Table of Contents
- Things to See and Do in Ireland
- Ireland Costs and Recommended Budget
- Where to Go in Ireland
- How to Get Around in Ireland
- When to Go to Ireland
- Staying Safe in Ireland
Things to See and Do in Ireland
Traveling to Ireland, we were struck by the adventurous and scenic destination, ideal for first-time travelers. Its simplicity and subtle familiarity will encourage you to see more of its quaint towns and friendly people.
Get to Know Guinness and Whiskey
Though not a country of alcohol, Ireland certainly produces some of the world’s best whiskeys. Major touring companies offer guided tours on notable establishments like the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. The Jameson Distillery on Bow Street has an obligatory whiskey tasting is offered to those who sign up. The tour lasts around two hours and the guide is skilled.
The Guinness Storehouse is a definite must-see place. Even if you are not remotely into alcohol, the heritage of Ireland’s official drink is captivating enough. You will be forced to drink beer so that the tour is worth it and even for a non-drinker, the complimentary pint is delicious. Guinness started 250 years ago and the exhibit will show you original prototypes in context--this is why it is the first on our list.
Ireland is a tourist spot for caves due to its limestone resource. Caves possess a lot of minerals and historical importance that it comes as no surprise that caving for those who want to explore the outdoors. The country has several important caves: the Doolin Cave, the Marble Arch, Crag Cave, and Dunmoor Cave. Epic Ireland provides for Day Tours that include caving and other extreme outdoor activities. These tours come with a professional tour guide; on average, you can spend around €125.
While the Irish are known more for their beer and music, Extreme Sports Ireland offers classes on the different types of watersports and nature activities. Sports companies over the country are aware of the demand for these services from locals and tourists that it has been an underrated activity to do while traveling. Ireland has a lot of beautiful lakes and rivers and there is no better way to enjoy but through testing the waters--literally! Outdoor activities offered that can be enjoyed by tourists include canoeing/kayaking, sailing, powerboating, archery, stand up powerboat, and rock climbing; know more about their activities here.
There is nothing more rewarding than appreciating the Irish countryside with a good meal. Places like the Howth and Belle Isle conduct cooking classes at their local institutions (Howth Castle and Belle Isle Bistro, respectively) to know more about Irish food specialties, produce and homegrown condiments. While cooking classes can be more convenient for those living in the area, visitors from inside and outside the UK can inquire. Apart from culinary workshops, there also Zip Lining Packages and Off-Road Driving.
The Falcon Walk
Quite unique to those vacationing in Ireland and Scotland, this is an opportunity to see hawks in their national habitat and watch them from infancy to adults. At Ireland’s School of Falconry in County Mayo, there is a program where each individual who signs up has their own hawk while the instructor gives you the basic information about the birds and how you can train them.
The program is cheaper for bigger groups of people and can cost you €95.00 for one person to as low as €55.00 for teams of four to five. It is popular with tourists who want to do something different when touring the country. For more information and inquiry, try browsing their official website.
Ireland at Night
On the contrary to popular belief, there are no significant curfews in Ireland that you have to be aware of. The rumors of a curfew are for teenagers and youths who need to be home by 10 PM and some establishments may be closed by 11 PM to avoid drunk argumentative behavior.
Nightclubs and pubs are particularly popular with trendy young adults and tourists. While we didn’t immerse ourselves to the party scene, you can catch night shows and theater plays in Belfast’s Opera House, Cork focuses on fun downtime with live mini-concerts and sing-alongs while Dublin can give you exciting and upbeat dancing. Here are a couple of significant places for Irish hangouts:
- Lavery’s (Belfast)
- Wigwam (Dublin)
- The Wright Venue (Dublin)
- TIME in Cookstown
Ireland Costs and Budget
We assess Ireland Travel Costs with the range of prices when planning a trip to Ireland. One thing you must remember is that the country practices dual currency: Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling (GP) while the rest of Ireland uses the Euro. The values that will be used in this guide are varied.
Like all travel arrangements, you have the option to book your lodgings or book upon staying. If you have come all the way in neighboring counties or from the UK, this may be suggested; short-term tours can also make this possible--you can even negotiate the type of room you want or view that you choose to wake up to.
Later in the article, we mention the best time to go to Ireland because timing is the best strategy to get the best kind of accommodation. Summers (from June to September) are tourist peak seasons and can have higher prices than usual.
For this period, it would be best to book your travel in advance to estimate the cost that you would be spending and know which rooms are taken. Moreover, prices can rise and fluctuate in a week. Be on the lookout for hotel promos during peak seasons - as 4-star hotels have a tendency to offer discounts as low as 40% than hostels.
Costs and quality depend on the location, size, quantity of people and even (yes) the history of the room. A suggested comprehensive source for hotels and cottages is Be Our Guest, an updated catalog by the Irish Hotel Federation made for prospect travelers. If you plan on making your travel a bit more upscale, more information can be seen in Ireland’s Blue Book.
