Getting from the airport
Following advice from the guidebook, we took the 747 Airlink bus from Dublin airport into the city centre. It’s a bit pricey, at €6 one way, but the €10 return ticket is valid for over 12 months. It’s probably the best compromise between price, speed and comfort, as it uses the Dublin Tunnel to get into the city centre quickly. There are more expensive, but probably more comfortable coaches operated by First, as well as some slower but cheaper buses. A taxi will set you back at least €20 each way for up to four people, although if there are four of you that means it’s the same return price as the Airlink so may be worth bearing in mind. The airport isn’t connected to the local rail or tram networks, sadly.
Open top tour buses
There are two open top tour bus companies operating in Dublin – one operated by Dublin Bus (the municipal operator) and another is a CitySightseeing franchise. The latter is cheaper overall, as its €22 ticket is valid for two days, whereas the €19 ticket offered by Dublin Bus is for a single day. Both offer small discounts for some of the attractions.
Whilst they are a good way to see lots of attractions from the outside, be aware that most of the buses have an open top deck and it rains a lot in Ireland. And there are cheaper ways to get around the city, using regular buses or the trams. We therefore didn’t bother with the tour buses.
If you’re going to do a lot of attractions whilst visiting Dublin, then the Dublin Pass may be worth considering. Once you’ve bought the pass, you get free entry to all of the participating attractions for the duration of the card. However, personally I feel it’s a bit of a rip-off as you’ll need to visit at least three attractions in a day for it to worth the €39 cost. For some places, this may mean cutting visits short. We didn’t bother with the pass.
The Luas tram system
The aforementioned tram service is a quick and relatively cheap way of getting around the city – particularly to places like Dublin Zoo and Kilmainham Gaol which are some way out of the city (although you will still have quite a walk once you get off the tram in both cases). The trams are very frequent – as often as every three minutes – and the system only opened in 2004 so it’s modern and comfortable. There are two lines – the Red Line goes east-west to the north of the river, and the Green Line goes north-south to the south of the river. However, presently the two lines do not meet and so the north of the city isn’t served yet – a cross-city line is presently under construction.
Ireland has three of the same mobile networks as the United Kingdom – O2, Three and Vodafone. There’s no EE but their fourth network is called Meteor, owned by the Irish national phone company Eircom. If, like me, you use Three then you’ll be pleased to know that Ireland is a ‘Feel at Home’ country, so you can use your inclusive minutes, texts and data allowance as you would in Britain at no extra cost. Vodafone charged £2 a day for internet roaming, by comparison.
I had a 3G signal everywhere in Dublin – in fact, it was better than some parts of Leeds or London – but no 4G on Three as yet, it seems.
It seemed like just about everywhere offered free wifi (or at least a wifi service that was free for a short time). This included our hotel, most cafés and restaurants, and most of the tourist attractions too. It was certainly more prevalent than what I’m used to in Britain.
My theory is to do with Ireland’s mobile phone networks. They all use GSM and UMTS, like in Britain and most of Europe. But Verizon and Sprint in the USA don’t use GSM or UMTS and so phones on these networks won’t work in Ireland. Ireland receives a lot of tourism from America, hence the need to provide Wifi (AT&T phones should work fine, and T-Mobile phones may work).
In any case, Christine, who is on Vodafone in the UK, decided not to pay the £2 a day for internet, and just use the free wifi hotspots. And rely on me.
It rains a lot in Ireland. We Brits may think we get a lot of rain, but Ireland gets even more. Make sure that you pack a waterproof jacket, and/or an umbrella to take with you. Many shops in Dublin also sold plastic ponchos for days when it gets really bad.
Security and crime
Crime levels in Dublin are, apparently, similar to any other large city. Sadly, Christine almost got pickpocketed by someone on O’Connoll Street, not far from our hotel. A young bloke sneaked up behind her and tried to open her handbag; thankfully, she felt the tug and very quickly had the miscreant pinned up against some railings and on the receiving end of a large amount of angry shouting. He didn’t manage to take anything but he did run off very quickly afterwards. After that, we put our passports, which had been in her handbag, into the hotel safe, just in case.
We also noticed that there were a lot of rough sleepers and beggars in the city, especially in the area around Trinity College.
Language and signage
The official language of Ireland is Irish Gaelic, with English as the second language. This means that on most signs, you’ll see both languages, with the Gaelic text in italics and the English text in capitals. That being said, in our experience I don’t think anyone used Gaelic conversationally and so you’re highly unlikely to find anyone who doesn’t speak English.
Road signs are somewhat different to British and Europeans ones, and they more closely resemble American designs. However, the font is the same.
Dublin has a reputation of being an expensive city and this was partly true in our experience. In other words, there are many ways that you can spend lots of money unnecessarily, as I’ve mentioned above. Drinks in particular were often on the pricey side, with a pint of beer coming in at around €5 – £4, or almost double what I’d expect to pay in my local pubs here in Yorkshire. But there were cheaper places – for lunch, I can recommend KC Peaches on Nassau Street, opposite Trinity College, where you can fill a plate from a buffet and get a drink for less than €10.
Familiar brands like Subway are everywhere in Dublin, with many Londis franchises having a Subway concession inside, but they are slightly more expensive than Britain. The £3 Subway and drink deal is €4 for example. Also remember that shops in Ireland have to charge you extra for plastic carrier bags – 22¢ I think.
One potential way to save money is to book tickets for attractions in advance online. We didn’t do this because our British debit and credit cards charge extra for non-Sterling transactions, so any potential savings would be wiped out. But if you have an overseas spending credit card then you may be able to save 10-15% off entry for attractions this way.