Plan your visit to Ireland

Irelandlogue has an anniversary

The only post you’ll ever need: this is your one-stop Irish travel guide!

So, after a year and almost a thousand posts on Ireland, I thought I’d put the site to the test and demonstrate how to use to plan your visit to Ireland. What follows is a step-by-step process using the logue to plan your trip:

Getting Started

O'Brien's Castle at The Cliffs of MoherThe first thing to do is to figure out when is the best time to visit Ireland. Then you’ll want to research how to get the best deal on airline tickets to Ireland.

Travelling with a baby? No problem. Read my tips on surviving trans-atlantic flights with an infant and be aware of the Irish attitudes toward breast-feeding. Also be aware of Irish flight restrictions for carry-on luggage.

You’ll also want to read my tips on adjusting to Irish time once your arrive. Giving yourself some cushion to adjust if you’re coming from a different time zone will make your trip much more enjoyable.

If your trip will last a month or more, consider getting an Irish mobile (cell) phone when you arrive. Even if you’re only taking a short break, it’s a good idea to make sure you know how to dial phone numbers while in Ireland.

Getting around Ireland

irish men in a jaunting car going to the athlone agri festivalA big part of deciding on your itinerary is to consider whether you’ll be renting (hiring) a car and braving the tiny Irish roads, deciding to travel Ireland by bus or take the less convenient, but more comfortable option of traveling Ireland by train.

No panic if you arrive and still haven’t made up your mind on how you’re getting around, it’s no trouble to buy train or bus tickets on demand, catch a long-distance coach to Galway and even renting (hiring) a car at Dublin airport isn’t such a bad idea.

With a map of Ireland in your hand, your choice of the above means of getting around will definitely affect your itinerary. Weigh the benefits of all three and decide for yourself, but don’t let the small size of Ireland fool you: misjudging the amount of time it takes to “see Ireland” can ruin your visit!

Visiting any islands? Make sure to check schedules on my list of all the Irish ferry websites.

Mental preparation for your visit

old Irish man laughingIt’s true that there have been people living here in Ireland longer than almost any other human civilization, but remember that this is a rain-soaked country ravaged by numerous invasions over the centuries. Go to Italy for the architecture. The best part of Ireland is the Irish people.

There really is nothing quite like Irish humour or the Irish personality, so make sure you take some time away from Irish tourist destinations to experience a real Irish music session and, at least once during your visit, sit in a pub off the beaten track and talk to some locals.

What to do in Ireland

I know you’ve already made up your mind to visit the Guinness brewery in Dublin and see the “Ring of Kerry,” but I think that if you limit your itinerary to the main Irish tourist destinations, you’ll be missing out on the real Ireland.

Locke's distillery museumI have my own ideas about what are the best things to see in Ireland, but how about visiting a real Irish microbrewery? As far as drink-based destinations go, if you neglect to stop into Locke’s Distillery on your way to Galway or miss the chance to have a pint in Ireland’s oldest pub in Athlone, then you’re missing out.

If you’re in Dublin, make sure you stop in for a cup of tea in The Winding Stair Bookshop. Galway? An Irish claddagh ring from the original claddagh ring maker makes a fantastic gift or souvenir (and don’t miss the world’s best fish & chips). Cork? Have a wander round Cork’s English market.

The more adventurous visitors may be intersted to know there is a thriving Irish mountain biking scene and the lowest base jump in Europe happened in Dublin. Single and ready to mingle? You’ll want to read my posts about sex in Ireland.

Going into Northern Ireland? Remember it’s actually a different country and, without getting political about it, that fact has a lot to do with the Irish sense of its own nationhood.

neil digs into his fiddleDefinitely try to experience a real Irish music session – they’re legendary. You never know what you might find in an Irish session, from strange instruments to new ways of playing familiar ones.

If you wish to participate in the music, you’ll find most Irish sessions very welcoming, but make sure you understand the unwritten rules of an Irish session before whipping out your souzaphone.

