Traveling to Ireland
March 23, 2006 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Belfast next month for the first time. Travel tips?

This will be my first international trip. We're traveling over for my uncle's formal wedding and will be staying either with him or his wife's (they've already legally married for immigration reasons) family. I can't make heads or tails of what I need to make my hair dryer, curling iron and ipod charger work. Do I just need a converter or a transformer or both? Can I use my visa card pretty much anywhere or do I need to exchange some money? Is there anything that I absolutely NEED to visit while I'm there? Any recommended sites for basic info like this? Every time I search I get overwhelmed by unnecessary information from sites trying to sell me something. I bow before the knowledge of the well-travelled Mefites.
posted by chiababe to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (12 answers total)
Rick Steves' website, books and videos are great for info that's helpful for a novice traveller. (I'm planning a trip to France, myself, and so far I'm finding advice the most useful.) His advice for France is to use credit cards, and carry a debit card to take out cash as you need it, and this probably applies in Ireland also.
posted by teg at 9:33 AM on March 23, 2006

Hair dryer/curling iron - you'll need a 220v/110v transformer that's MADE for hairdryers/curling irons. Probably 1000+ watt capacity.

iPod chargers only need a plug adaptor - they can handle 110v or 220v no problem. I use mine in europe/asia all the time.

Currency - my advice is use your ATM card to get cash. ATMs will routinely give you the best exchange rate (they daily accepted international rate - try getting THAT from most currency exchanges). For other purchases not needing cash, debit or credit is fine. Visa or MasterCard is best. Good luck finding anywhere that takes Amex or Discover.

I've never been to northern Ireland, but if you can get down to the southern part of the island, go to the Cliffs of Mohr, Blarney, Dublin, etc.

I hope your trip goes great!
posted by quadrinary at 9:33 AM on March 23, 2006

Lots of chargers, etc work in hotel outlets which are multi-voltage. Check the backs of your chargers, too - if they say 110-220 somewhere, they're good for international use, as long as the prongs fit. If you aren't going to be at a hotel, just take along a cheapass power converter kit (~$40 everywhere) and you'll be golden.

Visa card is good all over N & S Ireland, you can get ATM cash, too just about anywhere. Belfast is awesome, walk the Golden Mile, tour the Howland & Wolff shipyards where the Titanic was built, visit the extensive botanical gardens, take a trip to the zoo on the big hill just outside of town.

Head north to the town of Bushmill's and tour the whiskey factory, grab a bite & a pint at the Bushmill's Inn across the way, then walk on Giant's Causeway at the shore. If you're into clubbing, Belfast is second only to Dublin for nightlife. Shop like mad in the commercial district, if that's your thing.

Have a great time, and don't forget to toast your host.
posted by Aquaman at 9:33 AM on March 23, 2006

Travelled to Belfast last summer and loved it.

I bought an international converter at the Canadian Automotive Club which included all converters and transformers needed. For 30 bucks or so you will buy absolute piece of mind. Highly recomend it.

An international drivers license is also need if you plan to hire a car. I learnt about this the last day and ran around like crazy. Again auto club can provide this for a small fee.

If you are landing in Dublin get some euros changed in coins to pay for the toll booth on the way to Belfast. I ended up panhandling he cars behind me asking for donations. My car was blocking the way.

Enjoy Belfast, stay at bed and breakfsts in the college area by the gardens, do not wander in all parts of town in a south Ireland rented car. Still a political climate.
posted by sandrapbrady at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2006

Also, be sure to call your bank/credit card company ahead of time and let them know you will be travelling and when - especially if you never leave the country. You don't want any automated "fraud protection" kicking in.
posted by mikepop at 10:30 AM on March 23, 2006

Visa or MasterCard is best. Good luck finding anywhere that takes Amex or Discover.

I think Amex is available pretty widely throughout Ireland now, though you might need to wait for them to clear the transaction by phone. But Discover never crossed the Atlantic, to the best of my knowledge.

I second the advice about notifying your credit card company, although the last time I called Visa about using my card in South Africa they said I needn't have bothered, as it was an 'international card'.

If you can, consider preloading your credit card and using that to take out money rather than using your ATM card. The exchange rate isn't as good as standard but you don't get hit with all those ATM charges, so it could work out a lot cheaper.
posted by macdara at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2006

As for must-see visits while you're there: you haven't been to Belfast until you've been to the Crown Liquor Saloon.
posted by verstegan at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2006

You absolutely must take a trip to Giant's Causeway. It's like another planet.
posted by lunalaguna at 4:53 PM on March 23, 2006

I echo all of the above, especially the Giant's causeway. Also, if you are driving around go see the Boa valley drive, wonderful scenery. Of course you could spend all the time just driving the coastline as far as Donegal. People are so friendly. It is beautiful. Also the Bushmills visit (sorry don't have time to link!) Enjoy although id you're going to a wedding in Ireland you'll need a few days to recover :-)
posted by Wilder at 7:52 AM on March 25, 2006

Response by poster: Update: Our trip was fabulous. We did get to see Giant's Causeway (SO AWESOME) and the Crown Liquor Saloon. I didn't melt my curling iron or fry the electrical supply to the house we stayed at. Thank you AskMefi!
posted by chiababe at 10:18 AM on June 28, 2006

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