Ireland is primarily accessed by air into one of its five major airports which are located in Dublin, Shannon, Cork, Knock and Belfast in Northern Ireland. The national airline is Aer Lingus which operates direct flights to the US, Britain and South Africa as well as several destinations on mainland Europe. Furthermore, if you do have to change flights in the UK, it is highly likely that Aer Lingus will take you from there to Ireland. The other major airline in the country is one a great deal of you are probably familiar with, Ryanair. Offering extremely cheap flights, if you’re quick enough to book them as soon as they become available, this is the ideal airline for the budget traveller and is adding new destinations to its itinerary all the time.
If you arrive in the country by plane, however, the other alternative is by ferry from either the UK or France. Irish ferries offer sea connections between Dublin and Holyhead in Wales and between Rosslare and Pembroke in Wales as well as Le Havre and Roscoff in France. The two French destinations are also served by sailings from Cork Harbour. The other major ferry company operating in Ireland is Stena Line and this has sailings between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, Rosslare and Fishguard in Wales and Belfast and Stranraer in Scotland. While the longest crossing to or from the UK takes about four hours, the journey between Ireland and France lasts up to twenty two hours so if you’re not a good sea traveller this one can be quite an ordeal.
The national train service in Ireland is operated by Iarnrod Eireann and the network connects all major towns and cities in the country. When it comes to the more rural areas, however, the service is limited and you will usually have to take a connecting bus to reach your destination. Rail travel is also expensive when compared to other European countries so to get the best value you should purchase a travel save stamp from any USIT office. This will cost you £8, is affixed to your ISIC and will get you discounts of up to 50% off all rail fares. It is also valid on the public bus service, decreasing fares by about 15%.
Bus tends to be the more popular form of transport in Ireland. Operated by Bus Eireann, it serves a great deal more destinations than the train system and is a lot cheaper. When travelling between any of the bigger towns or cities, ensure that you use the Express service which eliminates most of the stops between the two areas. Otherwise your journey time will considerably longer. Bus Eireann also offer Rambler tickets which offer unlimited travel for either three out of eight days, eight out of fifteen or fifteen out of thirty days and they cost £28, £68 and £98 respectively. They are an excellent idea if you don’t intend staying too long in any one place, otherwise they do mean that you have to move from town to town pretty quickly.
There are also numerous private tour operators who run excellent tours throughout Ireland. These range from three day to nine day trips and will take you to all the tourist highlights staying in a different town or city every night. They are a really good way to see the country and if you find that you tend to be slightly disorganised from time to time, then this is definitely the option for you. Furthermore they help make the most of the time you have in Ireland.
Cars may be hired from all major rental companies. You should note that the Irish drive on the left. Generally you do need to be over 25 to hire a car although some companies will rent to persons over 21. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Finally, cycling and hiking are also popular means of getting around and discovering the more rural tourist attractions. Bikes may be hired with ease in any urban area and can be brought (sometimes subject to a small fee) on public transport.