Wild Atlantic Way Cork
Wild Atlantic Way Cork

Is it Possible to Get Around Ireland Without a Car?

Updated May 2024–Many first-time travelers to Ireland often wonder if getting around Ireland without a car is doable.

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Yes, it definitely is. But you will need to plan beforehand to see Ireland's tourist attractions as opposed to renting a car to get you from place to place.

Advantages of Getting Around Ireland Without a Car

If you are uncomfortable about driving on the other side of the road, taking alternative modes of transportation can make a lot of sense.

In fact, if you want to explore Ireland at a more leisurely pace, letting someone else do the driving may be just the way to go.

Getting around Ireland without a car is completely doable.

Plus, it might also be a considerable cost-saver since you won’t be incurring the cost of a rental car and the added insurance you are required to take while driving around Ireland.

train station getting around Ireland
Travel to Cork from Dublin on Irish Rail. Pictured here is Cork's Kent Train Station, Cork. Photo Cillian Kelly for Getty Images Pro.

Ireland’s transportation network has improved in recent years since there are trains and buses that will take you to various parts of the country quite easily, not to mention the availability of specially themed tours that will bring you to some of Ireland’s most popular attractions.

Here are some ideas to get you started on your travels around Ireland without a car.

Getting to Northern Ireland by Train from Dublin

Northern Ireland is technically part of the United Kingdom. Because it is part of the island of Ireland, it is very easy to get to.

The NI Railways train operates from Belfast to Dublin and back. Photo: Aubrey Dale, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8405843

Trains run from Dublin to Belfast daily. They are operated by Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail) and Translink. You can get an open round-trip rail ticket (standard) from Dublin to Belfast for as low as €30.98 (adult)/$31 US, £26 Sterling, $45 CAD and $50 AUD. A first-class round-trip ticket will cost a bit more.

Here’s a look at the relatively new Enterprise train ride from Dublin to Belfast that passes through County Louth in the Republic of Ireland and after crossing the border, stops in Newry, Portadown, Lisburn, and finally, into Belfast's Lanyon Place Station.

Video courtesy of Mark Smith, www.seat61.com.

Once you get to Belfast, there’s plenty to see.

Some of my favorite spots include Belfast City Hall, the civic building of Belfast City Council, which opened its doors in 1906. Plans for the hall began in 1888 after Queen Victoria granted Belfast city status.

Other must-see attractions include a tour of the staunchly Catholic neighborhood, the Falls Road, and the Protestant community on the Shankill Road.

You can see both by taking a black taxi tour. There are several such tours in Belfast, providing a behind-the-scenes look into both communities and into the period known as The Troubles.

mural on wall in city getting around Ireland without a car
A mural on a wall in West Belfast. Photo: Colette Connolly.

Many of the tours include stops at the famous Peace Wall, the many murals in West Belfast as well as memorials to the people who were killed in the conflict.

Read More: 24 Hours in Belfast on a Budget

Large building with sign in front getting around Ireland without a car?
Titanic Belfast. Photo: Failte Ireland.

Titanic Belfast is undoubtedly the city’s most celebrated attraction. It is here that the doomed luxury liner was built. While the museum tells the story of the Titanic, it also tells the story of Belfast itself.

Expect to spend 3-4 hours here in this truly remarkable attraction.

Accommodation in Belfast

hotel sign near church spire
Vagabonds Hostel in Belfast. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourism.

If you want to stay the night in Belfast there are plenty of options in the form of hotels and hostels.

Voted the best hostel in all of Ireland and the U.K., the Vagabonds Hostel offers rates between £80 and £100 per night for two and is suitable for the budget traveler. The hostel offers twin and double rooms, in addition to typical dorm-style accommodation in the form of 6, 8, and 12 beds to a room. It also provides female-only accommodation.

Free breakfast is included as is free tea or coffee throughout the day.

If you're prepared to spend a bit more, there are several good hotels that I'd recommend in the city center. You'll find more details in this post.


What’s to See Beyond Belfast

Using Belfast as your base, there are plenty of day trips you can take that will bring you to Northern Ireland’s most beautiful attractions, such as the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, the Game of Thrones filming locations, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, among others.

The Giant's Causeway in Co. Antrim. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourism.

Seeing Other Parts of Ireland

If you’re planning on staying in the Republic of Ireland, there are lots of ways to see the most popular tourist attractions there without renting a car.

You could take a number of pre-arranged day trips from Dublin, returning each night to your accommodation, or you could also plan out an itinerary that will bring you to Ireland’s major cities via bus or train, where you will also be able to avail of various tours.

Photo: Light Field Studios.

Lots of travel companies offer one-day tours and longer to various parts of Ireland, many of them leaving from Dublin and other big cities.

Exploring the West

To get a glimpse of the west coast, many tourists head to Galway. The West of Ireland capital is a lively city with much to offer.

man walking near a tall wall getting around Ireland without a car
Galway-City Walls-Eyre Square Centre. Photo: Failte Ireland.

To get to Galway from Dublin, I suggest taking a train as your journey will be more comfortable. Trains leave from Heuston Station.

The round-trip fare from Dublin to Galway for an adult is approximately €31.98/$34.55/£27.20/$47.39/$52.25 AUD.

Since Dublin is the main transportation hub in Ireland, all trains begin there and fan out to various cities and towns throughout the country.

Dublin has two main train stations, Connolly Station and Heuston Station.

Heuston Station in Dublin. Photo: powerofforever, Getty Images Signature.

