31 Ireland Travel Tips You Won’t Find in a Guidebook

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The below is a list of 31 tangible and practical Ireland travel tips for how to plan and have a better trip to Ireland. Guidebooks are great for “what to do,” but they often don’t cover “how to.” I’ve got you covered with some of my favorite tips from 15+ years of traveling to Ireland.

So grab a cup of tea and settle in:

Rural stone cottage set on a hillside in Ireland

Ireland Travel Tips Before You Go

#1. Use a local library to start your Ireland 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 to. 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 the place you want to visit on Google images. 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. Don’t those photos make you want to hop on a plane right now? (me too!)

#3. Pick a zone. This may be 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!

Map of Ireland divided into four regions, North, West, South and East

#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 nearby 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.

 

Packing for Ireland

#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. :-)

Power Strip for travel plugged in and light on

#6. You can’t bring too many Ziploc bags. They are thin and lightweight and come in super handy when you want to bring home a bottle of whiskey or need to transport a wet washcloth (which, by the way, aren’t always offered at B&B’s so bring your own).

#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 and Ireland travel tip, 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 cliffside, but I’ve also 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.

 

Tips for Staying Healthy in Ireland

#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 Tips

#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!

Blue Luggage zipped up

#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. At the time of publishing, US passports are taking about 13 weeks to process a new passport (5-7 weeks if expedited), so be sure to check well before you leave.

#14. 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.

#15. Hide the stuff in your car. It isn’t a fun subject, but unfortunately, no matter where you are (even in 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. Cultural and heritage spots with parking that is a good walk from the main site are prime target areas (think stone circles out in the middle of the field).

#16. Bring a few pens for the flight home. When you return to the US, you will need to 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.

 

Tips for Ireland’s B&Bs

#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 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 late check-in, just ask. You’d be surprised how accommodating most hosts are even though it takes a lot of 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 units right in the shower 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 hearty breakfast within a couple of hours of landing. Just make sure your host knows when to expect you.

Lake of Killarney with three small row boats

#20. Chat up your host and other B&B guests while you are eating breakfast. We’ve gotten the best off-the-beaten-path Ireland travel 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.

A traditional Irish breakfast with eggs, sausage, beans, blood pudding, toast and tea

 

Driving in Ireland Travel Tips

#21. YouTube offers some great videos about driving in Ireland before you actually do it. There are some great 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 couple videos to get you started:

Ride along with a Professional Driving Teacher
Roundabouts 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.

A pull off area on an Irish Road.

#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. And we had it all to ourselves.

A brown direction sign pointing to a heritage site in Ireland

 

Tips for Spending Money in Ireland

#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 $17 million dollars from American Airlines alone. I like being a part of that, even if it is just the tiniest bit.

 

WIFI in Ireland

#27. WhatsApp is one of my favorite travel apps because I can send all the pics and text I want to anyone who has the app for free. 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? No matter where I am as long as I can get to wifi, I can call or text home. It saves me from expensive international text messaging fees with my cell carrier.

#28. Most B&B’s and hotels will have wifi, but the signal can be spotty. Go down to the common area and cozy on the couch. You’ll likely have great reception and may even find yourself a new friend.

 

Ireland’s Food & Drink

#29. When walking into a pub for a pint or some food, go to the bar to ask for a menu before finding a seat. If you sit right down you might find yourself waiting a long time for service.

#30. Pack a picnic. So simple to do, yet so easy to forget. On your first day in the countryside, head to the store and grab a few things you can stash in your car for a picnic (crackers, chips, chocolate, drinks, and anything else new and interesting you can find). You will undoubtedly come across at least one or two spots during your trip that are just ripe for an impromptu picnic.

#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. The Irish seem to have an innate sense of hospitality. For us, it feels like coming home every time we’re there.

One of the best Ireland travel tips I can share with you is that 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 with you. Even if you aren’t much of a tea drinker, always say yes to a cup. You never know what kind of conversations and experiences it may lead to.

A full cup of tea Irish breakfast tea

Want even more tips & the Best Ireland Packing List?

Grab my free printable of the Ultimate Ireland Packing list and a series of my most favorite tips for Ireland (yes, even more tips!).

I think you’re going to love them!! :-)

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14 Comments

  1. I loved my trip with CIE and can’t wait to get back. Hoping to win a trip for 2 to take my best friend to Ireland. I rave about it still.

