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STUDY IN IRELAnd - living in ireland


Social Scene     |    Customs and Culture    |    Transportation

Accommodation    |    Health Care    |    Emergency Contacts

Social Scene

Social Conventions: The Irish are gregarious people, and everywhere animated craic (talk) can be heard. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills (better known as Oscar Wilde) once claimed: ‘We are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.’ Close community contact is very much part of the Irish way of life and almost everywhere there is an intimate small-town atmosphere. Pubs are often the heart of a community’s social life. Visitors will find the people very friendly and welcoming no matter where one finds oneself in the country. A meal in an Irish home is usually a substantial affair and guests will eat well. Dinner is the main meal of the day and is now eaten in the evening. Even in cities there is less formal wear than in most European countries and casual dress is widely acceptable as in keeping with a largely agricultural community. Women, however, often dress up for smart restaurants and social functions. Handshaking is usual, and modes of address will often be informal. Smoking is acceptable unless otherwise stated. Tipping: The customary tip in Ireland is 10 to 12 per cent. Many hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill. It is not customary to tip in bars unless you have table service when a small tip is advised. Tipping porters, taxi drivers, hairdressers, etc is customary but not obligatory.

Special Events: For full details, contact the Irish Tourist Board (see Contact Addresses). The following are some of the many festivals and events held in Ireland:

  • Jan - Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Day Parade, Dublin.
  • Mar - Six Nations Championships (rugby union), Dublin.
  • Mar - St Patrick’s Day, nationwide.
  • Apr - Samhlaiocht (Kerry Arts Festival), Tralee.
  • May - All Ireland Drama Festival, Athlone; Murphy’s International Mussel Fair, Bantry Bay; International Maytime Festival, Dundalk; Fleadh Nua, Ennis; Entennman’s Irish Guineas Weekend.
  • May-Jun - Sligo Arts Festival; Heineken Green Energy Festival, Cork.
  • May - Early Music Festival, Galway.
  • Jun - Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon; Music in Great Irish Homes Festival, nationwide; Bloomsday Festival (celebration of the Irish writer James Joyce), Dublin; Dublin Writer’s Festival.
  • Jun-Aug -Diversions Temple Bar (summer festival of contemporary arts), Dublin.
  • Jun-Jul - Dublin Pride (gay and lesbian festival).
  • Jun - Budweiser Irish Derby, Newbridge. Jul Smurfit European Open (golf tournament), Staffan; Galway Arts Festival; Garland Sunday Climb, Croagh Patrick, Mayo.
  • Jul - James Joyce Summer School, Dublin.
  • Jul - Galway Film Fleadh.
  • Jul - Nissan Irish Open, Portmarnock.
  • Aug - Muff Festival; Puck Fair, Killorglin; Fleadh Cheoil nah Eireann (traditional Irish music compeition and festival), Listowel.
  • Aug-Oct - Matchmaking Festival, Lisdoonvarna.
  • Aug - Waterford Spraoi Street Festival.
  • Aug - Kilkenny Arts Festival.
  • Aug - Rose of Tralee International Festival.
  • Sep - Galway International Oyster Festival.
  • Sep - Padre Pio Sunday, Knock.
  • Sep-Oct - Dublin Theatre Festival.
  • Oct - Wexford Opera Festival.
  • Oct - Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.
  • Dec - Winter Solstice at Bru na Boinne, Slane.
Local Customs & Culture

Food & Drink: Ireland is a farming country noted for its meat, bacon, poultry and dairy produce. The surrounding sea, inland lakes and rivers offer fresh fish including salmon, trout, lobster, Dublin Bay prawns, oysters (served with Guinness and wholemeal bread), mussels and periwinkles. Dublin has a wide selection of restaurants and eating places to suit every pocket, as do the other major towns. Table and self service are both common. The most typical Irish dishes will usually be found in a country restaurant, and include corned beef and carrots, boiled bacon and cabbage and Irish stew. Other local delicacies are crubeens (pigs' trotters), colcannon (a mixture of potatoes and cabbage cooked together), soda bread and a soufflé made with carrageen (a variety of seaweed). Visitors should note that ‘tea’ is often almost a full meal with sandwiches and cakes.

