process so much easier!
#12. Take a business card. If you are in an unfamiliar city, grab your hotel or B&B business card (or take a picture of it) with the address listed. If you need to grab a taxi or get turned around walking, you’ll have the exact street address for reference.
#13. Remember to check your passport expiration date. Border patrol and airlines can refuse you entry into a country if your passport isn’t valid for 6 months after you come home. It can take 6-8 weeks to process a new passport (3 weeks if expedited), so be sure to check well before you leave.
#14. Hide the stuff in your car. It isn’t a fun subject, but unfortunately no matter where you are (even Ireland) you can be a victim of theft. When traveling with your luggage, be sure to put everything in the boot (trunk). Don’t leave bags in the back seat if you can avoid it. High tourist spots with parking away from the main entrance are prime target areas. Just by being cautious and aware, you can avoid 90% of problems.
#15. Make a copy of your passport. If you ever find yourself with a lost or stolen passport, you will be glad you did. Not that you will really want to leave Ireland, but keeping a copy in a safe place, separate from where you store the original (or even emailing a photo of it to yourself), will help the US Embassy in Dublin expedite a replacement.
#16. Bring a few pens for the flight home. When you return to the US, you will need complete a Customs Form before you land (either in the airport or on the flight). Often you are handed the form sans something to write with. We always bring extra pens along for us and for our seatmates who almost always don’t have one.
#17. Check-in on time. We absolutely love staying in B&B’s, but it is really easy to be out exploring for the day and forget to check-in to our B&B between 3:00 – 6:00 PM.
So we always arrange our itinerary to arrive at our B&B by 4:00 PM. If we get a delayed by traffic or need to make a quick stop, we have a bit of cushion. On the rare occasion we are running really late, we’ll give our hosts a call to let them know when to expect us (and apologize).
Of course if you know ahead of time that you want to arrange an early or a late check-in, just ask. You’d be surprised how accommodating most hosts are even though it takes a lot effort for them to be available to you outside of the usual 3:00-6:00 PM.
#18. Check the water temperature in the shower. We often find ourselves going back to our B&B after a morning of hiking wanting a nice hot shower. Before I get undressed and in the shower, I check to see if the water warms up quickly. If not, I pop down and ask our host to turn on the immersion water heater.
Many B&B’s have the heater on for their guests in the morning and evening during typical shower times, but turn it off to save energy. However, if you want to get a shower late morning through late afternoon, you might find it very cold. Hosts are very happy to turn it on for you. You just might have to ask.
Not all showers are on this immersion system. Some have electric units right in the shower (don’t worry, they won’t shock you!) that you can turn on to your desired heat setting. With this system, you shouldn’t have any problem getting a warm shower any time of day.
#19. If you are really worried about the effects of jet lag, book a hotel or B&B room for the night before you arrive in Ireland. While you won’t be there the evening before, you will be able to check-in and have access to a bed, shower and a hearty breakfast within a couple of hours of landing. Just make sure your host knows when to expect you.
#20. Talk with your mouth full. Ok not really, but definitely chat up your host and other B&B guests while you are eating breakfast. We’ve gotten the best off the beaten path tips from other travelers who have already toured the area. Many have sought out places and things we would have never even known to look for. Sometimes these hidden gems are the best parts of our trip.
Joe and I can both be a little introverted (especially in the morning), so it can feel a little awkward starting a conversation with a couple or family next to us. But almost everyone likes talking about their travels, so we start with asking about their favorite thing so far. You’d be surprised how chatty and helpful everyone is. Sometimes the whole room erupts in conversation.
#21. YouTube is the best way to learn about driving in Ireland before you actually do it. There are fabulous videos out there that give tips for driving on the left as well as simply show the different types of roads you’ll come across.
