Dublin Airport – Tips for Arrival and Departure

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Posting from Dublin Airport, September 22, 2019
As I was passing through security at Dublin Airport this morning I watch two people, frantically trying to pass through expedited security, desperate to catch their flight to the US. Needless to say, they did not make their flight. 

My own clearance time through Dublin Airport today was 1 hour, 20 minutes. And that was using expedited check-in and security screenings (received via business class upgrade) and Global Entry. Those in the main lines easily added 40-60 minutes of wait time.

Please allow yourself a minimum of 3 hours to depart Ireland from Dublin Airport to the US when traveling from May thru October. Even in January, Aer Lingus recommends 3 hours. 

Dublin Airport Tips

Unlike many international airports with many multiple terminals, the Dublin airport has two, aptly named Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Terminal 2, which opened in 2010, serves Aer Lingus, US carriers Delta, US Air, American Airlines, and United as well as Eitad and Emirates. All other airlines will arrive in Terminal 1. (A third terminal has been proposed to help manage increased traveler numbers.)

Dublin Airport
Outside Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport

The following tips are specific to Terminal 2, though I imagine Terminal 1 is much the same.

Dublin Airport Arrival Tips

If you're arriving from the US (which is the only experience I have had), it's likely you have flown over night and are tired as sleeping well on planes is something mastered by very few people.

After deplaning, everyone rushes toward immigration, anxious to begin their vacation. But that rushing is likely to result in a wait in the slowly snaking queue.  I recommend taking a few minutes to ‘reset' after your flight.

welcome to Dublin Airport. Arrival and departure tips for Dublin Airport. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation | IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Welcome to Dublin!

Freshen Up

As you walk the long corridors toward immigration, you'll pass a few restrooms.

Continue past the first one as it is likely to be busiest. But stop at the next one.

Spend a few minutes to freshen up; change clothes, brush your teeth, touch up your makeup…  Do a bit to re-create your morning routine as this will help your body adjust to the time difference and beat jet lag.

Clear Immigration

Feeling more human, make your way on to immigration. Join the queue and prepare for a bit of a wait, though the line moves quickly. If you happen to be from an EU country you'll barely have any wait at all.

As you wait, you may be tempted to dig out your cell phones. Don't bother- phones and cameras are not allowed in the customs area and, if you are seen with them, you will be asked to put them away.

If you appear to have taken a photo with your phone it will be checked and, most likely, deleted.

Have your passport out and open to the photo page, ready to be stamped. The agent will ask about your stay – where you will be , how long you will be in the country. Just answer the questions and you'll be on your way.

Baggage Claim

After clearing immigration you enter the baggage hall. If you had a wait in immigration your bag will probably be ready to pick up.

Exit the secure area to the Arrivals Hall.

Pick Up Your Rental Car

If you are renting a car, you'll find the rental companies across the skybridge of Terminal 2 (Irish Car Rentals, Hertz, Budget, Avis, Europcar).

If your rental company isn't there it can be found in Terminal 1, on the lower level (Thrifty, Enterprise, Dan Dooley, Sixt).

The car rental agents are very helpful and can tell you the best way to get out of the airport to begin your journey.

Take notes if you need to, or draw on the map, if they give you one – there is nothing worse than beginning your Ireland vacation by getting lost! (Save that experience for the picturesque countryside.)

Handy Tip: This is the best road map for your Ireland vacation

Rental car pickup is off site, so find the agency's shuttle to be taken to your vehicle.

Ireland Car Rental
Picking up rental car at Dublin Airport

Bus and Taxi Transport

Bus and taxi transportation can be found at the lower level of both terminals, just follow the signs.

If you are taking a coach into Dublin, splurge on the Aircoach. Clean and roomy, it costs only a few euro more than the other options and offers more drop-off points. 

Enjoy your Ireland vacation!

Dublin Airport Departure Tips

Dublin is a fickle airport to depart from.

I've had times when we have breezed right through to VAT turn in, picked up a couple last minute gifts, wandered through the tax free shop, and made it through security in minimal time.