Pubs, of which Ireland has plenty, are sometimes called ‘lounges’ or ‘bars’ and there is often a worded sign outside the premises rather than the traditional painted boards found in Britain. Pubs and bars have counter service. The measure used in Ireland for spirits is larger than that used in Britain, for example an Irish double is equal to a triple in Britain. Irish coffee is popular (glass of strong black coffee, brown sugar and whiskey with cream). Almost any drink is imported but the two most internationally distinctive products are whiskey (spelt with an ‘e’) and stout. Guinness, one of the most famous, popular and distinctive drinks in the world, is found everywhere and Murphy’s is almost as widely available. Amongst the most popular brands are Jamesons and John Powers Gold Label, but others include Paddy, Tullamore Dew, Old Bushmills, Midleton, Reserve and Hewitts. Certainly as popular as whiskey is stout which is bottled or served from the tap. Liqueurs such as Irish Mist and Bailey’s are both made from a base of Irish whiskey. Licensing hours: Mon-Wed 1030-2330, Thurs-Sat 1030-0030 and Sun 1030-2300. Legal drinking age: 18, although some bars will insist that patrons are over 21 and carry ID.

Nightlife: Most towns in Ireland have clubs, bars and pubs with live music. It is quite common to find pubs holding seisun, playing traditional Irish music with traditional instruments. The dancehalls and discos of previous eras have now been replaced with clubs similar to those found throughout the UK and Western Europe. Special events and themed nights often take place at special attractions such as the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. There is still a good choice of theatres and cinemas.

Shopping: Special purchases include hand-woven tweed, hand-crocheted woollens and cottons, sheepskin goods, gold and silver jewellery, Aran knitwear, linen, pottery, Irish crystal and basketry. Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1730/1800. Many towns have late night opening on Thursday or Friday until 2000/2100 and smaller towns may have one early closing day a week.





RAIL: Rail services in the Republic are owned by Iarnród Eireann (Irish Rail) (website: and express trains run between the main cities. There are two classes of accommodation, with restaurant and buffet cars on some trains. Children under five travel free. Children aged five to 15 pay half fare. A range of rail-only and combined rail and bus tickets are available for unlimited travel within the Republic of Ireland. The Eurorail card system is valid in Ireland.

ROAD: The network links all parts of Ireland; road signs are international. Traffic drives on the left. Bus: Internal bus services are run by Bus Eireann (Irish Bus) (website: which has a nationwide network of buses serving all the major cities and most towns and villages outside the Dublin area. Bus services in remote areas are infrequent. An ‘Expressway’ coach network complements rail services. The central bus station is in Store Street, Dublin. A variety of special passes is available, including the Irish Rambler, which offers unlimited travel for three, eight or 15 days. Several independent bus companies, which are often cheaper, faster and more frequent than Bus Eireann, operate regular, scheduled services to and from Dublin. Further information can be found in local papers. Coach tours: Many companies offer coach tours, varying in length and itinerary. Full-day and half-day guided tours are organised from the larger towns and cities. These run from May to October. Full details are available from CIE Tours International office. Taxi: Service is available in major cities. Cruising taxis are infrequent. Places to get taxis are at hotels, rail and bus stations or taxi stands. Car hire: Available from all air- and sea ports as well as major hotels. All international hire companies are represented in Ireland, as well as local operators. Age requirements vary from a minimum of 21 to a maximum of 75 years. A full licence from the driver’s home country is required, and the driver will normally be required to have had at least two years’ experience. Bicycle hire: Ask for a Tourist Board leaflet. Documentation: EU nationals taking cars into the Republic require: motor registration book (or owner’s authority in writing); full EU driving licence or International Driving Permit; nationality coding stickers; and insurance cover valid for the Republic. A Green Card is strongly recommended, as without it, insurance cover is limited to the minimum legal requirement in Ireland – the Green Card tops this up to the cover provided by the visitor’s domestic policy.


Note: Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board) can provide information on published accommodation guides, although it no longer publishes its own. For details, apply to Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board); see Contact Addresses section.

HOTELS: There are 849 hotels inspected, approved and graded by Bord Fáilte and prices are fixed by the Tourist Board. Most hotels belong to the Irish Hotels Federation, 13 Northbrook Road, Dublin 6 (tel: (1) 497 6459; fax: (1) 497 4613; e-mail:; website: A selection of some of the finest hotels in Ireland is availableDistinction World (website:

Grading: The Irish Tourist Board registers and grades hotels as follows:

  • 5-star: Top grade of hotel. All rooms have private bathroom, many have suites. Dining facilities include top-class à la carte.
  • 4-star: All provide a high standard of comfort and service. All have private bathrooms.
  • 3-star: Medium-priced. Comfortable accommodation and good service. All have private bathrooms.
  • 2-star: Likely to be family operated with a limited but satisfactory standard of food and comfort. Most rooms will have a private bathroom.
  • 1-star: Hotels that are clean and comfortable with satisfactory accommodation and service.