Spend 30 minutes on YouTube before you go and you will be feeling so much more confident about getting behind the wheel. Here are a few videos to get you started:
Tips for Driving in Ireland
More Tips for Driving in Ireland
Driving the Ring of Kerry
#22. When driving in Ireland don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you need to go faster than you want. Keep your eye out for pull offs on the side of the road to let locals pass you. You will probably get a friendly wave from the driver, thanking you for allowing them by. Even if you have to pull over every 15 minutes, it will be worth it. Nothing is better than enjoying the beautiful scenery of Ireland at a pace you are comfortable with.
#23. If you are nervous about driving in Ireland first thing after a long-haul flight, one of the best ways to get your bearings before you go is to check out Google Street View. This can be especially helpful around the airport areas where it might be a little busy and you’re likely are the most nervous. Once you’ve been driving for a few days, it gets easier. Promise.
#24. Follow the brown signs. You see them everywhere in Ireland. From high crosses to stone circles and beaches, they are pointing you toward common sites and things often not in the guide books. We typically pick a few brown signs and follow them just to see where they lead.
Once we followed a sign for a waterfall, we had no idea where we were really going but the brown signs pointed us in the right direction. We finally came upon the bottom of a cliff that had a 20 foot waterfall streaming down. It was beautiful! I only wished we had brought a picnic because we could have stayed there all afternoon.
#25. The best way to get euros in Ireland is by using your ATM card. The best exchange rate will almost always be obtained through an ATM on the ground with your debit card.
Tell your bank you’re going to Ireland and make sure you know how much they charge for foreign transaction fees. Our bank charges $5.00 each time we take any amount out. Others charge a percentage. What your bank charges will make a difference on how often and how much you’ll want to take out.
The best part is that banks in Ireland don’t charge you anything for using their ATMs.
#26. Hold on to your spare change for the ride home. Since we aren’t used to using cash in the US nearly as much as we do in Ireland, Joe and I find our pockets full of change after our trips to the green land.
Rather than saving the coins for next time, we give our change to UNICEF on the plane ride back. UNICEF has a program called Change for Good where they take donated currency to support impoverished children around the world. American Airlines and Aer Lingus both take part in the program.
While our change donations probably amount to less than $10 each time, the Change for Good program has generated more than $140 million dollars. I like being a part of that, even if it is just the tiniest bit.
#27. Have a pic that would be fun to send home to those poor souls going to work every day while you are living it up in Ireland? Or got a photo to send mom & dad to let them know you are still alive and well? WhatsApp is my favorite travel app because I can send all the pics and text I want to anyone one who as the app for free. No matter where I am as long as I can get to wifi, I can communicate home. It saves me from expensive international text messaging fees with my cell carrier.
#28. Did you know you can find wifi passwords on social media? Foursquare is the best resource. If you know you will be going somewhere that you would like to tap into the wifi (like an airport) look it up before you get there. It can be a major money saver because international data plans are expensive.
Most B&B’s and hotels will have wifi in Ireland; you just may need to go down to the common area to get the best signal.
Food & Drink
#29. When walking into a pub for a pint or some food, go up to the bar to get some menus before finding a seat. If you sit right down you might find yourself waiting a long time for service.
#30. Buy a round. The tradition of buying a round of drinks is alive and well in Ireland and this is one of the easiest ways to get in on a conversation in a pub. Not a big drinker yourself? No worries.Tell the barman to make yours a soft drink or pass along your pint to the person next to you.
All of our favorite Ireland memories include conversations with the Irish. You’ll find they are the most congenial and hospitable people in the world (a pint in the hand doesn’t hurt).
#31. Never say no to a cup of tea. People travel to Ireland for all sorts of reasons, family heritage, the pubs, the history, the beautiful scenery. Those are all great reasons to go, but the best thing about Ireland is the people. They seem to have this innate sense of hospitality. Simply welcoming and kind. For us, it feels like coming home every time we’re there.
When someone invites you to have a cup of tea, they aren’t just asking if you would like a beverage. They are looking for a bit of friendly conversation to get to know you a little and to share in your Ireland experience. Even if you aren’t a tea drinker, always say yes to a cup. You never know what kind of conversations and experiences it may lead to.
Want even more tips & the Best Ireland Packing List?
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I think you’re going to love them!! :-)