Binevenagh Derry 1
Binevenagh Derry 1

How to Prepare for a Trip to Ireland

Many first-time visitors have little knowledge of how to prepare for a trip to Ireland. But with these 12 tips, I'm hoping you'll feel more confident about planning that dream vacation.

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1. Use Credit Card Rewards

If you’re wondering what credit cards are the best in terms of travel rewards, my first choice would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is also a good credit card to use when renting a car in Ireland.

If you are a member of the Aer Lingus rewards program, AerClub, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to the loyalty program at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point converts to 1 AerClub Avios point.

AerClub, the rewards program of Aer Lingus. Image courtesy of Aer Lingus.

The Chase cards that are in the Ultimate Rewards Program include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the Chase Freedom Flex card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, among others.

You could also apply for an Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card.

Photo: demopicture.

With the card, you earn 75,000 Avios points after spending $5,000 within three months of opening the account, in addition to 50,000 bonus Avios points when you spend $20,000 within the first 12 months of opening it.

If you are in the American Express Membership Rewards Program, you can also get Avios points on a 1:1 basis.

The American Express Business Gold Card, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, the American Express Green Card, and others are all in this rewards program.

The Marriott Bonvoy program is also a transfer partner, with every 3 points from that program converting to 1 Avios point.

2. Travel in the Off-Season

Traveling to Ireland during the off-season is a lot cheaper than say, the summer months. As you prepare for your trip to Ireland, it's useful to remember that, plus, you’ll also avoid the problem of long lines to attractions and more expensive accommodation.

Cherry blossoms at Dublin Castle in the spring. Photo: Michael Foley Photography, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelfoleyphotography/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Instead, try to visit during the “shoulder season,” which is in April, May, early June, and early October.

September, while a bit more expensive, is also a good time to travel to Ireland.

Read More: Best Time to Visit Ireland

3. Find Airfare Bargains

Depending on the time of year that you’re flying, it can be beneficial during the planning process to book a flight that includes a layover. They are usually cheaper.

Finding an affordable airfare is part of the puzzle that many visitors face as they wonder how to prepare for a trip to Ireland. Photo: shotsstudio

To do this, you’ll need to use a search engine like Google Flights, Avisales, Priceline or Kiwi, which pulls the prices of flights from thousands of different airlines, going from the most expensive to the cheapest.

Layovers don't suit everyone, however.

In that case, I suggest that you watch out for bargains, including keeping an eye for for sales on Aer Lingus and other airlines that fly direct to Ireland.

4. Use the Right Bank Card

Photo: Casper1774 Studio for Getty Images Pro

Preparing for a trip to Ireland also means choosing the right bank card, preferably one where you won’t incur foreign transaction fees or ATM usage fees.

I suggest you apply for the Charles Schwab Debit card.

If approved, you’ll get a $100 bonus award on deposits over $1,000. This also applies to other types of accounts that Schwab offers. Even though you will incur some fees while using the card at an ATM in Ireland, all of them will be refunded within a month or so.

5. Purchase a Heritage Card

Most tourists are not aware of this valuable card, which will get you into several heritage sites in Ireland that normally charge an admission fee.

While some heritage sites are indeed free to enter, the card is useful if you intend to visit the fee-paying attractions.

You can visit Portumna Castle in Co. Galway with or without the heritage card, as is the case with all heritage sites in Ireland. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland/Failte Ireland.

The cost of the card is €40 for adults, €30 for seniors (60 and over), €10 for students and children ages 12-18; and €90 for a family of 7 (kids must be ages 12-18) and is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

You can purchase the card on the Heritage Ireland website or any of the heritage sites around the country.

Take the Treasures of Ireland Tour with TourRadar

6. Accessing WiFi the Smart Way in Ireland

While it’s possible to get Wifi in most public places in Ireland, such as airports, restaurants, and bars, as well as on buses and trains, you won’t be able to access it while you travel around Ireland in your rental car unless you enable data roaming, which can be expensive.

Photo: Vector Fusion Art, Getty Images.

As you prepare for your trip to Ireland, it's know what your Wifi options are. Here are the most common ones.

    • Sign up for an international mobile usage plan from your carrier but read the fine print before signing on as this can be expensive.
    • Purchase a new Sim card for your phone (provided it is not locked) from any Tesco supermarket in Ireland (both north and south of the border), at the WH Smith bookstore in Dublin Airport's Terminal 1 or at the Left Luggage store, also in Terminal 1. You can also purchase a Sim card in Terminal 2 at the Spar shop. Your purchase will also include a mobile usage plan for the duration of your stay in the country.
    • Rent a personal WiFi device from Wi-Fi Candy, which can be picked up at Dublin Airport or delivered to your hotel on the first night of your stay. The rates are quite reasonable, and you can get unlimited data usage as well. Get 10% off your purchase with code irelandonabudget.
    • Purchase a cheap prepaid phone from Tesco to use while you’re on vacation in Ireland.
    • Purchase an eSim from Airalo (this works on an iPhone 11 and up as well as a variety of Samsung phones)
    • Simply rely on Wi-Fi when you can, provided you have your data turned off or your phone is on airplane mode.

