I have never traveled out of the country before and quite often I would Google things like, “What to know before you travel to Ireland.” I read quite a few suggestions to not be afraid to go. Well I had already bought my plane ticket and got out of my lease. Needless to say I don’t think that’s a usual tip. I also read a lot about the rain. Not helpful tips of how to deal with it, but simply to make sure you have a raincoat and warm clothes. Now that I have come to Ireland I also think those tips aren’t as helpful as they could be. So I’m going to tell you some things to know before you travel to Ireland that I would have found helpful and hopefully you will too!
1 // The Rain
Now I know I just ranted about this a little bit, but I am going to give a few extra helpful hints. It does rain a lot in Ireland and being from Idaho I thought I could handle some rain. I was wrong. I have a waterproof jacket and to put it simply it’s waterproof but it isn’t Irish waterproof. My first experience with the Irish rain was a few weeks into my trip. The weather had been unseasonably nice and people kept telling me that. I thought that people were probably over exaggerating the rain of Ireland. Then the winter storms started. The rain comes from every direction. EVERY direction. I thought I would walk home from town in what looked like a little drizzle. By the time I had walked five minutes I was completely drenched. If you have been pushed in the water with jeans on you will understand how I felt. The rain was coming down like a miniature waterfall off of my hat. They then turned to rivers down my arms and hands and became a lake at my jeans. I had to run back into town and get a taxi and when I arrived home I didn’t have a layer of clothing on me that wasn’t wet. Not to mention I was carrying my backpack on me, which leads to-
2 // Electronics and The Rain
If you happen to carry most of your electronics with you when traveling then you will have a computer and camera in your backpack. Luckily my backpack is thick, but not waterproof. I got lucky that I didn’t ruin everything I had on that little adventure. I would recommend keeping a plastic bag covering your computer/electronics if you are going to be out walking or sightseeing with your backpack on. I personally use a pair of sweatpants I brought with me to wrap around my computer and electronics when I take my backpack with me. So if you are coming to Ireland I want to add an additional warning to any other warnings you have read. It doesn’t rain, it pours. It will soak everything through if given enough time or the right combination of wind. Stay out of it if it’s bad because it isn’t worth it. I’m not saying don’t go out in the rain, be prepared, but do stay inside if you can if there is a storm.
3 // Transportation
Now I am traveling as cheaply as possible so I don’t do any sort of car rental. I have taken buses, trains, and taxi’s since I have been in Ireland. I hadn’t read any sort of advice for these before coming to Ireland and I want to give you some hints that I would have liked to known before hand. Taking the train is expensive and boring. I have taken trains from Dublin to Templemore/Clara/Thurles/Athlone and trains from there to Galway. It is a much faster and smoother way to travel so if you are hungover or need to get somewhere fast this is the way to go. Let me tell you it is roughly three times more expensive to take the train rather than the bus and you don’t get to see hardly any of the country. Often times there are just miles and miles of green wall or shrubbery as high as the train.
Be careful with taxis. I don’t want you to think they are all bad, but many of them are out to make as much money off of you as they can. Two out of my three taxi rides here I got taken advantage of. I didn’t realize that until days later when I had traveled more about the town that they had taken the very scenic route. Just be careful.
Now to my favorite way of traveling around Ireland, the bus. I had never ridden on public transportation buses before I came to Ireland and I had a very bad perception of them. I mean crazy people ride those and some people pee on them! Not the case here. The buses are usually very nice and comfortable. I have ridden on over ten different routes and buses since being here and will soon double that. The buses are big enough that you usually don’t have to share the seat next to you. They are generally very quiet and the drives are beautiful. This is a great way to see a lot of Ireland. I particularly enjoy the trip from Galway/Sligo/Letterkenny. You get to see the different small towns and the countryside all while going to your destination. I highly recommend it. You also get student discounts if you bring a student ID with you. Which leads us to-
4 // Student Discounts
If you happen to have a student ID bring it with you! I didn’t know until almost two months in to my three month trip that you can use this for everything. Cheaper bus and train fare, restaurant discounts, nightclub deals, travel package deals. I assumed that these were only for students in Ireland, but one of the hostel workers told me that you can use any countries student ID for the discounts. So if you want a cheaper way of traveling Ireland and you have a student ID, don’t forget it!