But most times check in can take 30-45 minutes and I've had to queue to drop off my VAT.

So, err on the side of caution when flying out of Dublin airport and allow yourself 3 hours, at the least, for flight check in, security, VAT return, and any tax free shopping.

Crowds at Dublin Airport Check In. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Crowds queued to check in for their flights from Dublin Airport

Flight Check in at Dublin Airport

The Terminal 2 Departure Hall is a crazy place.

Look for your airline and have all your papers in order – tickets and passports.

You'll go through a pre-check before you can actually check in for your flight, so be ready to tell the screener all about your amazing vacation- where you went, what you did, who you traveled with.

If you are traveling with very young children they will pass through this with you, but if your children are a bit older they will be interviewed separately (at 9 & 11 mine each had their own interview). Tip – have mom go first and dad bring up the rear, with the kids in between. A pre-screen sticker is added to your passport here- this is important later (keep reading)

Now you're in line to check in to your flight. If luggage is being checked in under your children's tickets be sure they know which bag is ‘theirs'- this, also, is important later.

Thankfully your load lightens as your checked bags are taken here.

Security Screening #1

From the departures hall, catch the escalator or elevator to the Security Screening Departures level. Stand in line and wait your turn.

Again, you'll need your ticket and passport to enter the screening area.

Liquids and computers need to be removed from your bags, and shoes removed. With the new pre-screening at check in this line had very little wait, which was a relief after the nearly hour-long queue we had just escaped.

Ahhh, you can relax a bit… You're in The Loop. 

VAT return and last minute shopping.

Handle your VAT

It's likely you'll have at least two types of VAT refunds to turn in. Luckily, both can be handled in advance.

Get more information about VAT refunds in Ireland.

VAT refunds that require a receipt should be filled out and placed into the envelope before you arrive at the airport. All you have to do with this is drop the envelope at the proper company. If the line isn't too busy they will check the paperwork to make sure everything is filled out correctly.

If you are using the Horizon Card, be sure your account is set up online before you arrive at the airport. There are multiple kiosks available and you will need to finalize your purchases and refund before you leave.

Sometimes the lines for this are long. And if you get stuck behind someone who hasn't set up an account, the wait can seem like forever. During busy times you will, thankfully, find FEXCO agents offering assistance to help the lines move along.

Last minute shopping

Who isn't tempted by airport shops? You'll find plenty here – all tax free. You will have to show proof of your flight and items may be put in a sealed, clear plastic bag which can not be opened until you are past all security points.

Be sure to watch your time! If you're flying to the US you still have a couple of security steps before you can get to your gate!

And another security screening

Politically speaking, you are now on US soil, so US agents are doing the screening here. Follow all US protocol.

Note: During high season the line for this begins above the escalators to control the crowd at security.

US Preclearance and Declaration of Goods

No waiting at Customs when you arrive in the US! This line can be long and slow moving.

Two lines are available here- one for those with Global Entry, and one for those without.

A note on Global Entry: though it is handy I do not recommend purchasing Global Entry specifically for your trip to Ireland. It doesn't get you through security points any quicker, nor does it keep you from unloading computers and liquids from your bags.

As with the pre-screening at check in, you are interviewed and asked to verify your checked bag. Older kids will be interviewed separately- which is why they need to be able to identify ‘their' checked bag. This almost caused a problem for us as my husband's bag was checked in under my daughter's name.

“She doesn't know her own bag?” the customs agent practically yelled at me. I tried to calmly reply that it was her dad's bag, that the agent had just added bags to each ticket as we checked in, and, for all that is good and holy, she's only 9! Again, have one parent on either end of this process- just in case something like this happens.

Good to know: Aer Lingus recommends that all ticketed passengers be through US Preclearance 2 hours prior to scheduled departure.

Finally at your gate

Once past US screening, the gates are directly ahead. There is quite a bit of seating but the area is very busy as US bound flights wait to board.

