Things to know before you visit Ireland

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Howth Head, Dublin, Ireland

Ireland is a land of incomprehensible beauty where beauty and serenity, laughter and music come together, wrapped up in myths and legends, and sprinkled with fairy dust and little people. Last year, when I returned from Ireland after attending the TBEX Europe 2017 conference held at Killarney, someone asked me about my experience. This is what I said,

The Emerald Isle feels like an old friend who greets you with warmth and, love no matter when you drop at his place. He’ll always welcome you with a big smile and best food. Most importantly he’ll treat you like you are at home.

Costumed actor at Dalkey Castle, Ireland

That’s how this inside-out beautiful windswept land makes you feel. The Island has a long, rich history and a modern, progressive Eurozone economy. This unique combination makes it a tourism magnet. No wonder 10.65 million visitors visited Ireland in just ten months of 2017. Ireland may be 47 times smaller than the size of India but it packs a punch when it comes to delighting its visitors. Here are the things you should know before you visit Ireland:

When to Visit

With mild temperatures and frequent showers, you can visit Ireland at any time of the year. Best, perhaps, are the months of March to May and September to November, as the weather isn’t as cold as during the winter months. However, you can save a lot of money by visiting Ireland during off-season months – October, November, December, January, February, March.

Colours of Ireland

 Ireland’s Climate

What to pack

Ireland is known for being very green, and that means plenty of rain! Rainfall has become a part of Irish life. The weather conditions can change quickly in Ireland. One minute it’s sunny and warm, the next minute it’s pouring rain. Therefore come prepared and bring along a plenty of warm and rain clothes like a sweater, scarf, hat, rain jackets and umbrella, even if it’s summer. Ireland is all about walking, so don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable shoes.

Dublin County countryside, Ireland

What to see

Don’t try to see everything in one trip. Pick a few sections and go slow. Be realistic with your itinerary. The coastal roads are quite windy and narrow, so you have to go slow. What looks to be an hour on the map can actually take up to 3-4 hours if you make a few stops for photos. Choose your area of interest and stick to it.

Waterville Village, Ring of Kerry, Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

  • Popular Towns and Cities: Dublin city, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Killarney
  • Less Well Known Cities and Towns: Kilkenny, Sligo, Kinsale, Armagh, Westport, Waterford, Limerick
  • Scenic Routes: The Ring of Kerry, The Dingle Peninsula, Donegal, Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Giant’s Causeway, Connemara
  • Castles: Blarney, Malahide, Ross
  • History: The Hill of Tara, The burial monuments at Carrowmore, County Sligo, Grianan Fort in County Donegal, The National Museum and Trinity College in Dublin

Waterville, a little village overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay on Ring of Kerry where Charlie Chaplin had his Summer Home

Where to eat & drink

Ireland was once infamous for its food but now you get the freshest produce right from the island itself. Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink:

  • Dublin: Aqua Restaurant in Howth, Dalkey Duck in Dalkey, Merry Ploughboy, Malahide Castle and gardens, Angelinas Restaurant, the Church, Guinness Storehouse and Temple Bar
  • Killarney: Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, Murphy’s Bar, The Brehon, John M Reidy, Muckross Garden Restaurant, the Shire
  • Dingle: The Boatyard restaurant, Murphy’s Ice cream, Dingle Distillery
  • Kerry: Treyvaud’s Restaurant, Celtic Whisky Bar & Larder, O’Neills The Point Seafood Bar

Where to eat and drink in Ireland

Highest Pub in Ireland

Where to stay

You’ll always find a space to spend a night in Ireland, as there are more than 3,500 places to stay across Ireland, including Irish Home B&Bs, hotels, guest houses, self-catering, hostels, camping, glamping, pods etc. I stayed at the following places

Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney

Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

A luxury five-star hotel & spa overlooking the Lakes of Killarney and Aghadoe Church and Cemetry. The service, food, facilities, location…everything was top notch. Don’t you feel special when you get personal attention? And, that explains why it has won over thirty awards in recent years. What impressed me the most about Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa was its gold standard personal service. I always felt welcomed and well taken care of whether it was at the restaurant, gym or concierge. Kudos to Trish Covarr – Director of Sales and Marketing and her team for doing such a stellar job.

One caveat: it is slightly away from the heart of the city. But the panoramic views straight from your window more than makes up for it.

Aghadoe Church and cemetery with beautiful view, Killarney, Ireland

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dublin County

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dublin County, Ireland

Tucked away in a quiet corner of ‘The Velvet Strand’, one of Ireland’s most stunning stretches of uninterrupted coastline – the historic Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links was once the family home of the Jameson Dynasty. It’s tastefully done, the lawns are great, rooms are well furnished and comes with a great view, in-house bars and restaurants serve delish food. When staying here don’t miss their award-winning Spa and two award-winning Restaurants – 1780 and the Jameson Bar. The best thing about this hotel is its location. You step out of your door and find yourself on the Spansa Beach, a 5 miles long pristine sandy beach perfect for sunrise jogging or romantic sunset stroll. The hotel is well connected to the neighbouring picturesque fishing villages of Malahide and Howth. Also, Dublin City Centre and Grand Canal Dock are less than a 25-minute drive away.

