Ireland has a solid reputation as being a welcoming country and I have found it definitely lives up to the hype. A few fun facts about Ireland: it is easy to navigate, English is the predominant language, it’s a safe place to visit, and the Irish charm is ever-present. This is why Ireland is always on the list of the best places to travel solo. But I’ve seen quite a few tourists, including myself, make mistakes when visiting Ireland that really put a damper on the trip. So let’s discuss what not to do in Ireland and what to do instead to ensure your trip is nothing but rainbows.
This is the second post in the Ireland Travel Series. Here is the complete 6 part series:
Ireland Travel Series
Packing Tips: The Only Ireland Packing List You Need for Any Season
Cliff Walks: A Day Trip from Dublin: The Bray to Greystones Walk
The Wild Atlantic Way: Top 3 Day Trips from Galway Ireland
What Not To Do In Ireland…
Be Drunk All of the Time
Stopping into a pub for a pint or two each day during your time in Ireland is a great way to immerse yourself in Irish pub culture. However, there really is no need to get drunk every night of your trip. There is more to Ireland than Guinness, like stunning sunsets and parks to cycle through, which you’ll miss if you’re nursing a hangover every day!
Complain About the Weather
Did you really go to Ireland expecting warm conditions? I’m sorry, but that’s your bad and no one wants to hear you whine about the rain or the cold. I mean, how do you think it got so green? Go to Ireland with the expectation of rain then be pleasantly surprised when you get a warm and sunny day. Make sure you pack the appropriate clothing and footwear that allows you to embrace the weather. This way you can still get outside to explore the Irish countryside or take coastal walks even in less than ideal weather conditions.
Take Offense at Irish Banter
One of my favorite new sayings I recently learned is “takin’ the piss”. Which basically means someone is poking fun at you in a lighthearted way. And there is no group of people better at this than the Irish. They have a great sense of humor and use of sarcasm. Don’t be afraid to dish it back to them, but keep it kind and friendly and you’ll win them over.
Order an Irish Car Bomb
I mean, who even came up with the name for this drink. And does anyone actually like it? It’s a disgusting drink and an even more disgusting cultural insensitivity. Car bombs in Ireland were a major reality for many years and ordering one in a pub is a sure fire way to get kicked out, at the very least.
Order a Black and Tan
While we are on the subject of terrible names for drinks, let’s discuss the black and tan. You may think it’s innocent because the layer of Guinness is black over the layer of a tan-colored beer. But it’s actually a reference to the British forces fighting against the Irish in their War for Independence. So don’t order it, instead order a half and half or just get a normal freakin’ beer.
Stay in Dublin
Yes, you should see Dublin, but honestly, one or two days in Dublin is enough. It’s a very European city which is great for diversity and the food scene, but it does not feel like you’re in Ireland when in Dublin. So enjoy the city for a day, max two, then get out into the rest of the country. If you’re short on time for your trip to Ireland, then base yourself in Dublin and take day trips to Howth, Bray, or Wicklow.
Look Left and then Right
If you’re coming from the states or where you drive on the right side of the road, get used to looking the opposite direction when crossing the streets. Thank God Dublin has this painted on the sidewalks and signs posted everywhere so tourists don’t make a fatal mistake! Remember to look right then left!
Skip Out on Buying a Round of drinks
So you’ve made some new friends in Ireland – that’s great! You may think they’re extra awesome because they keep buying everyone rounds of drinks. This is just the custom and the next round is on you!
Use “Irish Sayings”
No one says “top o’ the mornin’ to ya”. No one. Don’t be that guy. Just be a normal human being and say good morning. Faking an Irish accent and trying to use an antiquated saying is no way to impress or make friends with the Irish.
Look Confused When Someone Says “craic”
I’ll make one exception for Irish sayings and this is one of them. Craic, which sounds like crack, is the Irish word for a good time. So you’ll often hear reference to craic after a night out, to a good music session, or a generally fun day. You’ll hear this mostly on the west side of Ireland, especially after a night in one of Galway’s best pubs, which is always “good craic”.