You'll find only a handful of coffee shops and stores here, so be sure to make purchases before pre-clearance.

Boarding Your Flight 

One final thing…  remember that sticker I mentioned in the pre-check at ticketing? If your passport doesn't have that sticker on it you will be asked to step aside for one more round of questioning.

It made my girls a bit nervous to see me pulled aside; thankfully my husband was there to get them safely to the plane while I told yet another officer about our month in Ireland. But, hey, it was a good trip and I'm happy to talk about Ireland to anyone who will listen.  🙂

51st & Green Lounge at Dublin Airport

If you've followed my tips above you may find yourself with a fair amount of time before boarding your flight. The best way to wait comfortably is in the 51st & Green Lounge. 

Located past the US departure gates the lounge serves US Preclearance passengers only.

51st & Green Lounge at Dublin Airport
The light and welcoming US Preclearance Lounge, 51st & Green at Dublin Airport

Though entrance is complimentary to business class ticket holders, you don't have to be a VIP to gain entry. Admission is just €35 per person online or €39 at reception.

Our Experience at 51st & Green Lounge

Our Aer Lingus business class tickets allowed entry into the US preclearance lounge, and it was the most relaxing spot I've ever experienced at Dublin Airport.

The reception desk is located at the very end of the US departures gates hallway. After checking in here you enter through a long passageway, every step taking you away from the loud, busy terminal. The large, bright lounge at the end of the passage has plentiful seating, floor to ceiling windows with runway views, and large bathrooms, complete with showers if you want to freshen up be fore your flight.

We chose a small table with cushioned bench seating on one side and plush swiveling chairs on the other. Our table had its own outlet in the center- so handy!

A few people stood near the bar and barista area, awaiting their special concoctions. More travelers were politely waiting their turns through the plentiful buffet.

buffet in 51st & Green Lounge at Dublin Airport
Tasty nibbles in the US Preclearance Lounge at Dublin Airport

The food options were impressive. Iced and hot beverages neatly in a row, warm appetizers led to hot soups, cold salads sat beside a charcuterie board, breads, pastries, and cookies perched above coolers of soda. 

Comfortably seated with a plate of tasty nibbles, I was able to set my carry on bag to rights again, after the hectic passage through security gates. The peacefulness of the room was a dramatic difference from the bustling airport halls. There was no rush, no anxiety, no hard plastic chair. 

If you have an hour or more before you flight I recommend spending it here. Especially if you're flying coach. You're likely to buy food, snacks & drinks in the departures area- why not spend a bit more and elevate your experience? 

Dublin Airport Arrival & Departure Tips
Dublin Airport Arrival & departure Tips
Dublin Airport tips for arrival and departure. Ireland travel tips.

Handy Links for Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport maps

Flight Information

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  1. Hi Jody, great info….thanks!

    A quick follow up to Josh’s question above: Similarly, I have a 7 hour layover at Dublin airport on a single ticket to Italy from the U.S. and am planning on taking a taxi into the city for a few hours. Will I have to claim my checked luggage in Dublin Airport, store it, then re-check it before my connecting flight to Italy? Or will the luggage be checked all the way through and I can avoid customs?

    I know I will have to go through immigration, just curious if I have to claim my luggage and deal with customs in Ireland, then re-check the luggage? If I do have to claim it, is there somewhere at the airport that I can store my luggage for a few hours?

    Thanks for the help,

      Hi Chad! When flying through on a single ticket your luggage will be checked through to your final destination.

      When leaving Dublin Airport you will exit via immigration, and on return you will need to pass through security. I would check with your airline (assuming Aer Lingus) to see if you need anything more than your boarding pass to get through airport security.

      Remember that a taxi will take 30-45 minutes to get from the airport to the city centre, and return will be similar, depending on traffic. I would plan to return to the airport at least 90 minutes prior to boarding time.

