Discover five unexpected ways to meet locals in Ireland.
After so many years of traveling to Ireland, I realized that some of our most memorable experiences with locals came about from untraditional travel experiences. We found ourselves going to places and doing things most travelers don’t. The result was the best way to meet locals in Ireland.
Cultivating Instant Curiosity Among Locals
There is an instant curiosity from locals in Ireland when you show up at a place that’s not frequented by other travelers. Their curiosity will get the better of them and the conversation flows easily–why are you in Ireland? How did you find us? Are you enjoying your holiday?
You may be surprised by how earnest they are in learning the answers to these questions. From here the conversation often unfolds naturally. A mention of children, another holiday you’ve been on, or your Irish heritage brings on a slew of new questions.
Even if you’re only in Ireland for a week there are some easy spots to chat with locals in Ireland.
Head To a Barber Shop to Meet Locals in Ireland
Joe keeps his hair very short–almost clean-shaven. Within a week he likes a cut. For a two-week trip, he’ll track down a barber about midway for a cut. After doing this a couple of trips in a row, he noticed he got to have some unique conversations he wouldn’t otherwise.
If you think about it–it makes sense. Most of a barber’s clients are locals–they probably know their customers pretty well, especially in small towns. So when someone new walks in, you can almost see their wheels turning trying to figure out who it is.
Then, the two of them get to chat about everything under the sun for at least half an hour (Joe usually ops for a shave too).
I usually head to the town shops or a cafe to people-watch–one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Ladies could head to a salon for a style before a nice castle dinner or pop in to a nail salon to have pretty nails for those vacation pics.
Go To a Playground to Meet Locals in Ireland
Admittedly, this one is for families bringing kiddos to Ireland. Playgrounds are a great place to chat up other parents in Ireland.
And there are so many great playgrounds in Ireland. (I know my boys would love to make a trip just to visit them all.)
Kiddos can make friends quite easily on playgrounds and adults are often open to chatting too. Easy conversations start with chatting about your kids–how old are they? How are your kiddos liking Ireland? I always recommend asking for kid-friendly activities and restaurants while you’re at it too.
Here are a few favorite playgrounds in Ireland. A simple Google search in the town you’re staying in should pull up several others nearby.
- Russborough House Park with Playground (the whole estate is worthy of a visit for adults and kiddos alike), Blessington, County Wicklow W91 W284
- Oak Park Forest Park (with great forest trails for everyone too), Carlow Town, Carlow, R93 RF80
- Cratloe Woods Playground (all wood playground in a forest), Cratloe Forest, Brickhill East, Cratloe, Co. Clare
- Doneraile Wildlife Park (incredible wildlife park and playground the whole family will enjoy and a beautiful estate there too) Doneraile Estate, Doneraile, Co. Cork, P51 XR66
Pop Into a Grocery Store, Deli, or a Market to Meet Locals in Ireland
I’ve long said how much I enjoy shopping at grocery stores in Ireland. From trying new foods to new brands to simply seeing how items are displayed, there is always something interesting to check out.
Shopping for food is also great a great way to chat someone up. Whether you ask for a recommendation for which brand of tea to try (there are some strong opinions in Ireland on which is the best) or someone’s favorite confection at a bakery full of endless options, people are quite happy to give you their thoughts.
My favorite trick is to ask how to make something. You’d be surprised how many people will rattle off or write down the ingredients for you.
Take a Class or Join a Group to Meet Locals in Ireland
Classes are a great way to intersect local interactions with a hobby or an interest. Never miss your weekly yoga class? Try one out in Ireland. Love the gym? Grab a day pass or hire a trainer for an hour.
There are social clubs for all sorts of hobbies in Ireland. MeetUp.com is a great place to find already existing groups. There are groups for just about everything–painting, programming, walking, eating, language exchange, knitting, and improv. The list goes on and on.
Here’s a tip–show up early. While you’re hanging about waiting for a class to start, you’ve got a prime opportunity to chat with your classmates. Be ready with a compliment or a question. Likely your accent will tip them off that you’re not from Ireland. Then, see where the conversation leads after the class.
Be a Repeat Guest to Meet Locals in Ireland
The best way to make an impression is to become a “regular.” Find a spot–a restaurant, a cafe, a pub, a park, even a B&B and return the following day and the next.
You may get to know the staff or find out where trad music will be that night. You might get a locals-only recommendation or an invite to a local event you wouldn’t know was going on otherwise.
Once when we were staying at a B&B for a couple of nights, we got to chatting with the owner. She was a lovely lady old enough to be our grandmother at the time. We mentioned we loved ancient sites and history. She said, “oh, we’ve got a fairy fort out back, would you like me to show you?”
Off came the apron and on came the boots. We went traipsing in the backyard together in search of the fairy fort but we got so much more.
We learned about raising her kiddos in rural Ireland and about her mother’s and grandmother’s no-nonsense Irish-mammy parenting style. She sang a song we had never heard before about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (near where we live). We ended up spending the entire morning chatting and enjoying the company of each other.
It’s still one of my favorite memories in Ireland.
Maximizing Your Experiences (and time) in Ireland –one last tip.
Heading to the barber, going to a playground or a grocery store, or becoming a “regular” are all things that cannot easily happen on a trip if you haven’t created breathing space in your itinerary for them.
I’ve spent years perfecting the art of crafting an itinerary that hits just the right note: Not too rushed, not over-planned, days with lots of opportunities to meet and chat with locals.
One of the (many) things I preach in the Ireland Travel Planning Webinar is to stay at least two nights in every destination. This way you can sprinkle in these kinds of experiences without sacrificing iconic sites or other hidden gems you may have planned.
If you start with multiple nights in each location, you’ll be well on your way to meeting lots of locals on your trip to Ireland.
At Infinite Ireland Travel Co., we specialize in crafting trips focused on immersion, authenticity and comfort. I’d love to introduce you to my favorite locals in Ireland. Grab the packing list below to get more tips and tricks for your trip to Ireland and learn more about our services.