🇮🇪 10 Things Visitors Should Prepare for When Traveling to Ireland
Our family had the opportunity to visit Ireland in the Summer of 2021 for a month. We rented a car and drove our way around Ireland while at the same time balancing the everyday responsibilities of work and school. Based on our experience we have put together a list of 10 things visitors to Ireland should be prepared for. We have learned these lessons first hand (sometimes the hard way) and would like to share our experience so that you are better prepared for your amazing adventure!
Check out our very detailed blog on our travels through Ireland (A Month in Ireland - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4). As well as our suggested itineraries: Ireland 9 Day Suggested Itinerary, Ireland 14 Day Suggested Itinerary, and Ireland 30 Day Itinerary.
- You will be driving on the left!
About 35% of the world’s population drives on the left side of the road. For the other 65% of us, this can be mind-blowing to put into practice. Your brain will play a lot of tricks on you. Stay alert. Always think one driving move ahead. Talk through it with your traveling companion if needed. Be on guard for pedestrians and cyclists who also follow different rules of the road than you may be used to.
- Be careful with your rental vehicle!
One trick we learned during our travels is to take a video of the rental car in its current condition when we picked it up. We were warned that rental car companies are notorious for charging for damages in Ireland. Rightfully so, as car damage is easy to get on the very skinny roads closely lined with hedges.
- Rent the smallest automatic vehicle you can fit in!
Even if you can drive a stick shift, but are not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road, rent an automatic vehicle! It will be a lot for your brain to process as you are constantly trying to shift gears with your right hand. The roads are tight! The smallest vehicle you can rent the better. We purposely chose a little car (and packed light so our stuff would fit) so we would have an easier time navigating. Not planned, but we also counted ourselves lucky that our car was red. I naively hoped this meant others could see us better around the frequent tight curves.
- Allow for extra driving time in your schedule.
I recommend anticipating more driving time than your navigation tool predicts. You never know if you will get stuck behind farm equipment or how frequently you will have to pull over on the skinny roads to allow someone to pass by. Take "M" roads (the larger highways) when you can versus "R" roads (tiny back roads). Your GPS may recommend an "R" because the distance is shorter, but it may take you more time because traffic moves slower.
- Weather can change quickly, dress in layers!
All too often, a chilly, rainy, overcast morning can turn into a blazing hot sunny afternoon. Or vice versa. Don’t let the weather stop you from touring. Just be prepared! Ireland is beautiful even in the fog! Always have a rain jacket on hand and pack a second pair of walking shoes in case one gets wet.
- You may be learning how to use a boiler.
If you get a rental home, there will likely be a boiler. The boiler needs to be turned off when you leave or when not in use. It is simple. Your host will educate you. The trick is just remembering to turn it off as you leave the house. We would leave ourselves notes so we would not forget.
- You will often find electric showers.
This one still blows my mind and freaks me out. Apparently, they are more efficient. But it is scary to think of electricity in the shower with you! They can break easily so if you have any questions on how to use one ask your host.
- Don’t be afraid to eat at the hotel’s restaurant.
In the United States, I avoid hotel restaurants at all costs! The food is often overpriced and mediocre. This is not the same in Ireland! We found the food at adjoining hotel restaurants to be amazing. Also, local pubs serve not only beer, but often great food as well!
- Do not skip out on any chance to enjoy the butter or the chocolate.
Both butter and chocolate taste amazing in Ireland. There is just something different about it. Maybe it is the cows eating all that lush green grass? Trust me, and give it a try!
- Take advantage of the OPW free sights and schedule booking when needed.
When we visited Ireland in 2021 all of the OPW heritage sites. We definitely took advantage of this perk and hope that this is a program OPW can continue. OPW runs sites like Dublin Castle, Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, and Brú na Bóinne. Saving the admission fee for all these sites definitely added up! You can visit the OPW heritage website (https://heritageireland.ie) before your visit to see if they are still running the program or if tickets are required.