    Some of the comments above make is seem as though it is Dublin airport that is “as varied as the Irish weather”. But in fact the potential delays to the USA have nothing to do with this airport. The long security times and frustrating queues are entirely the domain of US security, which essentially ignores all the precautions already taken, replicating them for your “convenience”.

    I note this because you will have similar experience flying from any other airport. So long as you are not going to the USA you can expect 90 minutes to two hours. I have walked to the gate 30 minutes after arrival and made my European flight. (Not recommended!) But for the USA always leave three hours. No matter what airport.

      I don’t disagree… there is extra security when flying to the US. But Dublin (and Shannon) Airport also has US preclearance, which means Americans don’t have to clear customs in the US- which is a HUGE benefit. No long wait after hours of flying. But it does add 45-60 minutes to check-in at Dublin Airport.

    Edit to my previous comment- the flights to/from the US from Dublin are on Aer Lingus.

    HI- two questions. Our Newark flight into Dublin arrives 5am and we’ll be waiting to meet a friend who arrives from the States at 9am. What lounge would be best to relax in while we wait, or should we proceed to another area of the airport?
    Second- At the end of our holiday we fly SwissAir from Zurich to Dublin arriving 10:15am; our return to US departs 13:00. Is this enough time to make connection? NOTE: We will not have any bags to check in – only traveling with carryons.

      That is a long wait. 🙂
      Dublin Airport has a couple of food court/ cafe areas at Arrivals in Terminal 2, which is where you should both be arriving. They are a decent enough spot to wait, but it will be busy as people pass through as both are relatively open.
      Your connection is under 2 hours. It is quite possible that you will miss your connection as you will arrive- possibly in Terminal 1- have to pass through immigration, then go to T2, check in, pass through security and US preclearance, and US security. It’s not the checking of bags that slows you down. It’s all the security.

      Good luck!

        Thanks for your reply! Our connection is actually 2hrs 45min – will we still be in danger of missing connection?

    Hi Jody, I’ll be flying to Dublin and meeting my sister at the airport, but my flight gets in 5 hours earlier than her flight. Do you know if there are places to wait/grab something quick to eat in the baggage claim area, or what my best option would be? Thanks for this great article!

      Wow- 5 hours is a long time!
      After leaving baggage claim at Dublin Airport you have a couple of restaurant options. One more coffee shop, the other offers full meals. Both would be suitable for waiting.
      Another option would be to see if one of the nearby hotels might have a ‘day rate’ available which would let you check in for a few hours, shower, relax, in comfort.

      Safe travels!

    Very informative page. Thank you!

    We are flying in from the US, into Terminal 2. We plan on meeting another couple flying in from Canada to Terminal 1, about 2 hours later. Is it feasible to pick up our luggage and go through immigration, etc., and then go with our luggage to the arrivals section of Terminal 1, without too much difficulty? Is this feasible at all?

    Thank you in advance

      I’m glad you found the Dublin Airport tips helpful!

      It is very easy to get to Terminal 1 from T2. It is just a short stroll. I’m not sure how much seating there is in the arrivals area of T1, so hopefully your wait isn’t too long.

      Safe travels!

    […] Departing from Dublin: plan to drop off your car 3.5 hours prior to boarding time. It will take 20-30 minutes for the shuttle to bring you back to the airport after you return the car. I recommend dropping off people & luggage at the departures gate then returning the car for minimal hassle. Dublin Airport Tips […]

    Questions regarding checked luggage. You check your luggage when checking in for your flight. You mention that you also have to verify your checked luggage during preclearance. Does this mean your are carrying your checked luggage all the way to preclearance or are is the luggage delivered from airline check in to preclearance?

    Also, if you go through preclearance, do our check bags make it through to our final destination stateside or will we have to claim our bags in Newark, then recheck them to our final destination (Baltimore)?

    Thank you!

      Hi Bob.
      You check your luggage in when you check in for your flight. Bag images are matched to your ticket and you verify those images as your bags during preclearance.

