I returned this week from 3 wonderful weeks in Ireland. Since my return I have already heard from people who are planning their trips over there . The many questions I have received prompted this tip sheet. I hope it helps you.
1) Weather ~ What Should I wear? Layers. Bring plenty of layers. Ireland has a temperate climate, which also means plenty of showers. Don’t go to Ireland for the weather and you will not be disappointed ! Go to Ireland because you want to visit and if you get good or great weather, then that will be a bonus! With today's technology, you can check the weather online.
2) Money ~ Currency Euros. This is the currency in the Republic of Ireland but as soon as you cross over into the Northern part of Ireland you are now in the United Kingdom and therefore need to use sterling. Also, please remember to make sure you have a coin purse with you as there are a lot of coins. 2 Euro Coins, 1 Euro Coins, 50 cent coins, 20 cent coins, 10 cent coins, 5 cent coins, 2 cent coins, 1 cent coins.
3) Car Hire ~ Cars are expensive in Ireland and as a result car hire is more expensive.Tthat being said, I rented a car this last visit and it was amazing. I had a Citroen Diesel and as a result only spent 130 Euro for the entire visit. Diesel is far cheaper than gas or petrol as it is called in Ireland. Remember to drive on the left hand side of the road.
4) Public Transport ~ I took the train from Killarney to Dublin. This was wonderful. Free WiFi is available on the train. I booked my train ticket in advance. I discovered it is cheaper to purchase and prepay online rather than purchasing at the ticket counter. My ticket from Killarney to Dublin, First class cost me 44Euro. My ticket from Dublin to Cork, when I purchased at the ticket counter was 75Euro and this wasn’t even First Class ! I was told I could walk back out to the lobby and purchase online but there was a 90minute cut off window and wireless service was bad so I just purchased the ticket. Forewarned is forearmed. www.irishrail.ie
5) Tipping: Tipping in Ireland is not the same as tipping here in the USA. It is customary to tip but people tend not to be as generous as they are here in the U.S. Tipping taxi drivers is not customary but I do tend to add a few euros always out of habit.
6) No Free Soda Refills ~ When dining out and asked if you would like a refill, please be advised that there aren't any free refills for soda. Some places offer free refills for coffee but you need to ask first.
7) Lingo and Terms : I was with a woman from the USA who ordered coffee. The waitress asked how she would like her coffee. “Cream please” was the reply. I should have said something but did not. The waitress handed her a bowl of freshly whipped cream ! You need to specify milk or pouring cream.
~ Sodas are often referred to as minerals in Ireland.
~ A ’99′ is a soft whipped ice cream cone with a chocolate flake. This is a treat not to be missed.
~ When offered brown bread, more often than not, they are referring to wheat soda bread served with soups, salmon and salads.
~ If someone says “It’s grand” then that simply means it’s ok, it’s all good !
~ Chips are french fries
~ Crisps are potato chips
~ Biscuits are cookies
8) Cell Phones Be very careful here. This is where it gets really pricey. You need to contact your provider before you leave informing them of of your travel dates. They will explain how you need to turn off your cell phone data and use wireless as much as possible. Ask if you can get a passcode in as many places as possible for wireless. Most hotels offer wireless service but make sure to ask at the reception desk.
9) Tax Free Shopping ~ If you reside outside the EU (European Union) then you are entitled to tax free shopping. You can get a flex card and register that card in the store. I did this at ‘The Kilkenny Store’ . Most stores are not equipped for this, so you need to tell them you want tax free shopping, they will issue you with a blue slip to fill out and you can take this to their customer service desk. You can also register for your tax free card prior to arriving in Ireland. There is even an app now for this if you have an iPhone. http://shoptaxfree.com. Make sure to swipe your card prior to leaving Ireland. I did this at the international terminal at Dublin airport. It was easy.
10) General Tips ~ If you purchase something in a petrol station (gas station) or grocery store and they ask if you would like a bag then you are expected to pay anywhere from 15cent to 25cent per bag.
~ I did not encounter any gas stations where you can pay at the pump. You have to go inside to pay.
~ Don’t forget to bring your travel adaptor for your electrics. I purchased a good one in ‘Best Buy’ and another one at ‘Brookstone’. If you bring anything with a heating element, like hairdryer then you need a converter or else you will fry your electrics and the fuses . The voltage is higher there.
Before you panic, when looking frantically around your bathroom for a hairdryer, you will not find them there. This is against safety regulations due to the high voltage. You will find them in the dressing table or drawers in your bedroom. Some of the newer hotels are installing hair dryers in the bathrooms, but most are found in the bedroom.
~ I do not get Euros before I leave. (Although I always a few left over from my last trip allowing me a little for when I land or for the first day) I withdraw Euros from the ATM’s wherever I am visiting.
~ One other very important task is to contact your bank and/or credit card company prior to departure. They will also need to know your travel dates and places, even if you are only stopping in London for a few hours on your way to somewhere else. Otherwise your card will more than likely be denied for security reasons.