Why should you choose Ireland for your next vacation? Learn what makes the Emerald Isle one of AAA member’s top destination choices.
European Best Value
The people of Ireland understand the economic value of tourism. In an effort to bring overseas visitors back, the restaurants and hotels banded together with the backing of the government and reduced Value Added Taxes (VAT ) added to retail prices by 33%, and eliminated the air travel tax. Combine this with the strength of the US Dollar, and you’ll find that your money goes much further in Ireland than most anywhere else in Europe right now.
Live History Through Music
Wherever you are in Ireland, whether it’s a small neighborhood pub or the finest hotel, at some point you will find yourself tapping your feet to Irish traditional music (“trad”, for short). You may encounter an informal group that has shown up with their instruments, or friends who have played together on the same night for years, but the result is the same. Songs that have been handed down for generations about Irish patriots and lovers lost, brought to life in some venue every night through the art of the trad musician. This cultural phenomenon is something you won’t experience anywhere else on the planet and is an experience that is uniquely Irish.
Authentically Irish Communities
So much of Ireland has remained genuine over the centuries; it’s not uncommon to see castle ruins left to the elements alongside beautifully preserved heritage towns. The cosmopolitan feel of upbeat, trendy Dublin contrasts with the small town market feel of saucy, flirtatious Galway, but remain as similar as two clovers in the same field. While each town has its own flavor, they retain local pride and a shared heritage that will enthrall you in a way that no other destination will.
This shouldn’t be surprising given all you know and have heard about Ireland, but it goes well beyond what you might expect. Shopkeepers make eye contact and greet you in their stores. People on the street nod, tip their hat, or give a smile of acknowledgement, one human to another. If you take the opportunity, you’ll find people interested in hearing your story and telling you their own. It’s one of the truly unique and most enjoyable aspects of the country.
The persistent stereotype of boiled potatoes and cabbage is just that. Beyond merely being progressive in terms of cuisine, Ireland boasts many new ethnic immigrants who have changed the face of traditional dining. Restaurants are far more flexible in offering a variety of choices for those with special needs (like gluten-free), noted on many menus and enticingly prepared in even the most humble of establishments. Try the local specialties including “John Dory” – a mildly flavored, delicate fish native to the coastal waters of Northern European and rarely imported to the U.S. For dessert, be on the lookout for Sticky Toffee Pudding – delectably cake-like, best served warm from the oven.
Easy to Get Around
Once you’re where you want to be, that is. Ireland is almost exactly the same size as Maryland (in square miles), but with far fewer direct roads between towns. There are new highways linking major cities like Shannon and Dublin, but expect two lane roads bordering green pastures dotted with cows and castle ruins. Ireland drives “on the left” (opposite of the U.S.). You can get an international driver’s license from AAA, and if you need help, AA Ireland is the affiliated motor club to assist U.S.-based members. Traffic signs are bilingual – with the Irish listed first followed by its English translation. The exception is in Connemara, where the signs are exclusively in Gaelic. Another way to get around is the train, which gets you right to the city centers in a clean, efficient manner. Once there, Irish towns are walk-able and easy to navigate. Friendly locals will help if you need it. Or, simply leave the driving to your escorted tour motorcoach driver.
You can Clear U.S. Customs Abroad
Since 2011, U.S.-bound travelers now clear customs when traveling from both Shannon and Dublin airports. This means that once you arrive home, it’s like flying in from another U.S. city – no long waiting in line for the immigration agent. This is a time savings once you land, but it means you should arrive at the Dublin airport for your return flight home at least three hours prior to departure. Ireland is the first country in Europe to offer this service, and had to meet the same security criteria overseen by U.S. Homeland Security here in the States.
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