Planning a Trip to Ireland: A Step by Step Guide

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Planning a trip to Ireland? You’re in luck – we have a step by step guide on how to do that!

While planning a trip to Ireland, many of our readers have sent us a message asking about the next steps or what they should do.

That’s why we thought we could better organize all of this information into an article that answers all of your questions.

So we came up with this travel checklist to Ireland covering all essential aspects and what you need to keep in mind when vacationing to the Emerald Isle.

Besides the things you should do while planning your trip, we also have a few tips on what to avoid doing – very important!

Cliffs of Moher near Doolin Ireland
The majestic Cliffs of Moher

Planning a trip to Ireland

We have been to the Emerald Isle many times at this point, and we have made several mistakes along the way.

*Unfortunately*, this has given us first-hand knowledge on how to plan a trip to Ireland and what you should avoid doing.

Whether you’re traveling to the laid-back Galway to the rugged north of Donegal or to the buzzing Dublin, these tips apply to everyone planning a trip to Ireland!

Not enough time to read this guide in one sitting? Pin it for later!

Vacationing to Ireland

Here are 12 steps to plan the perfect trip to Ireland!

Step 1: Before planning your trip to Ireland, check if you need a visa

Well, you can’t travel to Ireland without a visa, can you?

Obviously, many people don’t need a visa for the Emerald Isle. Still, it’s better to be on the safe side. Therefore, before planning your trip to Ireland, do check if you need a visa.

Note that Ireland is not a member of the Schengen area. That means there is no free movement between other European countries and Ireland. The customs officers will check your documents, so be sure to have them right.

We’ll list below the countries that do not need a visa to enter Ireland. Mind you, this list might change without prior notice.

Although we continually update this Ireland blog, do check an official website before planning your own trip to Ireland.

A-C

Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic.

D-K

Denmark, Dominica, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong (Special Admin. Region), Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati.

Sheep in Ireland
How to plan your trip to Ireland (and see some cute sheep on the road)

L-P

Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau (Special Admin. Region), Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal.

R-S

Romania, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland.

T-V

Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom & Colonies, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Vatican City.

Step 2: Plan your Ireland itinerary

Planning your Ireland itinerary in advance is better than traveling without a set route for several reasons.

First, because you will have a better idea of how many days to spend in each city and town.

For instance, many tourists spend one day in Dublin or even two days in the Irish capital before going on a road trip through the country.

We went on a 7-day Ireland road trip passing by Doolin and Galway, and we loved every minute!

Harbor at Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Second, because you can save some money by booking accommodation and tours in advance, but more on that later.

Finally, because you can also save your precious time in the country. Instead of searching for all activities and things to do in Ireland, you can do most of the research at home.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should plan your trip to the minute. Let some free time for sightseeing and doing things as you go.

Step 3: Book your flight tickets

You’ve planned your itinerary. Now, it’s time to book your tickets!

Unless you’re already traveling around Northern Ireland, chances are you will fly to Ireland.

While many people find it overwhelming to search for flights online, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

We always follow some easy steps to ensure we snag the best deals possible, and we want to share them with you.

First, we search for flights on Google Flights using different filters, such as one-way or return tickets.

Sometimes it’s well worth it to buy each leg of the trip separately, or even buy the return ticket departing from another airport, less touristy. That’s also cheaper.

Then, once we find the tickets for our trip, we buy directly on the airline website.


Universal travel adapter

One of the most essential travel items you can buy is a universal travel adapter that works anywhere! It’s a small investment for great benefits! The adapter we feature is lightweight, compact, and reliable – Always bring it with you!


Step 4: Plan tours and activities before going to Ireland

You’ve planned your itinerary and booked your tickets. Now, let’s look into some tours to get to know Ireland better!

Booking your tours ahead of time will save time and money. That’s a fact!

For the most popular tours, such as the Cliffs of Moher, tickets might be sold out, especially if you’re planning a trip to Ireland in high-season.

The very first time Bruna went to Ireland was in the winter. Still, her bus to the Cliffs of Moher was completely full! Can you imagine how it would be in the summer?

What we are trying to say is you’re better off not relying on luck.

When booking tours, we prefer to look for good deals on GetYourGuide and Viator because they are both reliable companies. We trust them!

Oh, and if you would like to broaden your options further than the Cliffs of Moher, you might want to read our guide on the best day tours from Dublin.