If you want to explore unique Irish accommodations and restaurants, try Ireland’s Blue Book, which is a collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Historic Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants located throughout the island of Ireland. I couldn’t personally experience it but heard very good things from a friend who stayed with them.

What currency to carry

Euros to use in Ireland and the Pound Sterling for Northern Ireland

How to get around in Ireland?

There’s a LOT to see and do in Ireland. And, to make the best of your time, it’s better to rent a car.

Johnnie Fox’s, Irish Pub, Dublin County, Ireland

Do I need a Visa to visit Ireland?

You do not need an entry visa for Ireland if you are a passport holder of the US, most European Countries, or any of these countries. However, Indians and Chinese can utilise the British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) to obtain a single visa for both the countries. Make sure to apply 2-3 weeks in advance. Sometimes they take a lot of time to revert.

How to stay connected?

Things to see and do in Ireland: Spend some time in the Irish Countryside

Buy a local SIM. Preferably a data card that allows unlimited internet and local calls for a limited period. I bought Tesco Prepaid for 15 Euros, which gave me unlimited calls, message, and 10 GB data. Europe roaming was promised but it never worked for me.

TravelWiFi Ireland is another good option if you are only looking for a personal WiFi hotspot

Keep these things in mind, let your heart beat in time with the Celtic rhythm, learn the histories and tales of ancient castles, pick up some Irish words, swim, surf, fish, trek, dance and drive your way along this enchanting land. Sláinte!

Interested to know more about Ireland, don’t forget to read

What is so special about Irish Pub Culture

Why visitors never want to leave Ireland

Have you ever visited Ireland? If yes, I would love to hear from you.

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Disclaimer

I was in Ireland to attend TBEX Europe 2017 where I was a featured Speaker. I was hosted by Tourism Ireland. Everything expressed above is based on my personal experience and conversations I had in the country. Images used are either shot by me or provided by Ireland Tourism with due permissions

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12 Comments

  • Danila Caputo says:

    We have friends who moved from Italy to Ireland because they fell in love with this beautiful island. We’ve visited often and you’re right when you say that it feels like an “old friend”. The food is good, nature is SO beautiful and people are very welcoming. Enough to make you think you need more, and more, and more!

  • Danik says:

    Love the beginning of the post with the climate. To me (who lives on the island next door in the UK), when I see weather forecasts its, rain, rain (with a bit of wind), oh hang on, a bit of sun, dam, its rain, rain, rain. This was so true of our road trip last year and to be honest, it didn’t bring me down. Loved enjoying the country. Just take a rain coat guys! 🙂 (oh and an umbrella if the winds are not strong!)

  • Anu says:

    Nice and crisp introduction to the country. I would love to spend some time in Dublin for its libraries and bookstores besides all the things you mention. My personal experience multi-country plans on SIM Cards never work.

  • Nisha says:

    Love the way you have summarized everything about Ireland. I did not know about BIVS visa . I guess I must make use of the same as it would at the least, save me multiple visits to the embassy or consulate.

  • Medha Verma says:

    The summer also seems so cold with the high being 19 degrees and low being 10 degrees only! I plan to visit in June and it seems I will need to carry a lot of warm clothes still and of course, rain gear, because like you said, it rains a lot! Thanks for the advice on driving around and taking it easy because it can take a while on those roads and in that weather. Do you have any recommendations for good car rental companies?

  • Fabulous tips – Ireland is one of my favorite countries in the world! Totally agree on not rushing a trip, but splitting up your itinerary into sections and taking it slowly – there’s so much beauty to savor that rushing does the experience no justice. And excellent advice on the warm clothes and raincoat – we were there in summer but still experienced our fair share of rainy days lol – not to put people off of course though, I actually think the drizzle and dramatic clouds makes photos more interesting 🙂

  • Ami says:

    Thus is a nice comprehensive guide to planning a visit to Ireland. Good to know about the Visa rules and connectivity within. I almost made it there during my England visit but had to cancel last minute. Hope to get there the next time

  • Lauren says:

    Fantastic and comprehensive guide! I fell in love so quickly with Ireland. Can’t wait to go back. I always recommend renting a car to see the country at your own pace, and to get out of the main cities 🙂 And yes, the climate is something to get accustomed to – definitely pack that rain jacket!!

  • Claire says:

    I still can’t believe I have never been to Ireland, it looks so beautiful! Good tips for when to visit, unfortunately like England the rain can come at any time of year, but that is what helps to make it so green! Killarney is definitely on my list to visit, and Dublin of course 🙂

  • Siddhartha Joshi says:

    I must mention that it’s your pictures and stories that have convinced me to visit Ireland soon! Such gorgeousness is hard to escape the heart of someone who lives in a city and busy city 🙂

    Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney has such a sublime location and would be my pick for a stay…

  • Dave Jones says:

    AHhh i cant wait to get back to Ireland! Such a beautiful country. 🙂

  • Nathan says:

    Ireland is really a beautiful travel destination that is often neglected by travellers who head off to UK and France. The scenery looks magnificent, even though the rainy weather is quite off-putting.

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