20+ Ireland Travel Tips for First Timers & Must Knows Before You Go

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If you’re one of the lucky souls currently planning a trip to Ireland, please… take me with you.

Home to sprawling green hills, rugged coastline and many a cozy pub… There are few places in Europe that make me feel as a calm and at home as Ireland.

… and I don’t think I’m alone! The island of Ireland welcomes over 11 million visitors each year, an astounding number that seems to only grow in popularity as more diehard fangirls spread the word.

So hi – here I am, diehard fangirl reporting for duty.

At first glance, Ireland is a fairly ‘easy’ destination for English speakers – the locals are friendly, they speak our language, and for anyone who has been to an Irish pub or donned green for St Patrick’s Day, the culture feels somewhat familiar.

… But there are still plenty of mistakes to be made.

So, in this post, I’ll be sharing all my top Ireland tips and must-knows, from cultural missteps to avoid and tips on saving money to the best ways to get around. I hope you find it helpful!

Save this list of Ireland Travel Tips for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Know the difference between Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

First – let’s get our terminology right. While the term “Ireland” is often the go-to in most instances, there is an important distinction to be made between Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Simply put: Ireland is the umbrella term used for the island of Ireland, commonly known in marketing materials as the Emerald Isle.

Within Ireland though, there are two separate entities: the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU and made up of 26 counties, largely in the south of the island.

And Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and made up of 6 counties in the Northeast portion of the island.

The reason for this division is very complicated and rooted in a long history that is wayyy beyond the scope of a regular Ireland travel tips post, but practically speaking for travellers, an important Ireland travel must-know is that…

2. The two different parts of Ireland use different currencies

With the distinction above in mind, you should know that when you visit Ireland (depending on where you go), you are not simply visiting a single country with one common currency, you’re actually dealing with two currencies – both the Euro used in the Republic of Ireland and the Pound, used in Northern Ireland.

I’d recommend getting a bit of cash in both currencies just in case, and then otherwise relying on a travel-friendly credit card like a Wise card.

The Giant’s Causeway, in Northern Ireland

3. Ireland can be pricey

There are some countries known for their eye-gouging prices in Europe. The likes of Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway for instance are well known budget destroyers, with most backpackers keeping ample distance in fear that even breathing there costs money.

But what surprised me on my first visit was actually how pricey Ireland can be as well.

Particularly in cities like Dublin, the prices of accommodation are quite shocking (easily €30-€40 for a bunk in a hostel, or 150+ for an alright hotel). Dining out can also be a huge cost, with a recent survey concluding that meals out in Dublin cost more than in London, Paris, and Rome.

So, keep in mind that this won’t be a budget-friendly trip by any means.

4. Book accommodation with a kitchen to save money

If budget is a factor, one big recommendation I have is to book accommodation with a kitchen so you can cook for yourself.

Even preparing a handful of meals for yourself can end up saving you hundreds throughout the trip.

No kitchen in sight. Move along…

5. Consider staying/exploring outside of big cities

Another Ireland money-saving tip is to maybe spend just a night or two in Dublin (or other cities), and prioritizing places a bit farther out.

This is a dual purpose Ireland tip because I truly think some of the best parts of Ireland are out in the countryside, with the dramatic landscapes and lush greenery stealing the show.

On my first trip, I limited my stay to three days in Dublin, with a day trip out to see the Cliffs of Moher. While I enjoyed my time, it wasn’t until my second trip where we drove around the country for 10 days that I really became obsessed.

There’s just something about those rolling green hills and grazing cows that do wonders for one’s mental well-being. All the better if there’s stony castles along the way.

So, if possible: be sure to diversify your Ireland itinerary and explore beyond just cities.

6. Plan a road trip if you can

I’m usually a huge advocate for public transport when traveling in Europe, but when in Ireland, you really can’t beat renting a car.

Ireland is home to some of the most stunning road trips in the world, an unsurprising fact considering the entire West Coast is basically a sightseeing route.

