Capitals: The Republic of Ireland’s capital is Dublin, while Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland.
Time zone: The Republic of Ireland operates on Irish Standard Time (GMT+1 during Daylight Savings), while Northern Ireland follows British Summer Time (GMT+0 standard).
Major airports: Dublin Airport, the biggest in Ireland, caters to several airlines. Shannon Airport in County Clare serves 30 European and 4 U.S. destinations. (Passengers heading to the U.S. from both Dublin and Shannon airports can clear U.S. customs and immigration ahead of boarding.) Cork Airport operates flights to 32 European destinations. Belfast International, Northern Ireland’s primary airport, offers flights to various U.K. and European cities.
Ferry ports: Dublin, Rosslare, Cork, Belfast, and Larne facilitate car ferries from the U.K. and Europe.
Currency: Euro is the official currency in the Republic of Ireland, while Northern Ireland, being a part of the United Kingdom, uses pound sterling.
Interesting fact: Ireland is devoid of snakes.
Why should you visit Ireland?
Immerse yourself in enchanting green landscapes, experience the rich literary history in Dublin and the Titanic history in Belfast, engage in vibrant pub culture, and dive into captivating Celtic legends.
When is the best time to visit Ireland?
Spring: Crowds gather for Easter and St. Patrick’s Day, but not as much as during summer. It is less crowded in popular places in larger cities like Dublin, and one can appreciate the wildflower-carpeted regions along the western coast.
Summer: The busiest season, filled with various events like the Galway Arts Festival. Cycle along the Great Western Greenway, kayak in a blueway, or go hiking in Connemara National Park.
Autumn: October marks the beginning of the festival season with events such as the Cork Jazz Festival and the fascinating Púca Halloween festival in County Meath. You can also enjoy the local harvest at the various farmers markets in towns and villages.
Winter: Although it hardly snows in Ireland, it does rain quite often. The absence of large crowds during this season allows tourists to soak up the local ambience, especially in the pubs. Christmas is celebrated with great enthusiasm, featuring festive events like Winterval in Waterford.
Geography of Ireland
Cities: Dublin, the capital city, is easy to navigate on foot. It houses Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is kept, and the EPIC Irish emigration museum situated near the River Liffey. Galway, known for its flourishing arts and music scene, offers ferry services to the Aran Islands. Markets thrive in County Cork and Limerick, with the historical English Market in Cork and the Milk Market in Limerick. Belfast, known for its maritime history and mid-20th-century conflicts, is increasingly recognized for its food scene.
East: Explore Powerscourt and Mount Usher gardens in County Wicklow, or hike in Wicklow Mountains National Park. County Meath is a haven for history enthusiasts with its Neolithic monuments Newgrange and Knowth, and other Boyne Valley gems like Trim Castle and Loughcrew Cairns.
Southeast: The Waterford Treasures museums reveal the city of Waterford’s Viking heritage. In Kilkenny city, traverse the Medieval Mile walking trail and wander through narrow alleyways exposing centuries of history.
Southwest: The visually stunning peninsulas, harbors, and mountains like the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks draw artists and writers to Cork and Kerry. Killarney National Park and the Dingle Peninsula are popular tourist spots during the extended summer days.
West: The mesmerizing Cliffs of Moher and the eerie limestone plateaus of The Burren are not far apart in County Clare. County Galway is known for the blanket bogs of Connemara, and County Mayo is home to Céide Fields, one of the oldest archaeological sites globally.
Northwest: The flat-topped mountains such as Ben Bulben and Knocknarea overlook County Sligo’s thriving surfing scene. Donegal is renowned for Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) sea cliffs, endless golden beaches, and hilly or lakeside hiking trails at Glenveagh National Park.
The Midlands: The River Shannon, the longest waterway in the country, runs through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and empties into Lough Derg, a hotspot for boating. Clonmacnoise, established in A.D. 544, has the remnants of one of Ireland’s most influential monastic sites.
