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Ireland Travel

Before going to Ireland, research the cultural traditions.

Ireland is known for its countryside. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Ireland is known for its countryside.

Ireland Travel

Ireland travel is exciting and unforgettable, in a country filled with charm and gorgeous countryside. Ireland is a wonderful place to go for both young people looking forward to pubs and pints and families looking to make memories. Since the country is quite different from those in North America, travelers visiting Ireland should keep several tips in mind.

Cultural Differences

There are a lot of intricacies that visitors to the region need to know -- intricacies that make Ireland unique and charming. For instance, if someone offers to buy another person a pint, it is expected that the person return the favor. In fact, it is customary for everyone in the group to then take turns buying a round. Another thing to keep in mind is that when going shopping for food, people should bring their own bags to the grocery store. Some locations charge as much as a euro per bag. Visitors should also bring a hand towel and washcloth with them on trips to Ireland, because many hotels do not provide them.

Hotels in Ireland

To some people, staying somewhere they are familiar with during travel is important. There are many international hotel chains in Ireland where visitors can do just that. However, staying at an Irish hotel offers a much more authentic experience. Accommodations in Ireland range from the simple to the extravagant. Visitors can even stay in world-renowned castles and manor houses.

Lodging Rating System

People experiencing Ireland travel should know that there is a rating system used to classify hotels. It is a standard five-star system. Five stars denotes the most luxurious accommodations, with many amenities and full facilities. One star makes it clear the hotel is clean and simple but without amenities. However, visitors should not rely solely on the rating system when booking lodgings. Higher-end properties may have many amenities, but they may lack the authenticity and charm of a property with fewer stars. According to Auto Europe, travelers should request a list of amenities from a hotel and look it over carefully prior to booking a room.

Currency

When traveling in the country, it is important to be aware that the euro is the currency accepted throughout the Republic of Ireland, while the pound sterling is accepted in Northern Ireland. There are ATMs available in most cities, but they are found less frequently in rural areas. Anyone with a MasterCard or Visa can use Irish ATMs. Most restaurants, hotels and gas stations accept American credit cards, as well.

Tipping

When out for dinner or at a hotel, travelers should know that it is customary to tip 10 to 20 percent. Unlike in the United States, it is not customary to tip in Irish pubs unless a waiter or waitress brings the food or drinks to the table. It is important to be aware that many restaurants and hotels add the tip to the bill in the form of a service charge. It is also a good idea to tip taxi drivers, porters, hairdressers and the like.

Tax Added

In addition to a tip, restaurants add a 17 percent VAT, or value-added tax, onto the bill. The VAT can even be as high as 21 percent, depending on the goods. NonEuropean Union visitors to Ireland can get great deals on goods in stores with tax-free shopping signs in the windows. To obtain refunds, travelers who buy these goods should fill out a valid tax refund document when leaving the European Union. A customs officer will check the packages and validate the form. Sometimes, visitors receive their refund right at the airport. In other instances, they have to mail the validated tax refund document back to the Irish store in order to be sent the refund.

Irish Rail System

Iarnr reann is Ireland's rail network. According to irishrail.ie, Iarnr reann is a nationwide system and covers major cities and towns throughout Ireland. Commuter Rail handles commuter routes to and from Dublin, and DART provides service from Greystones to Howth/Malahide. Rush hour runs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. When traveling in Ireland, visitors should try to avoid those busy times. In addition, intercity routes are very busy on Friday afternoons and evenings.

Visitors traveling between cities in Ireland should arrive at the train station 30 minutes in advance. Those who need to pick up reserved tickets or buy tickets should allow more time, especially during rush hours, as gates close two minutes before trains depart. Seats can be reserved on most intercity trains. People can view the schedule and buy tickets at select stations, online or over the phone.

Bus Travel

Bus reann is the national bus service in Ireland. It provides local routes, long-distance intercity services and Eurolines services. There are single, return, weekly and family tickets available for purchase by phone, online or at travel centers. Buying a Tourist Travel Pass makes getting around much easier for visitors. The Open Road Pass gives travelers the flexibility to travel whenever and wherever they want, and the Irish Rover Bus Pass is good for all Bus reann and Ulsterbus services in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Irish Explorer Bus/Rail allows people to travel on DART, Intercity, Iarnr reann and all Bus reann scheduled services. However, it is not good for travel to Northern Ireland.

Renting Cars

Renting a car in Ireland can be a big headache for travelers. There are many different types of cars, as well as different rules, rates and insurance options. Renters pay a 13.5 percent tax on the car, along with a road fee of $1.50 per day and a surcharge if they pick up the car at an airport. Some rental car companies also charge an extra $25 to $30 for people who are going to travel to Northern Ireland. In most cases, drivers have to be between 21 and 75 years old. As far as insurance goes, there is a Collision Damage Waiver, which covers most of the cost if the car is stolen or involved in an accident. A Super Collision Damage Waiver costs even more but covers the entire cost in case of theft or a collision.

Ireland Driving Rules

If renting a car while traveling in Ireland, it is important for people to know the rules of the road. Most importantly, cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. It is the law to buckle up, no matter where people are seated in a car. In addition, children under the age of 4 must be in appropriate child restraints. Police in Ireland have been cracking down on drunk driving and speeding, so it is essential to follow the law.

Visitors can drive legally as long as they have a valid U.S. license. However, those unfamiliar with the roads in Ireland should use extreme caution, for the rural roads are winding and narrow, which can be dangerous. Drivers should also be prepared to backtrack a bit. According to Karott.com, Irish road signs are posted right at road entrances, not before. Since there is no advance notice, drivers should slow down to read signs. On less-traveled roads, signs may even be covered by overgrown brush.

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