  2. On my next trip to Ireland, I’d like to rent a holiday home or something similar. I know the general area where I’d like to stay and explore Any suggestions on how I should go about doing this? Love your website! Thanks for your help. Sincerely, Gaye Ann from Oklahoma

    1. Hi Gaye Ann! I would start by searching for self-catering rentals in the area you would like to be. For example, if you are looking for something in west cork, Google search the town name + self-catering or short-term rental. There are many, many self-catering providers in Ireland, so you won’t find it difficult to get one, but sometimes it can be difficult to find reviews, so asking a lot of questions (like are heating and linens included, or what’s the kitchen stocked with) can help. Often self-catering cottages are rented one week at a time and you can receive discounts for longer rentals, so that’s a great thing to ask too. Here are a few sites I have bookmarked to look for cottages, but there are dozens more out there. http://www.westcork-cottages.com/ http://www.hogansirishcottages.com/ http://www.imagineireland.com http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rentals/ireland/r37 http://www.daft.ie/holiday-homes/

      I also really like AirBnB. We’ve rented rooms, studio apartments and full houses via AirBnB with fantastic experiences. And they tend to be less money than the traditional “holiday home” in Ireland. This is our referral link for AirBnB, which gives a $20 discount off the first stay: https://www.airbnb.com/c/schastain1 I am all about full-disclosure, so if you sign up and stay with this link, we also get a small discount off our next stay with AirBnB too. :-)

      I hope this helps get you started!!

  3. I have teenage girls and we’re dying to go to Ireland. Help! Where is “hip”, safe, and still won’t leave me with a migraine and an empty pocketbook. :) We are fairly outdoorsy. (Think 5k, not marathon)
    Do love your website.
    Go raibh agat

    1. Hi Maggie!! Your question made me smile…the struggle is real with teenagers. :-) I’ve found that most families I’ve worked with who have teenagers, really love the jaw dropping gorgeous vistas and the sites that are a bit more interactive. There are a lot of those depending on which part of Ireland you’re planning on visiting. Here are some places/activities that you might consider:

      http://www.atlanticseakayaking.com/ (on my bucket list too!)
      http://www.aranislandferries.com/ (Either a day trip to the Aran Islands or the Cliffs cruise)
      http://www.blarneycastle.ie/ (Kissing the stone, but even the grounds are gorgeous!)
      http://www.shannonheritage.com/BunrattyCastleAndFolkPark/ (The banquets are a little kitschy, but really so much fun)
      http://www.irishfolktours.com/ (another great night, but in Dublin this time)
      If you’re fit for a 5k, you’re fit for some amazing hill walking–really our favorite thing to do in Ireland. I’d suggest a seaside cliff walk.

      I hope this helps get you started! Have a fantastic time with your family Maggie!

        1. Hi Mary!
          That’s a really hard one actually. We love the Trad banquet in Bunratty and do it every time we fly out of Shannon. I haven’t done the Irish Folk Tours at the Brazen Head in Dublin, but it gets wonderful reviews and is on my list to do. If it were me, I’d likely pick the one that best fits in my schedule or itinerary. :-)

  4. Hi! I’m wondering I’m disabled but I can walk. I’m worried I won’t be able to find amenities that I would need? Is there a guide or website that would be useful?
    Thank you!
    Sincerely a wanna be Irish woman!,
    Ms.Micheal Ann Hodge

  5. Hi Stephanie, my husband and I will be visiting Ireland for the first time in Mid September. We are so excited. I will have exactly three weeks of vacation time. We will be flying from the San Francisco area and I am thinking that I will want a day to recuperate before returning to work. My husband wants to see in London for 2 to 3 days and also Paris for two days. Of course 2 days will be spent traveling so those will be lost days. My main objective for this trip is seeing Ireland which is my heritage. My question is this, will this allow us enough time to really be able to see Ireland? I would be happy to spend the entire time seeing the emerald isle, but I am willing to consider his wishes. Thanks,
    Linda

    1. Hi Linda,
      How lucky that you have three weeks! While you definitely can spend a few days in Paris or London before or after Ireland, I would just caution that you’ll not only be losing travel days to and from the US. But you’ll also lose quite a bit of time traveling to and from the airports in London and Paris (neither are right in the city)–so add another three days of travel. Still, that leaves you with some time to experience all three places. My advice however would be to visit only two countries, which will give you a solid amount of time to see both places. I’ve loved my time in Paris and London is great too, but in my biased opinion, Ireland is certainly worth at least a week or more of your time. :-)

      1. Hi Stephanie,
        Thanks so much for your input! Also loved your info on using your credit card to possibly cover auto insurance!
        We are wondering what might be the best base in Northern Ireland to stay for two or three nights to visit the Giant’s Causeway and The Gobbins? Looking for a village that has some nice B&B’s and some restaurants nearby.
        We will be driving for the first time there.
        Thanks,
        Linda

  6. LOVED this amazing post!!! Thank you for sharing your great tips with readers. Can’t wait for my Ireland adventure!

  7. Stephanie, Thanks for these tips and the ultimate packing list! The hubby and I are looking forward to our upcoming trip.

    Question: Have you spent much time in Northern Ireland? Like you, we prefer to go deeper rather than wider. We chose to explore NI since our ‘big event’ is seeing Van Morrison perform at the Slieve Donard resort. We’ll be in Belfast and/or Slieve Donard for 10 days with a car. Any particular spots we shouldn’t miss? Would a day trip to Dublin be realistic?

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