GUEST-HOUSES: Guest-houses are smaller, more intimate establishments often under family management. There are over 490 guest-houses registered and inspected by the Irish Tourist Board. These range from converted country houses to purpose-built accommodation. Meals range from bed & breakfast to full board. The minimum number of bedrooms is five and the availability of meals is not a requirement.

Grading: The Irish Tourist Board registers and grades guest-houses as follows:

  • 4-star: Guest-houses which provide a very high standard of comfort and personal service. In most cases, 4-star guest-houses provide a good-quality evening meal, hot and cold running water in all bedrooms. All premises have rooms with private baths.
  • 3-star: Guest-houses which provide a high standard of comfort and personal service. Hot and cold running water in all bedrooms. All premises have rooms with private baths.
  • 2-star: Guest-houses that are well furnished, offering very comfortable accommodation with limited, but good standard of food and service. Hot and cold running water in all bedrooms.
  • 1-star: Guest-houses that are clean and comfortable. Hot and cold running water in all bedrooms. Adequate bathroom and toilet facilities.

Ungraded premises: Hotels and guest-houses not sufficiently long in operation are left ungraded.

FARMHOUSES/TOWN & COUNTRY HOMES: There are 3229 town or country homes and 562 farmhouses offering bed & breakfast on a daily or weekly basis with other meals often provided. This informal type of accommodation gives visitors the opportunity to share in the life of an Irish family in an urban or country setting. They may live in a Georgian residence, a modern bungalow or a traditional cottage. A farmhouse holiday again gives scope for meeting people and is especially suitable for children. Visitors can forget about city life and enjoy the everyday life of the farm. Either way it will be a relaxing and friendly holiday.

All homes and farmhouses that have been inspected and approved by the Irish Tourist Board are listed in the official guide, available from the Tourist Board. In addition to this, the Town and Country Homes Association and Fáilte Tuaithe (pronounced Foil-tya Too-ha), the Irish Farmhouse Holidays (website: ) produce their own annual guides to their members’ houses. These are also available from the Irish Tourist Board in Britain and from tourist information offices throughout Ireland.

SELF-CATERING: There are over 2432 self-catering establishments scattered throughout Ireland, listed by the Irish Tourist Board. Self-catering holidays are available for those who like to come and go as they please without any restrictions. There is self-catering accommodation to suit all tastes, including houses, self-contained apartments, cottages and caravans. There are even traditional-style thatched cottages which are fully equipped and located in carefully selected beauty spots.

CAMPING/CARAVANNING: Ireland’s caravan and camping parks are inspected by the Irish Tourist Board. Those that meet minimum requirements are identified by a special sign and listed in an official guide which shows the facilities at each park. Firms offering touring caravans, tents and camping equipment for hire are included in the listing. There are 135 caravan and campsites. The majority are open from May to September.

YOUTH HOSTELS: A total of 32 youth hostels are operated by:

An Oige (Irish Youth Hostel Association)
61 Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7 (tel: (1) 830 4555; fax: (1) 830 5808;



They provide simple dormitory accommodation with comfortable beds and facilities for cooking meals. Usage is confined to members of An Oige or other youth organisations affiliated to the International Youth Hostel Federation. Non-members can buy stamps at hostels entitling them to further hostel use.

HOLIDAY HOSTELS: There are 177 registered holiday hostels offering privately owned accommodation at reasonable prices. Dormitory-style sleeping accommodation and/or private bedrooms are available, with fully-equipped kitchens. No membership is required. Some provide meals, others breakfast only.

HOLIDAY CENTRES: These centres offer a comprehensive holiday with a wide variety of amenities and facilities including self-catering units, indoor heated swimming pool and restaurant facilities. The centres are registered with the Irish Tourist Board.

Health Care

There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK. However, health care in Ireland is not normally free and health insurance is advisable. Local Health Boards arrange consultations with doctors and dentists. Evidence of residence in the UK is required, for example an NHS medical card or a driving licence, to take advantage of the agreement. Visitors should make it clear before treatment that they wish to be treated under the EU’s social security regulations; it may be necessary to complete a simple statement to this effect.

Visitors from other EU and EEA member states are entitled to urgent medical treatment without charge, provided that they present form E111, which should be obtained before departure.

Emergency Contacts

999 or 112 can be used to summon assistance from the three main emergency services

the police, fire brigade and ambulance

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