Ireland Tourist Information and Tips
The Republic of Ireland is part of the Eurozone, so as in many other European Union countries the currency here is the Euro (symbol: ˆ). Stand Alone Cash machines (ATMs) are widely available in every city and town in the country and credit cards are accepted in 90% of outlets. Fees are not generally charged by Irish ATMs (but beware that your bank may charge a fee).
Along border areas, as the UK pound sterling is currency in Northern Ireland, it is common for UK pounds to be accepted as payment, with change given in Euro. Some outlets, notably border petrol stations will give change in sterling if requested. (Fuel is now generally cheaper in the South, resulting in many Northern motorists purchasing their fuel South of the border.)
Recent diffrences in prices of goods between the Irish Euro and the British Pound have resulted in increasing numbers of Irish shoppers crossing the border to purchase goods which are a lot cheaper in Northern Ireland than in the Republic. A November 2008 article in a Northern Newpaper highlighted how up to ˆ350 Euro can be saved by buying your Christmas shopping in Derry & Belfast in the North than in the likes of Letterkenny in Donegal.
Only a few years ago when the Celtic Tiger was still very much alive and well the economic situation was reversed.
ATMs are widely available throughout Ireland. Even in small towns it is unlikely that you will be unable to find an ATM.
Mastercard, Maestro and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere. American Express and Diners Club are now also fairly widely accepted. Discover card is very rarely accepted and it would not be wise to rely on this alone. Most ATM's allow cash withdrawals on major credit cards and internationally branded debit cards.
The police force is known as An Garda Siochana (or just "Garda"), and police officers as Garda (singular) and Gardai (plural, pronounced Gar-dee ), though informally the English term Guard(s) is usual. The term Police is rarely used, but is of course understood. Regardless of what you call them, they are courteous and approachable. Uniformed members of the Garda Siochana do not, unlike the Police force in Northern Ireland, carry guns. It is a proud tradition of the service that standard policing is carried out in both rural and urban areas by uniformed officers equipped only with a modest wooden truncheon. Firearms are, however, carried by detectives and officers assigned to Regional Support Units and the ERU (Emergency Response Unit, aka SWAT).
Crime is relatively low by most European standards but not very different. Late night streets in larger towns and cities can be dangerous, as anywhere. If you need Gardai, ambulance, fire service, coast guard or mountain rescue dial 999 or 112 as the emergency number; both work from landlines and mobile phones.
Since March 2004 almost all enclosed places of work, including bars, restaurants, cafes, etc., in Ireland have been designated as smoke-free. Rooms in Hotels and Bed & Breakfast establishments are not required by law to be smoke-free. Even though they are not obliged to enforce the ban, owners of these establishments are, however, free to do so if they wish. Most hotels have designated some bedrooms or floors as smoking and some as non-smoking, so you should specify at the time of booking if you have a preference either way. The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means for example that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered under the law.
Most larger bars and cafes will have a (covered) outdoor smoking area, often with heating. If one does not exist be aware that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street so you may have to leave your drink at the bar.
Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of up to ˆ3,000.
Often, in smaller towns and villages and especially on a country road, if you walk past somebody it is customary to say hello. They may also ask you "how are you?", or another similar variation. It is polite to respond to this greeting but it is not expected that you would give any detail on how you really are, if the person is a stranger - a simple hello or "how are you?" or a simple comment on the weather will suffice! In this regard, try something like "Grand day!" - if it isn't raining, of course. To which the response will generally be "It is indeed, thank God".
When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This is particularly prevalant in rural areas of the West of Ireland where many drivers will automatically wave at everyone who drives past them. A polite hand wave (or even with just the index finger raised from the steering wheel) is customary and will be appreciated.