      Your checked bags will go to the final destination on that ticket. So if you have a layover in Newark but your final destination is Nashville, the bags would go to Nashville.
      If you booked to flights separately- Newark to Dublin and a different ticket/ airline from Nashville to Newark, then you would need to get bags and recheck them when you checked in for the new flight.

      I hope that makes sense!

        Makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for the clarification and great information available on your site!!

    Reading someone’s comment on Global Entry, do you think it’s worth it to have? Does it save you time? Thanks for all your information! Very helpful!

      I have Global Entry and it isn’t a lot of help for Ireland.
      It’s great if you pass through security & immigration in the US, but in Ireland it doesn’t give you fast track through security and only shaves a few minutes off customs.
      If you were only buying it for you Ireland trip, I wouldn’t bother.

    Great article, thanks! I have a 6 hour layover, any must see things in Dublin I can do in that time span, that you could recommend?

      Hi Joshua. 6 hours isn’t a lot of time for a layover at Dublin airport. Especially if you are landing early in the morning as visitor attractions won’t open until 9 or 10am.
      If your flight happens to arrive later I would hire a taxi to the village of Malahide and tour Malahide Castle & Gardens. That’s good for a couple hours and is only 15 minutes away.
      If you must go into Dublin city know that taxi will take 30 minutes in, bus at least 45. Each way.
      And you need to return to Dublin Airport at least 2 hours prior to boarding if you are continuing on to Europe (3 hours if going to the US) to check in for your flight and clear all security checkpoints.
      If you do go into Dublin you would have time for only 1, maybe 2, sites. I would recommend places that won’t have a long queue. EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, National Museum of Ireland Archaeology, and Little Museum of Dublin are all good options. You could also consider wandering down Grafton Street, enjoying St. Steven’s Green, and just strolling through Temple Bar.

    We will be flying Newark to Dublin and then connecting onto a flight Dublin to Glasgow. Can we just go to the next gate or do we need to go through customs in Dublin? Or, is this just a gate transfer and everything will be handled in Glasgow?
    Then our return is a flight from Glasgow to Dublin, staying a few days there and then flying Dublin to Newark.
    What should we expect with security / customs / etc in all locations?

      Hi Howard.
      What happens in Dublin depends entirely on whether Dublin is a layover on a single ticket or if you will be changing flights.

      If your stop in Dublin is part of a single ticket connecting flight then you *should not* need to go through customs, you would just go on to your next gate.

      If you are getting onto a different flight- one that was purchased separately, not part of your ticket to Dublin- then you will have to go through immigration, collect your bag from baggage claim, go to the departures area to check in for your next flight, and pass through security.

      Then you would have immigration upon arrival in Glasgow.

      As a US citizen you will have to clear customs as you leave Glasgow for Dublin, and again as you leave Dublin for Newark, as described in the article.

      I hope that answers your question.

    Thanks for the informative article. I’m flying into Dublin next month, but then getting a connection to Glasgow. I’ve been told I have to go through immigration, but not customs until Glasgow. What happens in immigration?

    I’ll be returning to US from Dublin and have Global Entry. I’ve done this before, but frankly, forget how it worked. I do remember waiting in line forever with my luggage at one point due to some computer glitch at the airport or our airline (Aer Lingus) had the glitch. But, once we got past that part of it, we breezed through all the way to the Global Entry area (as I recall, it was my first time with GE) and that was it. So it was hit and miss with me at DUB.

      When you arrive in Dublin you will go through immigration, they will inquire about your travel plans and your passport will be stamped. Then you would grab your bags and continue into the airport to check in for your next flight (if they aren’t booked through on a single ticket. If they are on a single ticket you should be able to proceed directly to your flight after confirming arrival in Ireland.)

      Departing Ireland with Global Entry… Your Global Entry won’t come in to play until you are on “US soil’. So you would proceed normally through check in (expect 45-60 minutes in high season), security screening 1 (20-45 minutes in high season), file your VAT, make your declaration of goods at the kiosks, then move on to US Pre-clearance, where you will see Global Entry kiosks. (This is from 2017 fall experience; I have not heard of any changes since that time).