5 // Hostels
I am trying to use Couchsurfing and Workaway for most of my stays but it happens occasionally that a host will flake on me or I can’t find a host. If that happens my first and only choice is hostels. I didn’t bring the kind of money it takes to stay in B&B’s or hotels so this is my only choice for a place to stay. I was very nervous to stay in a hostel. I had never even seen one before let alone stayed in one. I have only stayed in one hostel in Ireland but I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s The Galway City Hostel located in Galway right next to the train and bus station. I recommend staying in the 8-Bed mixed dorm rooms. It’s cheaper and I’ve found that more than once there are less than eight people in a room. The rooms are bigger and usually empty during the day. People aren’t staying in hostels to have a relaxing time and hang out in their room. They come to experience the city and the people. People are generally very thoughtful and quiet if they see you are trying to sleep. I was here during Arthur’s day and there was a huge party in the city, but I had to catch a bus at 6am and went to bed really early. I wasn’t bothered by a single person coming in or out of the dorm and we had eight people staying there that night. Don’t be afraid of staying in the hostels, you will meet some great people there.
6 // Couchsurfing and Workaway
I think that these are great ideas and you usually will meet some great people while doing it. With couchsurfing I would recommend sending your request at least a week to two weeks in advance, but you can still find them in less than a week as there are usually emergency request forums for a lot of Irish cities. Also fill out your profile, I’ve even known hosts that won’t respond to people who haven’t filled out their profile all the way. Now with Workaway I think the best advice is compare what you would get paid for the hours and type of work they are asking from you for what you would pay for a night and the food you are getting. If there is a huge difference between the two then don’t do it. You are here on vacation not to be a slave worker. I have met a really great guy on workaway and a different one who completely forgot about me. I haven’t been in a position where someone has asked for more work than the free room and board were worth, but it is definitely something to watch out for. I would also suggest that with workaway you want to try and request it at least a month in advance, but still you can find hosts on shorter notice than that. Again fill out ALL of your profile!
7 // The Roads
Just a small note here, but the roads are very small and often times don’t have sidewalks. Be careful and watch where you are going. I’m sure most of you know that they drive on the left here but it’s easy to not think and look the wrong way when crossing a street here if you come from a country where they drive on the right. I’ve almost been hit way too many times simply because by force of habit I am looking the wrong direction when crossing the street.
8 // Restaurants
There are some wonderful places to eat in Ireland and a lot of takeaway food. Just be aware that a lot of the places don’t open until 4-6pm. Another recommendation is to eat at some of the pubs. The best place in Sligo to get delicious food is The Swagman which happens to be a pub. You can even get kangaroo skewers if you are into trying new foods. The pubs are often the only places to eat earlier in the day especially if you are in a small town.
9 // Tea
There is a lot of tea drinking in Ireland which I absolutely love. One thing I read before I got to Ireland is that it would be rude to not accept a cup of tea from a host. I want to say that is false. I’ve found it wouldn’t be rude to not accept, it’s just that the Irish won’t stop asking you until you have a cup of tea in your hands! They are so friendly and polite that they just can’t bear to see you go without. It’s very sweet and eventually they will wear you down and you will end up with a cup of tea in your hands. Not that that is a bad thing at all!
10 // The Cold/Hot
I haven’t experienced hot weather since being in Ireland but I have experienced a lot of cold. I just want to say that I am from somewhere fairly dry and wasn’t expecting how cold it can be in a humid place. It chills to the bone. I would recommend a nice pair of gloves and a scarf. I don’t use a scarf but it’s only because I didn’t think I would need it and left it at home.
11 // Accents/Slang
I came to Ireland expecting to be able to understand everyone because they speak English. That was not the case. Between the slang (refer to previous post on slang) and the different accents I had a hard time understanding people at first. Also the accents differ from every county and even down to cities. You might learn to understand someone from Donegal and then go down to Cork and not be able to understand anyone. Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves. They are very friendly and usually won’t mind at all!
So there are some things you should know before coming to Ireland and I hope they can help you in your travels!