Accommodations are divided into the following: Hotels, Guesthouse, Self-catering (where there are criteria in both Northern and the Republic of Ireland), and Bread and Breakfast (B&Bs, which also has their own criteria in Northern and the Republic of Ireland). 5-star hotels and manors can start from €360 to as high as €4,000 ($397 to $4,441). 4-star hotels, guesthouses and self-catering houses can range from €176 to €400 ($194 to $441) while costs for dorm rooms and hostels can go as low as €20 to €80 ($28 to $88). Find out more on the housing arrangements that suit you.
Food in Ireland is not costly as opposed to other places in the UK and Europe. The servings can fit two people if you want to save costs. The prices of food depend on whether you are buying food for cooking or paying for food at a restaurant, hotel or pub. Consider Value Added Tax (VAT) when eating or buying food as this will reflect on the given value for your purchase.
Fast food places are all over Ireland and for a quick snack, you are expected to pay €8 to €15 for a meal. A simple single meal from a bistro €13 to €20, as this is the rate standard for most cafes in the area. The cost of a medium-priced meal is €25-€30 while if you want to splurge a little for a three-course meal, it would take you €40-€55. On average, expect that the daily cost for meals is €15 to €50 daily depending on how much you eat.
Where to Go in Ireland
Major Landmarks: Trinity College, Grafton Street, Howth Cliff Walk
Ireland’s capital city is visually stunning and has an out-worldly charm. For a tourist and a first-timer, it could be a bit intimidating. Dublin holds a similar feel to London pubs but due to its smaller buildings, the streets are familiar and you realize how connected everything seems to be. With the Ha’Penny Bridge connected two of its ends together, Dublin awakes in you the humble beginnings of Ireland. It surely feels touching and as a traveler, the city appears like a friend.
Its winding route introduces you to unique fusion cuisines in the city with laid back shops at the Temple Bar District. It is all about a great and low-key night out and yes, this is definitely the city to be if you want to spend days on end with mates. Naturally, there are also other places of cultural interest such as the Trinity College Library (if you want to read), the Dean Hotel (a luxury boutique hotel to merge with the hip crowd) and Dublin Bay.
Dublin Bay is a definite must-see. A 26-minute drive from Dublin, this is the view of cinematic proportion. Beside the port is Howth Peninsula, which is the fishing village near the harbor that has a famous lighthouse. Restaurants serve the freshest seafood with the best beer while Howth Castle entertains people with its public tours.
Major Landmarks: Ulster Museum, Belfast Castle, Stormont (Parliament Buildings)
If Dublin is where you treat your mate, Belfast is more of your intellectual satisfaction. This is the city that will make you open your eyes to how sophisticated Ireland can be. Compared to the landscape of its Scotland neighbors like Glasgow and Edinburgh, the architecture has several peaks that span the city, which is the largest in North Ireland.
The Ulster Museum has an impressive range of relics from the past and is one of Dublin’s favorite places. There are collections from different periods in time and families with children can benefit the most from this. We didn’t see this during our time in Belfast but when we come back, it’s definitely on the itinerary.
St. George Market is a highlight of our trip. Fun fact: it is the last Victorian-styled market in Belfast that champions small business owners. Part-Deli and part farmer’s market, it has a vast array of different gastronomic creations, fresh bread, fruits and vegetables. Its variety can leave you with too much to choose from, but we guarantee that its authenticity will make you want to come back. Prices vary depending on what food you want to buy.
The Parliament Building, known as Stormont, is located in Stormont Castle. The finished buildings house the Senate and Assembly Chamber of Northern ireland. The vicinity hosts important political affairs that bridge the gap between the citizens and its leaders; it is an intimidating but inspiring place.
Major Landmarks: Fitzgerald Park, Cork City Gaol, Kinsale, Cobh
It is the second largest city in Ireland and definitely (in our opinion) the most charming. With the balance of a scenic valley view and an industrial city center, Cork is surrounded by its community. You can’t help but interact and visit notable sites that are both cosmopolitan and relaxing. Cork has these winding streets that we found quite enjoyable. But what we found strikingly are their seaside coasts like Kinsale, Cobh and Ballycotton.
Ballycotton is a fishing village that is a good place for laid back activities such as cooking, bird watching and tennis. Weekends are great to spend here since you are closer to the birds and the sea. Its Lifeboat Station operates the areas modern models as they navigate within the village throughout the summer. Just on the southern coast of Cork is Kinsale, a historical port that has strategic military history. The port area goes from around the harbor to the open sea, where activities like going on yacht trips, angling and golf are popular.
