Ireland is the perfect place to take a holiday. This lovely island has physical and spiritual qualities that are seldom found in the Western World. The pace of life is relaxing; the scenery is beautiful and varied, with the sea never far from sight. The climate is moderate, and the sunshine, when it comes, intensifies the already beautiful colours of the landscape. The very best way to see and appreciate this wonderful land is by foot or bike; travel with good boots, good waterproofs and a good camera! Most of all – be prepared to take your time, for there is no such thing as a tiresome journey in Ireland. Please do not rush your journey, the Irish do not approve of rushing; if you rush, the charm of the country and the people will pass you by. In Ireland, it is important not to stick to a plan too rigidly, and become irritated when it has to be delayed or changed a bit. Nothing in Ireland can be planned right down to the last detail. Information can sometimes only be found out on the spot; and opening times, timetables and other schedules are more subject to change than in many other countries. For this is what makes Ireland and the Irish! For your Holiday – you will need to plan enough to make sure you have the correct equipment that we feel is required to walk or bike comfortably in this glorious place.
When it comes to tipping there are no hard and fast rules. Some restaurants often add a 10 – 15% service charge to the bill – so check your bill before tipping. Tips of 10 – 15% are customary if you do wish to tip and is very much appreciated.
Normal business hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday; stores are open from 9am to 5.30 or 6pm Monday to Saturday, with some stores closing at 9pm on Thursdays. In Dublin, stores close at 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. In small towns some business and stores close from 1pm to 2pm for lunch.
The unit of currency in the Republic of Ireland is the Euro written as €. There are 100 cents to €1. Coins come in 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2. Notes come in €5, €10, €20, €50, and €100 (there are €500 notes as well but they are very rare!!). While on holidays in Ireland – please ensure that you have an amount of Euro as you are unlikely to have an opportunity to visit a bank as they are only in the bigger towns along your route. Generally the banks in the airports have longer opening hours – so you may be able to avail of these. If you are travelling to Northern Ireland (NOT Donegal) – you will need Sterling currency.
Visa and MasterCard credit cards and debit cards, as well as ATM access cards are widely accepted in the Republic and Northern Ireland. If you have a personal identification number (PIN), cash withdrawals can be made at ATM machines, which can be found in all towns, but generally not in smaller villages. International money systems, like Cirrus and Plus are linked to ATM’s in the Republic. Check with your bank before travelling to ensure which ATM’s may be applicable and what charges will be incurred for their use. American Express cards and Diner Club cards are not as readily acceptable.
The best exchange rates are available at banks; the worst are across the counter in hotels. Bureau de change, found at airports, hotels and key tourist areas are useful when banks are closed and in remote areas but the rate will not be as good. In the Republic, banks are usually open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday, but in many small towns they close from 12.30pm to 1.30 p.m. for lunch. On Thursdays most banks remain open until 5pm. In Northern Ireland banks are open from 9.30 am to 4.30pm (5pm Thursdays) and often on Saturday mornings in cities.
Visitors from non-EU countries leaving the Republic within two months of a purchase (three months in Northern Ireland) can obtain a refund of the VAT added to the price of goods purchased. The scheme applies to goods purchased only – it excludes services and does not apply to children’s clothing. Each store has a different way of operating so enquire before making a purchase. There is usually a display at the entrance or counter to show that these stores participate in the Retail Export Scheme. The store will supply you with details of how to claim a refund and how much you need to spend to qualify for your refund.
All visitors to either the Republic or Northern Ireland require valid passports, except British Nationals. (Holders of UK passports not born in Great Britain or Northern Ireland should bring their passports).
EU Nationals can stay in the Republic of Ireland indefinitely without a visa; travellers from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can stay for three months without a visa in the Republic of Ireland and this can usually be extended by making an application to a local Garda station (police), or in Dublin, go to the Alien Registration Office, Harcourt Street (tel: 01-4755555). Nationals of other countries should contact the Irish Embassy for details about visa Regulations.
230V AC in the Republic and 240V AC in Northern Ireland. Plugs are three-pin flat and occasionally 2-pin round wall sockets are also found. British electrical appliances will work everywhere. North American appliances require a transformer and a plug adapter. Mainland European, Australian and New Zealand appliances need just a plug adapter.
While the metric system has been adopted it is not entirely enforced in Ireland. Distances and speeds are now measured in Kilometres; altitude is measured in meters; drinks come in litres in stores but in pints in the pub; food is weighed and priced both in pounds and kilograms and petrol is sold in litres. To convert miles to kilometres – multiply by 1.61; kilometres to miles – multiply by 0.62; pounds to kilograms – multiply by 0.45; kilograms to pounds – multiply by 2.20.
To make things as easy as possible for yourself we would appreciate if you would bring a maximum of 2 small bags instead of one large suitcase. Please remember that guesthouses do not have elevators – therefore you must be able to carry your own suitcase up narrow and steep staircases. Smaller bags will also ensure that you have more room to walk around in your bedroom.
There is an excellent network of buses serving all major cities and towns in Ireland. However, many services are quite infrequent and timetables should be consulted in advance. A new “summer” timetable comes into operation each May offering a wider bus service, particularly in the more popular regions of Ireland. It is always safer to check with a local person or with the local information office about bus times, services and costs. Bus fares are usually cheaper if bought as a return ticket, so be sure to ask about your complete journey costs in advance. Bus journeys are cheaper than trains. www.buseireann.ie
Trains serve all major cities and some towns in Ireland. They are clean, modern and efficient. Services are infrequent so timetables should be consulted in advance. Enquire at a local station for full up-to-date information. www.irishrail.ie
Please note that on Sundays and Bank Holidays public transport operates a much reduced service. Should you be arriving before your Guided Walking Holiday or are staying on afterwards and intend to use public transport, do please note if there is a reduced service operating. Check in advance to ensure your connections will be possible on a Sunday or Bank Holiday.