Ireland: What to Know Before You Go
Planning a trip to Ireland? Here's what you need to know before you go.
Ireland's weather is fairly similar to that of the northeastern United States, so the adjustment is easy if that's where you hail from. However, if you aren't used to having to wear a jacket in May, you should take warning: you will need one. And probably an umbrella.
If you want to leave Ireland's major cities, you'll be better off with access to a rented vehicle. Busses and trains can only get you so far, and there's much to explore off the beaten path.
If you're from North America, this means you'll need to adjust to driving on the left. This actually isn't as hard as you might expect, however. For me, it was a bit like riding a bicycle--I still knew how to pedal and steer, and that overpowered my brain's confusion about going the wrong way.
You will need to be prepared, however, for the roads. They are narrow, winding, and oftentimes flanked by charming stone walls or inexplicably tall hedges. In my experience, this is also the case in England, as well as the more rural parts of places like Germany and Switzerland. It's quite picturesque, but something I was none too familiar with as a resident of a fairly suburban area in New York. You might feel a bit claustrophobic, driving in such conditions. Don't worry, though. Despite what your eyes suggest, there is actually enough room for your vehicle. Just maybe not for another to pass you.
3) Dining out.
Dining out in Ireland is really one of life's lovelier experiences. The service is often quite good, though you'll need to ask for your check at the end of the meal. It's not so blatantly handed to you as it is in America when it seems you've finished your meal. At times, this can feel a bit awkward, but try to catch your server when they're nearby your table, and politely let them know you've finished up. If you don't do this, you may find yourself sitting in the restaurant for a very long time.
You should also know that tipping is done differently in Ireland than in the United States. You should still try to tip when you eat out, but the customary percentage is more along the lines of ten percent.
4) The people.
The people of Ireland are overwhelmingly friendly and helpful. They want to have fun and they want you to join them. If you get stuck or need assistance, just ask. Then maybe buy the person who helped you a pint and get some craic about their hometown. It'll be worth your time.
5) The landscape.
Ireland is lush, vibrant, and very, very green. Look forward to an awe-inspiring drive through the countryside if you do rent a car. You're in for a treat of rolling hills coated in thick green grass, and, interestingly, just as many hills covered in sheep.
6) The language.
Obviously, the Irish speak English, but they also speak Gaelic. A great way to learn Gaelic is to take careful note of road signs, many of which are printed in both languages. In general, you should be able to communicate with most anyone you come across. Even with our American accents and their Irish ones, we only encountered one woman with whom we simply could not communicate, and she was working as a cashier at a convenience store, so it wasn't a huge difficulty.
If you are arriving by way of Dublin and renting a car, take note of the overhead license plate recording system the Irish have instituted to deal with tolls. You'll need to pay a toll, even if you are driving a rental car. For more information, click here.