a week in ireland: recap and travel tips
I went to Ireland for a week with my family! Here are some things I saw, did, and learned. Maybe it will be helpful for you if you ever go!
Overall, I loved it. It was way more beautiful than I thought it would be. I was kind of expecting it to be just green. It is very green. But there's also a lot of mountain views, ocean views, a lot of bodies of water actually. The green pastures are full of sheep, cows, and horses, and since we were then in early May, we got to see a bunch of baby animals on our drives. IT WAS FREAKING ADORABLE!
The best part of Ireland? The people are so effing nice. So nice. Not in a creepy, fake way like in the Midwest of the US. No one really approached us. Men didn't oggle me. But if we ever approached someone to ask for directions, help they were very very helpful and never acted as if they were annoyed or we were inconveniencing them. Same for servers and bartenders. I couldn't believe how kind they were for people who don't make their living off tips. The service was usually a bit slow compared to the US but if you're not in a rush and just relax, it's not a big deal. At one point, my brother asked a bartender for a "Jameson and Pep", a coworker told him it was really popular in Ireland. The bartender didn't know what it was, but he was so nice abou it and we could tell that he genuinely wanted to find out what it was so he could make it. When I'm at a bar in the US and need something somewhat obscure from the bar, and bartenders are so sassy or dicks. The Irish bartender's response surprised me, it wasn't what I was used to. He could've easily made Ryan feel uncomfortable but he was a total pro. That's just one example of how the people were so, so, so nice. We had some freaking hilarious taxi drivers, who were also incredibly helpful.....The Irish people truly made the trip.
Currency: Euro. A lot of places took cards. But if you want to go to the old, small pubs be prepared and bring cash.
Tipping rules confused me. You always hear, “They don’t tip in Europe”, but it doesn’t seem to be completely absent. To be safe, I would say leave 10%. Note: If you’re paying by card there’s usually not a way to tip on your card. Try to leave a 1 or 2 Euro coin.
How expensive Dublin is surprised me. A pint of Guinness was about $8. I couldn’t find an AirBnB (whole flat) for less than $200. A private room was at least $80. Groceries were really expensive.
Helpful Tip: They use the UK outlets, i.e. the three-prong outlet.
· The Irish Rail system, which goes all around Ireland was great. Very clean and on time. I can’t speak for the entire system but all the routes I looked at had times starting at 6:30am and leaving every two hours after.
· However, I only ended up taking one train, from Killarney to Dublin. We ended up driving around the country, which I recommend if you don’t mind driving on the left side.
· Uber operates in Dublin, but it uses regular taxis and its metered. Or they have UberBlack, which is obviously more expensive. I requested a car on the app a few times. Just one time it worked. The other two or three times, no one responded.
Helpful Tip: Speak quietly. Apparently, Irish people generally speak quietly and a lot of times Americans embarass themselvesw by being loud in public places. This was hard for me. I'm a very loud person. :)
Helpful Tip: public transportation and the train system have wifi. Most restaurants and pubs have wifi. A lot of times its open. If not, just ask your server or the bartender what the password is. Everyone is more than willing to give it out.
Grogan’s Castle Lounge – a fantastic, authentic, very old school pub. Its carpeted, which gave it a cool 70s vibe. Bring cash – they don’t take cards. And be prepared for it to be packed.
Temple Bar area is the area where young, hot people party. Soooo many bars. It was very sunny in Dublin when iw as there, which rare, so the bars were packed especially the outdoor areas. People were spilling into the sidewalks. I even saw folks take stools out to the sidewalk or street. I saw that multiple times, so I think it’s pretty normal and acceptable. As busy as the area is, it’s not rowdy or gross. Everyone holds their liquor well. It's not too loud. Definitely worth going during the day time or evening.
Storehouse – in the Temple Bar area - this place felt and looked newer but still had the set-up of a traditional Irish bar/restaurant. They do have a full menu, which looked awesome and full of Irish meals, and take credit cards. They have live music, but it's more contemporary, not the traditional Irish music.
Walk along the River Liffy. We were so lucky to have fabulous weather. It was sunny and in the 70s every day. We walked along the river and stopped at a little café (almost like a little snack shack) on the river for coffee.
Walk around Trinity College. It’s gorgeous. Go on a Saturday and watch a cricket match at the park adjacent to the campus. It is so fun to watch – even if you don’t know what’s going on. Cricket matches have long breaks throughout when the teams went to their locker rooms (?) a bunch of dads took their little kids on the grass and pitched a cricket ball to the kid, who had a cricket bat. The kids were like two to four years old, so it freaking darling.
