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Ireland is one of the most charming places in Europe. With stunning green mountains, a rugged coastline, castles dating back centuries, and some of the most friendly and merry people in the world, there’s so much to see and do. There are also things you need to keep your eyes peeled for, and reasons to stay alert and be cautious during your trip. Here are 10 things no-one told you about traveling to Ireland.
1. Don’t Rely on GPS
GPS is useless in Ireland. Ok, maybe we’ve exaggerated a bit, but there are a lot of roads that don’t show up on even some of the best GPS platforms. If you’ve rented a car, buy a good, old-fashioned map, just in case you get lost using google maps or GPS. The country experiences strong winds so it’s worth bearing in mind that there is always the possibility road signs may have fallen down. All in all, a paper map is essential.
2. A Tale of Two Countries
Ireland was split into two almost one-hundred years ago, and tensions are still strong between the two halves of the island. The south is its own country, known as the Republic of Ireland, and the north-east is known as Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Years of violence and unrest followed the separation, and talking politics with locals is best avoided as passions still run high.
3. Animals Have Right of Way
If you’ve hired a car and are getting off-the-beaten-track, be prepared to be held up by four-legged friends such as herds of sheep and cows. Animals have right of way in Ireland, and they can sometimes take over whole roads. Bring a large dose of patience with you!
Ireland doesn’t have super high crime rates, however, as with all major cities, there are places you should avoid, especially in larger cities such as Dublin and Belfast. Religious, homophobic and hate crime, unfortunately, is present in main cities, with particularly nasty stories of “gay bashing” and other homophobic crimes taking place, often near to gay bars and hangouts. Racism can also rear its ugly head in main cities too. Always stay alert and keep an eye on the people around you.
Credit card fraud is on the rise, so take care when withdrawing cash and always check if a machine has been tampered with before using your card. The best place to withdraw cash is from an ATM inside a bank.
5. Wet, Wet, Wet
Ireland is very, very wet so always have an umbrella on your person and be prepared for rain. It also gets very cold in the winter months and a lot of houses and buildings don’t have much central heating (the Irish have thick skin), so come prepared with layers of warm clothing.
While Ireland is a fantastic country to travel to, there are certain parts of Ireland that have a reputation for their high crime rates and former terrorist activities. In the past, Ireland has had its fair share of bombs, riots, and guns crime, but Irish terrorism has declined a lot in the last 20-30 years and the country is a much safer place to be. There are still dissidents on both sides that want to undermine the peace process between the two countries and the possibility of terrorism is present. To put this into perspective, the possibility of terrorism is also present in many European countries at the moment, and international terrorism hasn’t affected Ireland at the time of writing. Find out more about terrorism in Ireland.
7. Crossing the Border
When traveling to Ireland, if you’re planning on visiting both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland you’ll have to cross the border. There are no border formalities between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK, meaning crossing the border is easy. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland use a different currency so be prepared.
8. Road Safety
The roads are often winding and narrow and the speed limit can feel like it’s been set a bit too high for many mountain roads. Take care when driving and don’t be afraid to pull over to the side of the road to allow cars that are driving fast behind you to pass. Cars in Ireland also drive on the left side of the road (as in the UK). If you’re not keen to drive, public transport is very good with buses running between the country’s main destinations.
9. Closed for Business
Sunday is very much considered to be a ‘day of rest’ in Ireland, with a lot of businesses closing their doors to kick back and relax. In main Irish cities, you’ll still find many establishments open but in small towns, hours of businesses fluctuate, with eateries and cafes staying closed all day, or not open until 2 pm.
10. Don’t be Shy
The Irish are known for their friendliness, and for foreigners, this can sometimes seem a bit full-on. If someone strikes up a conversation with you in a pub or bar, it’s just part of the culture. The Irish have a strong sense of humor, so leave your inhibitions at home and get stuck in. Dublin is known for its amazing bar scene and super-friendly locals. And if you’re in need of a place to crash, check out the Best Areas to Stay in Dublin.