STUDY IN IRELAnd - living
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
- Mar - Six Nations Championships
(rugby union), Dublin.
- Mar - St Patrick’s
- Apr - Samhlaiocht (Kerry Arts
- May - All Ireland Drama Festival,
Athlone; Murphy’s International Mussel Fair,
Bantry Bay; International Maytime Festival, Dundalk;
Fleadh Nua, Ennis; Entennman’s Irish Guineas
- May-Jun - Sligo Arts Festival; Heineken
Green Energy Festival, Cork.
- May - Early Music
- Jun - Dublin Women’s Mini
Marathon; Music in Great Irish Homes Festival,
nationwide; Bloomsday Festival (celebration of
the Irish writer James Joyce), Dublin; Dublin
- Jun-Aug -Diversions
Temple Bar (summer festival of contemporary arts),
- Jun-Jul - Dublin Pride (gay and lesbian
- Jun - Budweiser Irish Derby, Newbridge.
Jul Smurfit European Open (golf tournament), Staffan;
Galway Arts Festival; Garland Sunday Climb, Croagh
- Jul - James Joyce Summer School,
- 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),
- Aug-Oct - Matchmaking Festival, Lisdoonvarna.
- Aug - Waterford Spraoi Street Festival.
- Kilkenny Arts Festival.
- Aug - Rose of
Tralee International Festival.
- Sep - Galway International
- Sep - Padre Pio Sunday, Knock.
- Sep-Oct - Dublin Theatre Festival.
- Oct - Wexford
- 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
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
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)
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:
email@example.com; website: http://www.ihf.ie/).
A selection of some of the finest hotels in Ireland
is availableDistinction World (website: http://www.distinctionworld.com).
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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
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: http://www.irishfarmholidays.com/ )
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.
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
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
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.
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.
999 or 112 can be used to summon assistance from the three main emergency services
the police, fire brigade and ambulance