Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ireland Tips and Such

This post is for anyone planning a trip to Ireland. It's my tips for a good trip. Eventually, on my Recommendations page, I'll add in our top recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and pubs.
  • Absolutely get a good driving map. The rental car one freebie is dead useless.
  • If you're arriving at the Dublin airport, take the extra time to get your map and SIM card before leaving the airport. It's easy, efficient, and saves time later on.
  • Consider getting a Heritage Card and/or the Heritage Island Explorer Guide - they give discounted or free entry to loads of sites. The Heritage Cards were 21euros apiece. If the Heritage Card wasn't accepted, the Heritage Island Explorer Guide usually was. The 2nd one isn't a card at all, but rather a booklet costing 6euros and covering both of us.
  • If you're a scaredy-cat driver or doubt you can manage driving on the left side of the road, don't even try it. But, your own car is the absolute best way to see Ireland outside the tour bus route. Pay the extra money to reduce your deductible. The full coverage insurance (required) has a deductible of about 1400euros (which is over $2000!). We paid 55euros more for the week to reduce our deductible down to 100euros. Well worth the peace of mind.
  • Stay at B&Bs. Ireland's are phenomenal. The rooms are sometimes a bit like Grandma's house, but so are the breakfasts. And we all know how good Grandma's breakfasts are. B&B owners are a treasure of Ireland. Without fail, we got the best dinner recommendations, pub music recommendation, and driving route tips for the next leg of our journey (usually not the route we'd planned to take, either).
  • If you like to stand around a crowded bar, jostling elbows with the masses, just go out to any old pub and have a blast. If you want to relax and enjoy the traditional music, narrow in on your target bar (ask any and all locals for their fav) and stop in before dinner to find out what time the music will start. Then show up about an hour early, grab your first pint, and enjoy the company of your companion at your front row table (don't forget to check with the bar staff to find out where the musicians set up; otherwise, you could find yourself in their chairs, relegating you to the back of the crowded room when they show up to play).
  • Don't like beer? Order a cider. Ireland is home to delicious, Bulmer's Cider, on tap at every pub.
  • We visited in August, Ireland's busiest tourism month. And yet, we didn't feel crowded. Except at Cliffs of Moher (see that blog post). Frankly, if you've seen big cliffs before, the Cliffs of Moher are no different. If you cannot leave Ireland without seeing those Cliffs, here's a little tip we found as we left the required, 8euro parking lot and headed north: There is a side road a few kilometers north where you can park. Then there is a trail across the street and between two fences that leads straight to the ocean. Take that and then hang a left - looks like there was a trail along the water. By our best estimation (we didn't actually do it as we were sick of the Cliffs of Moher by then), this trail should head south and eventually join up with the official Cliffs of Moher. Get the views without the crowds. But this is at your own risk, since I doubt there's any sort of fence or railing to keep you from plunging over the side.
  • Visiting Dublin and it's raining? Head to the Archaeology Museum. It's free with fascinating exhibits and no crowds.
  • Most well done "site" in Dublin has to be the Guinness Storehouse. It's one of the most well done sites I've visited as far as crowd control, mixing in interactive exhibits, and just keeping your interest.
  • Just buy the Rick Steves book. And the newest one, too. Really, break down and do it. It doesn't matter that you hate following a guidebook. You don't have to use it for your hotels and food. But if you want to do something like drive the Ring of Kerry, his guides are the best on the market. Otherwise, you're just going to drive around the country and not know what the heck you're looking at. In fact, the book is worth it just for the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula drives by themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment