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Several questions from a first timer - please help!

Several questions from a first timer - please help!

Old Dec 26th, 2013, 05:03 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 6
Several questions from a first timer - please help!

I have been browsing this forum for probably two years. I've always known I wanted to travel to Ireland and over the last two years the itch to go has gotten stronger (and the likelihood that I can make it happen has gotten stronger, too).

I have spent hours on this forum and know many of you are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I hope you'll be able to offer some more helpful advice to another first timer.

I am looking at finally planning a July 2014 trip to Ireland. From reading this forum for so long, I know anything under a week probably isn't long enough, so I'm considering an 8 or 9 night stay in the Republic of Ireland. I would be traveling with my husband, we are 26 and 27 years old. Photographers. A bit reserved. On somewhat of a budget. Considering flying from RDU to SNN and then SNN to RDU.

I've never traveled to Europe and my husband has only "traveled" outside of the United States with the Marine Corps. He has spent some time in the Shannon airport coming home from Iraq, but that's about it.

Some things I'm just not sure of - accommodations. I have looked at self catering rentals and hotels. What are the best (most reliable) websites for finding self catering rentals, hotels, and B&B's? My idea is to stay in the southwest for half of our trip and then the southeast (Limerick, perhaps) for the other half, making day trips out.

Itinerary - while I would love to see the coast at least for one day trip, we have both lived near the beach for our entire lives. I would personally love to see Irish forests, thatched cottages, quaint villages/towns, etc. With that in mind, what day trips do you recommend? We will definitely be heading to Shrule in Co Mayo at some point as it is where my ancestors hail from and I have to visit and take photos for my mom, who has done extensive genealogical research. We'll also be going to Dublin (probably a day trip from our southeast base).

Car rental - if there is a wonderful website somewhere with great, straightforward explanation as to how to deal with Irish car rental, please let me know. This is the one area that scares me the most. I just don't want it to turn into a headache and surely don't want to get ripped off.

Thank you in advance. And thank you for reading!
crc1231 is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
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I suggest you start with a couple of good guide books and determine which few sights are your must sees. The time you have is very limited and while Ireland is a small country many roads re rural (through farmland with lots os SHEEP - even on the roads - so you need to assume an average driving speed of about 30 mph.

Also - Ireland is not heavily forested. You will see a lot of mildly rolling countryside - with lots of stone walls and rocks - but not a lot in the way of heavily woods (long since cut down for fuel or building except on estates that preserved trees).

Definitely suggest you spend a couple of days in dublin to see historic sights - and do try to take in the can get a theater - esp if you can get a local (GB Shaw or Wilde or Sheridan).
nytraveler is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 06:29 PM
  #3  
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nytraveler - thank you! I have noticed from my research that for the most part we will not find Ireland to be heavily wooded, but I would like one casual hike through a pretty Irish forest if possible. My google searches have revealed that I may find what I'm looking for in Co Wexford or at Killarney National Park.

I've also thus far surmised that I would be interested in seeing the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Trinity College Library, and Cobh Heritage Center. I'm not interested so much in cramming a ton of sites into our trip, but a few beautiful sites would be great...with Shrule/Co Mayo being a must-see. I will probably just be marveling at everything regardless, to be honest. But a good itinerary starting from SNN & Limerick and making a loop over to Dublin and back would be great.
crc1231 is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 06:36 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 94
I would strongly suggest at least 10 days. Although the road distances can appear short, the Irish road system can make for long days. The roads are quite good but a lack of major highway systems and the main routes going through and not around towns and villages can slow things down.
SNN is the best airport choice, especially on a Sunday when folks are still abed or at early Mass.
I believe you will find driving in Ireland relatively easy and it will be at least half the fun. Spend some time becoming familiar with the different control placements and a good co-pilot makes things easy.
I would also suggest Not booking accomodations online ahead of time. A set schedule may lead to having to speed up or change routes. You will have plenty of choices and the local TI or a local Pub will be very helpful. Also I think you will find online services significantly more expensive.
Try not to work too hard at your Irish travel plans. Ireland is a very spiritual place and a relaxed pace will allow that experience to come to you.
And speaking of spiritual places consider Dingle, Kerry and a boat trip to Skellig Michael. The best
Parmenter is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 07:05 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2005
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I have planned two self-driving trips to Ireland within the past few years and the tools that were the most useful to me were: 1) good guidebooks for deciding what I wanted to see and do (my favorites were Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Rick Steves), 2) a good map and the online AA Route Planner for figuring out routes and to see how much ground we could feasibly cover (as Parmenter says, driving distances are deceptively long in Ireland), 3) the Ireland forum on Trip Advisor where you can learn a lot about car rentals and 4) the B&B reviews on the Ireland forum on Trip Advisor (where I found each of the 10 B&Bs we have stayed in on our two trips.)