Known as the Wild Atlantic Way, this scenic stretch of Ireland offers 1600 miles (or 2600km) of astounding natural beauty.

Many visitors will choose to do just a portion of the Wild Atlantic Way, with the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula being some of the most famous picks, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with a coastal road trip in Ireland.

7. Book day tours from cities if you can’t rent a car

But hey, sometimes renting a car isn’t always possible. In those cases, don’t fret – you can still enjoy the best parts of Ireland… you just need to get a little crafty.

The easiest option? Booking day tours.

Many tour companies these days offer day tours departing from major Irish cities, so you can enjoy the scenic perks of a road trip without worrying about driving on the left side or navigating those famously narrow Irish roads.

Of course, this option is much less flexible, and makes crowds pretty much inescapable (since on a tour bus, you are the crowds), but the rewards are well worth it.

Living my best life during a Game of Thrones day tour from Belfast

8. Public transport is fine for city to city travel

While the benefits of renting a car are numerous, the public transportation system in Ireland is surprisingly affordable and convenient if you’re travelling between major cities, whether going by train or by bus.

For instance, you can easily go from Dublin to Belfast or over to Galway for about 20 euro.

Combining public transport with the tip above re: day tours, you can easily explore some of Ireland’s most scenic landscapes without dealing with a car rental.

9. Don’t miss the world’s oldest bar in Athlone!

This is a niche Ireland tip, but one well worth mentioning.

If, during your trip, you plan to cover the common route of Dublin to Galway, I’d highly recommend stopping halfway in Athlone.

This tiny but vibrant town is full of colourful shops and cool historical attractions, but most importantly it’s home to Sean’s Bar, said to be the oldest bar in the world. 

(As someone dating a Sean who loves bars, this was quite the thrill)

10. On a budget? Look into Ryanair

Now in terms of getting to Ireland, one important thing to know is that Ireland is home to one of the world’s most notorious budget airlines, Ryanair. (You can read my full review for more details)

Whether you know them from their 1 euro flight deals once upon a time, their self-deprecating TikToks or their famously outspoken CEO, Ryanair is a bit of a legend when it comes to the budget travel space.

Because they’re headquartered in Ireland, you can fly to Ireland from most countries in Europe for astoundingly low prices.

So, if you’re struggling to find cheap flights from your home airport, consider hopping on Google Flights and looking for flights into other European countries, and then adding on a Ryanair flight.

This can help you add another destination to your trip and also potentially save you money. 

I cover this more in-depth in my how to find cheap flights to Europe guide.

RyanAir plane on the runway with passengers walking on

11. Don’t plan your Ireland trip around good weather

With Ireland’s somewhat rainy reputation, I think many first time visitors are tempted to plan their trip for the summer season, hoping to maximize the likelihood of the sun making a guest appearance.

… but Irish weather is special. And notoriously moody. So in the span of a day, you may get sunshine, rain, AND hail, often in multiple cycles… no matter the time of year.

I went once in August and wore a sundress with a raincoat pretty much the entire trip so weather-wise, I don’t think there’s as much a difference between shoulder and peak season in Ireland as in elsewhere.

Plus, given the high accommodation prices, you’re better off visiting in the shoulder/off season anyway.

So, keep that in mind when deciding when to visit. Sunshine and warmth is not guaranteed ever, not even in July/August.

12. Familiarize yourself with Irish words and slang 

Now, as I’m sure you know by now, English is spoken everywhere in Ireland.

… But there are some unique aspects to this English that can confuse first time visitors. Specifically some terms that they might not be familiar with.

