Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Hello Fellow Voyagers!
So, before you click through this post - please see the bold points also discussed in addition to my gushing over Ireland and its people. If you just want to skim to the "important details" I'll tryyyy to understand. BUT -
If you 're currently planning a trip to Ireland - read the full post! I am so excited for what lies ahead for you! Ireland is a dream.
So, I did a TON of research beforehand and although I wasn't exactly set on the country (there are a multitude of other cities I want to see, like Rome, Paris, or Athens) but something kept pulling at my heart for Ireland. I read 100 blog articles about Ireland and I was knee deep in info, opinions and other options. Truthfully - I have not heard a single bad experience come out the mouth of either first time travelers, experienced travelers, honey-mooners, residents and/or solo travelers about Ireland! When you hear that the nicest people are the Irish, it's so true! The people of Ireland are truly the salt of the Earth. As one of the sales girls at Avoca said to me "Oh yes! We are a happy little bunch."
Honestly, I was that stereotypical American girl who has never left the U.S and who generally has a bias opinion of America in comparison to other countries. You could say that I am "stuck in my culture" and sorta expecting Ireland to be somewhat "normal" and familiar. Yeah no. SO, please feel my stress level for one second. I landed in Dublin, picked up my rental and hit the road. Got on the road - couldn't get my phone to work - had no Euro - paying tolls with my visa without knowing the true cost of using your card overseas or where I am going - got into the city - everyone honking at me - anddddd let the breakdown commence. Also, my Gold Skymiles AMEX card, that I specifically got for traveling that automatically converts money at no fee doesn't work hardly anywhere.
Fast forward to day 2.
Literally everyone asks you if you're on holiday! It's so cute that you start using the word in replace of the word vacation. You ask for assistance, you get a cheerful face who helps you out and doesn't walk away without wishing you a lovely day. Folks guess that you're from New York or Boston and you shamelessly tell them New York of course! I honestly felt like I was picking up an Irish accent - you almost cannot help yourself, it's such an attractive accent. In the morning, afternoon and evening you can bet to see 10's of people at a time on their bikes, walking their commutes or doggies - or groups of kids dashing across the street to make it to school on time. There is an ongoing theme here - everyone is happy. Genuinely happy. Happy to help, happy to be alive, happy to be walking their dogs at 5am. It's a slower pace than the states. Windmills replace tall buildings and they are quite beautiful. No bill boards or corporate logos every where you look. Rolling hills filled with sheep. Terrible coffee and mom and pop shops everywhere. Clean roadways and minimal pollution.
Ireland makes it easy to stop, take in a deep breath of fresh air and be happy in this moment.
Major topics of discussion in this post:Intro to Irish History1. Car Rental Info (very important)2. Cell Phone Use3. Driving On The opposite Side4. £ Pounds and € Euro5. Electric Converter
A Little Irish History:
Fun Fact: Ireland is the only country in the world to have a musical instrument (the harp) as their national emblem. Ireland has a real love for music - something that I want to learn more about.
Ireland has an amazingly rich Celtic heritage - and the tribes picked up on Christianity after the arrival of St. Patrick in AD 432. (St. Patricks day sound familiar to you?) you can thank that guy! Isolation of the land has provided some protection from some of the major European events such as the invasion of Romans - much to the effort of High Kings, myths and legends.
During the 9th century: Ireland received waves of Viking invasions with failure to gain control over the island. The Anglo-Normans conquered the country in 1169, and Ireland experienced a back and forth English rule with Catholicism taking over.
The bleakest period in Irish history is perhaps The Great Famine of 1845 -1848, which caused total destruction of the potato farms. Millions of people perished from hunger and disease with even more fleeing to North America in what was known as "coffin ships." 1.5 million people died, 2 million emigrated and many who stayed were evicted by English landlords. The Irish campaigned for Home Rule and independence from Britain. It took until 1920 before the Government of Ireland Act divided the state. Civil wars broke out between the two pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty factions in the South. The South became the Irish Free State gaining full independence in 1937 - while the North became part of the UK. Hence - Northern Ireland. Only in 1998 was the Good Friday Agreement signed that paved the way for a new Northern Ireland Assembly and hopes of peace.
1. Car Rentals:
THIS IS IMPORTANT: renting a car in Ireland isn't like any place on this green Earth. You MUST get both of the insurances that they offer. If you do not - they will put up to a $5,000 hold on your card. Yes, you read that correct $5,000! If you opt for only one of the insurances, they will put a $2,000 hold on your card. With both insurances (which is a good idea to do regardless because of the driving there) you will get a normal $200 hold on your card. I am a gold member with Hertz and for a 5 day rental it cost me a little over $200 for our little automatic toy car. Also, specify with your rental company if you want an automatic - everyone drives manual. In addition, if you're traveling with more than 2 people, keep in mind these little matchbox cars (as I like to call them) do not have trunk space so all you have is the very tiny back seat to put your luggage into. We had 2 large checked bags and two carry ons each and that just made it in the back seat.
So I use AT&T and did everything I was suppose to do before the big day. I let my phone company know that I will be leaving the country, they installed the international phone plan onto my phone for $10 a day - great value - and when I landed in Dublin, I received a text from my provider about being able to use my phone. Easy! Uhhh, yeah no. I couldn't get my phone to work while driving aimlessly in the heart of Dublin. I had to call my boyfriend who was currently in Mexico 8 hours behind me for business. Thank God he answered, apparently you have to change the settings on your phone for international roaming. I had no idea and it cost me an emotional breakdown. So yeah, highly recommend getting that sorted before getting into the car, driving on the opposite side of the road - not knowing where you are going with nowhere to pull over.
3. Driving On The Opposite Side:
The driving is INSANE for many reasons. The streets are incredibly narrow with huge curbs. Your judgement is off because your driving on the opposite side of the road with the drivers seat on the opposite side of the car. You can prepare to ride the curb several times before getting the hang of it - it took me 2 days to finally feel adjusted. When you want to make a right hand turn in the city - don't have a panic attack - you can always follow the car in front of you when in doubt. You'll see. Also, as narrow as the streets are, people WILL still park off to the side of the streets, leaving minimal, MINIMAL space for either side of traffic to pass through. You have move quick too because nobody will let you in to make your move. My mother who drove me home after a few pints, turned down the wrong street on our way home *following my direction - hit a dead end - and we had to literally BACK up with cars on both sides of the street parked illegally, narrow as hell and of course we hit a car doing this *very minor damage thank God. The round-about is probably the most nerve racking thing, if your not paying attention to the signs it's like BOOM, suddenly you're in a round-about! The round-about goes clockwise, not counter clock like here in the states. Don't let that deter you from driving in the country - once you get use to it you'll be a pro. If I can do it, you can too! Trust me!
4. £ Pounds and € Euros:
If you read the Irish History section in this post you will understand why there are 2 different currencies in Ireland! Read up on it! Also, I highly recommend downloading a currency converter app before your adventures so you can see what you're really spending as you happily swipe your card and exchange money. The American dollar as you will find out, is worthless over there. Also, it was with my experience that it is better to use your Visa (accepted everywhere) and get hit with a small fee than it is to continuously get money from the ATM. I found out later it cost me $5 each time to take out money at an ATM in addition to losing money in the currency exchange. Keep in mind Ireland uses the Euro and Belfast (Northern Ireland) uses Pounds as their form of currency. Both of which are more expensive than the dollar.
5. Global Converter:
Do yourself a huge favor and get a global energy converter that is good for several different countries. You can find it at Brookstone for about $40. I would also recommend purchasing a power strip so you can charge multiple devices at once with only 1 energy converter. *Smart!