7 Important Travel Tips for Americans in Ireland

Since we moved to Ireland, five plus years ago we have welcomed many people to our self catering apartment in Kinsale. The ease (or not) of how they adjust to the differences they find has been a source of amusement, recalling as it does our own memories of discomfort when we first reinvented our lives. The following list of five things to consider is offered in the hopes that it will make your travel in Ireland, and stay at our apartment in Kinsale easier.

Water is not necessarily hot on demand – be sure to ask how it works wherever you stay, although hotels will be much as you would expect anywhere in the developed world. As an example in our apartment there is a booster switch at the top of the stairs which refills and boosts the tank, affording the rest of your party an equally hot bath or shower after you have finished with yours.

Electricity follows the model used by the United Kingdom, which makes sense of course since the Republic of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom until 1922.

Be aware of the on/off switches on the wall plates. If what you plugged in does not work it is likely because the switch is turned off on the wall. It is a good idea when you leave a place to turn these switches off again – especially those on the heating units.

Be sure to check the voltage before plugging in items from the United States. While electronics such as computers and phones, iPods and mp3 players will likely be fine and you’ll see a tag saying 110-240V. Anything not rated to 240 though will require small or large step down transformers, with some smaller versions being sold prior to your leaving the US.

Front door handles are levers rather than knobs. In order to lock a door with a lever rather than a round knob you must first lift up on it, this slides out the locking mechanism and allows the key to turn fully, locking the door. We had to leave our house open and ask the neighbors prior to figuring out this trick.

The Garda (police) are useful helpers. Assuming you have not criminal intent, you will find that the Gardai (plural of Garda which is Irish for police) are helpful to travelers. There is a Garda station just behind our self catering accommodation in Kinsale and once we were called upon to ask them to help us when someone had parked so close to our car in the car park that we could not get out. It took him a while as he pulled forward and back but eventually he had us on the road once again. Should you feel lost anytime during your stay in this country do not hesitate in asking for directions at a Garda station.

If the road curves, follow the lines down the middle. Where in other countries you may find that a road remains straight, in Ireland this is seldom the case. Therefore if directions are to stay on (for example) R600, you stay next to the white line down the middle of the road, no matter how it turns or how other roads come off of it in what may seem at the time to be a straighter path.

Don’t expect roadsigns to be accurate. Roads are signposted in Ireland and have developed over the years. Therefore some have distances in miles and others in kilometers. Also some may point to a longer route and the visitor may find (as in our road out to Old Head) that the first signpost will say 5km with the next one 7km. Also, you may see your destination once, only to have it miss the next three roadsigns to show up again later. Because travel in Ireland is largely done according to historic memory, rather than road markings, you may find that it is difficult to follow directions given by others. Be sure to ask the distance in time and place between the place markers and expect it to be a little longer than you thought and you should be fine. Many is the time we were just about to give up, sure that we had overshot our mark only to come across it.

These seven tips should put you on good standing as you travel in our adopted home. Please be sure to comment on our site to tell us of any that we should add to our second version of this post. Remember, your distress can be useful as it can help other travelers after you find their way with more ease.