Stress About Timing
The Irish are notoriously late. So if you’re planning to meet up with new Irish friends, they will show up – they just might be a few minutes late. It’s not a slight to you, it’s just how it is. That being said, if you’re trying to catch a bus or any sort of transportation, be on time, because those tend to run on schedule.
The Irish are amazing storytellers, jokesters, and good at making you feel welcome. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into a pub in Galway solo and was welcomed into a conversation with a group of locals that made me feel as if I’d known them forever. They’ll probably even try to convince you to move to Ireland….which if you can figure out how as someone who doesn’t qualify for most of the visas – let me know!
Coming from a tipping culture this took a while to get used to and I even cringe writing a suggestion to not tip. Tips are not required when dining out in Ireland like they are in the states. But if you feel the urge to tip, 10% is sufficient.
My first trip to Ireland I booked a day tour or made sightseeing plans every day which meant I missed out on the spontaneous moments with new friends. I was so focused on seeing all of the beautiful places in Ireland that I didn’t take the chance to just soak it all in. I had amazing Airbnb hosts in Galway who I missed out getting to know better and even left towns I loved for towns I didn’t mesh with that well just to stick to my schedule. This trip is yours, leave space to adjust the itinerary and seek out experiences that will fill you up. Let the rest go, you will likely want to come back to Ireland anyway.
Pay ATM Fees or Have Your AMEX Declined
Once again, that first trip to Ireland I was such a newbie solo traveler I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, I was smart enough to travel with credit cards (Capital One and Chase Sapphire) that didn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, but I did receive plenty of fees at the ATMs. I traveled with my Chase ATM card so not only did I get a fee for using a non-Chase ATM, but I also got hit with foreign transaction fees. Paying my money to access my money is not fun. Now I travel with Charles Schwab ATM card and they reimburse all of the fees I accrue when using ATMs. Many places in Ireland are still cash only so you’ll need to make sure you have some on hand. Also, American Express is not widely accepted, so it’s best to travel with Visa or Mastercard.
Visit Belfast as a Day Trip from Dublin
This goes back to overscheduling yourself. Don’t try to jam an entire city and it’s stunning countryside into a day trip. It takes two hours to get to Belfast from Dublin, which means you’ll be spending four hours on a bus in one day. And you’ll likely want to explore Belfast a bit and then head to the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Save yourself some time on the bus and take the rush out of your trip by spending the night in Belfast. Use the first day to explore Belfast, the second day to visit the Giant’s Causeway and then return to Dublin.
Skip the Islands
There are actually a number of islands you can visit in Ireland. Perhaps the two most famous are the Skellig Islands and the Aran Islands. I personally haven’t made it to the Skellig Islands yet, only heard that they’re amazing, firmly planting them on my Ireland bucket list for the next trip. I have however been to two of the three Aran Islands and can’t sing their praises enough. It’s like stepping back in time, the scenery is dramatic, and of course, the people are fantastic.
Absolutely Rent a Car
Road tripping around Ireland is still on my bucket list. I keep telling myself I’ll rent a car on the next trip, but then the next trip comes and I chicken out. So I’ve traveled around Ireland on each of my three previous trips using public transportation. I’ve never felt slighted or like my experience in Ireland was lacking because I didn’t have a car. I’ve been able to see all of the hot spots as well as a few off the beaten path places without a car! But I will report back after my next trip when I actually do rent a car with a comparison!
Rely on Uber
Uber does exist in Ireland, but not in the same way as the United States. Uber drivers are not allowed to operate private cars, which means that when you “call an Uber” a taxi will show up as your ride. As such the Uber app is not the preferred method of transportation. Instead, download the app called Free Now (formerly My Taxi). This app will connect you with a taxi and you pay via the app. This app is what locals told me they use and hostels recommended I use over Uber.
There you have it, the top tourist mistakes to avoid in Ireland to ensure that you have a fantastic time in the Emerald Isle. And that they welcome you back with open arms and perhaps a sarcastic comment. Am I missing anything?