Passports: Yes. You’ll require a valid US passport to enter The Republic of Ireland.   

Irish Currency: The Euro is the currency of The Republic of Ireland. ATMs are widely available today throughout Ireland. You will be able to use all Irish ATMs if you have a Plus/Visa or Cirrus/Master Card. Most American credit cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc. We suggest that you purchase Euros prior to landing (available through your AAA office), though there will be a Bureau of exchange at Shannon Airport.  You can check daily currency exchange on the Internet.  Spiral Journeys recommends AAA for conversion. They have strong and up to date currency exchange rates and are most helpful on all issues concerning monetary conversion.   

Taxes to pay: Ireland has a value added tax (VAT) that can be as high as 21% on some goods. The tax in restaurants is 17%.   

You may be entitled to a tax refund as a non-European Union visitor to Ireland, on goods bought in stores that display a “tax free shopping” sign in the window. To obtain a refund, complete a valid tax refund document on departing the European Union. A customs officer must check the goods and validate your document. In some cases, you can receive a refund at the airport, while in others you may have to mail the validated tax refund document to the store where you bought the goods, so they can send you the refund.   

Cell Phones: One way is to purchase a GSM, unlocked phone. Ebay is a good way to go (we found one for about $30). You could also have your own cell phone unlocked if it GSM compatible.  Ireland is up to date with all technology.  However, best to bring your own mobile or iPad and you will appreciate the familiarity of your own gear.    

Be sure to check for coverage as soon as you arrive, and speak with Ann if you need help.   

Internet Access: Ireland has Wi-Fi access in most places including our Hidden Ireland homes!   

Tipping: The customary tip in Ireland is 10 to 20 per cent. Many hotels and restaurants add it in the form of a service charge on the menu or bill. It’s not customary to tip in pubs unless you have table service. Tipping porters, taxi drivers, hairdressers, etc is a good idea. Spiral Journeys will pass the kitty at the end of the week, to acknowledge our housekeeping and dining room staff at Ashley Park House.   


In transit: The transatlantic flight is a long one. To prevent the development of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) on long flights it is advisable to walk about the cabin, contract the leg muscles while sitting, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.    

Jet lag & motion sickness: To avoid jet lag (quite common when crossing more than five time zones) try drinking plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, and eating light meals. Melatonin, a natural substance, taken over a period of several days prior to flight (check with your health food store, or naturopath), is found to be helpful. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep etc) as soon as possible.  Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine) is quite often the first choice for treating –motion sickness. An herbal alternative is ginger (tea or tablets).   

Medical Insurance: It is highly advisable to have your own medical insurance when traveling in Ireland. Check with your insurance carrier about your coverage before visiting. Spiral Journeys, as a licensed carrier of Travel Guard Insurance, offers an all-inclusive program. Contact Ann.  While Ireland has excellent health care, prevention is the key to staying healthy while abroad. A little planning before departure, particularly for pre-existing illnesses, will save trouble later. Bring medications in their original, clearly-labeled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications (including generic names), is a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. Carry a spare pair of contact lenses and glasses, and take your optical prescription with you.   

Water, Water, Water. You know your own body! If you have a tendency for travel/flying discomfort, you might take some prunes and/or prune juice (in moderation) prior to leaving, the day before. It keeps things moving that can become blocked during a long flight.    Vaccinations: None are required to travel to Ireland.  

Packing for Ireland    

Ireland is an island with a moderate climate! Rain showers are often short and the temperature is generally mild. In summer, temperatures range from 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Artists and photographers visit Ireland for it's cloudscapes and changeable weather. Rain showers paint Ireland a thousand shades of GREEN!   

Shop for your trip selectively – it's worth splurging a little to get it just the right. For durable, lightweight travel clothes, consider Ex Officio (, tel. 800-644-7303), TravelSmith (tel. 800-950-1600), Tilley Endurables (tel. 800-363-8737), and REI (tel. 800-426-4840). Chico's knits pack well. In general, the color black dresses up easily, and can be extremely versatile.  Be comfortable.  For women, casual wear with some colored scarves covers most occasions. For the men,  a jacket and chinos.    

If you're not going to wear it more than three times, don't pack it! It's best to have every piece of clothing complement every other item, or have at least two uses (e.g., sandals double as slippers, a scarf as a shoulder wrap).   

Plan to dress in layers so that you can peel as necessary. Pack both a lightweight raincoat, a pea coat (or something similar) with a hood, or a longer, waterproof jacket (that can be carried easily in a backpack or shoulder bag). Try to locate a umbrella with a handle made from aluminum. These are ultra light and fold down to practically nothing. While your umbrella may be helpful if you are walking in the valleys, or in the towns, but on the Cliffs of Moher it may just sail you back across "the pond"!   

Hats: A cute hat is a lifesaver for rainy-day, frizzy hair, and will help to keep your head warm. If you are fair-skinned or prone to sunburn, bring a light, crushable, wide-brimmed hat for sunny days.   

Swimsuit: People don't think of Ireland as a beach place, but it can be hot, so pack shorts and a swim suit.   

