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8 Tips for travelling to Ireland for the first time

"Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible"

- Charles Haughey
Close up of shamrock flowers, also known as three-leaf clovers, one of Ireland's most well known symbols

If you've recently booked a trip to Ireland, you're probably feeling happy, excited, and maybe a little unsure about what to expect! We meet new visitors every single day here in Dublin and love giving advice about what to see and do. So, we put together this short list of tips for travelling to Ireland to help you plan ahead and make the most of your first trip.

Tip #1: Spend time exploring free museums and heritage sites in Dublin

The National Gallery, National History Museum, and National Library are all located within a few minutes walk of one another and offer unique exhibitions of Irish art and culture. Plus, after visiting the National Library, you might find yourself more Irish than when you arrived! The library hosts a popular family history center where you can discover and trace your Irish roots all over the country. After a morning at the free museums, take a stroll through the Trinity College campus - a must-see for anyone new to Ireland. The college is over 400 years old and has many famous alumni including Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Edmund Burke. Trinity is also home to the Book of Kells, which you can admire for a small admission fee.

The long room library at trinity college dublin

Tip #2: It will rain but it will also shine

Next to Aran sweaters and whisky, Ireland is known for its rainy weather. A waterproof jacket and waterproof shoes will keep you warm and dry on rainy days - but skip the umbrella as the winds here are often strong enough to break it. For sunnier days, a pair of sneakers will keep your feet happy on cobblestone streets. To really dress like a local, pack your layers. Depending on the day (and even the hour), you can be comfortable in a jacket, sweater, or just a t-shirt.

A sunny Dublin street

Tip #3: Its worth it to shop local

Irelands capital city, Dublin, is booming with brand names and high street shops. While youre spoiled for choice here, its worth the experience to visit local mom and pop shops. Before the recent economic boom, nearly all businesses were family-owned, so if you want a taste of real Ireland, these are the places to make time for. While we were founders of the Aran sweater trade in Dublin and have continued for some 30+ years, some local businesses in Dublin have even been around for over 100 years! Many of these businesses (ourselves included) pride themselves on providing excellent service and care deeply about sharing Irish heritage with visitors. If youd like a more historic and authentic shopping experience, its worth it to visit local shops as you explore our lovely country. 

Tip #4: Take advantage of tax-free shopping during your stay

Money saving alert! If you are a non-EU resident, you can claim back some of the tax you pay while youre travelling in Ireland. Any time you buy a souvenir - anything you can take back with you - ask for your tax back or V.A.T. form from the retailer. Once youve collected your forms, simply fill them out and hand them in at the airport. After you pass through security in Dublin Airport (either terminal), youll see signs directing you to a special desk where you hand over these forms and your claim is processed. During peak travel season, the queues can grow, so its smart to plan an extra 20 minutes or so in case you need to wait before handing over your forms. All in all, its a pretty simple process, and a great way to save money while you travel.

Tip #5: Right left right

This one might seem simple, but its worth remembering when you first arrive! Cars and other vehicles in Ireland travel on the wrong side of the road. Spare yourself a close save and be sure to check both ways before crossing the road.

A table showing a bowl of Irish seafood chowder, a plate with a gourmet sandwich, and a pint of guinness and bulmers

Tip #6: It's easy to eat well

Cuisine in Ireland ranges gloriously from 3:00am kebabs to Michelin Star restaurants. A major perk of being an island is that the seafood is fantastic (if we do say so ourselves). Along with traditional Irish cooking, Ireland boasts an impressive amount of international cuisines to try while youre here. 

 If youre in Dublin, check out:

  • Host Restaurant in Ranelagh for artisanal farm-to-table fare
  • The Millstone Restaurant near Trinity College for upscale traditional Irish cuisine
  • Beshoff Bros for the best fish and chips (also offers gluten free for coeliacs)
  • 101 Talbot for locally sourced Mediterranean-style cooking and popular pre-theatre menus (known for being vegetarian friendly)

If youre in southern Ireland, consider a visit to Kinsale, the foodie capital of Ireland and home to:

  • Bastion, featured in the 2020 UK and Ireland Michelin Guide, offers a cosy, thoughtful, high-end dining experience perfect for those who want to spend the evening in good company and great food. 
  • Nine Market Street offers lovely meals that are locally sourced and absolutely delicious. Plus the views are gorgeous.
the cliffs of moher with a blue cloudy sky and dark ocean below

Tip #7: Dont forget to go beyond Dublin

James Joyce famously wrote When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart, and its easy to see why our happy capital tempts so many to stay. However, the Emerald Isle has even more to offer outside of Dublin. Check out the many excellent day tour options, or rent a car and create your own adventure. The west coast of Ireland is a family favourite. Its known for its beautiful coastal roads and hiking trails, and for its preservation of traditional Irish culture and language. 

Tip #8: Go with the flow

Ireland is known as the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (cad mle filte). If youre ever unsure of where to go or what to do, dont be afraid to ask for help. Most people are happy to give advice or directions, and you can always pop into a tourist visitor centre for assistance. When in doubt, keep the faith and say as we do, itll be grand

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