7 Things to Know Before Going to Ireland

October 5, 2016 Baltimore, MD, USA

I can't believe we've already been back in the states for a week. Ireland has been a dream destination for Sean and I for...ever, and what an amazing whirlwind it was. I'm already dreaming about a return trip.

Lots of reading through blogs and TripAdvisor suggestions had us feeling prepared to visit a new destination, but let's face it, there's always things you have to learn yourself. Next time, these are the things we'll be more prepared for:

1. Sales tax is both included and refundable

I quickly noticed when purchasing souvenirs that the amount charged to me matched exactly the combined amount on the price tags.

"No sales tax?" I asked.

"It's included," the cashier assured me "do you have a card yet? Non-EU members can get some of it refunded."


Ask the cashier any time you spend money. Some stores swipe a card, some give you a form, and some are just clueless, but you can get a portion of your sales tax back. We were ill prepared and had to sift through a mess of receipts and work everything out when we got back to the states (our only devices were our phones and the card must be registered online). If you're prepared, keep up with it during your trip and you can get your refund at the airport before coming home!

2. Some tolls require immediate offsite payment

Most of Ireland's toll roads have traditional tool booths, but some roads have nothing but a sign telling you to pay online before 8 PM the next day. Yikes! Again, we only brought our cell phones, which isn't the most secure or convenient for making unfamiliar payments. In future trips we will definitely be bringing a tablet or, even better, a small laptop like a chromebook to help take care of such things. We had to remember how many times we'd driven on the road and remember (and hurry) to pay. I'm sure for locals, it's easy enough to prepay, but as newbies, this was just one more detail to worry about remembering.

3. You really do get used to driving on the other side of the road

With roads this narrow, there's really only one "side" anyway

I left all the driving to Sean, but I did quickly get used to walking to what we consider "the driver's side" to ride, and within a couple of days the traffic flow looked normal. Enough so that things did look weird by the time we arrived back in the states. I will repeat the most common warning, however: look right before turning right! You don't want to learn the hard way about this one.

4. Top sheets aren't a thing

Quite possibly my favorite room of our stay — Loch Eske Castle

We were asleep on our feet by the time we got to our hotel (sleep was not happening on the plane - upgrading your seats if you can is worth every cent!), so while I thought it was odd that the bed had only a duvet, I ignored it in favor of 12 hours of sleep. Our trip included 4 hotels which revealed the same trend - duvet only. It looks like they simply swap the covers out between guests.

5. Stew is a lunchtime deal

No stew procured here. Just happiness at finding multiple establishments bearing Sean's name.

The weather in Baltimore still said "summer" when we left, making the cool Irish air feel chillier than its 60 degree high. I found myself eating soup often and craving one particular Irish staple: beef stew (I know, I know). Towards the end of the week, we'd had no luck until one bartender let us in on a secret: beef stew is a "lunchtime" dish in Ireland, and some places don't even add it to their menus until winter. Thankfully one of our hotels had some leftover from lunchtime and gave it to me at dinner. Delish!

6. Duty free really is better

I mean, really...how could I not take this picture?

This was our first non-Carribbean international trip, so until now, we didn't really understand the appeal of duty free shops. On our cruise ship and our Jamaican honeymoon, the shops were full of liquors we could buy at home for about the same price. Sean wanted some Irish Whiskey, which he bought plenty of before our departure, only to find at the airport that they actually were much cheaper at duty free. Noted.

7. A week isn't nearly enough time

Yes, it rains every day. Be prepared: Sean's jacket | my jacket (similar)

Little details aside, Ireland is gorgeous and well worth the visit. Our tour included 4 areas in the northern regions of the country and we barely even explored those, let alone Northern Ireland and Ireland's southern counties. The more time you can spare, the more you can explore and enjoy. Here's to hoping for a two week vacation next time!

What have you run into on your international travels that you wish you'd been prepared for?

post signature


  1. She's not kidding when she says look right before turning right!

  2. I lived in England for almost five months in college. It took a long time for me to get used to being back in the States again. I still walk on the left half the time!

  3. Well, that explains why hubby and I don't use a "top sheet" on our bed. It must be ingrained into us from our ancestors! ha ha

  4. I've never really had a desire to leave the country however I would love to visit Ireland. Also how's next Monday for getting together? Or the next week I can do Thursday?

  5. Great article. Lots of information to Read...pls keep sharing such good articles.reflective tape


Thanks for joining the discussion!

Bekah Loves Blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

© Bekah Loves. Design by FCD.