Trim: Great day trip when staying in Dublin: Less than an hour drive from Dublin you can go to the city of Trim, to see the Trim Castle. Trim Castle is a special place for the DeLacy family. Hugh DeLacy, kind of the patriarch of our family, built the castle in 1172. The DeLacys were the lords of Meath (now County Meath). Three generations of DeLacy's lived here and were kind of royalty. Pretty dope right?
The town of Trim is really cute. You could hang out there for a few hours, walking around and eating and drinking. The castle is also surrounded by really beautiful grounds that would be a nice stroll.
After 3-4 days in Dublin, I recommend leaving and going to Galway or Clare Island, both across the country. We did not go to Clare Island but a lot of people recommended it.
If you go to Galway, drive first to Connemera National Park. Spend a few hours there and hike along the trail.
Galway surprised me. It’s kind of a kitschy beach town. A cuter and more sophisticated version of a Jersey Shore or Myrtle Beach. And much smaller. They had small (very small) amusement parks, with some thrill rides. It was a very cute town.
We stayed at the Salt Hill Hotel, which was really pretty and right on the water. It’s about a 10 min taxi to the busy part of town with all the restaurants and pubs. All the restaurants and pubs looked good. It’s a busy place, so if you go for dinner you might have to try a few places to find a table. I don’t think you could go wrong with many places here. But a few recommendations:
Neactain Bar – old, authentic, small outside patio. Great place to have a pint and a cigarette. Inside, they have these cool little closed off rooms for each table. There’s no door but they have walls between tables so you get some privacy.
‘Tis Coilis – for great, authentic Irish bar
I heard Dough Brothers Pizza is good (from a pizzeria owner) but we did not go there.
When you leave Galway head to the Cliffs of Moher for the day, before heading to your next hotel or AirBNB.
Cliffs of Moher: A must see. Very beautiful. And a little scary. Try to skip the entry fee by parking far away. The tickets you pay for in the lot are for the visitor center and not for the Cliffs themselves.
Doolin: Cute town we stopped in to go to the bathroom after leaving the Cliffs of Moher. But it ended up having a very cute town center, with shops and cafes, and of course pubs. It looked quiet so if that’s your jam, this would be a great place to stay for a night or two when you visit the COM.
Go to Dingle!: We did not go but everyone I talked to in the U.S. and in Ireland said to go to Dingle. It’s supposed to be beautiful.
We also stayed in Ennis. I didn’t do much here. I opted out of dinner with family – I needed some alone time to rejuvenate. I didn’t hear strong opinions from them either way. It looked like it was more on the boring side. Its significantly inland, so I would not recommend it unless it’s on your route or there’s something you know you want to do around there.
Killarney: Very cool town. I was underwhelmed we drove up to our hotel – it just looked like a bunch of hotels and houses. But when I met my family in town for dinner, I saw that there was a great town center. Lots of pubs, restaurants, shops. I don’t remember any restaurants or pubs we went to, but they all looked great.
Not far from the town center, there’s the Killarney National Park. My family went on a hike here after I left for Budapest. My brother said it was brutal - straight rock climbing for 1,500 feet.
Helpful Tip: When departing Dublin, take airport security rules seriously. They are very strict about them here. Over half the bags got pulled to the side, including my suitcase. There were so many bags pulled off to the side it took about 15 minutes for someone to even look at mine. I know that you’re supposed to take out your liquids, but I never do. Ever. But I just assumed that theyd look through my bag and see that all my liquids met the size requirement and I would get my bag back. When the gentleman did bring my bag back, he handed me a sandwich bag, and told me that I had to put all of my liquids, creams, and aerosol cans into the bag – AND IT HAD TO CLOSE. It took me about ten minutes and the dude watched me the whole time! I had to throw out lotion, body wash, conditioner, and something else. He watched until I sealed the bag to make sure each centimeter was sealed. It was so annoying. And it totally ruined my adorable makeup, toiletry bag. I can’t put them in a plastic baggie – I need to use my awesome cosmetic case!!!
Make sure you follow these annoying rules from RyanAir.com: “Liquids carried must be in a container of no more than 100ml (3.4 ounces) All liquids should be carried in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag of up to 20cm x 20cm with a total capacity of up to a litre. You must be able to completely close the bag and be able to fit it in your hand baggage.”
I also saw a lot of people get pulled for computers, iPads that they left in their bag.