Information on Ireland. More detailed information will follow shortly.
There are 32 counties in Ireland, 26 of which are in the Irish republic, and 6 of the counties of the province of Ulster are part of the United Kingdom. Visitors travelling to Northern Ireland should realise that their visa restrictions may or may not be different.
The Republic of Ireland is mainly Q-Celtic, or Gaelic Celtic, but many other populations have contributed to it's overall makeup. Vikings, Normans, English, and various other visitors throughout history have left their traces in the Irish people. The current population estimates run at about 3.6 million for the republic of Ireland, and a further 1.3 for Northern Ireland. 43% of the population are under 25 years of age, which is perhaps the youngest population in Europe. 27% of the population is under 15 years of age. The Irish people have long been renowned for their friendliness, and definitely are one of the warmest peoples in the world. Traditionally, the Irish have also been famous for their romanticism, and creativity, with world class poets, writers, and musicians adding to the list of honours, from O'Carolan, to U2, and Joyce. In recent years, with the current economic boom, the Irish have made a name for themselves with their hard work, innovation and ingenuity, and this, combined with the very high quality of education has made Ireland a hugely popular destination for companies wishing to expand into the European market.
( Modern )
The Irish and English languages are both recognized as official languages of the state. Everyone in Ireland can speak English, and the majority speak English as a first language. Due to economic disasters of the last century, of which the great famine was a major part, emigration to England and the United States was commonplace, and had reached such proportions by the 1870's +, that large numbers of people abandoned the native language and began encouraging their children to speak English. Therefore, while the majority of Irish citizens can speak Gaelic, there are only a few regions left, ( called 'Gaeltacht' regions ), in which the native use of the Irish language has continued down to the present day.
In 1999, however, the language trends have reversed slightly, and greater and greater numbers of city children are being sent to local Gaelic speaking schools as pride in the language has increased, and the advantages of bi-lingualism have become apparent. These "Gaelscoileanna" are also highly sought because they provide such a high standard of education.
( Cultural )
The Irish language is a Gaelic language, which is very similar to Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, the language of the Isle of Man. The other major Celtic languages, namely, Welsh, Breton, ( and the now extinct Cornish ) are related, but in a more distant fashion, and are unintelligible to the Gaelic speaker. Native Irish and Scottish speakers can understand each other for the most part, as the two languages became distinct only since about the 16th century.
If you are having difficulty in being understood through Gaelic, then take heart in the fact that the proper pronunciation seems to escape most English speakers attempts. Keep trying, and let your audience know that 'tis Irish you're speaking.
Ireland is on the GMT ( Greenwich Mean ) Time zone, or WET. ( Western European Time. ) Therefore, Ireland is usually 5 hours ahead of US EST. However, this is not always the case, as the change to and from daylight savings time may be different. During these weeks when GMT and EST are out of sync, Ireland is 6 hours ahead of EST. For PST the time difference is 8/9 hours.
Ireland is located at the extreme North West of Europe, and the temperature can be described as temperate maritime. Heavily influenced by the warm Gulf Stream from the Southern Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, the winters are mild, and the summers cool. The sea temperatures only change by a degree or two, between winter and summer. The coldest months are January and February, when the temperatures average 4-7C, rarely dropping below 0C ( 32F ). The warmest months are usually July and August ( 14C - 16C ), although May and June are the sunniest. The highest summer temperatures rarely hit 30C (86F), or over.
On clear summer days, it doesn't get dark until about 11pm. Annual Rainfall is between 800 and 1200mm (31- 47 inches ), which is reasonably low. Showers are brief, usually light, and rarely last very long. A torrential downpour is quite unusual. However, days are frequently overcast, and the weather is impossible to predict. It is for this reason, that the Irish weather has been termed '4 seasons in 1 day', and visitors should remember the old adage, "it never rains in the pub".
Because of the physically small size of the country, all areas on the island of Ireland, are easily reachable within a day's drive. Most roads are reasonably good, although there are few large motorways, and many routes will take you right into the centre of small towns. Expect a journey time of 4 hours to travel from Cork City to Dublin City, and about 2 hours from Dublin to Belfast. Cork to Limerick on the other hand will take two hours or less, and Cork to Killarney, or Cork to Cahir 1 hour.
Inter City Buses ( Bus Éireann ) throughout Ireland are frequent, but it is advisable to call and find out the times in advance, or buy a timetable when you arrive. Inter City Bus travel is also very cheap.
