Daily Life & Basic Practicalities
Ireland has a mild, temperate climate with summer temperatures ranging from 16-22 degrees Celsius. In winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing point, but it can feel quite cold because of frequent rain and wind.
Ireland observes Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the winter. However, Irish summer time is GMT plus 1 hour. The dates of change are the last Sunday of March and October. The clock goes forward by an hour in March and back by an hour in October.
There are nine public holidays (called Bank Holidays) in the year. These are composed of the first Mondays in May, June and August and the last Monday in October, plus New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (17th March), Easter Monday, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day (26th December). Any dates which fall on a weekend will carry over to the following Monday
The Luas operates two tramlines servicing Dublin city centre and suburbs: the Green line connects Brides Glen to St. Stephen’s Green. The Red Line connects Saggart/Tallaght to The O2 arena. Trams run every 5 minutes at peak time and every 10-15 minutes at other times. Please note that the Green Line and the Red Line do not connect. The Student Leap Card is valid on the Luas.
The electrical current in Ireland is 220-240 AC volts AC. The plugs most commonly used are 3-pin flat and occasionally 2-pin round.
Shops are generally open Monday-Saturday from 9am/10am until 5.30/6pm. Some also open for more limited hours on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Smaller grocery stores and newsagents will normally open at 8am and remain open until 9 or 10pm each day, though these shops tend to be more expensive than the big supermarkets. Bigger cities will have a late opening night on Thursdays where many shops stay open until 9pm.
There is a levy (tax) on plastic shopping bags to encourage people to reuse their old bags and cut down on litter in the countryside and cities. If you require plastic bags you will be charged 22c each for them, so it is advisable to bring your own bags when you go shopping.
Services include stamps, registered post, express mail, parcel post, money orders, postal orders, international reply coupons, TV licences and savings accounts as well as bill payments. Local post offices are open (Monday to Friday) between 9am and 5.30pm approximately and close for lunch between 1pm and 2pm. Most post offices in towns and cities are open on Saturday mornings between 9am and 1pm. The General Post Office in Dublin (on O’Connell Street, Dublin 1) is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday (no lunch-time closing) and 10.30am to 6pm on Sunday.
Internet cafes are now common throughout Ireland. These are places where you can use a computer (connected to the internet, with e-mail and web access) for a specified time period for a fee. Many offer cheap membership rates but shop around as it is a competitive market.
Many cafes and coffee shops have free WiFi access for customers, so if you have a laptop or tablet, you can utilise free Internet access in these areas. Most of them will have a sign in the window or at the counter and you may need to ask for the password when you make a purchase.
Mobile phones are widely used in Ireland and phone companies offer both pay-as-you go and monthly contract plans. It is important to shop around and to understand exactly what the costs will be.
Mobile phones can be expensive for international calls so using Mobile apps such as Viber, Whatsapp or Skype to make your international calls is recommended. Alternatively, you could use phone cards and call centres.
Call Centres: some Internet cafes now have phone booths where you can make cheap long distance phone calls. Normally you are given a rate per minute and you pay when you have completed your call.
International Phone cards: these come in different values and are sold widely in newsagents. Call prices per minute can seem very low but it is important to check the small print for connection charges. Cards are best used from a landline phone as they are usually more expensive when used from a public telephone box.
Banks and Foreign Exchange
Banks are open between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday, (some smaller branches may close for lunch, check locally). There are variations in opening hours so check these with your own particular bank and branch. ATM machines are widespread. Most banks provide Bureau de Change and Travellers’ Cheque facilities.
Cinemas in Ireland are very popular and large multi-screen complexes have opened all over the country. It is cheaper to go to the afternoon screenings. Evening screenings cost up to €12.00. There is a student discount available on production of a valid student identity card on certain weekdays. The Irish Film Institute (Eustace Street, Dublin 2) and The Lighthouse (Smithfield, Dublin 7) show a range of international films that will not usually be shown elsewhere.
The pub is the social meeting place for many Irish people. They serve alcohol, soft drinks, tea and coffee. Many pubs serve meals (usually soup, sandwiches, main dish etc.) during the day, with some serving until 9-9.30pm. Pubs are licensed to open between 10.30am and 11.30pm Sunday to Wednesday. From Thursday to Saturday the closing hours are extended to 12.30am.
Smoking is forbidden in enclosed places of work in Ireland. This includes office blocks, various buildings (including cinemas, theatres etc), public houses/bars, restaurants and company vehicles (cars and vans). Smoking is also prohibited on public transport e.g. buses, trains etc.
Major Credit Cards can all be used in Ireland (e.g. Visa, Access, American Express, Diner’s Club etc.) Credit cards are often not accepted in small shops, pubs and guest houses.
The male/ female designation is often in the Irish language. You should go through the door marked FIR if you are male and MNÁ if you are female.
As in most countries, you will need to be aware of petty crime in larger cities. Don’t carry valuables, unless it is necessary. Don’t walk down dark streets on your own or late at night. Keep your wallet, purse, etc. out of sight. Generally, be aware of your surroundings, appear confident and keep your wits about you. If parking a car, make sure it is locked, and do not leave valuables where they can be seen. It is not necessary to carry your passport for identification purposes, however some photo ID may prove useful.
Dial 999 or 112 from any phone for police, ambulance, fire, sea and mountain rescue services. Other emergency telephone numbers (e.g. gas leaks, personal emergencies, etc.) can be found in the first few pages of telephone directories.
The police in Ireland are called An Garda Síochána. Full details of national and local Garda stations can be found here.
In a medical emergency, go to the Accident & Emergency department at the hospital closest to your home. The Accident and Emergency (A&E) charge is €100 if you attend without a letter from your GP.