Over the past year or so, the Irish police have been cracking down heavily on drinking and driving. The legal limit for blood alcohol level is pretty low as well. If you have any more than one or two drinks, you should probably find a taxi or a designated driver.
This can be difficult in the country where taxis are scarce, which is why many of the country pubs are closing. People have no alternative for getting home, and just stay home instead, rather than risk loosing their license...but this a rant for another tip.
Please don't go to Northern Ireland AROUND JULY 12th - for more details about the parades for july 12th see my pages of Londonderry and Belfast !
Go there ANY OTHER DATE OF THE YEAR ,for the great landscapes, for Giant's causeway and for the big majority of the population, who voted for peace some years ago !
Local people will know about the specific dangers, BUT tourists will not : there are places of "historic importance" for some people and you might get into a demonstration or protest-march on a major highway and then you are stuck there and a single wrong word to the wrong person...
I had such a situation, when after a nap on a parking, suddenly the highway to Belfast was completely empty, only police-cars standing on the side, BUT they did not warn me at all, that I was about to drive towards trouble at the next street-crossing....
I was aware of the date, but had no idea where Dumcree would be, it is too small to be mentioned in a map, BUT in the memories of some weird people it is an important place of history and still has to be defended...
Northern Ireland with the Giant causeway and many other attractions is not very far from County Donegal and hopping over the border may be done easily and without any controls !!
I booked a car at Europcar in town.
They give you a full tank, but they required from me to return the car with the tank empty and they charge you for the price of the full tank.
If you don't use all the fuel (which is impossible), they charge you anyway as if you did.
I was very surprised since all the other agencies always required to return with the full tank and if you don't, then they charge you.
Since I needed the car, only for some 100 km, I wanted to give up when I heard that, but I couldn't because they would have charged me for the rental anyway.
Then I figured out that they didn't have a car which I booked. OK, they wanted to give me a bigger one, but it was automatic and I booked manual. Then they accepted to cancle the booking.
I found the car through http://www.argus-rentacar.com/.
Be careful when renting.
We were strictly warned against walking out onto the road to take pictures of the mountains (photo 3). Not only was the traffic zipping by very fast, but for most of us it was on the other side of the road than we were used to.
If you are a dark colored, not necessarily black, be careful. Most foreigners in this country are racist people, I'm not talking about Irish, but foreigners. I hear everyday "Where are you from, go back to your country" by all kinds of foreigners from Europe. The normal human behavior is a its lowest in this country. And if you reply to them, they may stabbed you or be more aggressive. I live this everyday. So be very careful with these people.
Dublin is a large city. Very beautuful and full of history. If you must go do a guided tour so you can get all of the history. We were on a guided Pub tour and a fight broke out near us. Rocks whizzed by our heads. It is because of all the pubs near and people had too much to drink.
We got out of there and headed back to the country.
We saw the BOOK of KELLS. It was a beautiful thing to behold but would I go again, NO WAY.
But I like the off the beaten trails and getting to know the locals and local lifestyles. THat is why travel intrigues me so much.
When traveling the rural (and not so rural) roadways of Ireland, you'll come across many directional signs mounted on a round pole. Sometimes there's just one or 2 directional arrows, at other times they can have 1/2 dozen or more.
The main problem being, that this mounting arrangement makes it quite easy to rotate the directional arrow around the pole - it's up to the passing motorist on whether or not to actually trust this signage.
During 5 days of driving, we came across several instances where these signs were not pointing in the correct direction.
We came around a corner one morning and met up with two cows heading down the road toward us. Luckily, there was just enough room to pull over and let the cows by. We also had a few encounters with indecisive sheep. My advice - if you see sheep along the side of the road, slow down because sometimes they dart into the road. Fortunately, we didn't hit any.
Car hire companies have a bad reputation in Ireland for adding on some pretty spurious charges.
Things have improved in recent years, and you can normally get an 'all in' price at the time of booking - the internet has seen to that.
One are of difficulty that still remains is picking up a car at one location and dropping it at another. If the car hire company uses an agent then a 're-location' fee is often payable. I recently had to stump uf a whole 75 quid for that recently. Disgusting.
On the other hand the company I used (Dan Dooley) still came in cheaper than the big boys by quite a long way. This was because I picked up the car North of the border (in Northern Ireland) and dropped it off in the republic. The 'big boys' computer systems seem incapble of dealing with that, and given it is 'cross-border' rent will ask an astronomical price for such an arrangement.
So much for European Intergration.
