Ready to start your Irish adventure? We want you to experience the Emerald the best way possible – so check out our top 10 things to know before going to Ireland.
You have booked your flight (or ferry), packed your bags, got your travel insurance coverage, made your itinerary and can’t wait to explore Ireland for yourself – the landscapes, the castles, the pubs, the people, the music; we promise you are in for an unforgettable vacation treat.
However, when first setting foot on the Irish soil, you might also experience some unexpected surprises and obstacles. To save you from newbie mistakes, we have put together a few things to know before going to Ireland. Take a look below before you take off – we can’t wait to welcome you in our favourite country!
10. The weather is unpredictable – come prepared for all four seasons
Chances are, you have heard this before – but many visitors to Ireland are still surprised by how quickly the weather can change.
It’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day (or even half a day), so no matter what time of the year you travel to Ireland, be prepared for everything from bright sunshine to buckets of rain, heavy storms and hail.
The trick is to always wear layers. A good rain jacket and water-proofed shoes are a good investment, too. And if everything goes wrong, join the locals and sit out the rain in the nearest pub.
9. Driving can be quite an experience – be ready for narrow roads, herds of sheep and driver salutes
A rental car is a great way to explore the island. However, when travelling to Ireland, keep in mind some things might be slightly different from what you are used to at home.
First, we drive on the left-hand side of the road. Yes, really! Remember that when you start cursing “that idiot that put the steering wheel on the wrong side”. What’s more, as soon as you have left civilization (aka the city), roads can be very narrow and basic. Be prepared to drive very (!) slowly and pull over at the most unimaginable spots.
It’s also not uncommon to be stopped by a herd of sheep. Finally, folks in the countryside tend to salute other drivers – always salute back!
8. Winter days are shorter than you think – limited time outdoors
If you want to avoid the crowds, save money, or both, traveling in winter might be a good option. And given the unpredictable weather (see number 10), you might even experience more sunshine than during the peak of summer.
However, winter days in Ireland might be considerably shorter than what you are used to. The sun rises at around 8am and it’s basically dark at 4pm, meaning you only have very limited time to explore the outdoors.
On the flip side, if you come in summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10 PM.
7. Irish food is more than just potatoes – there’s something for everyone
Irish food doesn’t have the best reputation abroad. Read guide books or mainstream travel websites and you will probably be warned that every single food you might order comes with a load of potatoes or chips and Irish stew is pretty much the only national dish.
However, we believe that view is slightly outdated, and you might be surprised by the thriving foodie-scene especially in Dublin. While we still love our hearty dishes (and we are yet to meet a person that doesn’t like potatoes!), we do have restaurants from all over the world in our capital.
And if you are veggie or vegan, be assured, we have plenty of options for you, too! You can find this and more tips in this article on 10 absolutely essential things to know before visiting Ireland.
6. Sunday is considered a day of rest – one of the main things to know before going to Ireland
Arriving from the US or the UK, one of the things to know before going to Ireland is that half the country shuts down on Sundays.
Outside the bigger cities, many shops, restaurants, cafes and even tourist attractions don’t open before early afternoon or stay closed all day – so do your research when working out your travel itinerary.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you have to hide under a pillow and sit out the day of rest at home. Do it like the locals and enjoy the lush countryside, go to the beach or the pub (yes, pretty much all our drinking holes are open seven days a week!).
5. Buses don’t stop unless you flag them down – just stick your arm out
Imagine you have had a fun night out at the pub, you are tired (and probably a bit tipsy, too), it’s raining and all you are craving for is your comfy hotel bed. However, even though you are at the correct bus stop, the buses just keep driving past you.
One of the things to know before going to Ireland is that, especially in Dublin, you must flag the buses down. Make sure to stick your arm out when they approach to let the driver know that you want to board. It’s also a common thing to thank him (or her) when you leave.
4. The Irish love their local slang – get used to the local lingo
Even if you are a native English speaker, you might sometimes wonder what (the hell) your new Irish mate is talking about. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
The Irish love their local lingo and use a lot of slang terms in everyday conversations. Pair that with their distinct accent that can really get quite strong in certain areas and you get why some people might find it difficult at first to understand the locals.
However, if you are in for the challenge, picking up some Irish slang is actually a lot of fun – and your new mates will certainly appreciate you trying to fit in.
3. You will make a bunch of new friends – part of the Irish experience
Even as a solo visitor, chances are you will never be alone when traveling around the Emerald. The Irish are well known around the world for their friendliness and it’s easier than in most other countries to just strike up a conversation with a random stranger that might last for hours.
Most Irish are more than happy to talk to new faces, especially in the pub. Consider it part of the experience and join in the fun – there’s no better way to learn about the country and the culture and at some point, you will probably find yourself singing along to drinking songs with your new Irish mates.
2. Time will never be enough – narrow down the bucket list
One of the things to know before going to Ireland is that you probably won’t have enough time to explore all the places you had scribbled down on your bucket list, no matter if you stay for a few days, two weeks or even a month.
Ireland is a small country but there’s endless things to do and experience, so be prepared that you will most likely have to narrow down your list at some point.
If you can, plan in a few extra days beforehand just in case. But if that’s not an option (and you find yourself sobbing over your unfulfilled list after realizing you spent too much time at the pubs), be prepared to come back.
1. Ireland is highly addictive – becoming your second home
Slightly related to the former, Ireland will probably soon become a lot more than a random country you once visited and documented on your Instagram.
The untouched landscapes, the lively cities, the music, the pubs, and of course your new mates will challenge you to come back again and again. Ireland might eventually become your second home – some people have gone as far as packing their bags and making a permanent move after just one visit to the Emerald.
It’s just one of the things to know before going to Ireland – you have been warned!