You’ve decided to visit Ireland. Congratulations! Now you will need my 9 insider travel tips to get you there as economically as possible.
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Even though Ireland is a small country, there is a lot to see, and you should take that into account when planning your vacation.
Let's dive into these 9 insider travel tips.
Tip #1 – Car Rental
If you are renting a car in Ireland, be sure to do it well in advance of your vacation. That way you are guaranteed to get the best rates. If you can drive a manual car, the rates will be cheaper.
For two people traveling together, a compact is the most budget-friendly option. However, be aware of the trunk size and bring the appropriate-sized luggage so that it will fit. Cars are generally smaller in Ireland than they are in the U.S.
Be sure to book your car with the right credit card that will cover the mandatory CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance, meaning that if you have an accident in Ireland, you will be covered, and your credit card will handle the issue.
Some of the credit cards that you can use to cover the cost of your rental car in Ireland include the American Express Gold Card, the AMEX Platinum Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card, and the World Elite Mastercard.
Tip #2 – Driving in Ireland
While driving in Ireland might not be for everyone, it is the best way to get a feel for the country and to discover the places that a tour bus might not take you to.
Driving on Ireland’s main roads won’t be unlike what you’re used to at home. However, country roads (those designated as L routes or Local Roads) will be narrower and you may come across cows, sheep, and tractors on these roads so drive slowly.
You will encounter tolls on the major motorways in Ireland.
There are 11 tolled motorways in the Republic of Ireland. They include the M50, M1, M3, M4, M7/M8, N6, N8, N25, the East-Link Bridge, the Limerick Tunnel, and the Dublin Port Tunnel.
Ten of Ireland’s 11 toll roads have regular toll plazas, and you can pay in cash at all of them (just be sure to have coins available).
Visa debit or Mastercard are the only acceptable cards you can use to pay for tolls on the M1, M3, M4, M6, M7/8, N25, and the Dublin Tunnel toll plazas.
The M8, the Limerick Tunnel, and the East Link Bridge do not accept bank card payments.
The M50 is Ireland’s only digital toll road, which means that you must pay by 8 p.m. the following day by using eFlow if you haven’t already signed up for the automatic payment that most rental car companies in Ireland offer.
To get to Ireland’s many tourist attractions, you can use Google Maps to help with directions. Granted, it may not work so well in rural areas, but on main roads, it works pretty well. Waze can also be used in Ireland.
If your rental car has a touchscreen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, you can use it to control the phone from the car display rather than from the phone itself. Download maps ahead of time in case you end up in a dead zone with no Internet service.
There are plenty of tourist signs across Ireland that will lead you to previously unknown destinations. Look for the brown signs with white lettering.
Tip #3 – Buy a Sim Card
Alternatively, at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2, you can purchase one at the SPAR convenience store.
In Terminal 1 (you will have to walk indoors from Terminal 2), you can buy an Irish Sim card at the WH Smith bookstore.
Check that your phone is unlocked before you try inserting the Sim card. If you’re not sure, ask your provider before you leave home. You could also use an old cell phone and put the Sim card into that.
Tip #4 – Accommodation
Like airfare, accommodation is best booked beforehand, especially if you are traveling to Ireland in the high season as many guesthouses and hotels may be booked out, especially in popular tourist areas.
American tourists who have returned from recent vacations in Ireland give high marks to several hotels around the country.
They include the Europa Hotel in Belfast, the Maldron Hotel in Derry/Londonderry, the Armagh City Hotel, The Abbey Hotel in Donegal, The Residence Hotel in Galway, The Old Dispensary in Kinsale, Wynns Hotel in Dublin, and the Temple Bar Inn, also in Dublin.
Tip #5 – Money
My suggestion is to have some euros in your wallet before you leave for Ireland. While many places will take bank cards, there may be times when you need to pay in cash.
Dublin Bus only accepts coins, and certain B&Bs may not take credit cards.
However, most B&Bs in Ireland do indeed accept credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and some American Express cards.
To be absolutely sure what kind of payment system is in place, it's always a good idea to contact the B&B provider by phone or email before you arrive.
For the most part, it is more convenient to use cards. However, be selective with the bank cards that you bring to Ireland as you will be charged high foreign transaction fees as a result.
Go to your bank a few weeks prior to leaving home and order $200 or so in Euro. While you’re in Ireland, you can easily remove money from an ATM.
Many tourists are unaware of the tax back scheme that they are entitled to after purchasing specific items (mostly souvenirs and other gift items like jewelry, Irish crystal, and the like) in Ireland.
Under Ireland's Retail Export Scheme, non-EU residents (including residents of the U.K.) are entitled to claim the VAT/sales tax on goods they export (over €75) from the European Union.
Sales clerks in certain shops may deduct this at the point of sale when you give them the Fexco Horizon Card, but if not, the card will keep an account of your transactions and all you need to do is go to the self-serve Horizon kiosks at Dublin, Cork or Shannon airports or at Ireland's ferries and fill out the paperwork.
Tip #6 – Food
Food in Ireland has changed a lot over the years. Sure, you can still get the traditional full Irish breakfast in most B&Bs and hotels, but there are other offerings too that you should be willing to try.
Due to Ireland’s proximity to the ocean, fresh seafood is a popular option on most good restaurant menus.
Farm-to-table practices are also common as Irish chefs rely increasingly on produce, cheese, and other ingredients that come from Ireland’s farms.
If you find a restaurant that you like that seems expensive, check to see if that restaurant offers an Early Bird special, which is usually provided anywhere from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
If the restaurant has a pub attached, see if you can eat your meal there. It may be cheaper.
Tipping is not required in Ireland but of course, it is appreciated. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total bill is the standard when tipping.
Tip #7 – Clothing and Footwear
The kind of clothing and footwear you bring with you on your Ireland budget vacation really depends on the activities you are planning to do.
If you plan to do a lot of walking and hiking, you’ll need good sturdy hiking boots. If you are planning regular tourist activities, a good pair of sneakers or alternative walking shoes are fine.
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Most importantly, dress comfortably and in layers. If the weather is warm, you can always shed the layers. A good waterproof jacket is a must when in Ireland. If you’re worried about the rain damaging your cross-body travel bag or brand new Sketchers, purchase a can of waterproof spray.
Tip #8 – Book City Attractions in Advance
Since popular attractions tend to book up quickly, it is wise to reserve tickets in advance.
With the onset of Covid-19, many tourist attractions — when they finally opened — required visitors to book online anyway, so it is a practice that most travelers have become accustomed to.
While it is impossible to see everything, choose the attractions that you are most eager to see and leave the others for another time. They will certainly be there when you return to Ireland!
Depending on where you are staying in Ireland’s towns and cities, scope out the directions beforehand to see if getting to attractions by foot is doable or if a bus or taxi is required.
Dublin has a good transportation network and the city itself is not huge, so it should be easy to navigate.
Galway can be covered entirely on foot and Cork has a bus network that is quite accessible.
For example, if you’re staying in Cork City for a couple of days, you can take a train from Kent Station in Cork to Cobh, home of the Titanic Experience. You can also get a train to the Fota Wildlife Park, which has its own station stop.
Tip #9 – Electronics
You do not need a voltage converter to operate your electronics in Ireland since most laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other such devices operate in a range between 100 volts and 240 volts anyway.
The standard domestic electricity supply in Ireland is 230 volts (AC). The voltage in the U.S. is 120V.
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As a result, all you really need is a plug adapter. If you have several devices that need charging on a daily basis while you are in Ireland, consider purchasing a universal power strip for use worldwide.
Are you planning a vacation to Ireland? Let me know in the comments below if these 9 insider travel tips were helpful.