My advice differs from Parmenter on booking accommodations in advance. Since you are traveling at the PEAK tourist time in Ireland (July), all accommodations are going to be heavily booked. If you want to have some choice on the location, amenities and cost of B&Bs, then you will want to book in advance of your trip. If you are willing to sleep "where ever" and pay "whatever" and spend valuable sightseeing time each day trying to track down a bed for the night, then you can "book-as-you-go".
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Old Dec 26th, 2013, 07:32 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2008
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OH haas booked our car with sixt from Dublin airport

He was happy with the rate for our seven day trip of the north
We are going to be travelling in February and have only booked one place at the start and one at the end .. Both in or around Dublin
One is a B and B for 105 euros for a family room and the other for 286 aud that's a lot for us lol it Staunton on the green in Dublin City
Dublin is very expensive and we found the really top hotels to be out of our budget
I guess that's true of many capital cities but Ireland does seem to be an expensive place to travel in every regard

Now what I did do that seems useful lol is ring the Irish tourism board here in Sydney and the girl spent ages with me on hoe phone giving me tips then she sent out a bunch of brochures and booklets including one on b and bs
lanejohann is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 07:35 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2013
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You can also try airbnb.com for apartments or houses to live in.
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Old Dec 26th, 2013, 07:36 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,392
Oops submitted accidentally...
So a parcel of fabulous info arrived in a huge package free of charge and we feel fully armed for our trip now
She did also say that the b and bs are quite cooperative and if one is full then they'll direct you elsewhere

Our problem will be with winter closures I think..will see
I'm not going to book.. But I have recommendations at the ready so we can jump on one as son as we drive into town
Good luck and happy travels
lanejohann is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2013, 07:43 PM
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Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 576
Depending on how long you decide to visit Ireland, you could do the following:

Fly in to SNN - you can rent a car from the airport, check (not sure your arrival time, but if it's morning, then go straight to Galway, otherwise stay the night and drive there the next day)

Base yourselves in Galway for 3-4 nights - this way you can visit Shrule as well as a day trip to the Aran Islands if they interest you. Or a trip out to the Connemara - beautiful scenery and even the odd abbey (Kylemore Abbey).

From Galway, head south - it's a little backtracking, but visit the Burren just off the Galway-Shannon motorway M18 (if you are photographers, you'll love the moonscape scenery). End your day in Killarney
Stay in Killarney for 2 nights - drive the Ring of Kerry (the correct direction!), wander Killarney town (and eat the The Chop Shop), you can even take a horse and cart in the nearby national park. Or rent bikes and cycle up the hills to the tea house (ask your hotel, they will know the route and tea house). Or drive out to Dingle for a day on the peninsula.

From Killarney, you could to a day of driving with stops along the way. You could visit Blarney Castle and the stone (if you're inclined) or skip it and go straight to Cobh (pron. Cove, near Cork) to visit the last departure point of the Titanic (and the little museum there), then continue on to Cashel and visit the castle on the rock (!). Then on to Kilkenny to stay the night.

The next day, spend the morning exploring Kilkenny (compact town, but things to see), then that afternoon leave your car in Kilkenny at the corresponding rental company (check this is possible when you are checking which car to rent) and take the Bus Eireann (www.buseireann.ie) from Kilkenny to Dublin. That way you don't have to drive in Dublin (always a bonus) and don't have to contend with Dublin traffic (where a 10min drive can take 2 hours!). Then spend 3 nights in Dublin to allow you to explore the sights before flying out of here instead of going back to Shannon. For that you'll need to check an open-jaw ticket when you are booking your flights.