At the end of the day, The Cliffs of Moher and The Giant’s Causeway are definitely worth seeing, but remember that the best part of Ireland is meeting the Irish people and you won’t do much of that on the well-trod tourist trail.

If you came to Ireland and just spent a couple of weeks in small towns, drinking in the local pubs and enjoying the music and conversation to be had there, you’ll have truly experienced the best part of Ireland.

Once you’re in Ireland

Wherever you find your Irish accommodation, be prepared for Irish taps and don’t scald yourself in the bathroom!

Eating in Ireland

Irish food is reputedly bland, but that’s because Ireland has some of the freshest, tastiest, chemical-free food anywhere in the world . . . spices are almost unnecessary! Meat and dairy here is the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere in my travels; eating some plain Irish bread and butter can be a truly transcendental experience. If healthy food scares you – not to worry! – the best fish and chips in the world is in Ireland (Galway, actually).

the roast chicken lunch plate and 2 pints of stout at The Shack pub in AthloneUnderstand the Irish eat a bit differently, and have different names for their meals than what you might expect. Don’t confuse your “lunch” and “supper”, or your “tea” and “dinner,” and make sure to ask for “no coleslaw” at Irish sandwich bars and know that yellow mustard you see is NOT your mild French’s – it’s spicy and should be applied sparingly!

Browse through the eateries I’ve reviewed here, but definitely eat an Irish breakfast during your visit, get a fantastic pub lunch and, some late night after a few pints, you owe it to yourself to try an order of garlic curry cheese and bacon chips just once in your life (myself and your physician recommend you do NOT eat all the above meals in a single day).

If you’re vegetarian or opposed to hearty foods and/or fried foods, not to worry! Ireland has come a long way, culinarily, and boasts some truly fine alternatives to native cuisine.

Drinking in Ireland

Pint of GuinnessWith food comes drink. And drink the Irish do! But an Irish pub is nothing like a bar in the US. “Pub” is short for “public house” and that’s exactly what an Irish pub is. In general, Irish homes are pretty small, so traditionally Irish people gathered to socialise in the public house.

The Irish pub is not just about drinking, nor is it a pick-up joint for single people. The pub is something like a living room for the entire town. Expect families and multi-generational groups. Teenagers and grandparents, kids and couples – everyone goes to spend time together in the pub.

Irish pubs are smoke-free since 2005, but most have a beer garden. Tipping is not expected in pubs, but if you feel like tipping, you should know how to tip “Irish style” to avoid offending your bartender.

the view from behind the mic at the nanny quinn's pubThere are myths. Everyone has heard the 10 pints of Guinness joke, but not all Irish people drink Guinness. Don’t be surprised when you see red-blooded Irishmen drinking . . . Budweiser or Coors Lite. Yes, I know it’s a shock, but those watery US beers are actually quite popular here.

While we’re dispelling myths, you should know there are different types of Guinness. It is not a myth, however, that the Guinness tastes better in Ireland. It does and there’s a real reason: the domestic Guinness draught beer served on tap is not pasteurized. Now for ya!

Finally, if you intend to do some drinking with the Irish, know how to find a good pint in Ireland and be aware of the etiquette of Irish drinking.

To sum up

Swan on the River Shannon near AthloneAfter a year of irelandlogue, there are almost a thousand posts here about Ireland. I hope this brief overview gets you started on your way to planning trip to this wonderful place.

Have a browse through my best of Ireland section, the Planning a Trip for tips and don’t forget to check my dictionary of Irish slang so that you don’t get confused when people start gasping at you on the street or giggling uncontrollably if you ask them for a ride.

If you’re really brave, try learning to speak a bit of Irish.

Ireland is all about having a bit of craic, really. Since you’ve taken the time to read this far, I’d love it if you read through what I consider to be my best blog posts and left me a comment on one of them.

However you do it, you’re going to love your visit to Ireland.

Slan abhaile!