General Info about Ireland

Visa Requirements
All that Australian, Canadian, EU, New Zealand and US residents need to visit the country for a period of three months or under is a valid passport. If you intend staying longer you must prove that you can support yourself for this time and a medical examination is often required. It is also worth noting that if you are resident outside the EU, this does not include the right to work. If you do wish to work in the country, you should contact your nearest Irish diplomatic office. This is also where you need to go if you not resident in any of the aforementioned regions or are in any doubt as to whether you need a visa to enter the country. UK residents do not need a passport to travel to Ireland.

The currency used in Ireland is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.

According to the State, the first official language in Ireland is Gaelic, known colloquially as Irish. Despite this, English is language spoken by everyone in the country and although there are still some Gaeltacht regions (areas where Gaelic is widely spoken) remaining, particularly along the west coast, most residents in these areas also speak English. Despite this all road signs right throughout the country display information in both English and Irish.

It’s extremely difficult to generalise when talking about the Irish weather, even the professional forecasters don’t get it right most of the time. The one thing that can be said without any doubt is that the country has the most changeable climate you are ever likely to encounter. Sunny one second, torrential rain the next or blizzard like weather in one area and in the next town or village, which might be no more than a couple of kilometres away, they probably haven’t seen one snowflake.

But, because this is a general overview, here goes. The coldest months are January and February which bring widespread frost throughout the country as well as snow on occasion. Snow is not that common in Ireland, however, but when it does arrive, the country literally comes to a standstill. The warmest months are July and August but they are by no means hot. Average temperatures usually range between 16 and 20 degrees although recent summers have scored well into the 20s.

Basically what you need to do when packing for a trip to Ireland is bring something to cover all eventualities. A rain-coat is essential, you are guaranteed to need it at least once during your stay as well as a couple of warm sweaters irregardless of the time of year you visit. Realistically the weather in Ireland is neither a reason to visit nor a reason to stay away. In fact if you have a strong sense of humour, the changeability of the weather can become quite amusing after a while - and remember you are only visiting.

Time Zone
Ireland operates on Greenwich Mean Time from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March. For the rest of the year it observes daylight saving time which places it one hour ahead of GMT.

Opening Hours
In general, shops are open between 9.00am and 6.00pm from Monday to Saturday. In the bigger towns and cities, however, they also open from midday until 6.00pm on Sundays as well as opening late on Thursdays until 8.00 pm or 9.00pm. It is also worth noting that some smaller country towns also take a half-day when shops close at 1.00pm but this is an age-old tradition which is not at all common anymore. Office hours are open from 9.00am until 5.00/5.30pm from Monday to Friday but many are closed during lunch-time which can be for one hour any time between midday and two o’clock.

Electrical Current is standard 220v A.C.

Post Offices
The postal system in Ireland is operated by An Post and there are offices in almost every town and village in the country. While some of the smaller offices have closed down in recent years, you will never have to travel too far to find one which is still open. They are also pretty easy to find with their trademark green signs and are usually located in the town centre. Incidentally, all post boxes are also painted green and can be found throughout the country, even in the most rural areas.

Tourist Offices
The Irish government tourist authority is called Bórd Fáilte which translates as board of welcome. Its main office is located in a beautifully restored church in Dublin’s city centre and you should be able to find information here pertaining to any part of the country to which you wish to travel. If it is not possible to get to the Dublin Tourism Centre, however, there are Bórd Fáilte offices in all the bigger towns and villages throughout the country. Like the post offices, they too are easy to locate thanks to their prominent signs which feature a shamrock contained within a circle - very imaginative.

In Ireland the value added tax (VAT) ranges from 0% on food to 17% in restaurants to 21% on certain goods including clothing and electrical equipment. For non-EU residents, however, the good news is that you can get the tax back on any item for which you pay over £200. This is only applicable in shops which display the ‘Cashback’ sticker so if you don’t see one it is worth asking. In order to avail of this incentive, you need to obtain a Europe Tax-Free Shopping Cheque when you purchase the item. When you are leaving the country, you present both the item and the cheque at customs, the officials will stamp it for you and you can then cash your cheque at any of the booths with the Tax-Free logo and Cash Refund sign. In some cases you may receive your refund by post and this can take anything between six and eight weeks to come through. All refunds are only applicable to those leaving the country within three months of purchase.

Currency Exchange
The best place to change any foreign cash when you are in Ireland is at the exchange bureaux located in the various banks. They open between 10.00am and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday with late opening until 5.00pm on Thursdays. If you are heading to a particularly rural area it is a good idea to change cash in one of the bigger towns before you go. The other alternative location in which to change cash or traveller’s cheques is in some of the bigger tourist offices.

All major credit cards and Eurocard are widely accepted and if you have the PIN they can also be used to obtain cash advances from ATMs or banks. You can also use regular bankcards which are members of the bigger international networks including Cirrus, Plus and Link in machines which bear the symbol.

The country code for Ireland is 353 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 353, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. It is also worth nothing that you need to drop the zero from the local area code when dialling. A list of Irish regional codes and International direct dialling codes can be found in the front pages of any telephone directory. For directory enquiries, dial 1190 for numbers within Ireland, 1197 for numbers within Great Britain, 1198 for international numbers. For operator assisted calls dial 10 for Ireland or the UK and 114 for all other countries.

There are plenty of public telephones dotted throughout most cities and towns. You will usually find a Cardphone and a coin phone side by side. Cards in 10, 20, 50 and 100 unit denominations can be purchased in Telecentres, post offices and shops which display the Callcard sign. As well as the aforementioned, prepaid calling cards are now extremely popular with visitors to the country. These can be used on any type of phone, are available in all newsagents and convenience shops and offer excellent value for international calls. It is worth shopping around, however, as there are numerous different types and the value you get for your money differs greatly from one to another.

Medical Care
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect a form, E111, from your local social security office. Check that the doctor or dentist that you use is registered with the Irish Health Board and inform him or her that you want to be treated under the EU's social security arrangements. In the event of an emergency, visitors may telephone or go directly to the casualty department of the major hospitals.

Quite a few restaurants and hotels in Ireland are now adding a service charge of between 12 and 15% to their bill and where this is the case you should not feel obliged to leave a tip. If you feel that the service merits something extra, however, 5% is sufficient. Where the service charge is not included, a tip of between 10 and 15% is adequate. Remember at no time is tipping compulsory; it is entirely at your own discretion.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Ireland they take place on January 1st, March 17th, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the first Monday in May, June and August, the last Monday in October and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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