Sharon and her family just returned from their first Ireland vacation and have offered a list of great tips for first time visitors – as well as a few photos.
I've taken the liberty of portioning Sharon's tips into sections – any additions in green are my own input.
Rental Car & Driving Tips
Pick up the rental car after two nights in Dublin. We did have to pay for a taxi to and from the airport twice-but was cheaper than renting the car an extra two days-as well as not worrying about the parking. Tip: if you purchase your transport into Dublin is included. And you can arrange to pick up a car in Dublin- just be sure to have a good navigator!
Take a picture of rental car before driving away-all scrapes, marks and dents. The company will fill out a form-but is nice to have your own proof. Also took a picture of the license plate-there were many blue four door cars in the lot!
Take out the full coverage insurance and don’t worry the rest of your trip. Tip: learn more about CDW Excess.
An intermediate car is a must for four grown adults and suitcases. Or kids with car seats….
Pay the extra money and reserve the automatic if this is the first time driving on the wrong side. Tip: If you are comfortable with a manual transmission you will be fine. Manual transmission cars cost less to rent, as well.
We ended up with a Diesel car-and only filled up one time in eight days of travel.
Had to make a point to have rental company reimburse the charge of gas fill up-they charged 100 euros up front for bringing back the car empty-and didn’t offer to credit account when car was returned full. Tip: Ask about this. And plan to return the car empty. It's worth it as gas stations near airports are incredibly expensive!
If returning to airport to pick up rental car-will need to go back into airport by departures-and follow signs to Car Rental Companies.
Give yourself extra time to drop off rental car. The process is slow and then you have to wait for a shuttle to take you to the airport.
After arriving in Dublin-walk to area for taxis and the airport staff will line up the taxi for you.
Best money spent-flying into and out of two different cities.
Keep extra euros on hand-many establishments wouldn’t take credit for purchases less than 15 euros.
Keep extra coins for toll roads (we were unaware of the change only toll leaving Kilkenny) & also need lots of 2 Euros for parking in public. Extra change was nice to give to the musicians on the street also!
Tipping is not customary in Ireland.
Family of four-two grown college kids-stayed in hostels for two nights then a bed/breakfast and then start over with a hostel for two nights. Most hostels are similar to cheaper bed/breakfast and many serve a simple breakfast now. We did the family suite-so we had our own private bathroom in each room. Bring your own towels-and hang to dry during the day. Some hostels charge 2 Euros a towel and some didn’t even offer a towel. Many hostels have a kitchen where you can prepare a meal and store your food in fridge after. We found a Lidl grocery store and had sandwiches, chips and chocolate for lunches and then made spaghetti for dinner two nights with leftovers. A great way to meet other travelers also. Tip: All hostels are different. Some offer a simple breakfast, some don't. Some offer towels complimentary, some don't. If you aren't sure, ask!
Many of the hostels-have radiator heat that is on a timer. So you don’t have the access to warm your room after a cool day out and about. Layers and warm socks! And warm pajamas! Tip: again, this varies from place to place.
Book your stay with the establishment-I used Booking.com for two nights and didn’t realize they charge a 15% fee. Keep the money in the owner’s pocket! 💡
Minimum two night stay would have been better than traveling place to place. Although the hostels are cheaper-two nights in a bed/breakfast would have helped the tired of traveling feeling.
Make arrangements for the first hotel to hold your luggage until check in time. You don’t want to be dragging it around with you all day.
Take your nice things with you!-toothbrush, face cream, dental floss etc-it won’t feel like a vacation if you don’t feel put together every morning.
Pack an extra pair of warm socks as well as one more layer. For 11 days-we wore one outfit and packed four with the intention of laundry on day 5. By the last day-we were scrambling for one more set ofclean underclothes/socks and layered shirt.
There is no need for curling irons, flat irons or hairdryers!
Best travel book-Eyewitness Travel – Ireland. Best travel map-Collins. Pay the extra money and have access to GPS on your smart phone. Many small roads are not on the map-and there are shorter ways to get to places then what is mapped. Did not get the 10 euros a day GPS in car—easier to do on phone. Tip: your International access will not work everywhere in Ireland. I recommend a mobile wifi unit. It will also cost less if multiple people need coverage. Get my tips for using your mobile phone in Ireland.
Will find Wi-Fi everywhere including hostels and bed/breakfasts.
A water bottle is a must for your backpack-the water in Ireland in great! Cheaper to fill from the sink then to buy water every day.
Fresh fruit is hard to find. Many gas stations have select bananas/apples-but expensive.
A winter jacket with a zip out liner/windbreaker was a must for May. Also took mittens and hats to take a boat ride. Worth the packing. We took two pairs of tennis shoes and were very glad to have a dry pair.
Allergies are very bad with all the green landscape! Worth packing the Claritin-afrin and cough drops.
Local hotels may have a work out facility for a small charge.
Student ID’s are wonderful-and saved a lot of money for admission fees. Tip: More money saving ideas: OPW Heritage Card, joint tickets for Cliffs of Moher & Bunratty Castle/ Folk Park, and more Ireland discounts.
99’ers are fabulous ice cream cones found at gas stations!
Can find laundry service for about 8-10 euros a load.
Three prong adaptor is a must for cameras and phones. Borrow –don’t buy. Tip: unless you plan to return. My favorite adapter isn't terribly expensive- and works around the world!
Keep a toothbrush/toothpaste in your backpack-nice to feel refreshed after a long day or flight. Tip: I recommend freshening up after your flight to help combat jet lag.
Dublin—avoid the Temple Bar area to stay overnight!
The hop-on/hop off bus was worth every penny~ Spent the arrival day riding around and around-trying to adjust to time change and stay warm. The next day-we used it again to see the sights!
Lots of internet web sites – Trip Advisor Tip: I'm active on the TA forums. Loads of great people there giving advice.
Tours that are guided-will give you sights that might attract you-as well as an itinerary to follow and change to your liking.
Decide if you want to do a tour-or rent a car-that will change your plans dramatically.
College aged kids need rest –plan it in your itinerary!
Plan on 100Euros per day for eating and entertainment and gas for four people.
Cash currency card is widely accepted.
Southwest Credit card does not charge for currency conversion.
Umbrella is a must!
A Few of Sharon's Favorites
Dunloe View Hostel (Killarney) was their favorite. John was super and we loved the area!
Favorite places-Killarney and Bantry Bay. Dromcloc House (B&B on a dairy farm) was awesome and the hosts were incredibly generous of their time with all of our questions! Very family oriented and such a beutiful view. We wished we had stayed here two nights.
Must see–Blarney Stone and Kilkenny Castle. The castle was not crowded and we had a one/one tour guide that just finished up with a school class. Good weather-quaint little town and very welcoming! The pub there (where the witch stayed!- Kyteler's Inn, I think–was fun!)