What you need to know before traveling to Ireland

The Republic of Ireland, located between the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea, makes up around 85 percent of the Island of Ireland (with Northern Ireland making up the rest.) The country is known for its beer, its green pastures and craggy coastlines, and its friendly residents. More than seven million people visit the Republic of Ireland each year, making Ireland tourism one of the country's top industries.

  • Key facts
    The first stop on most visitor's tour of Ireland is Dublin the capital of the Republic of Ireland. This bustling city of around 500,000 residents is home to Trinity College, the historic Dublin Castle, the picturesque Georgian townhouses on Henrietta Street and one of the most exciting food scenes in Europe. However, as exciting as this mixture of old and new can be, Dublin isn't all there is to see in this beautiful and friendly country. Just a few of the other places you'll want to consider when you travel to Ireland include:

    • Galway -- Located in the west of Ireland along the Atlantic coast, Galway is best known for its diverse music culture and its dynamic waterfront. This is the home of the popular Galway Arts Festival, held each July, and the September Oyster Festival, as well as the Druid Theater Company, a number of historic limestone buildings and the birthplace of the Claddagh ring.

    • County Cork -- Located in the southern part of Ireland, County Cork is known for its dramatic cliffs, green pastures and sea views. The area is home to the Blarney Stone and also the last spot of the "Titanic" before she met her fate.

    • Waterford -- Waterford, located on the southeast coast of Ireland, is the country's oldest city. Best known for the crystal stemware that bears its name, Waterford is also home to a picturesque harbor and the oldest building in Ireland.

    Irish is the official language of Ireland, although English is spoken by virtually all residents.
    The euro is the official currency in Ireland.
  • Weather & when to go
    There's really no bad time to visit Ireland. The high season (and the busiest season) is during the summer months, from mid-May through mid-September. Early May and late September offer the same pleasant weather at more attractive prices and without the crowds. Low season (January, February and March) offers some good values, but temperatures can be chilly that time of year. Just a few of the average temperatures in Ireland include:

    • Dublin average temperature in January -- 41/5 F/C

    • Dublin average temperature in June -- 60/16 F/C

    • Shannon average temperature in January -- 42/6 F/C

    • Shannon average temperature in June -- 60/16 F/C

  • Getting around
    It's easy to get around the Republic of Ireland, given the country's compact size. It's very affordable to rent a car in Ireland and many tour operators combine a car rental and bed and breakfast accommodations for additional savings. However, be aware if you are visiting from North America or Continental Europe, that in Ireland, cars travel on the left hand side of the road.
    Bus tours are another popular option in Ireland and offer an enjoyable way to view the countryside without having to worry about traffic or directions. In Dublin, the tram system is the most efficient and affordable way to get around town.
    The Republic of Ireland has four international airports--in Shannon, Dublin, Cork and Knock in west Ireland. Shannon and Dublin are by far the busiest and handle flights from all over the world.
  • Know before you go
    Knowing Ireland's public holidays when you're planning your travel to Ireland can help save you disappointment, since all government buildings and offices as well as most retailers and attractions are closed on these public holidays. Ireland's public holidays include:

    • January 1 -- New Year's Day

    • March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day

    • March/April -- Easter Sunday

    • The day after Easter -- Easter Monday

    • The first Monday in June -- June Holiday

    • The first Monday in August -- August Holiday

    • The last Monday in October -- October Holiday

    • December 25 -- Christmas Day

    • December 26 -- St. Stephen's Day

    To reach emergency services while traveling in the Republic of Ireland, call either 112 or 999 (both work.) This will connect you with an operator who can route you to the local police, the Irish coast guard, the fire department or emergency medical services. Note: the police force is called the Garda in Ireland.
    You need to carry a valid passport to visit the Republic of Ireland. Citizens of European Economic Community (EEC) countries, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are not required to obtain a visa. Citizens of most other countries will need to apply to an Irish consulate or embassy for a visa prior to arriving in Ireland.
  • Travel tips & recommendations

    • Lunch is served in Ireland around 1pm. Dinner, which is a lighter meal, is served around 7pm.

    • Irish cuisine is hearty and makes good use of native meats, vegetables and herbs. Specialties include Irish Stew (usually made with lamb and potatoes), Irish soda bread, colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage) and boxty (potato pancakes).

    • Retailers in Ireland are generally open from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Saturday. Some are open later on Thursdays. Most retailers are open on Sundays from noon to 6:00 PM, but some independent stores may choose to close on Sundays.

    • Ireland is known for its quality woolen goods (such as sweaters and mittens) as well as its cut glass, Beleek china and shamrock jewelry.

    • It is illegal to smoke in all Irish pubs and restaurants as well as all public buildings.

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