Here are a few:

  • Craic: Basically slang for fun. So if someone says good craic, they mean good fun, and not good… other stuff.
  • Quid: This word is used in place of the currency, kind of like how we sometimes say 5 bucks instead of 5 dollars, in Ireland, sometimes they say 5 quid instead of 5 euro or 5 pound.
  • Arseways: Slang for “gone wrong”
  • The Jacks: Slang for the bathroom (e.g. running to the jacks is running to the bathroom)
  • Petrol: This is the word they use for gas, so rather than ‘gas station’, it’s ‘petrol station’
  • Boot: This is the word they use for the trunk of a car

And lastly, this one isn’t slang but it’s important: Sláinte, which is Irish for Cheers! If you do this trip right, you’ll be saying that a lot.

13. Beware that many Irish words and names are not at all pronounced like they’re spelled

All throughout Ireland, you’ll encounter signage that’s both in English and in Irish (AKA Gaeilge).

Of course, unless you speak Gaeilge, getting by with English is fine, but if you plan on trying to pronounce Gaeilge names (whether reading a sign, or saying someone’s name), just know that you might struggle.

For instance, Niamh is pronounced like Neev, Siobhan is pronounced like Shiv-awn, and Eoghan is pronounced like Owen. 

14. Research the history of Ireland before your trip

I think that historical context is always important when visiting any country, but especially in Ireland, having a basic grasp of the island’s history can help you steer clear of cultural missteps and saying something you shouldn’t.

This is because while Ireland is a peaceful and beautiful place to visit now, it wasn’t always this way… and there are still some lingering tensions, given that the period of civil unrest known as “the Troubles” lasted until the late 1990s.

No idea what I’m talking about? Here is a very very brief summary:

All the way back in the 12th century, Ireland became the British Empire’s first colony when England invaded Ireland.

But of course, as in most colonies, people in Ireland weren’t happy about being controlled by the English and wanted to be able to rule themselves. Tensions grew for centuries, a huge factor being that most of Ireland was Catholic, rather than Protestant (which much of England was, from the 1500s onwards).

Following centuries of tension, a treaty was signed about 100 years ago that divided Northern Ireland from what was then known as Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland was then once again in charge of their own affairs, leaving the UK one year later (eventually becoming what is now known as the Republic of Ireland).

Northern Ireland however remained part of the UK, largely due to its large population of Protestants and British loyalists. Of course, as you can imagine, not everybody was happy about this decision.

And so, civil unrest between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland continued for decades, with the most famous period of violence and terrorism known as the Troubles lasting over 30 years, ending only in the late 1990s.

So, with this in mind, be respectful and remember the topic of Ireland vs. Republic of Ireland vs. Northern Ireland may still be a touchy subject for some…. and most certainly do not EVER ever ever order an ‘Irish car bomb’ at a bar.

15. Steer clear of obnoxious behaviour when chatting with locals

In a similar vein, there are some other no-nos to steer clear of if you find yourself in the lucky position of chatting with locals.

First – avoid silly stereotypes. Most locals have no interest in hearing you ask about leprechauns, red hair, potatoes, or four leaf clovers, even in a jokey way.

Second – if you’re one of the many, many, many tourists that visit Ireland hoping to trace their heritage, be sure to read the room before talking it up too much. While it can be a nice point of connection, I’ve heard that it can be really obnoxious when American tourists go to Ireland and brag about being Irish and grill people about the origins of their last name and all that.

16. Make sure you try a Guinness 

Now, with those etiquette tips done and dusted, we move onto what I consider possibly my most important Ireland travel tip: have a Guinness. At least one!

It is 1000% not a myth that Guinness tastes better in Ireland. I don’t know the wizardry behind it, but Guinness in Ireland is creamy, delicious, and you owe it to the country to try one.

I warn you though: this might unlock a lifelong obsession.

Guinness Storehouse

17. And visit as many pubs as possible

Another very important Ireland tip: go to a pub. Multiple, even. Why not move in? Become a regular. Never leave.

I’m not joking when I say that Irish pubs are the pinnacle of warmth and coziness. The pub culture here is incredible (little wonder why there’s thousands of Irish pubs around the world) and hands down, there’s no better place to appreciate the comfort of this country than in a wooden snug, nursing your 4th pint of Guinness.

