When planning a trip to Ireland, it is important to decide early on how you will get around.

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Will you be relying on public transportation, renting a car, or taking a tour bus?

a bus on the road affordable day trips from Galway
A tour bus takes visitors to the beautiful Killary Harbour in Co. Galway. Photo: Christian McLeod, Failte Ireland.

This brief Ireland Transportation Guide covers the various ways that you can get around Ireland.

Your decisions will of course depend on your travel style, itinerary, and budget.

If you need more detailed information on how to book tickets and the various fares that are available on buses and trains, you should read the Getting Around Ireland by Public Transportation page.


Types of Transport in Ireland

  1. Train Travel in Ireland

Taking a train in Ireland is a pleasant experience and a great way to see the countryside and explore Ireland’s major cities.

Dublin is the primary hub of Ireland’s rail system, meaning that all trains originate from there.

a train near a river using public transportation to see Ireland
An Irish Rail train running along the Royal Canal near Dublin. Trains are just one form of transportation in Ireland. Photo: Bart Busschots, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbusschots/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

I recommend using the Irish Rail website if you want to check timetables and book your train journeys.

It is important to realize that not all train journeys are direct, and some journeys may require a transfer to another train or to a bus.

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

There are 8 routes operating out of Dublin, which has two train stations serving different parts of the country. They include Heuston and Connolly Stations.

The Pearse Street Station is used primarily for transportation around Dublin.

Image courtesy of Iarnród Éireann.

The main Irish Rail routes are as follows:

  • Dublin Heuston to Cork’s Kent Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Limerick’s Colbert Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Galway’s Ceannt Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Tralee’s Casement Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Waterford’s Plunkett Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Westport Station
  • Dublin Heuston to Ballina Station
  • Dublin Connolly to Belfast’s Lanyon Place
  • Dublin Connolly to Rosslare Europort
  • Dublin Connolly to Sligo’s MacDiarmada Station
  • Dublin Connolly to Wexford’s O’Hanrahan Station

If you are interested in train travel, you might want to check out this 14-day itinerary that relies totally on train and buses to get around Ireland.

  1. Ireland by Car

Ireland by car is a fun way to explore the country albeit a bit stressful for some who are apprehensive about driving on the left.

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A rental car will get you to scenes like this one in rural Connemara in Co. Galway and is another form of transportation in Ireland. Photo: MNStudio.

However, with a car and a good map and/or Sat Nav, you can visit places in Ireland that are difficult to reach by bus or train.

In fact, many off-the-beaten towns in the Irish countryside are best explored by car.

If, say, the Wild Atlantic Way is on your list of places to explore, you will definitely need a car.

You could combine public transportation and car rental or hire a private driver, of which there are many in Ireland.

The pretty town of Cobh in County Cork. Photo: BLFink for Getty Images.

So, if you wanted to spend some time in Dublin, then take the train to Cork, you could easily explore the city, then rent a car to see other parts of County Cork as well as popular tourist spots in nearby County Kerry.

If you plan to explore Ireland by car, don’t forget to read some of the many articles on this website about renting.

To find the best deals, I recommend doing your research with the help of Discover Cars.

The car rental aggregator has access to local and international car rental brands, meaning it can make the best comparison for you depending on the time of year you are visiting and the type and size of vehicle you wish to rent.

  1. Airport Transfers in Dublin

To get from Dublin Airport to your hotel in the city center or thereabouts, you can take the Airlink or Aircoach bus services. Both bus services can be easily found outside Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. Photo: Ardfern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16222441

You should book your ticket online before arriving in Ireland.

If you have a lot of luggage or you’re traveling with children, a taxi might be a better option. I recommend booking with Dublin Airport Collections.

The cost to get to the city center/your hotel is approximately €25 to €30 per ride.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

At Shannon Airport, you can also reserve a taxi if you do not want to get a bus. You’ll find more information on the Shannon Airport website.

  1. Ferries in Ireland

While there are many islands dotted around the Irish coast, the main island destination for many tourists is the Aran Islands.

Galway City, Rossaveel in Connemara and Doolin in County Clare are the three places where you can get a ferry to this cool destination.

The ferry service in Galway City is operated by Aran Island Ferries and brings passengers to Inishmore, the largest of the three islands.

Aran Island Ferry ship sailing from Galway to the Aran Islands, another form of transportation in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Aran Island Ferries Facebook.

This service is only available from April 7th through Sept. 24, 2023.

The return trip to Galway includes a cruise along the Cliffs of Moher.

Aran Island Ferries operates a year-round service from Rossaveal that includes journeys to Inishmore, Inishman and Inisheer.

A cruise boat at the base of the cliffs. Photo: By JackOfAllTrades at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36865274

From Doolin, you can get to all three of the islands courtesy of Doolin Ferry. The return ferry also swings by the Cliffs of Moher so you can get to see one of Ireland’s most popular attractions from the ocean.

