Who doesn’t want to see the bright green hills of Ireland or sit in a dimly lit pub and sip on a pint of ale as local musicians play old Celtic tunes in the background? In fact, Ireland was the first overseas country I ever visited.
The seeds planted on that trip blossomed into my lifelong obsession of traveling and exploring the world. I been back a few times since then and each time I am stunned by the rolling hills, ancient castles, and colorful locals. Ireland is always one of the top countries I recommend when people ask where to visit in Europe.
However, this land of myths, legends, beer, and whiskey has some unwritten rules that travelers should know before visiting. Here are 9 things you need to know before visiting Ireland.
The Road is King
Almost every time I visit Ireland, I take a road trip. The lush and misty landscape is surreal and best experienced by making your own path through the country.
Almost anywhere you go, from the Giant’s Causeway in the north to the Ring of Kerry in the south, unreal landscape envelops you. I highly recommend renting a car, at least for a few days, and explore the Emerald Isle.
Know What You are Getting Into
The main rule I am referring to here is the fact that in Ireland they drive on the left hand side of the road. This might seem a little confusing at first but you will be surprised at how quickly you adapt.
Another thing to bear in mind is that most cars are manual by default. Make sure to book an automatic to make your life easier.
Visit Small Towns and Villages
Big cities like Dublin and Belfast are lovely; however, the charm of the small towns and villages shows the heart of Ireland.
Many of these little cities come alive at night as shop owners close their stores and head straight to the local watering hole for a hot meal, a cold drink, and lively music from local musical legends. Many of my fondest memories of Ireland come from hanging out and interacting with locals in the smallest towns I can find.
Plan Your Meals
Restaurants and pubs do not serve food all day. Instead, there are certain times during the day that food is available. For example, a restaurant might stop serving food after lunch but stay open only to sell drinks until dinnertime. It is essential to plan your meals accordingly especially if you are traveling by bus or car.
You Don’t Need to Tip
Speaking of restaurants, let us talk about tipping. In Ireland, you do not need to tip. Instead, the service tax is included on the bill, which is usually 10% percent. If you leave a tip on the table, you are tipping twice while simultaneously making the waiter’s day.
Visit the Aran Islands
These tiny islands on the west coast seem untouched by time. The Aran Islands have incredible landscape, quaint small towns, and even an ancient fort and ruins. To visit these stunning islands, you can take a day trip from the ferry near Doolin.
This is a rule that many travelers from America forget about; throughout the UK and EU, you can shop tax-free. Many retailers will have stickers in their windows advertising that their items are tax-exempt for tourists.
The way this works is that you pay tax for items when you purchase them. Turn in your receipts at the airport and receive all that tax money back. It is a great way to save a little extra on your trip to Ireland.
Pack for Any Weather
The weather in Ireland is unpredictable. One reason the country is so green is that it rains quite often and without warning.
This makes packing for a trip to Ireland complicated. Some days might randomly be hot but quickly followed by a cold spell. The best bet is to pack clothes for every type of weather.
Light waterproof jackets, umbrellas, and shoes that will not get soaked are essential items when packing for Ireland.
This is another universal rule for most of Europe. Many cities practically shut down on Sundays. Many of the attractions are closed the entire day or only open a few hours.
If there are specific sites you cannot miss then make sure you do not plan to visit them on a Sunday. Just do your research and make sure they are open beforehand.
Overall, Ireland is a stunning country to visit. It is a country that is near to my heart and has had a significant impact on my life. It is a country full of myth, legends, and folklore, but also home to welcoming locals, beautiful landscape, and fun adventures
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