These are some of the best tours in Ireland:

What to do in Doolin Ireland: spot cute cottages
Cute cottage house in Doolin, near the Cliffs of Moher

Step 5: Budget your trip to Ireland

After you’ve booked your tickets and tours, it’s time to budget your trip to Ireland.

It’s not a secret that Ireland is an expensive country. Still, you can considerably cut back on your expenses if you spend fewer days in popular cities, such as Dublin.

We are currently working on a guide explaining how much a trip to Ireland costs for different budgets. Once it’s done, we will link to it from here.

In the meantime, we will give you a rough budget idea below.

If you want to backpack Ireland, go for shared dorms and be prepared to cook for yourself. You can expect to spend around $60-80/day.

You can have considerably more comfort while traveling in Ireland by spending a little more.

If you want to eat out, enjoy some typical Irish dishes, sip traditional Irish drinks, go on a couple of tours or day trips, and stay in a private room, you’ll spend somewhere between $100-120/day.

Now, if you have a little more budget to fully enjoy Ireland’s high-end restaurants, go on multi-day guided tours, visit some towns, and stay in nicer hotels, know that you’ll need at least $200/day.

The sky’s the limit here. Your vacation in Ireland can be as expensive as your banking account allows.

Old Trinity Library in Dublin
Famous Old Trinity Library in Dublin!

Step 6: Book your accommodations

Once you’ve sorted out what you want to spend per night on accommodation, it’s time to book your stay!

For starters, we always browse Booking.com for the best deals. We really enjoy using this platform because it is reliable, and it has a straightforward canceling policy.

Here at the blog, we have a few accommodation guides for Irish cities.

These guides have not only information about the central neighborhoods in each city, but also the average budget and activities in the accommodation’s surroundings.

For instance, we have a guide on where to stay in Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Killarney.

Still, if you want to splurge a little and receive royal treatment, you will want to stay in one of these magical castle hotels in Ireland – some are pretty affordable!

We hope you find these guides useful!

Lough Eske Castle
Fancy staying in a castle hotel in Ireland?

Step 7: Book your rental car

It’s essential to rent a car for vacationing in Ireland.

After all, the countryside covered in undulating lush landscapes is something you can’t afford to miss!

However, if you’re starting your Ireland trip in Dublin, book your rental car only for the day you’re leaving the city. There is no need to drive in Dublin!

Still, having a car will give you much more flexibility when traveling in Ireland, especially if you’re planning a family trip to Ireland.

We always browse RentalCars to find companies with competitive prices. For our first Ireland road trip, for example, we found out Europcar had the best fares at the time through RentalCars.

Moreover, we recommend RentalCars because it is a reliable and easy to use platform.

Here are some tips for renting a car/driving in Ireland:

  • Irish roads are notoriously narrow, so you will want to rent a small car.
  • Do read the fine print of your rental contract carefully. You will also want to check if you need an IDP, International Driving Permit, (some companies require it) and whether there are any license restrictions you need to be aware of.
  • The speed signs, as well as the speedometer, are all in KPH.
  • The Irish drive on the left side on the road.
Mountain Pass at Gap of Dunloe
Gap of Dunloe: narrow roads + breathtaking views

Step 8: Purchase travel insurance

No matter where you’re traveling to, you always need travel insurance.

There is nothing more important than this insurance. Seriously!

Many things that are out of our hands can go wrong before, during, and when returning from your vacation.

Besides, most activities in Ireland are either in touristy cities or outdoors, meaning you can fall victim to theft or have an accident.

With travel insurance, you can recover any expenses resulting from these situations and finish your vacation hassle-free.

We use and are very satisfied with Safety Wing. This has been our insurance for years in a row, and we’ve never had any problems when making claims.

We’re happy to recommend them to our friends and family.

Click here to get a quote.

While planning your trip to Ireland, be sure to add the Cliffs of Moher to your Ireland itinerary
While planning your trip to Ireland, be sure to add the Cliffs of Moher to your itinerary

Step 9: Pack some essentials for your Ireland vacation

The Emerald Isle is an incredible place to visit. Still, there is one aspect of this fascinating land that might need some extra attention – the weather.

The weather in Ireland is unpredictable.

For that reason, you will want to add a few essential items to your Ireland packing list. Click to see our complete packing list for all seasons!

For instance, a waterproof/windbreaker jacket (for him) is a must to keep you dry. Some people prefer a travel umbrella, but that’s personal.