Northern Ireland: The Causeway Coast leads to natural wonders like Giant’s Causeway and the Glens of Antrim. Visit Derry to witness its walled city and history. The Mourne Mountains are ideal for solitude and sea views.
How to travel within Ireland
By plane: Daily flights connect Dublin Airport and regional centers like Kerry Airport and Donegal Airport.
By bus: Bus Eireann is the national operator providing local services in cities and towns. It also operates the inter-city Expressway. Private bus services like GoBus.ie link cities. Plan trips via the Transport for Ireland app or website. Translink operates services in Northern Ireland.
By train: Irish Rail/ Iarnród Éireann manages the rail network with efficient connections between main cities and towns. Travel time from Dublin to Galway or Cork is approximately 2.5 hours. Translink operates rail services in Northern Ireland.
By car: Vehicles are driven on the left in Ireland. The network of motorways (M) includes the M1 from Dublin to Belfast, the M6 from Dublin to Galway, and the M8 from Dublin to Cork. Roads are categorized into national (N), regional (R), and local (L). Some regional and local roads can be narrow and winding, requiring extra travel time.
By boat: Seasonal and year-round passenger ferries serve Ireland’s populated offshore islands like the Aran Islands. These are designated for foot passengers (visitors are not allowed to bring cars to the islands).
Know before you travel
Irish language: Irish and English are the country’s official languages. Irish was the dominant language until the 19th century when English became more widespread. Although around 40 percent of the population can speak some Irish, it is only used daily by about 2 percent of the population, primarily in the Gaeltacht region, where place names and road signs are in Irish.
Hours: Some restaurants may only be open three or four days a week, especially in smaller towns or during the low season (October to Easter). Kitchens may close as early as 8 p.m.
LGBTQ+: In 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum. Ireland’s larger cities like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast have vibrant LGBTQ+ communities and host a variety of pride festivals.
How to explore Ireland sustainably
Outdoors: Stay on main trails and boardwalks to protect habitats. Consider tours guided by registered guides to minimize your impact. Carry out all trash when picnicking or camping.
Shopping: Patronize independent shops, markets, and small farms. Opt for sustainable souvenirs and locally-made items such as Aran wool sweaters and pottery (the label will indicate where they are made).
Dining: With a wealth of fishers, farmers, and makers, eating local in Ireland is a breeze. Various sustainable tourism initiatives are in place, including Origin Green’s certification program
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ireland Travel Guide
What are the capitals of Ireland?
The capital of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin, while the capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.
What are the major airports in Ireland?
Major airports in Ireland include Dublin Airport, Shannon Airport, Cork Airport, and Belfast International in Northern Ireland. Dublin and Shannon airports have U.S. Preclearance facilities.
What’s the currency used in Ireland?
The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. Northern Ireland, being a part of the United Kingdom, uses the pound sterling.
When is the best time to visit Ireland?
Spring and Summer are popular times due to festive events and pleasant weather. Autumn is great for local festivals and harvests. Winter offers a more authentic local experience with fewer tourists.
What are some of the major cities and regions to visit in Ireland?
Major cities include Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Belfast. Regions such as County Wicklow, County Meath, County Clare, and County Galway are rich in natural beauty and historic sites.
How can I travel around Ireland?
Options include plane, bus, train, car, and boat. Ireland has a good network of public transportation, and driving is also an option with roads well-connected.
How can I travel sustainably in Ireland?
Preserve habitats by sticking to main trails, support local economy by shopping from independent markets and farms, and opt for locally-made souvenirs. When dining, choose local produce and refill your drink bottle with tap water.
Are there any books recommended for understanding Irish culture and history?
Books like ‘A Short History of Ireland’ by John Gibney, ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce, and ‘Travelers’ Tales Ireland: True Stories’ by James O’Reilly, Sean O’Reilly, and Larry Habegger are recommended.