While both Aran Islands ferry services mentioned above are wheelchair-accessible, it is best to contact the ferry service in advance as the changing weather and water conditions may affect mobility.

Other Ferry Services in Ireland

Skellig Michael Ferries

Perhaps the second-most popular ferry in Ireland is the ferry service to Skellig Michael.

Most ferry boats leave from Portmagee in County Kerry, with an additional service available from Ballinskelligs.

This attraction is only available during the summer months, with the last ferries closing down in mid-September as the weather is way too unpredictable past that month.

Here are some of the boats and companies that operate tours to Skellig Michael.

The Lady Clare, Skellig Boat Trips, operates from Portmagee.
Shelluna, Skellig Cruises, operates from Portmagee
The Mary Frances, Skellig Michael Voyage, operates from Portmagee
The Deva & The Ursula Mary, Skellig Coast Adventures, operates from Portmagee
The Skellig Walker, Skellig Walker, operates from Portmagee
The Jerdemar, Skellig Michael Boats, operates from Portmagee
The Force Awakens, Skellig Michael Boat Trips, operates from Ballinskelligs
The Atlantic Endeavour, Skellig Rock Tours, operates from Portmagee

Killimer to Tarbert Ferry

If you’re driving from the Galway/Clare region to County Kerry, you may want to lessen your journey by taking the Killimer to Tarbert ferry service.

Shannon Ferries, Kilimer to Tarbert. Loop Head Project.Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan

The 20-minute journey is well worth taking and you can purchase tickets for as low as €10.88.

Greenore to Greencastle Ferry

An equally pleasant car ferry is the Greenore to Greencastle ferry.

a ferry route transportation in Ireland
So, if you happen to be in County Louth and you want to get to Northern Ireland without having to drive, the journey on the Carlingford Lough Ferry will take you in County Down in about 20 minutes.

a boat on the water Transportation in Ireland
The Carlingford Lough Ferry. Photo: Barry McCaul, courtesy of Carlingford Lough Ferry.

Enjoy sweeping views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains in the distance.

Greencastle to Magilligan Point

If you’re on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, you might want to take the 15-minute Lough Foyle car ferry from Greencastle to Magilligan Point in County Derry.

map of a ferry route Transportation in Ireland
The service is available only during the summer months.

As with driving from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland with a rental car, you should let the car rental company know of your plans in case additional insurance is required.

The Lough Foyle Ferry. Photo: Makasanphoto

A cross border fee is routinely requested by car rental companies operating in Ireland.

Portaferry to Strangford Ferry

The Portaferry to Strangford car ferry is another beautiful journey that you won’t want to miss if you’re touring around the Ards Peninsula region.

map of a ferry route Transportation in Ireland
The 10-minute ferry journey crosses the lough at its narrowest point where it joins the Irish Sea.

The lough is known for its abundant wildlife, which is why it is designated a Special Area of Conservation.

Devenish Island Ferry

old buildings what is Fermanagh famous for
The monastic site at Devenish Island in County Fermanagh's lakelands. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

A journey of another kind by ferry is one that you can take to the beautiful and fascinating Devenish Island in the County Fermanagh lakeslands area.

You can get the 1 hour and 45-minute tour from Enniskillen. Operated by Erne Tours, the excursions are only offered from April through September.

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Rathlin Island Ferry

Also, while in Northern Ireland but farther north on the Coastal Causeway, you can explore Rathlin Island by taking the Rathlin Ferry from Ballycastle.

a ferry boat at a dock transportation in Ireland
The Rathlin Island Ferry. Photo: Bernie Brown, Tourism Ireland.

The passenger ferry takes about 30 minutes and the ferry that takes passengers and cars takes about 40 minutes.

The island is known for its diverse sea life, including adorable puffins that call the island home from April through July.

Valentia Island Ferry

While you can get to Valentia Island in County Kerry from Portmagee by means of a bridge, if you’re in the Cahersiveen area, you can take a ferry from Renard Point to Knightstown, which is the main town on the island.

a lighthouse near the ocean Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station
A view of Valentia Island, off the County Kerry coast. Photo: Patrick Lennon, Tourism Ireland.

The ferry ride takes about 5 minutes.

Read More: 6 of Ireland’s Offshore Islands to Visit: From Counties Antrim to Mayo

  1. Buses in Ireland

Buses in Ireland are a relatively cheap way of getting around the country.

buses parked on a street transportation in Ireland
A Bus Eireann bus parked at the company headquarters in Dublin, one of the main forms of transportation in Ireland. 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

As I mentioned before, you may have to connect to a bus if a train does not take you directly to your destination.

The primary bus provider in Ireland is Bus Eireann, which has routes going to all corners of the island.

In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to rely on Translink, which operates coach, bus and train services throughout the province.