Anyway, it rains a lot in Ireland!

That’s especially true if you’re planning to visit the coast, which also happens to be very windy.

And because of that, you might want to pack a wool sweater (for him) to keep your body temperature from dropping.

Oh, and waterproof shoes (for him)! These are a no-brainer. If you don’t want to get wet, you certainly will need it. Oh, that horrible feeling of having wet socks…

Hiking in Doolin Ireland
Planning on going hiking in Ireland

In the same line, you will also want to pack a waterproof phone case. This universal pocket is perfect for traveling to Ireland, the beach, and beyond!

All without worrying whether you’ll ruin your phone or not. We can’t recommend it enough!

Another item we were glad we purchased for our Ireland trip was a reusable water bottle.

It was convenient not only in the city but also while hiking in the countryside.

That saved us some money and avoided us producing so much waste with plastic bottles. Win-win.

Step 10: Learn a few essential words and phrases in Irish

Although people in Ireland also speak English, Irish is their official language.

Therefore, you will find many signs in Irish throughout the island, and it might be handy to learn some sentences while planning a trip to Ireland.

We always study a little of the language of where we are going so that we can communicate with locals.

Often, people are more open and willing to help when you show them you at least tried to learn a little more about their culture.

Besides, it is a fun thing to do!

Basic phrases in Irish:

  • Hello – Dia duit
  • Please – Le do thoil
  • Thank you – Go raibh maith agat
  • Excuse me – Gabh mo leithscéal
  • I’m sorry – Tá brón orm
  • Cheers – Sláinte
  • Open – Oscailte
  • Closed – Dúnta
  • Yes/no – tá/níl
The Newgrange tomb in Boyne Valley is a short day trip from Dublin, Ireland
The Newgrange tomb in Boyne Valley is a short day trip from Dublin, Ireland

Step 11: Prepare your arrival

You’re almost done with planning your trip to Ireland!

We know you’re excited to travel, but two last steps demand your attention.

First, transportation from the airport to your hotel.

Most tourists find it overwhelming to look for transportation abroad because the local websites are hardly ever user-friendly.

We totally get that!

Also, taxis are either untrustworthy in many countries (taxi scams, anyone?), or are far too expensive. Other times private shuttles will charge excessive amounts. These are just a few examples.

Anyway, considering you’re arriving in Dublin, where Ireland’s biggest airport is, we recommend you take the Airlink shuttle to the city center.

While you can always get a taxi from the airport, this shuttle bus is very affordable and rides in front or near most hotels in town.

For a thorough explanation, check out the detailed guide we wrote on how to get from the airport to Dublin city. We also talk about other options in this guide.

Second and finally, keep a list of addresses and phone numbers of your accommodations in Ireland.

Blue double decker, Airlink, bus at Dublin Airport
Airlink Express 747

Step 12: Enjoy your vacation in Ireland!

Last but definitely not least! Enjoy your trip to the Emerald Isle!

Not that you need us to tell you this, but still…

You have done an excellent job of planning your trip to Ireland. Still, don’t stress out too much if things don’t go as planned.

Just be sure to have travel insurance to protect you from unexpected situations.

Also, do buy some souvenirs to take back home, learn some Irish facts and tales over a pint of Guinness, and try to enjoy the country.

We are absolutely crazy about Ireland. We’ve had such incredible moments in the country, and every time we go, we find more reasons to fall in love with it.

We hope you do too!

Some tips while planning an Ireland trip

  • Give your bank a notice about your upcoming trip so that you can withdraw money at ATMs if necessary.
  • Take copies of your documents, including your passport.
  • Save the travel insurance number and policy number on your phone and on a piece of paper.
  • Save the local emergency number on your phone: 112 and 999.

What to avoid when planning a trip to Ireland

  • Avoid doing too much in one day or trying to visit many places on a trip.
  • While Dublin is a fantastic city, avoid spending too much time on it. Instead, go visit other cities and towns in Ireland.
  • Most tourists never leave the city center, especially in Dublin. By doing that, they miss out on a lot of the fun and local vibes. Wander through the city!
  • Although we said the Irish roads are notoriously narrow, don’t be afraid to drive in Ireland. It is perfectly safe. You just need to be a little more attentive.
  • Avoid only traveling to Ireland in the summer. Many tourists wait till summer to travel to Europe. Still, if you travel to Ireland in the off-season, you save money and avoid jam-packed attractions.

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