A 40-minute from Kinsale is the colorful Cobh. It is a prized area that is some of the best in Europe. St. Colman’s Cathedral stands across the pier as a trademark for the town. The Catholic cathedral stands as one of Ireland’s tallest buildings. It is a tourist attraction because of its proximity to the sea; locals and tourists alike take advantage of the climate and hold live performances outdoors when it is not raining. Trips to Cork have become common in recent years since more people have come to discover it. It is also one of our favorite stops. For more information on Cork, their official shows you more ways on how you can enjoy it there.
Major landmarks: Westport, Ballina, River Moy
Located in the West of Ireland, we wanted to include this as part of our itinerary. The remote yet familiar county lies at the edge of the country where it is famous for its cliffs and rocky coves. Quite simply, County Mayo has spectacular views and these can be the attractions for the county already.
Westport is a town near Croagh Patrick that started in the 18th century. It owns traditional Irish hospitality and in Westport House, you will be treated to local tours that include falconry and cooking classes. Ballina is also a good place to have a good stay in if you want to see more green Irish fields. It is where the River Moy is located and is the largest town in Mayo. The community knows one another and great pubs and restaurants are within reach. Read more on the restaurants that are considered as some of the best in Ireland.
How to Get Around Ireland
Local transport is central to buses, railways and cars. Railways are owned by the State while 200 routes of buses are predominantly used within the Dublin region. The known bus operators in Ireland are Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Ireland, among others.
Traveling in Dublin is a straightforward process and Dublin Bus, a subsidiary of CIE (Córas Iompair Éireann or the Irish Transport System), is the official transport in the capital and its surrounding areas. When paying for fares, this company likes to keep it simple. Cash requires a coin-only system and overpaying means that you have to go to the Main Office to get your change. You get the idea: getting your change means extra effort so if you want to avoid all the fuss, give the exact amount.
For the best way to have access to transport, you can buy prepaid tickets. This works not only for Dublin Bus but for other bus companies around Dublin as well. Prepaid tickets are magnetic and can easily be processed by a bus validator. Validation is done by holding a smart card under a reader target until the light approves.
Each Dublin Bus works in the same way as a train. While there is a bus that goes through the main points of the city, there are buses that take more short-term destinations. These are Xpresso routes (more convenient and efficient AM and PM bus stops during rush hour) and Nitelink (Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year including Christmas).
If you are not in Dublin then expect to ride Bus Éireann. An affiliate of Dublin Bus, this is the bus transport of CIE in other areas of Ireland. Under the Bus Éireann are Expressway and the Commuter bus services; Expressway is an inter-urban direct bus ride link to every major town and city in Ireland while Commuter buses go around the business districts and commercial areas.
Nightrider is a bus line that rides specifically on late nights on the main routes of roads outside Dublin. Town and city services have significant stops in areas like Sligo, Cork and Limerick. Bus Éireann also serves town-to-town and rural areas. For places outside of Ireland, Euroline Coach Services extend to Britain and Europe. Sources that will make your Bus Éireann experience smoother are the journey planner and the inter-city schedule.
After discussing the scope of the areas that are travelled by bus, there are areas that are still not covered by buses and getting a ride might worry should you get stranded. This is where the Rural Transport Programme comes in. There are over 35 private groups offering transport services; know more about the Ireland Transportation System and the important passes that get you to important places.
When travelling to Northern Ireland, NI Railways in connection with Translink UK offers you coach services going through their metropolitan districts. Thinking of renting a car? Prepare your international driver’s license and book in advance during the holiday season. Manual cars are common use in Europe and Ireland is no different. Should you want an automatic, notify your car agency so they can select the right car for you.
For renting cars and other vehicles like campervans and motorcycles, Ireland has policies on qualifications, insurance and road rules.
When to Go to Ireland
There has been some debate on the perfect time to go to Ireland. We asked around and comparing our experience to what other tourists and locals suggest, there are two ways of determining the best time in Ireland and that is based on weather and on tourists.
The mood of your holiday is entirely your call and with regards to tourists, you would be surprised how crowds of travelers can make or break your itinerary. We have known people who are pleased when tourist season peaks in since this is usually the time where everything cooperates: the food is in season, flowers are in full bloom while the grass and mountains are seen in their natural light.
Locals also celebrate regional and activities related to religion. If you want to go to Ireland on a holiday and festive mood, then going from June to September is the way to go. In June and July, the weather climbs from 16C to a 27C. It could be a surprise for people who are expecting cooler weather near the North--and they could be right because no matter how high the temperature is, you’d bet that rain or scattered showers will still meet you at this part of the UK.
The school year begins during this time and the days become longer as the sun sets as late as 11 PM. Crowds can increase in city centers like Dublin and accommodations by this time are sold out or have higher prices due to the demand. We recommend booking in advance should you choose to come around at this time until August.
