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IRELAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Ireland travel guide for solo travel over 40, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Ireland travel planning.
FÁILTE ROIMH ÉIRINN
WELCOME TO IRELAND!
Ireland –the “Emerald Isle”, is home to Guinness (I call it the nectar of the gods), cider, Irish Whiskey, Saint Patrick’s Day, Rugby, Horse racing, football (soccer), U2, Enya, The Chieftains, The Pogues, The Cranberries, The Dubliners, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Trinity College, the birth of “Halloween”, Pierce Brosnan, Cillian Murphy, Michael Gambon, over 7,000 pubs, the Cliffs of Moher, Muckanaghederdauhaulia, the Celtic harp, and its world-class city and capital, Dublin.
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LANGUAGES IN IRELAND
The official language is Irish, but most Irish speak English.
The Republic of Ireland (not to be confused with Northern Ireland), has a parliamentary government with democratically elected representatives and is a member of the European Union.
Its education system is required for all children with the secondary school system consisting of 6 years of study starting at approximately age 12. An undergraduate degree in the Irish universities are usually free for citizens of Ireland/EU.
The Irish enjoy a government-funded public health care system with a supplemental, private health care system available.
The Irish value their Gaelic heritage and identity, and freedom of creativity, expression and religion. The Irish culture, primarily Gaelic, has also been influenced by the English, Anglo-Norman, and Scottish cultures throughout its history. Irish culture is rich in literature, music, art, sport and folklore. Ireland has produced 4 Nobel Prize winners in literature. Irish folk music and dance are widely known, and the country’s folklore, like the leprechaun, is known throughout the world.
Almost 85% of Irish identify as Roman Catholic, with the remaining classifying as Church of Ireland (Anglican), Islam, Christian or other. Old pagan customs as well as Christian traditions, like Christmas and St. Stephen’s Day, are reflected in the celebrated holidays. Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, is the national holiday.
Traditional Irish cuisine is mostly meat, potato and vegetable based with dishes like champ (mashed potatoes and chopped scallions), colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage), Irish breakfast, bacon and cabbage, Boxty (potato pancake) with beef and squash, Irish Stew, and seafood chowder. Soda bread, wheaten bread and potato bread are also diet staples. Like other European countries, fast food and other cuisines, such as Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, African and Polish food, have become popular.
Guinness, first brewed for production at St James’ Gate Brewery, Dublin in 1759, is the classic brew served in Ireland either by itself or as part of a cocktail, but the Irish also enjoy other beers, multiple brands of Irish whiskey (there are currently 25 whiskey distilleries in Ireland), Irish coffee, cider and Baileys, to name a few.
Public houses (pubs) are not just locations, they a mainstay of Irish culture where people meet, relax and converse with neighbors, friends and family, much like cafés serve other countries’ cultures.
POPULAR IRISH ACTIVITIES
Sport is very popular in Ireland leading with Gaelic football, followed by hurling, soccer, and rugby, in terms of audience attendance. The Irish like to participate in golf, soccer, Gaelic football, billiards/snooker, to name a few activities.
The Irish like socializing in pubs, listening to the radio, watching TV, or going to the cinema, museums and art galleries. Ireland also has many festivals and farming events, the most widely attended being the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin and the National Ploughing Championships held every September.
Ireland uses the Euro (€). Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.
Ireland has all modern forms of transportation (no Uber but you can use the Uber app to find other driving services) and regional ridesharing services and apps, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem.
TIPPING IN IRELAND
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at Ireland’s holidays.
IRELAND ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Ireland voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz, so bring a Type G adapter (I recommend bringing 2!) for Ireland outlets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for Ireland outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapters with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country in addition to Ireland on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience!
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TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR IRELAND
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport for your entire stay in Ireland. Visas are not required. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Ireland. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR IRELAND
There are normally no vaccinations required for Ireland travel. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Ireland. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
IRELAND TRAVEL SAFETY
Ireland is considered a very safe place to visit for any tourist, solo or not. Beyond theft or pickpocketing in possible tourist or transportation areas, which could happen in most countries to be honest, there is nothing I can recall from Ireland making it more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country, so my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT IRELAND
Like other countries in Europe, Ireland’s high, tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (June to August). Crowds are not as heavy in the shoulder tourism months of April, May, September and October, and prices in these months are lower with mild weather available that could last into the evening. The least expensive time to go to Ireland would be the winter months of November to March. For overall best weather and prices, try booking well in advance for the shoulder months mentioned and pack so you can plan to wear layers.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, Ireland consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
Ireland, home to some of my ancestry, was at the top of my bucket list countries to visit outside the U.S. I really wanted to experience its architecture, music, countryside and Guinness, which I call the nectar of the gods.
I started my Ireland travel in Dublin, with my new mate from Australia, enjoying a lot of the town’s history, architecture, and pubs, not to mention touring the Guinness Storehouse. You get two free glasses of Guinness at the end of the tour!
Working off a EurRail pass, we headed next to Kilkenny, a medieval town southeast of Dublin. It has the Kilkenny Castle built in 1195, which is very nice to visit. We enjoyed day of bike riding around the local countryside seeing old churches and Roman ruins, stopping into pubs for pint along the way. Naturally.
Last was Galway, a nice harbor town on Ireland’s west coast. From there we took a day trip to see local castles and the Cliffs of Moher (pictured at top of page), which are spectacular but don’t stand too close to the edge or a strong wind could blow you off! Seriously. Point to note: you could see many pictures of John F. Kennedy in Irish establishments. In fact, Galway has Eyre Square, which was officially named “John F. Kennedy Memorial Park” in 1965 after Kennedy made a speech there in 1963.
I consider the Irish some of the friendliest people on earth. No matter where I went, people would offer to house me and show me around their lovely town. One night in Dublin I ventured out with others from my hostel and found myself separated with my group no clue where I was late in the evening. A nice couple found me lost and offered to drive me back to my hostel – way across town! They saved me. Now, how nice is that?!
Additionally, nothing beat music in the pubs where the late afternoon would start with one or two musicians at a table that eventually grew to ten musicians jamming traditional Irish tunes until the pub closed. Awesome.