Whenever I do a road trip, I always like to give a set of cross-cutting tips that allow you to better structure your itinerary and make the best choices. After writing the article about the Road trip in Ireland, here are the tips for planning a beautiful and unforgettable trip to Ireland!
Tips for a trip to Ireland
Since this is a trip to a European state, the tips are not a lot, but they will surely be useful to you.
Costs in general
Separate considerations must be made. Ireland on the one hand and Dublin on the other. Dublin does not reflect Ireland and vice versa. Dublin is expensive, or rather…similar to other European capitals, but if we compare it to the rest of the Ireland, the costs are really higher.
A trip to Ireland is definitely not the cheapest trip there is, but neither is it as expensive as one might think. Aside from Dublin, to sleep you spend 50 to 80 € for a double, and when you get up to 80 € the B&B accommodations are really quality.
As for food, you usually eat main courses, perhaps preceded by a nice hot soup. All with about 50 € total for two people. Let’s say that with 25/30 € you can dine well in the various pubs/clubs (restaurants and bistros have other prices). Assume a little more for the Northern Ireland, where you will pay in pounds.
Finally, tickets to the various places of interest. On average the price is around 8/10 €, a separate discourse for the Guinness Storehouse, which costs almost 20,00 € €.
Traveling by car in Ireland
It is the worry of every on-the-road traveler who will sooner or later have to deal with driving the other way. Immediately after clicking on “rent,” he is assailed by the doubts, “will I be able to drive on the left”?
I will answer you: of course you will make it! Don’t worry about it! And at this point why not read this article of mine Driving on Left Side of Road: 10 Incredible Useful Tips
The great thing about a trip to Ireland is that you will find very little traffic among the green hills, and this will make it no small task for you. You will quickly become familiar with driving in the opposite direction. The real problem, indeed the only problem, is right at the moment you take over the car. First, you have to get in the right door (trivial reasoning, but not too much) and become aware of where the transmission, clutch, headlights, etc. are. Then you have to leave, and leaving from the airport area means “bumping into” some traffic right away. Don’t worry, it’s only the first few miles that pose a challenge, then it’s all downhill.
I elaborated this topic in the previous article on left-hand drive, but in the meantime, I’ll reveal the trick to never (or almost never) getting it wrong: execute the transitions in your head, even before you get to a turn or a traffic circle. It is critical. Arriving already mentally prepared for a stop sign or right of way allows you to be able to handle the unexpected. If there are several people in the car, get the lead passenger to help as well.
Advice on car rental in Ireland
There is one car rental tip I definitely want to give you for your trip to Ireland: rent a car with an automatic transmission. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it will make you focus more on the road, and you certainly need to given the opposite side driving.
I recommend you read this: Driving on the left side, 10 tips not to get it wrong
Caution: if you plan to take a tour in Ireland where the arrival airport is different than the departure airport (e.g., arriving in Dublin, departing from Cork) you will likely have to pay for the drop-off, which is the return of the car to a different place than the place of origin. The cost varies, and I encourage you to read up on this beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Car trunk: In my articles on tips for road trips I always emphasize getting a car that has a good trunk, or at least a trunk suitable for all the suitcases/trolleys you will be bringing, so that nothing is left out of sight.
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Speed limit: Dare I say wacky. The rule is 50 km/h on urban roads, 80 km/h on suburban roads, 100 on main suburban roads and 120 km/h on highways. And so far so good. The question is how much you will be there. Many stretches of the Wild Atlantic Road you travel at 100 km/h. Sometimes you find yourself on small roads of 60/70 km/h maximum with a limit of 100. And people go at 100.
GPS navigator: not needed, don’t rent the car with a navigator. Since they have extended the use of data connection outside the borders of Italy with the same rate, all you need is a smartphone and google maps.
Road conditions: a trip to Ireland assumes that you will be driving on secondary and back roads of the secondary roads…in short, you can come across any kind of small road. The condition of the roads, despite always being in the rain, is very good.
Irish and the four arrows : if in Italy we use the four arrows as a hazard warning and/or for a partial stop, in Ireland they use the four arrows as I also saw them do during my trip to Mexico: they use them to say thank you, for example when you give way to someone who is passing you.
The cost of entering Northern Ireland: if you cross the border with your rental car, you will have to pay an additional fee. This should be mentioned when you take charge of the car. In my case, I was not aware of this but was told (and then charged) at the rental desk. It is important to say what your rough itinerary is.
Recommended restaurants for a trip to Ireland
A few small suggestions for where to eat along this itinerary. These are evening places; we ate something “on the fly” for lunch, also considering the substantial breakfasts.
- Dublin -> Bad Bobs, pub in the Temple Bar area, not far from the pub of the same name that gives this area of Dublin its name. 7 floors of pubs, not bad!
- Bundoran -> Fox’s Lair, so much choice we didn’t have. In March Bundoran does not stand out for choice and the kitchens close really early. So we happened upon Fox’s Lair. It is very unique: you sit in the bar with the fireplace, have a drink, choose your courses, and when they are ready you go to the restaurant to eat. Retro setting, but great food — it feels like eating at grandma’s. Very strange experience.
- Clifden -> Macdaras Bar, also Clifden in March leaves no doubt…in the sense that the choice goes by exclusion and you don’t decide, but they are closed. The important thing is to find a good one and certainly Macdaras was perfect. Great dishes, courteous staff!
- Doolin -> McGann’s Pub, I could say that in Doolin I had the best dinner of my entire trip to Ireland, including some classic fish & chips. But the music and being in a small (but packed) pub in the remote location of Doolin helped make it a special dinner.
Sleeping in a lighthouse
The idea of sleeping in a lighthouse accompanied me throughout the organization of my Irish itinerary. I tried hard to find a lighthouse on the Donegal or Connemara coast where I could spend a night. Do you know how beautiful that must be!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t for several reasons. I wanted to stay at Fanad Head Lighthouse, a lighthouse overlooking the sea in northern Donegal. The problem was that, the way I had envisioned my stops, the nights I would be in the area were already all “full.” Moreover, in most cases lighthouses (or rather lighthouses) accept guests for a minimum of 2 nights.
Given the few days I was in Ireland, it was complicated to stay in the same place for two nights. If you want to try this experience, which I think is great, I recommend that you book well in advance the nights at your chosen lighthouse. After all, you won’t be going back there often, so better not let this chance slip away.
Tips for a trip to Ireland: dealing with the weather
The weather in Ireland is something serious. I think if they did the World Weather Championships, Irish meteorologists would have few rivals in the world. It would still be a British podium.
The famous“sky of Ireland” is often full of clouds. Clouds that fly by quickly and keep creating cuts of light and shadow that make the views even more beautiful.
Often it’s the rain that gets the best of it, that sometimes heavy, sometimes fine drizzle that is impossible not to encounter on a trip to Ireland.
In early March, the time I went to Ireland, it rained practically every morning. In the afternoon the clouds gave way to sunshine, and I won’t tell you the spectacle! Whatever season you go, know that you will find all possible weather conditions. Be prepared with raincoats or k-ways, the weather is really unpredictable.
How is the relationship with the local people?
If with the weather we could say that the relationship is “love and hate,” with people it could only be love. Excluding Dublin (only because it is a big city) I found wonderful people who always had an uncommon smile and courtesy. I am not used to. In addition to the scenery, one of the characteristics that compels people to take a trip to Ireland is just this dispassionate and free friendliness of the Irish. At times you will feel almost…at home.