Shoes: Think comfortable. We will be walking in some country lanes and field areas. Wear shoes that are water-resistant or waterproof. Mephisto, Ecco, Merrills and Rieker look dressier and more European than sneakers but are still comfortable. For a second pair, consider sandals or Tevas. ***Before you leave home, walk several miles in any footwear you'll be taking to be sure they're broken in.   

Toiletries: All feminine products (even many of the same brands) are sold in Ireland, but it's easier to figure out how many tampons, pads, or panty shields you'll need and bring them with you rather than having to buy a too-small or too-large box in Ireland. If you are on birth control pills (or any timed-dosage prescription), remember to take the time difference into account. If you usually take a pill with breakfast, take it with lunch or dinner in Ireland.   

Accessories: We love scarves! They dress up outfits, are lightweight and easy to pack. If purchased in Ireland, they make a great souvenir. Some women bring a shawl-size scarf (often called a pashmina) to function as a sweater substitute, scarf, head wrap, or even a blanket. While Ireland is generally a "safe" country, travel anywhere in the world today requires caution. We suggest bringing A few pairs of inexpensive jewelry and leaving your valuable heirlooms behind!. Remember that your most important accessory is your hidden money belt. 

Tops: Bring two or three T-shirts, one or two short-sleeved blouses, and one or two long-sleeved shirts. Long-sleeved shirts with sleeves that roll up can double as short-sleeved shirts. Look for a wrinkle-camouflaging pattern or blended fabrics that show a minimum of wrinkles. Poly-blend T-shirt fabric (such as CoolMax) will often dry overnight. Washable silk also dries quickly and is lightweight.   

Pants and shorts: Dark-colored pants don't show dirt or wrinkles. Get a pair with a loose-fitting waistband that accommodates a money belt  Try the pants with the zip-off legs that convert to shorts. If you bring shorts, one pair is probably enough.  

Skirts: A lightweight skirt made with a blended fabric will pack compactly. Make sure it has a comfy elastic waistband or drawstring. Tilley (listed above) makes expensive but great skirts (and other items) from blended fabric that feels like cotton. Skirts go with everything, and can easily be dressed up or down.   

Socks, underwear, pajamas: Cotton/nylon-blend socks dry faster than 100-percent cotton, which loses its softness when air-dried. Sport socks do cushion your feet. Try silk, microfiber, or stretch lace underwear, which dry faster than all-cotton, but breathe more than nylon.

Cameras: An inexpensive panoramic, disposable camera captures the expansive landscapes of Ireland. These are available in Ireland if you want to wait.  iPads and iPhones have great cameras!      

Arrival Logistics  
Shannon Airport (SNN) Facilities: Outgoing duty-free shop, bank, bureau de change, bar, restaurant and tourist information center.
Check on current policies for importing any items you desire, without incurring customs duty.   

Abolition of duty-free goods within the EU: As part of the European community, Ireland abides by EU policies. On 30 June 1999, the sale of duty free alcohol and tobacco at airports and at sea was abolished in all of the original 15 EU member states. There are no limits imposed on importing tobacco and alcohol products from one EU country to another. Travelers should note that they may be required to prove at customs that the goods purchased are for personal use only.   
Prohibited Imports: Firearms, ammunition, explosives, offensive weapons, indecent/obscene material, plants or bulbs, live or dead animals, bird or poultry, endangered species, meat and meat products and hay.   

Social Conventions: The Irish are a gregarious people. 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 ancestral connections are relished. Pubs are traditionally the heart of a community’s social life. Visitors will find the people very friendly and welcoming no matter where one finds oneself on the journey.   

Dinner in the evening tends to be the main meal of the day for native Irish. Handshaking is usual, and modes of address will often be informal. Smoking, as of 1997, was banned in all public enclosed/working spaces, including pubs, bars and restaurants.   

If someone is friendly enough to offer to buy you a drink, be prepared to return the favor. This goes for women, too. If you offer to buy a round, you must stay until everyone has had their chance to return the favor. If your crowd consists of seven people, you will be expected to stay for (and drink) seven pints, be careful. Don’t be slow in ordering the round when it’s your turn. Wise women stay clear of this tradition, knowing they could be there for days!   

All signs in Ireland are in both Irish and English. Distances posted could be in miles or kilometers, and are often not labeled with either one (just a number). Most are in kilometers now, but some signs in miles still linger. Distance also depends on the route. Directions from a local should be taken with a grain of salt. Getting a second opinion could possibly make it worse! But it's part of the adventure.   

While English is the spoken language, the Irish take great pride in their ancient tongue. If you learn a bit of Irish before you go, you'll get lot of good will for your effort. This is not paramount to your experience but in some rural areas of the land Irish is both fluent and favored.    

Soft serve cones (especially HB) are very good. They taste like frozen whipped cream. We will always make a stop for this treat!   

Draft Guinness is better in Ireland. It does taste better because it has fewer preservatives, and you'll have fewer after-effects. It has natural yeast, and 110 calories per pint.