Ireland is my home country, the destination which I have written the most posts about, and the one which I consider myself a destination expert on.
As I outline in my Being Irish post I could never criticise another country the way I analyse Ireland. I will try my best to put my bias aside and be as honest with my readers about my home country as possible.
I’ll start that honesty process by saying Ireland is a difficult country to live in, the cost of living and the inclement weather being the most obvious challenges. But it’s a country with a strong social conscience, an excellent education system, is politically stable and respected internationally for its diplomacy.
Ireland is a much better country to be a tourist in. Our hospitality sector sets high standards both for produce and service. Yes, eating out in Ireland will be expensive relative to other EU countries, Scandinavia excepted, but the quality of food here is superb with a huge emphasis on natural, additive-free ingredients. Fish, meat and dairy are our forte.
Our scenery is breath-taking and is easily accessible. And there is a wealth of cultural activities to keep boredom at bay.
I’m amazed at the number of people abroad, particularly in fellow EU countries, who lack basic knowledge about Ireland. Firstly, the island of Ireland is divided into two jurisdictions:
A) Republic of Ireland which consists of 26 counties and has been an independent country since 1921.
B) Northern Ireland which is part of the UK and consists of the remaining 6 counties on the north of the island.
I hope my little table below helps decipher the differences and outline the similarities between the two Irelands.
The Ireland I’ll be referring to from here on is the Republic of Ireland.
Visa: Visa-free travel is in place for citizens of EU/EEA countries and for a number of other countries including USA and Canada. Please see the Department of Foreign Affairs website for further information on visa requirements.
Language: Irish may be one of our official languages but everyone speaks English. The second-most spoken language in Ireland is Polish. For a humorous look at language in Ireland check out my blog post on Irish Slang.
A to B: This is where the fun/nightmare begins! As small as Ireland may look on a world map, it’s a tricky country to get from A to B by public transport. Dublin city is better served by public transport than the rest of the country with a variety of options: Bus, mainline rail, DART, Luas. Dublin also has a free bicycle rental scheme, dublinbikes.
The railway network spans out from Dublin to other cities/towns and is managed by Irish Rail. Trains from Dublin Heuston generally serve the south, south east and west of the country. Dublin Connolly serves the north, north west and Belfast. Book online for substantial savings. Check out my blog post on how Irish railway stations got their names.
Bus Éireann is the national bus company and operates the bus stations, but private companies travel popular routes as well. Bear in mind that some private companies will not use main bus stations as pick-up points which could mean waiting in the rain elsewhere.
As for driving in Ireland, that’s an adventure in itself which merits its own section. Check out my Tips for Driving in Ireland post which is full of helpful advice from over 20 years of practical experience.
Weather: An Irish-trained pilot is the best to have in the cockpit during inclement weather. Why? What is considered inclement weather in other countries is considered normal weather in Ireland. And so our variable weather conditions will be your biggest travel challenge.
What to wear. When to wear it. I recommend layers with a water-proof outer layer. Shoes with water-proof capabilities are also a must. Sunscreen is recommended from May to September as the sparse sun we get is very strong. 20 degrees Celsius in Ireland feels like 30 degrees Celsius in continental Europe. Conversely, Polish acquaintances tell me that 0 degrees Celsius in Ireland feels like Poland in -10 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop and increase by anything up 10 degrees in a matter of hours.
In recent years, storms have become more frequent during October to February. Weather alerts are colour-coded and I recommend reading Met Éireann’s information guide on these alerts. Public transport and other services may not operate during red weather alerts. Met Éireann, the national meteorological service, is the go-to place for daily information and warnings.