The republic's Irish Rail trains are generally reliable, reasonably priced, and comfortable. You can easily reach all the principal towns from Dublin, though services between provincial cities are roundabout. To get to Cork City from Wexford, for example, you have to go via Limerick Junction. It's often quicker, though perhaps less comfortable, to take a bus. Most mainline trains have one standard class. Round-trip tickets are usually cheapest. Northern Ireland Railways has three main rail routes, all operating out of Belfast's Central Station. These are north to Derry, via Ballymena and Coleraine; east to Bangor along the shores of Belfast Lough; and south to Dublin and the Irish Republic. Note that Eurail Passes aren't valid in Northern Ireland.
Get to the train station at least 30 minutes before your train departs to ensure you'll get a seat. It's not uncommon on busier routes to find that you have to stand since all seats have been sold and taken.
Fares and Passes
Tickets can be purchased online or at the train station. Cash, traveler's checks, and credit-card payments are accepted. You must pay in the local currency. Dublin, Connolly, and Heuston stations have automated ticket machines that take either cash or credit-card payments, offering a convenient way to avoid long lines at ticket windows.
Sample fares? A return ticket from Dublin to Cork will cost around €60; Dublin to Belfast is approximately €55. Considerable savings can be made by booking online where off-peak tickets cost as little as €10 each way on most long journeys.
Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland) is one of 22 countries in which you can use an InterRail Pass, which provides unlimited rail travel in all of the participating countries for the duration of the pass. If you plan to rack up the miles, get a standard pass. These are available from Rail Europe (the company that services many of the passes listed here), for 15 days (€769), 21 days (€989), and one month (€1,219). In addition to standard Eurail Passes, ask about special rail-pass plans. Among these are the Eurail Youth Pass (for those under age 26), the Eurail Saver Pass (which gives a discount for two or more people traveling together), the EurailDrive Pass, and the Eurail Select Pass 'n Drive (which combines travel by train and rental car). Whichever pass you choose, you must purchase your pass before you leave for Europe. For these passes, buy online from www.Eurail.com or through your travel agent.
The Irish Explorer Rail & Bus Pass covers all the state-run and national railways and bus lines throughout the republic. It does not apply to the North or to transportation within cities. An eight-day ticket for use on buses and trains during a 15-day period is €245. Irish Rail provides details on both (bus and rail) passes.
In Northern Ireland, the iLink Card entitling you to up to seven days' unlimited travel on scheduled bus and rail services throughout Northern Ireland is available from main Northern Ireland Railways stations. It costs about 55 for adults (half price for children under 12 and senior citizens). InterRail tickets are also valid in Northern Ireland.
There's only one class of train travel in Ireland (with the exception of the Enterprise, the express train that travels from Dublin to Belfast, for which you can purchase a First Class or Standard Class ticket, and the Dublin to Cork train). All tickets bought online on the Cork-Dublin train include a seat reservation. Otherwise, specific seat reservations can be made only for trains deemed to be busy (ask when buying your ticket if they're taking reservations for your route).
Information and Passes
Fáilte Ireland (www.discoverireland.com.)
Irish Rail (01/836–6222. www.irishrail.ie.)
Northern Ireland Railways (028/9066–6630. www.translink.co.uk/NI-Railways.)
Train Station Information
Belfast Central Station (East Bridge St., Belfast. 028/9089–9400. www.translink.co.uk.)
Connolly Station (Amiens St., Dublin. 01/703–2358. www.irishrail.ie.)
Galway Station (Station Rd., Galway. 091/564–222. www.irishrail.ie.)
Heuston Station (Dublin, 8. 01/703–2132. www.irishrail.ie.)
Kent Station (Lower Glanmire Rd., Cork. 021/450–4777. www.irishrail.ie.)
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