If, however, you want to drive towards Dublin to see other sights (Kildare, National Horse Stud and Japanese Gardens, Wicklow Mountains, etc) then you could still drive out of Kilkenny, visit want you want, then drop your car at, say Dun Laoghaire station (again, check if there is a corresponding rental agency there) and take the DART (Dublin train) into the centre of the city and a taxi to your hotel. You could drop at the Dublin airport if that's the only convenient point for the rental agency, but it's on the north side of Dublin so will add a little more time to your day.

Driving in Ireland is, as nytraveler has noted, slower than you would think, so you have to allow more time to get from place to place. Having said that, it's easy enough and not particularly scary, so don't be concerned too much by this. There's no one magical car rental website, but a few points for driving in Ireland and renting cars:
- DRIVE ON THE LEFT! And think about it when you enter a roundabout as they seem to be the one traffic item which confuse those who drive on the right the most.
- Take the Third Party Insurance/Collision Damage Waiver option - for peace of mind more than anything
- stick to the speed limit
- slow down in rural/stone walled areas: these are farm lands and you never know when a flock of sheep are just over the rise in the road


And a "fun" point about road signs, particularly distance and speed limits - the speed limit used to be in km/hour and the distance signs in miles...math while you travel! But now it's all uniform metric (ie km/hour and km to destination), so not as much fun for the mathematically gifted!!!

And most of the basic signs (stop, give way, etc) are universal, so even if they are written in Gaelic they still have the same colour schemes.

Happy planning!Go n-éirí do bhóthar leat!
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Old Dec 27th, 2013, 08:03 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 192
Hi crc1231 - others have already posted some great advice, but I'll add my take on a possible itinerary. One thing to bear in mind, there are lots of options, and lots of ways you can do this.

I might be tempted to either skip Dublin and focus on the west, or book "open-jaw" flights (land in Shannon, fly home from Dublin). You will need a car in the west, but will want to avoid a car in Dublin.

I would keep your first day as open as possible. You will need to adjust to driving on the left, different road signs, jet lag and just the general excitement of your first overseas trip I'd book a B&B within a short drive of the Shannon airport. On my last trip, I booked a B&B in Doolin. It was easy to drive there from Shannon, and it was close to the Cliffs of Moher. We had a nice, mellow day, saw the Cliffs, had a great meal and a few pints in a nice pub, and got ourselves oriented to Irish roads.

I would then consider booking a B&B in Galway. I really enjoyed Galway, we had a lot of fun, and you can explore a lot of Ireland from that base, such as the Burren, Aran Islands, and Connemara. Not exactly forests, but very unique, iconic Irish landscapes.

After that, return your rented car and catch a train to Dublin. Regarding car rentals (car hire is the common term used in Ireland), it can be pretty complicated, and often very difficult to determine your actual cost. Insurance is the big issue. There is CDW (collision damage waiver, I believe) that is included as part of the rental, but the deductible is really high, and doesn't include a lot of things like lost keys, damaged tires, mirrors, etc... That's why there is super-CDW, which gives you greater coverage and a reasonable deductible. There are 3rd party companies that offer super CDW, often at a much lower rate than the care hire company. Also, cars with automatic transmissions are far less common, and renting a car with a manual transmission can save you a LOT of money. I rented from Dan Dooley. In my experience, they did the best job of providing full costs of the rental up front, while others seemed to hide fees such as CDW.

As your plans become more specific, you can always ask the Fodors community about a specific B&B you have in mind, etc...

Finally - don't over-plan. There is so much to explore, even in a relatively small area of the country, so having the flexibility to try something new will really help.

Good luck!
griz_fan is offline  
Old Dec 27th, 2013, 08:24 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Airbnb.com and tripadvisor.com are great sites for hotels and apartments.
coley is offline  
Old Dec 27th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2011
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First night in Doolin is an excellent suggestion. Three great pubs there.
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