A lot of visitors make comments about the inappropriateness of Irish speed limits. Remember that speed limits in Ireland are determined by how urbanized or how built up the area is, not by the conditions of the road. Through all towns and villages, even if they only consist of a church, pub and a post office, you will be reminded to slow to slow down to 50 or 60kph. Once you leave the speed limit suddenly increases to 80 or 100kph. The same occurs on poor, twisty, or badly surfaced back roads, on which it is virtually impossible to hit 100kph on some. The speed limit only decreases if you approach a really drastic or dangerous bend, or at a location that has been recognised by the authorities as being dangerous, i.e. someone has died there in an accident and a petition has been drawn up endorse this! Use common sense. Ignore the speed limits on these roads and drive carefully at a lower speed. Sharp bends, hidden dips and blind spots will be marked on most R roads (but not on unnamed ribbon roads)! The speed limits are not always a guideline as to what speed you should travel at as Irish road conditions are so varied!
If you driving cautiously on any of these roads and a local comes flying up behind you like a bat outta hell, they will know that you are a visitor so don’t panic! To avoid stress, you might want to pull over and let them overtake. On single lane N roads with one wide lane (standard in Ireland), use the hard shoulder if you see someone overtaking – you will probably be traveling at the speed limit! Don’t continue to position yourself in the middle of the road with oncoming traffic, not unless you want to be offended by non-threatening finger gestures and head shaking!
Be aware of the above hostel on the main Aran Island, Inis Mor. This hostel (Mainistir House) has received a lot of seriously bad reports from customers over the last year in particular. I had booked a room in this hostel in September 2006 and upon arrival, the host was nowhere to be seen. After waiting for half an hour I decided I would venture into the communal area to see if anyone was around. At this point, the proprietor appeared and verbally abused me for straying into the communal area of his hostel, even though I had made a reservation. He then told me to leave, refused to show me my room, was ABUSIVE and THREATENING, and didn't even return my full deposit after ignoring me for 20 minutes deliberately! Furthermore, the place is literally falling apart, the food is supposedly poor quality, the host has received numerous complaints about his hospitality and customer service, and facilities are virtually non-existant! DO NOT STAY HERE - DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! I reported this incident to both the local and main Galway tourist office but as it turned it, the hostel is independent! The tourist seemed to be aware of something "odd" going on with this hostel and its owner, who is not an Irish citizen. Stay in a B&B or in the main Kilronan hostel instead!
Irish culture is very similar to Britain's. Unfortunately it doesn't share an inclination towards good manners. Some of my pet hates:
-shop assistants making me feel bad I'm stopping them from chatting with their colleagues/messing with their mobile phone, or otherwise irritating them by actually wanting to buy something. It's not my fault you have a crappy job, but a thank you would be nice too.
-queue jumpers everywhere
-drivers. Nobody, and I mean, nobody has ever given me so much as a little wave of the finger when I let them go first at a narrow street, even if I have right of way. So I don't do it any more. And at roundabouts hardly anybody indicates. Guess my telepathy skills need some work.
This happened to us on our first day in Dublin: we were really adventurous and had decided to taste as many different beers as possible on our vacation. So we started with - of course - Guinness, but later wanted to try something else. We had a look at the names on the taps and read an interesting name: Bulmer's. So we decided to have that for a change.
What a shock!!! Bulmer's is not a beer, but a cider! A real good cider, too, but when you drink your first sip and expect a beer and instead you taste something "applely"...... So just be warned and try it anyway!
I found the Irish to be very friendly and helpful and I do not want to say anything bad about them. Just this gentle warning that sometimes they tend to get a little too enthusiastic about things and might give you some ideas that are not really true.
Let me give you an example: we were in Dublin and wanted to go up this one tower to have a nice view of the city. Well, our landlord at the B&B highly recommended that chimney and told us that we would only have to pay one Euro and that was it. Fact was that we had to pay 5€ per person.... That same afternoon we went to see the U21 Hurling final. Steve, our tourguide from the little Ireland tour had told us that it would only cost 6-7 € each and if we told the people in the ticket office that we were Germans they would most likely even let us in for free. Fact was that we had to buy regular tickets at 20 € each.....
So if you get "information" like that, just add 400% and you will be fine. And really, they only mean well, but I guess the leprechauns made them say that.....
Ireland has one of the worst traffic accident records in Europe. This (of course) has nothing to do with the appauling state of the secondary roads, the numbers of untaxed and uninsured drivers or the fact that some Learner drivers are allowed out by themselves.
Each county has a board as you enter it how many fatalities there have been in the county during the last four years - it makes for gruesome reading.
In order to counter these dangers many Irish people insist on placing a bottle of Lourdes (or Knock) water in the glovebox compartment.
I don't know if this really works, but the at least if you buy the five-litre version (thanks to www.Catholicdiscount.com for the picture) you can also use if to fill your radiator in an emergency.
More Regions in Ireland