Travel is never perfect, but while mistakes do happen on the road I think we can all agree that we would rather avoid them. Furthermore, I think we can equally all agree that nobody likes being perceived as a bad tourist. Which is why I’m sharing my top list of things NOT to do in Ireland.
Don’t Stick to Dublin
I love Dublin. It’s a fun city with great pubs and lots to see and do. But Dublin is not Ireland so please, for the love of God, don’t spend your entire visit to Ireland in the capital. Even if you are short on time, there are plenty of great day trips from Dublin that you can take; both as part of a tour or on your own.
I’m not just saying this because it frustrates me to think that people say they have been to Ireland but only stayed in Dublin (though it does). But, if you stick to Dublin, chances are you will be disappointed in your visit.
Ireland is known for rolling hills dotted with sheep, quaint villages, historic castles, and friendly locals. Dublin doesn’t really have that. Sure, there is a lot of history to this city but at the end of the day it’s just that; a city. So do yourself a favour and join a day trip or hop on a bus to Kilkenny or Galway for the day and see another part of the country during your visit.
Don’t Forget About the Weather
Probably the most important point on my list of things not to do in Ireland is to forget about the weather. Irish weather can be wonky and chances are you will get a bit of everything during your Irish vacation. Hopefully, you already know how rainy it can be, but bring layers because when the sun comes out in the summer months it can be quite warm as well
Another reason not to forget about the weather is that it can really affect your travel plans. If you have a rainy and foggy day, then there is zero point in trying to go see the Cliffs of Moher. You’ll end up like I did and totally drive past the turnoff for them because you can barely see the road. Same goes for the Aran Islands; Inis Moris one of my all-time favourite day trips from Galway. But everything to see and do is outside, so if it’s pouring rain and windy, that will make for a pretty miserable day.
The weather is something you want to remember when packing and keep your eye on when travelling around the country. (Click here for my Ireland packing list)
Don’t Forget to be Mindful of the Traffic
In Ireland, you drive on the left side of the road. For many visitors (especially those of us from North America) that’s backwards. It’s easy to forget so stay on your toes because it get be dangerous and anger the locals. Be mindful when crossing streets (a lot of main intersections will have ‘Look Left or Look Right’ on the pavement), and be cautious when driving if you decide to rent a car.
If you are renting a car for your trip to Ireland, you’ll also want to keep your speed in check. Many of the roads are small, windy, and not necessarily in the best condition. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to driving in this country, especially the rural parts.
Don’t Get Offended when the Irish Take the Piss
Taking the piss (making fun of someone) is basically a form of endearment in Ireland. So if you get teased or harassed just laugh it off and go with it, you can even throw a bit of it back at them (just don’t call the Irish English or British- not cool). Being teased by the locals is actually a good thing- it means they like you.
Don’t Skip Buying a Round at the Pub
Talking with the locals in a pub is a must when in Ireland. If you are lucky, you’ll make some new friends and get roped in with the group. If this happens, remember that in Irish pub culture people buy in rounds; people aren’t just buying you welcome drinks. One person will buy a round of drinks then the next round is on someone else and so on. A lot of tourists don’t catch on and just assume that everyone is buying them a drink but this is not actually the case. So don’t skip out when it comes to your turn or your new ‘friends’ will have a whole new opinion of you.
Don’t Pretend You’re Irish
OK, so your great-grandpa emigrated from Ireland. That’s awesome, and it’s a good reason for wanting to visit the country. But do you know how many people have that exact same story? The local Irish do and they are pretty sick of hearing Canadians, Americans, Australians and any other non-Irish nationality claim that they are actually Irish. You’re not. The people who live in Ireland are Irish and chances are they aren’t always 100% Irish either. So unless someone specifically asks about your Irish heritage (which they may) keep it to yourself.
Along these lines, do yourself another favour and don’t try to pick up any Irish sayings or try to imitate the accent. It’s obnoxious, nobody in Ireland actually says ‘top of the morning!’, and no matter how good your accent sounds to your ears, it’s probably pretty bad.
Don’t Expect to Chase Rainbows, See Leprechauns, or Find Fairies
Ireland is magical, it really is. But it is magical as in the country is full of beautiful scenery and historic castles. You will not find tiny green-clad leprechauns guarding their pot of gold (although there are a few giant ones in Dublin who will happily take your euros in exchange for a photo). Yes, Ireland has a lot of really interesting myths and folklore, but if you are looking for those stories your best bet is to head to a local bookstore and pick up some books, not ask every local you come across where to find the nearest leprechaun or fairy. They’ll assume you’re not right in the head.
Don’t Stick to The Tourist Trail
Ireland has some incredible tourist sites, but while many of these places are a definite must-see, don’t forget to get a bit off the beaten path. There are more pubs in Dublin than just the Temple Bar and more castles in the countryside than just Blarney Castle. So stop for a pint in the small corner pub on the side street and take a break to stretch your legs in the tiny village on the west coast. These are the places, away from the tourists, that you will find and fall in love with the real Ireland.
As with every vacation or trip, mistakes are bound to happen along the way. However, if you pay attention to this list of things not to do in Ireland, I can guarantee you’re off to a good start.