      Hope that helps!

    Hello – I love this article! We are going to Ireland for the first time in April of this year. We are looking to arrive from Scotland on a Ryan Air flight landing at 9:40am. If my flight leaves back to New York at 2:30pm, will that give me enough time to land and go through the pre/screening/security/blah blah blah? That’s just shy of 5 hours… I would hate to miss my flight because of that
    Thank you!!

      Yes, you should have time to collect your bags, check in, and get through security. Safe travels!

        Hi Jody,

        Thank you for the article. I have a very similar question. I’m headed to Ireland this August from the US. But while in Ireland, I’m doing a separate flight trip to Scotland and London. I will head back to Dublin from London most likely on Aer Lingus into Terminal 1. My flight back to the State will be on British Airline by American Airline and it’s in Terminal 2.

        I will have a little over 3 hours once I arrive from London in Dublin to get to my flight back to the States. Do you think this will be enough time?

        I’m still looking at the flights from London and I was considering a flight that lands at 8 AM in Dublin. My flight back to the States is at 11:20.

        Thank you for your help.


          Hi May. 3 hours *should* give you time to deplane, grab bags, check in, and get through all the security in Dublin airport.
          That said, I recommend 3 hours prior to boarding, not take off, and boarding time on international flights out of Dublin is usually 60 minutes, so your timeline us less than the window I recommend, especially in the busiest travel season.
          I, personally, would try to arrive into Dublin earlier, if possible.

          I hope that helps!

    Interesting article!

    Is the situation in terminal 2 the same for EU-flights to -let’s say- Amsterdam? Do I need 3 hours in advance as well?

    Thanks for your reply.


      Hi Ed, and thanks for your question. You don’t mention if you are an EU resident or not, which would make a difference when departing Ireland.

      If you are a non-EU resident departing Dublin for another EU country before returning to your own home country you will have to do security, but not US pre-clearance as you ae not heading to the US. So, no, you wouldn’t need quite so long.

      That said, I would still plan 2 hours as check in and security lines can be long.

      I hope that answered your question!

    oh I thankful I found this, I’m new to traveling out of the U.S. …can you explain the VAT? And is this still the same experience if I’m flying in from a different airport to connect to my flight home? I added a stop in London last min which has me now flyin from London to Dublin to catch my flight home :/

      Hi Jessica – and thank you for your question!
      I explain the VAT in this post: https://irelandfamilyvacations.com/ireland-shopping-tips-vat/planning-your-irish-vacation/

      It will work the same in the UK and at Heathrow. VAT for Ireland and England are different ‘pots of money’, so you will file VAT for your UK purchases before you leave London, and VAT for your Ireland purchases before you leave Ireland.

      I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions I can assist with.

      And have a wonderful trip!

    Very good article. Exactly what I experienced on my last return flight. Endless lines in three security checks. As Amy said, I should have allowed more time, at least three hours. No time for shopping or eating in the lovely shops. I didn’t understand that there would be three lines when I checked my bags and was just barely in time for the flight boarding having arrived 2 hours before.

      Tonia – Dublin airport is certainly hit or miss! Sometimes we breeze through, others we have nearly missed our flight! I hope you’ll share this information if you know anyone traveling to Ireland!

    This is a great article! I wish I had read it before we went to Ireland a few weeks ago. This is a very accurate description of the process. We had no idea to expect the lengthy process returning home to the U.S., so we allowed the typical 2 hours lead time. Knowing what we know now, I would definitely recommend allowing a solid 3 hours to clear customs and all the security lines. We had to skip the VAT booth and barely had time to get a bite to eat and use the bathroom before our flight started boarding. Lessons learned!

      Thanks for your comment, Amy. Experiences at Dublin airport are as varied as the Irish weather! One day you can breeze through, others, it’s like fighting a windy day. 🙂

      You can file your VAT once you get home; it just takes longer. Check the websites for the VAT companies you used to find out how to do it properly.

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