What to Know Before You Go to Ireland

by Patrick Whitehurst

The most important thing for a self-conducted tour to be enjoyable is to do your homework before you leave home. The answer is a good travel guide and a rough itinerary. Of the scores of travel guides available, my favorites are:

  • Ireland - a travel survival kit. Published by Lonely Planet Publications.
  • Birnbaum's Ireland. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company/Boston. Get one or both. They are invaluable.

Getting there

From the western United States I find it easiest to book a flight to Heathrow or Gatwick in London, and then transfer to one of the many shuttle/commuter flights directly to Cork, Ireland. You can check your luggage through to Cork and go through customs upon your arrival there. From the eastern states, your departure gate will be from JFK to either Shannon or Dublin and then take the shuttle flight into Cork. Your friendly travel agent can pick the easiest route.

Where to stay and where to eat

You will almost invariably arrive in Cork City late in the day. To save yourself a lot of aggravation upon arrival, you can make arrangements for your first night through the ITB offices in New York: 757 Third Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10017. (212) 418-0800. Things change.

In Ireland there is a high season (spring and summer) and a low season (fall and winter), and it's up to the "Landlord" to determine those exact dates and the rates. It would be impossible to list all the fine, mediocre, and lousy dining places. The same is true for places to stay. What I may find delightful you may consider shoddy, and what I might consider very fine indeed, you may think I'm out of my mind for paying such exorbitant prices. But there is an answer... The Irish Tourist Board - Bord Fáilte.

The ITB has offices in Cork City, Kinsale, Skibbereen, and Bantry. A visit to one of these offices can solve all of your accommodation requests, dining reservations, and entertainment requirements from theater tickets to fishing, from hang-gliding to Scuba diving. Just tell them what you want, how much you want to spend, when you are going to be there, and they will assure you your reservation will be awaiting you. The ITB will expect a reservation fee that is refunded by the establishment of your choice when you ask for the bill.

Getting Around

Select the smallest car you will be comfortable with. In Ireland most of the roads are narrow and winding. Also, gasoline (petrol) is expensive and the smaller cars are more fuel-efficient. Your rental car can be picked up once you reach your destination in Ireland. Since you will most likely be new to, or unfamiliar with, the country, you can save yourself time and confusion by making arrangements here.

The firms listed below can often undersell larger competitive companies like Hertz, Avis, etc.:

  • Auto-Europe, P.O. Box 1097, Camden, ME. 04843. Phone (800) 223-5555.
  • Cortell International, 770 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y., 10020. Phone (800) 223-6626.
  • Europe by Car, 1 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y., 10020. Phone (800) 223-1516.
  • Foremost Euro-Car, 5430 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA., 94101. Phone (800) 423-3111.
  • Kemwel, 106 Calvert St., Harrison, N.Y., 10528. Phone (800) 627-0678.