Busy areas around the country are Dublin on Bloomsday, a celebration of the author James Joyce; Killorglin (Puck Fair) and Tralee (Rose of Tralee, a beauty contest) in County Ferry and Valentine’s Day. April to May and October is considered to be a shoulder season, the months that connect peak and low seasons. This period is ideal for travelers who want a little peace and overall a cheaper trip.
November to February can be a remote place in Ireland since some of the attractions are closed on holidays or due to the weather. In any case, you might just see yourself strolling the city and enjoying the nightlife. The Irish Road Trip breaks down a monthly schedule of the country all through the year.
Safety in Ireland
Traveling to Ireland is a relatively safe n terms of traveler risk. Since 2017, almost 11 million tourists went to the country and it has been one of most toured areas in the United Kingdom.
Safety in transportation is a sure thing in Ireland. Buses are not only accessible but they are also the main type of transportation used. Roads in Ireland are narrow and can go around farms, natural reserves, mountains and commercial areas and you will be in the hands of skilled drivers so there is no need to worry. However just like any other road, keep yourself secured to your seat and make sure that your belongings are safe and within reach.
Terrorism has been a threat to Ireland in the 1990s but it has subsided in recent years. Its political division into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there could be sensitivity with the mentioning of this in public venues/tours so for the benefit of everyone’s trip during the stay, it would be best to avoid speaking about the subject to random people/locals.
If you happen to be thrust into a situation where a demonstration takes place, take a neutral stand.In public areas, do exhibit caution. Areas of crowds and being too familiar with strangers can attract opportunist pickpockets.
Please drink moderately to avoid unnecessary argumentative behavior. This is also so you do not drive (if you are) while drunk. When driving in Ireland, make sure that you stay on the straight side road and observe driving rules.
Best Tours in Ireland
The best tours of Ireland involve a little bit of nature and a little bit of culture. More important than tours, there are reputable tour companies that give you budget packages to be able to see more sights at fair and reasonable prices.
Wolfhound Adventure Tours - If you want your tour to be exclusive for you and your guests, Wolfhound Tour can arrange it. Tours are done during the holidays, festivals, for students, families, and students. Private tours arrange lodgings in cabins and cottages where it is right in the center of a scenic area. The staff can help you with your own personal itinerary or inquire about the existing tours that will take you to sceneries and pubs and boost your thirst for Irish culture. This is voted by Trip Savvy as having the best for families.
Fab Food Trails - The company tours around Ireland through food. Their packages would be ideal for first-timers in Ireland who will tour the Dublin capital and Cork. Group tours are done in 12 to 14 people and can be in the form of evening dinners or food tasting. Private walks are available with esteemed guides who have an extensive background in Irish food.
CIE - We cannot go the tour company lookout without talking about CIE - who provides some of the most extensive Irish tours that include parts of Scotland, England, and Wales. There are tours that are specific to tourist places in Ireland such as Dublin Castle and Waterford Crystal and can last for a week or 9 days. Accommodations are booked in 3 to 4-star hotels with comfortable transportation; Tour costs can range from $1,200 to $3,000 (€1120 to €2748).
Shamrock Tours - This company is great for looking at tour deals that allow you to tour the country without breaking the bank. Tours of Ireland are 3 to 7 days, depending on the place you want to go and your preferred experiences. Accommodations are inviting tourist hostels inclusive of breakfast. Tours cost from $339 to $825 and can cost even lower when discounts are applied.
Other notable touring companies are the following:
- Historical Walking Tours Dublin
- Paddywagon Tours
- Viator: Ireland Tours
- Rick Steves’ Europe Tours
Top Resources on Ireland
- https://www.ireland.com/ - The Official Tourism Website
- Tourism Ireland - Know more about Ireland and its travel opportunities
- Ireland Travel Guide - Written by Nomadic Matt, a tour of Ireland and the expected daily traveler expenses
- Ireland Hotels - the online version of Be Our Guest where hotels are organized based on feature.
- Ireland Before You Die - an interactive website on the best of Ireland
Rick Steves' Europe in Ireland
Thanks for reading our guide, make sure to follow our blog or check out some of our other travel guides. Here are some readings about tourism activities in Ireland that you just might be interested in:
Whiskey Tour in Ireland - An article about how Whiskey is made and being able to taste the drink afterward.
The Standard: Tours for Half the Price - With its booming tourism, Ireland is keen to sell tours that 40 percent off for those who are travelers at heart! Know their itineraries and sceneries by reading more.
Forbes: Ireland’s Exploration - Forbes has searched for some of the best Ireland traveling tips, tours and activities that you can make the most of while you are there!
Travel Diaries: Ireland Tour - Refinery29’s narration of an Irish tour that rounds the approximate cost that you spend around Ireland, the places you can see and how you can get around the country.
30 Great Holiday Destinations in Ireland and Abroad - The Irish Times rounds up top places in Ireland based on the favorite activities of travelers.