The main long-distance routes from Dublin include:

Dublin Heuston to Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Westport, Ballina, and Waterford and Dublin Connolly to Sligo, Wexford, Rosslare Europort, and Belfast.

If you want to get to Galway by bus, you can take a Citylink bus or a bus operated by Bus Eireann.

The Aran Island Ferry boats en route to the islands. Photo: Boyd Challenger for Failte Ireland.

After you’ve explored the city itself, give yourself time to see what is outside of Galway.

A popular destination for many is the Aran Islands, a group of three islands about 45 kilometers (28 miles) off the coast of Galway, where Gaelic is the predominant language.

Inishmore is the largest of the islands and the most popular, with more than 50 different historical monuments dotted across its landmass.

The most impressive of these is called Dun Aengus (pronounced “Dhun Aingus”), a prehistoric fort built during the Bronze Age.

people standing on a cliff overlooking ocean
The dramatic cliffs of the Aran Islands. Photo: John Hession for Tourism Ireland.

A number of tour companies will bring you to the Aran Islands from Galway.

Among them is Aran Island Ferries, which will bring operates the popular Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher Cruise, the only one leaving from Galway City.

boats in the water New Aran Islands Ferry
Rossaveal in Co. Galway, where passengers can get the Arranmore Ferry to the Aran Islands. Photo: Christian McLeod Photography for Failte Ireland.

All others take passengers by bus from Galway City to Rossaveal, which is about 23 miles west of the city, and from there to the islands.

Other day trips from Galway include tours of Connemara National Park, the Cliffs of Moher, the small village of Doolin in Co. Clare and more.

Seeing Ireland By Coach Tour

A bus tour can be a great idea if you have a limited amount of time in Ireland and you really don’t want to do any of the planning yourself.

people getting on a bus getting around Ireland without a car
A coach bus stops to pick up passengers in Jerpoint Park, Kilkenny. Just one of the ways of getting around Ireland without a car. Photo: Failte Ireland.

Booking through a tour company can save you a lot of hassle. Check out this blog post where I provide details on 7 tour companies that are worth looking into.

My advice is to do your homework beforehand and ask yourself some basic questions.

Do you want to travel with a big group or enjoy Ireland in a more intimate setting? Do you want to stay in a hotel for one night or stay for two?

Photo: vadimguzhva for Getty Images Pro.

If the tour company includes two-night stays in a particular destination, you’ll get more of a feel for the place than if you arrived at 8 p.m. at night and then took off halfway through the next day.

Most importantly, know how much you can afford before you book anything.

The tour companies listed below are experts in providing group tours to Ireland.

CIE Tours – this is by far the granddaddy of all tour companies. CIE Tours has provided packaged excursions to Ireland and Britain for the past 87 years. It currently organizes tours to Ireland, Britain, Scotland, Eastern Europe, Italy, and Iceland, as well as combination tours of Ireland and Scotland, Ireland and Britain, and Ireland and Iceland.

King John's Castle, Limerick is one of the stops on CIE Tours' Irish Heritage excursion. Photo: P_L_photography for Getty images Pro.

Its popular Irish Heritage Tour includes stops in Limerick, Killarney, Cobh, Glendalough, and Dublin. All of CIE’s tours include authentic local experiences, accommodation, and some meals.

The cost of the 7-day-6-night tour is approximately $2.395. This does not include airfare, although CIE Tours will book that for you if you wish.

a church near the woods is it possible to get around Ireland without a car
The Glendalough Monastic site in Co. Wicklow is one of the places that you'll stop at on a CIE tour. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

CIE Tours also offers year-round deals and promotions, including military discounts, savings for solo travelers, and student discounts, among others.

Railtours Ireland is a tour company that aims to accommodate the “independent traveler.” While the company offers plenty of one-day tours, you can also plan your entire vacation in Ireland around a Railtours packaged excursion.

Most travel is done by train, although on some tours, transfer to a coach bus is necessary.

a road by the ocean is it possible to get around Ireland without a car
The Coastal Causeway route in Northern Ireland. Photo: Stefan Schnebelt for Tourism Ireland.

The cost of the All-Ireland Tour is €2,328 per person, which includes accommodation and breakfast each morning.

The tour covers a large part of the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, in addition to Belfast. Passengers will also visit Cork, Blarney Castle, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, and the Aran Islands.

people walking on a pedestrianized street is it possible to get around Ireland without a car
A street in the center of Killarney. Photo: No Limit Pictures, Getty Images Signature.

Accommodation, including two nights in Killarney, two nights in Galway, and two nights in Dublin is included in the total cost.

Wolfhound Adventure Tours promises to uncover Ireland’s hidden secrets in a fun, adventurous way.

The 5-day “Ireland West and Wild” tour includes hiking, biking, horse riding, seaweed baths, and surfing to places as diverse as the Aran Islands, Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher, Galway City, the Sligo coast, and more.

girls on horses in field is possible to get around Ireland without a car
Horse Riding courtesy of the An Sibin Horse Riding Centre, Whitegate, Co. Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward for Tourism Ireland.

The total cost of the tour is €1,468, which includes accommodation, breakfast each morning, bike hire, guided wilderness hikes, and more.

Getting around Ireland without a car is not only doable, it also guarantees that your vacation will be stress-free.

Whatever way you want to get around Ireland is entirely up to you.

If budget is a concern, I would advise using public transportation as much as possible and then book day tours once you get to your destination.

Creating an itinerary beforehand is a good idea so you know exactly what parts of Ireland you’ll be visiting from day to day.

Let me know in the comments below if you're thinking of traveling around Ireland without a rental car.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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    1. Avatar for colette

      Thank you for the information!

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