Stretching across some 84,421 square kilometres (32,595 square miles), the Emerald Isle is only a little larger than the State of West Virginia but it packs a real punch. It boasts some of Europe’s most outstanding scenery, from the 400-foot-high Cliffs of Moher and craggy emerald green islands to candy-coloured fishing villages in County Cork and never-ending sandy stretches. Planning on exploring Ireland? You’ll want to read our top tips on how to travel around Ireland first.
Top tips on how to travel around Ireland
1. Save money by hopping on the bus
Compared to trains and trams, buses are relatively inexpensive in Ireland. Most of the Republic’s largest towns and cities have an excellent bus service, though some smaller towns and villages only run a couple of bus services per week. Bus Éireann runs coaches across the country at more reasonable rates than most trains. It usually offers some excellent rates for trips between the country’s showstopping cities, like Dublin and Cork, with an option to purchase bus-only travel passes too. Other private bus companies operate around the country’s major routes too, so it’s worth looking into whether they can offer cheaper rates too.
2. Make the most of the train network
Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) operates train services across Ireland. While prices tend to be steeper than taking the coach, journey times are much quicker. Most services start in Dublin and extend out towards the western and southern coasts. There’s also a fast train run by Enterprise Train between Dublin and Belfast. It’s worth taking into account that many towns do not have their own railway stations, so this option is best for intercity trips.
3. Rent a car
If you’re planning on exploring Ireland’s more rural and remote landscapes, it’s probably easiest to rent a car. You’ll need to carry the car’s registration document and certificate insurance, but most car rental companies will provide this. You’ll also need a valid driving license; EU licenses are acceptable but if you’re travelling from further afield you may need an International Drivers License.
Driving is relatively safe and easy in Ireland, providing you remember to drive on the left hand side of the roat. For the best rates on car rentals in Ireland, check out our latest deals here.
4. Don’t miss the longest coastal driving route in the world
If you’ve rented a car, make sure you add The Wild Atlantic Way, which winds along the jagged coastline on the west of Ireland, to your bucket list. At 2,500 km (1600miles) it’s the longest defined coastal road in the world. It incorporates nine different Irish counties, covering spectacular scenery from bucolic countryside and enchanting villages to remote beaches and ancient monuments. The route begins in Inishowen Peninsula in the north. It then meanders through six different coastal regions, all the way down to picture-perfect Kinsale, County Cork, in the south.
If you’re thinking about driving the whole thing, it’s wise to split up the journey into 14 bitesize stages.
5. Take to two wheels
Confident cyclists should consider hopping on two wheels to explore Ireland. It’s the cheapest, most eco-friendly and healthiest way to travel. There are some hefty climbs, yes, and some pretty poor cycling paths but for the most part, the country offers ideal territory for cycling. There are close to 99,000 km of roads crisscrossing across the country, so scenic cycles are hardly in short supply. For detailed information about cycling routes, head to Cycling Ireland, the Governing Body for Cycling across Ireland.
6. Consider hopping on a flight
Short-distance flights are, understandably, becoming less popular as we become more conscious about our carbon footprint. That said, one of the quickest ways to reach some of the outlying areas of the country is by hopping on a scheduled flight from Dublin to one of the many regional airports peppered across the country. Aer Arann operates the largest network of flights, though other airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet are adding to their networks year on year.
7. Make sure you have the right travel documents to move between north and south
It might seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people get caught out travelling between Dublin and Belfast. While there are no routine passport controls in operation for Irish and UK citizens travelling between the two countries, you must show identification to board a ferry or aeroplane. Many airlines and sea carriers only accept a passport as valid identification so make sure you check ahead. Immigration may also request proof that you are an Irish or UK citizen.
If you are a citizen of a country outside the EEA, Switzerland or the UK, you must have permission to enter Ireland. If you enter Ireland through Northern Ireland, you will need to get permission after arrival. You may also need to apply for a visa.