Trains ( Iarnród Éireann - Irish Rail) are far less frequent, and it is definitely advisable to be there early. Avoid the train during festival, holiday or match weekends, as, although the trains are very modern, they can be quite over-crowded during these times. Irish Rail's policy would seem to lean towards attempting to accommodate everyone, without adequate seating, rather than disrupting it's timetable to add a greater frequency of trains. Train travel is also very expensive compared to other forms of travel.
Public transport routes in general can also be deceptive, since many routes are not quite as direct as you might think.
For example, a 2 1/2 to 3 hour journey from Dublin to Cork by train isn't too bad, but if heading to Tralee from Dublin, the train has to go through Cork.
By far the best way to see Ireland is by car, as many sites of interest are off the beaten track. Car hire is quite easily arranged, and the rates are relatively reasonable, but not particularly cheap. Even with it's network of motorways, journey times in and around Dublin City, can be quite variable, depending on the time of day, as traffic can be extremely heavy at times, with people commuting to and from the neighbouring counties of Kildare, Wicklow, and Meath, etc. Airports: The major airports are Cork, Dublin and Shannon, with smaller airports in Kerry, and Knock. ( Co. Mayo. ) and provide easy, fast, and numerous connections to Europe, the UK and the USA.
The Irish pound or punt is soon to be replaced by the new European currency, variously known as the Euro, the ECU, or the Eurodollar. The official start date for the new currency is January 1999, as electronic transfers begin to make the switch. However, cash transfers will continue in punts for the next year or so. Also, Access, Visa, MasterCard and American Express are well accepted for most shopping purchases. Tipping: Tipping is normal for restaurants, but not for pubs, unless there is table service. Tipping for taxi's is optional, depending on the service. 10% is usual for most purposes. European visitors will notice that most Irish people will pay for drinks at the bar counter. This is normal procedure in busy pubs, however, this is not always the case, depending on circumstance.
Mains voltage runs at between 220-240v, at a frequency of 50Hz. Visitors from the US, Japan, or any country which has a 110v system, should not use their own electrical appliances in Ireland, with the exception of some forms of computers, and so forth, which have a switch for both types of voltage. Transformers are available at local hardware stores, but can be expensive. When using a transformer, you may notice that the 50Hz frequency may possibly make your hairdryer, or other motor driven applicance run slightly slower. European countries generally all use the 220v system, or thereabouts. The only issue then, is to find a cheap adapter socket for use with the Irish 3-pin type. The basic rule is: If in doubt... don't! The higher voltage in Europe can be more easily fatal. At the very minimum, expensive personal equipment can be destroyed, or catch fire.
Small batteries, such as the AA type, are the same the world over. However, as with all batteries, never try to recharge batteries that are not specifically designed to be rechargeable. Nickel Cadmium celled batteries are available in hi-fi stores.
Disclaimer: Please note, that these points of information are for your guidance only, and are not given in an official capacity. Yaq Internet can not accept responsibility for any criminal loss, damage, or personal loss, injury or death arising from following any of the recommendations given here.
Ireland is generally a very safe country. However, Dublin City has a much higher crime rate ( per capita ) than the rest of the country. Avoid walking around Dublin City centre aimlessly after midnight, unless in the company of locals who know where they're going. As with all cities, 3am is not the ideal time to go sightseeing.
Stick to well lit areas, where the young people go, and if staying outside the city..... take a cab. It's not too expensive, and it's much safer.
If driving, avoid leaving your car parked on a Dublin city street if possible, use a multi-storey carpark (parking lot) and especially avoid leaving valuables visible through the windows. Personal belongings should be left in the hotel safe, or in your B&B or guesthouse. If no safe, or equivalent, is available, then leaving your valuables in your room is generally adequate, because this form of theft is highly unusual, to say the least.
People staying in hostels would need to be more careful, and check with the reception desk. As for the rest of the country, be careful, but not paranoid. Crime is low, people are friendly, and it's generally safe to walk around after dark. Don't miss having a wonderful time with the great atmosphere and the nightlife.
Ireland, generally speaking, has no lions, bears, wolves, snakes, scorpions or other wild animals, which are deemed to be very dangerous animals. However, weasels, badgers, and other small animals can be reasonably dangerous if stumbled across unexpectedly. Either way, if bitten by a wild animal of any sort, it is highly advisable to seek medical advice immediately, to eliminate the possibility of infection, and transmission of diseases such as tetanus. Ireland and the UK are considered to be 'rabies free' zones, but again, if in doubt, check it out! European visitors are all entitled to free/reduced price medical care, with the E111 scheme.
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