Our trip to Ireland was planned in only a couple of weeks, and there were a few things we knew we wanted to do and see while we were there. Among these were something related to Titanic in Belfast, kiss the Blarney stone, visit the Jameson distillery and the Guinness brewery, and see some of the country side. Giants Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher also came highly recommended to us, so those went on the list as well. Our flights were in and out of Dublin, so we knew we would be spending some time there as well. We finally settled on an itinerary that was Belfast - Castlebar - Limerick - Cork - Dublin. In retrospect, there are definitely things we could have done differently. So, here are some tips from our experience if you are planning on visiting Ireland.
- If you can swing it, make your trip longer than a week. Even though Ireland is an island, there is tons to see and do. A week is hardly long enough. I feel like we only got a taste of Ireland. But, it has made us added to the ''Plan to Return To'' list.
- Don't stay in Dublin. It's the most touristy part of Ireland that we saw. And there are a ton of people. I'm glad that we really only had one day there.
- If you are planning a driving tour, don't plan on driving more than a total of 3 hours per day. This will give you time to pull off the road if something looks interesting, and will give you more flexibility. Take the scenic routes. They make take twice as long, but they are completely worth it.
- Find a few things you want to see, and try to plan around those. Bonus if they are relatively close to each other
- Be prepared to drive on the left side of the road (aka, the wrong side). It's unnerving at first, but you will quickly get used to it. To make it even more complicated, Northern Ireland uses the English system (miles, miles/hour) and the Republic of Ireland uses metric.
- Currency in the Republic of Ireland is the Euro. In Northern Ireland, it's British Pounds. Some places accept both, but most do not, especially the smaller pubs. Exchange money in the airport or at a bank. ATMs will also dispense in local currency, just make sure that your bank at home allows international withdrawals (some do not). And finally, make sure you have cash! Credit cards are not as popular in Europe as in the States, and many places accept only cash.
- Be aware of the time of year you want to go. Summers have better weather and longer days, but also a lot more tourists. Winter has the potential for rain and/or snow, but also a lot fewer people to deal with. I can imagine fall would be a beautiful time to go as well.
- Check the weather. We had everything from 30 and sleet to sunny and 55 degrees. Dress in layers and be prepared to walk on uneven, rough surfaces (such as cobblestone) and climb lots of stairs.
- Try staying in B&Bs. They can be around the same price, or a little more, than a hotel, but the hospitality (and usually the food!) from the owners can't be beat. Plus, talking to locals is far more interesting!
- Don't try to do too much. I think that was our biggest mistake. We tried to do and see too much and it all felt a little rushed. In retrospect, I wish we had spent a little less time in the car, and a little more time exploring some of the smaller, more picturesque areas of Ireland.
In general, we loved Ireland. We would go back in a heart beat! But these are some things we encountered while we were in Ireland and thought others would benefit from. Some of these we were forced to learn along the way and decided to pass them on in hopes that other travelers don't have the same problems. If you have any other tips for visiting Ireland, put 'em in the comments! And if you have any more questions about planning your own visit to Ireland, let us know either in the comments, on Facebook, or through email (links on the right).
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