7. Choose a Smaller Rental Car

If you’re light on luggage, then a compact rental car is something to consider when planning this portion of your trip.

Photo: Twenty20photos

While Ireland’s motorways are equal to those in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere, there are still many smaller roads that you’ll find yourself navigating.

This is when a small car comes in handy. Gas (petrol) is expensive in Ireland, so renting a smaller vehicle makes sense. If you can drive a stick shift, you can save even more.

DiscoverCars.com

8. Avail of Free Museums

people looking at a painting how to prepare for a trip to Ireland
The Crawford Art Gallery in Cork City is one of the many free attractions you can visit in Ireland. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland/Failte Ireland.

As you plan your trip to Ireland, you'll want to take explore all budget options.

In Dublin alone, you’ll find a variety of free museums and galleries to visit.

There are others across the country that are free to visit. Some include the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork; the Museum of Country Life in County Mayo; St. Nicholas' Church in Galway; the Monaghan County Museum, and the Sligo County Museum, as well as the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, County Mayo.

9. Get Fueled Daily with a Hearty Irish Breakfast

Most accommodation in Ireland, whether it’s a B&B or a hotel, will serve a full Irish breakfast that should keep you going for several hours. That's good to know as you plan a road trip across Ireland.

a breakfast plate how to plan a trip to Ireland
A full Irish breakfast is a staple at most Irish hotels and B&Bs. Photo: Getty Images.

If you must eat during the day, you could pop into a small café and order a bowl of hearty soup and a roll or some delicious Irish cheese and crackers.

Such fare can be easily accessed while on the road at various convenience stores, which are often located within a gas station/petrol stop. Centra and SuperValu are common stores that sell good quality convenience food for travelers on the road.

Find Irish Cheese & Other Irish Favorites at Food Ireland

10. Consider Public Transportation

Getting around Ireland by public transportation is quite doable and often a lot cheaper than renting a car, and is something you should definitely think about as you're planning a vacation to Ireland.

a bus how to plan a trip to Ireland
A Bus Eireann bus parked at the company headquarters in Dublin. Photo: By D464-Darren Hall – Broadstone July 2008, coaches awaiting wash and fuel, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26498937

If you’re interested in spending more time in towns and cities, getting there by bus or train is completely doable.

Purchase the above ebook on the Ireland on a Budget Etsy store.

11. Go for Mid-Range Accommodation

My advice when preparing for a trip to Ireland is to choose accommodation that is moderately priced.

Mid-range hotels and B&Bs are always a great option in Ireland. Prices have gone up throughout Ireland post-Covid, and that is especially true in Dublin, Cork, Galway and other big cities.

a house near the mountains how to prepare for a trip to Ireland
The Slieve League B&B in Co. Donegal, a stone's throw from the well-known cliffs. Photo courtesy of the Slieve League B&B.

B&Bs or a family-run hotels tend to be cheaper, and an added advantage of staying in them is that you get to meet the family running the establishment who can give you valuable, on-the-ground advice about local tourist attractions.

If you want to splurge for a night or two, don’t deny yourself that pleasure either.

My suggestions — and those that are popular with members of the Ireland on a Budget Facebook Group — include Ireland's many castle-hotels.

They include Ballyseede Castle Hotel in Tralee, County Kerry; Kinnity Castle Hotel near Birr, County Offaly; Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, County Galway, and Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara, County Galway.

12. Get a Tax Refund on Souvenirs Bought in Ireland

If you are visiting Ireland from outside the EU be prepared to apply for a tax refund on certain items that you buy.

person holding a sign how to prepare for a trip to Ireland
Photo: Rawpixel

Please know that since VAT has already been added to many goods that are for sale in Irish stores, you will not see that added tax on your receipt, like you will in the United States, for example.

However, some goods, are free from VAT.

They include children’s clothing, footwear, and food (except for chocolate and other confectionery items). If you purchase any of those items, you won’t be able to apply for the special tax refund.

a sign in an airport how to prepare for a trip to Ireland
Sign for customs and VAT Refund office in one of Ireland's airports. Photo: Stephen Barnes for Getty Images Pro.

Many stores in Ireland offer VAT-free shopping for tourists outside of the EU. You must ask them first before buying and if you are required to spend a specific amount before you’ll get the benefit.

More information can be found at Ireland's Citizens Information website.

You will not get tax relief on accommodation, car hire, meals, or the cost to visit tourist attractions.

Do you have any of your own Ireland travel planning tips that you can share in the comments below?

colette

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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