7 Things You Should Know about Ireland

This article is written primarily for the North American visitor to these shores. It may be of some use to others but addresses specifically those things that I think in my infinite wisdom would be useful for the average American or Canadian visitor to Ireland. These are just a few things you should know before embarking on a vacation here. 

1. No Free Refills

This is an important one. A couple of friends of mine from Michigan paid a ridiculous amount for a meal in a Dublin restaurant because they didn't know this particular fact. Apart from some American chain restaurants such as Pizza Hut, the concept of free refills for soft drinks is an alien one here. Soft drinks in standard restaurants are treated as liquid gold. You will pay more than you would pay at home for way less pop. In McDonalds/Burger King et al you can get the large soft drinks.

2. Ask for Ice.

Ice is used more sparingly here than in North American beverages. Remember, it is not unreasonable to ask for more ice if you want it though.

3. Where The Streets Have New Names.

In Dublin and other Irish cities and towns, streets are laid out in a different manner to most North American cities. There are no neat grid patterned streets in Irish cities and also an Irish street is usually more akin to what would be called a block over there. That is, by and large the street name changes from one corner to another, or the street name only lasts a couple of blocks before changing. This can be confusing if you are not used to it but has the advantage that once you've found a street on the map then you know where to go, it doesn't stretch for miles across the city the way a typical north American thoroughfare might.

4. Driving is different.

First off, we drive on the left. Irish people also drive closer together than you'd be used to. Irish cars are generally smaller too than North American autos. As a legacy of the Celtic Tiger years Ireland has a fairly decent intercity highway network but once you get off the main highways you will often encounter narrow and winding roads unlike most anything you will encounter at home. Be extra careful on these roads and it is not a good idea to drive them by night.

5. Bring a raincoat, an umbrella and a wetsuit.

It rains a lot in Ireland, it's fairly famous for this. Be prepared for rain even if the sun is splitting the stones in the morning. It rains more so on the west coast than on the east coast but it can and does rain at any time of the year or the day so I say again, be prepared!

6. The Price Is Right

Although prices here are steeper than most North Americans will have encountered you can at least find solace in the fact that everything with only a couple of exceptions is sold at its actual marked price. There are no sales taxes etc. added on after the fact. Tipping is also not as ingrained in Irish culture as in North American. It is courteous to leave a tip in a restaurant but it is not required and there is no set minimum. Leaving a very small amount would be ridiculous but the percentages that are handed out in tips in the US, while they would be welcomed are not expected.

7. The Price Is Wrong

Eating out in Ireland, although becoming a bit less expensive, is still a much more expensive proposition than in most of North America. Hotel rooms and many other things a tourist needs are also more expensive than at home. However since the downturn started many places have been offering decent special offers so it is worth shopping around online for deals. Offpeak and midweek deals on hotels and the like can approach reasonable.


Thanks for this, Aggie!

I would recommend that anyone planing to do any driving in Ireland get a GOOD atlas and have one person follow the atlas and "direct" while another person drives. Cities in particular can be tough for an American to find their way around in by car (this has been my experience, anyway). are common, and as AG says the road names sometimes change every block or so which can be incredibly confusing to the unprepared.

Indeed, thanks for this. Excellent tips in this article.

Er, in my prior post I meant to say Roundabouts are common. I know we have them in some places in the United States but they were totally new to this Midwesterner.

What's the score on tipping over there, AG?

Myrnie, if I pay say €12 for my meal I'll typically leave €1 or €2 on the table when leaving. Sometimes, when it isn't clear who will find the tip and you've got good service from a member of staff you'll hand the tip directly to them. If say the bill came to €50 we might leave €5, maybe a bit less, maybe more if the service were excellent, but it just isn't codified the way it is in the US. I don't think it is unusual for people to just not tip at all, there is minimum wage in this country after all.