It’s worth noting that pubs in Ireland aren’t just about drinking.

They’re great places to grab a bite to eat and enjoy live music too… so just because you don’t love pubs back home, I promise you the experience here is very different, and worth trying at least once.

18. Be sure to indulge in Irish cuisine

Of course, between all the Guinnesses, it’s important to line your stomach as well with some comforting eats.

Irish fare may not be as renowned worldwide as some other European cuisines, but there are some tasty must-tries that I can heartily recommend.

  • Butter and dairy in general – This sounds stupid, but hear me out. Ireland is filled with gorgeous green grass for cows to feast on, and I’m not sure if that’s why, but the dairy in this country is frankly out of this world. I could eat the butter in Ireland by the spoonful. On top of soda bread, it’s amazing. The ice cream is also excellent. 
  • Fresh seafood – Ireland is surrounded by water, and that water holds some truly delicious treasures… especially shellfish like oysters. 
  • Irish stew – If you want a hearty and warming meal, you can’t go wrong with a meat stew loaded with potatoes and flavourful veggies.
  • Full Irish Breakfast – Very similar to the full English breakfast, but it comes with either Black Pudding or White Pudding, and often soda bread instead of regular bread. Don’t question what these things are, just try them and get back to me. I personally think they’re delicious.

19. Seek out sights beyond the biggest, most famous ones

Some attractions in Ireland have immediate name recognition, hence why tourists flock to them in droves… but speaking from personal experience, my favourite places in Ireland have been the ones I hadn’t ever heard of before my trips.

So, while you can check out the Blarney Stone if you really want to (though kissing it is questionable), and a pint at Dublin’s Temple Bar is good for checking off the bucket list, know that some of the best things to do in Ireland are the ones you likely haven’t heard of.

Put in some extra work into finding your own hidden gems, and your trip will be 1000x better for it!

20. Visit big attractions just before they close

Now if you do (inevitably) end up at some of Ireland’s biggest attractions, my big tip for avoiding the tourist masses is simply visiting just before closing time.

With these main attractions, most visitors tend to come on day tours in the middle of the morning/afternoon, hence why you’re able to escape most of them if you plan your visit for just before closing time.

For instance, I went to the Cliffs of Moher at sunset once in the middle of August, and it was empty. Empty. Not a single bus tour in sight!

I also went to the Giant’s Causeway right when the visitor centre was closing and it was much quieter than normal.

So yes, definitely steal that Ireland travel hack if you can. 

21. Watch movies and TV shows set in Ireland to get you excited for your trip

Last but not least, if you want to enjoy your Ireland trip to its fullest, I implore you to consume as much media as possible with Ireland as its glorious backdrop.

And if you’re wondering if I have recommendations, duh – of course I do.

  • If you want romance, Once, PS I Love You, Leap Year and Finding You are great choices.
  • If you want something really good but kinda weird, the Banshees of Inesherin is great.
  • If you want an excuse to watch Star Wars, watch The Last Jedi for some Irish eye candy.
  • And if you want to be emotionally ruined, watch Normal People. There’s not a ton of Irish landscapes but the story takes place in Ireland and is so beautiful.
  • Lastly, if you’re visiting Northern Ireland, watch Game of Thrones and if you’re visiting Derry and want a comedy, watch Derry Girls.

I hope this list of Ireland Travel Tips was helpful!

Quite frankly, if you made it this far, you deserve some kind of medal! This was a VERY long list of tips for Ireland, but if you have any more questions, let me know in the comments.

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Airalo: My go-to eSIM

🏨 Booking.com: For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights: For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

1 thought on “20+ Ireland Travel Tips for First Timers & Must Knows Before You Go”

  1. I love your tips, always! And the pub thing is true, both in Ireland and England. I was in London for 36 hours once, and went to six pubs. No lie. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a nightcap. It was wonderful. Thank you!


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