We have gathered together some hints, tips and facts that may be helpful to those of you intending to visit Ireland.
These are just some ideas we have but of course, you make your own choices and if you have any hints you wish us to add here let us know by clicking on the CONTACT at the bottom of this page.
NOTE: The following about eating, drinking and tipping in Ireland is all pre-covid. You should check up-to-date times, etc. prior to coming to Donegal.
EATING, DRINKING & TIPPING IN IRELAND
ATING RESTAURANTS & CAFES
COFFEE/TEA Most restaurants, cafes and even pubs/bars nowadays offer a choice of coffee (cappuccino, espresso, Americano, etc.). Many will also offer a variety of teas including herbal teas.
IRISH COFFEE Irish people generally don't actually drink Irish Coffee very often but most restaurants will have it on their menu together with other after dinner coffees such as Baileys Coffee (using Baileys Cream Liqueuer instead of whiskey), Coffee Royale (using brandy instead of whiskey), Calypso Coffee (using Tia Maria instead of whiskey), and so on. RECIPE FOR IRISH COFFEE
STEAK In restaurants you will have a choice of fillet or sirloin steak and some restaurants also offer T bone steak. They are usually sold by weight ie 8oz/12oz/14oz. Instead of saying you like your steak rare/medium/well done or whatever, we would suggest you indicate to the waiter how you like the steak inside ~ (ie pink) which ensures you get the steak cooked exactly how you like it.
CREAM Remember that in Ireland 'milk' is what is added to tea or coffee. Cream is what we put on desserts or possibly in a coffee if desired. If you order cream with your dessert you will be given plain cream as we do not add sugar to the cream.
WATER If you order water you will be offered sparkling or still. This automatically implies you will be served bottled water. You are perfectly entitled to opt for simple (and free) tap water. Our tap water is good and totally safe to drink. You water will normally be served with ice and perhaps a slice of lemon.
WINE Most restaurants (and some cafes) offer a good selection of wines (New World, French, Californian, German, Italian etc.). Wine is served by the bottle or by the glass and sometimes by the snipe (a small bottle which holds approximately one and a half glasses of wine) and in some places you will have a choice of half bottles. Check the prices as sometimes it is less expensive to share a bottle than buy by the glass. In good restaurants, irrelevant of the price structure, the house wine should represent the standards of the restaurant. No restauranteur worth his or her salt is going to serve an unpleasant wine as their house wine. If you are unsure about which wine to order just ask for guidance from your waiter. Champagne can be outrageously expensive in restaurants and hotels so check the price well before ordering. NOTE: Remember that the drink driving limit in Ireland is scarcely more than a small glass of wine so don't take any risks.
DRINKING Most restaurants have a licence to serve alcohol with meals and offer a choice of spirits, liqueuers, bottled beers and in some places draught beer and larger.
EARLY BIRD Many restaurants offer an 'Early Bird' menu which is generally a version of their dinner menu, at a reduced price to encourage early diners. The most popular time to make a reservation in restaurants in Ireland is 8-8.30 pm so the 'Early Bird' menu usually runs from around 5.30/6-7/7.30pm. All restaurants must by law display their menus for viewing from outside the restaurant and so you can easily check prices/offers prior to entering. It is worth noting too that local newspapers sometimes include ads from restaurants offering discounts so you could check these out when in the area.
SUNDAY LUNCHES Many hotels, bars and restaurants offer good value Sunday Lunch menus which generally run from around noon to 3 or 4pm. Eating out on a Sunday is very popular in Ireland and many places will be extremely busy during Sunday lunchtime so if you are going to eat out then it is best to arrive early or book in advance if bookings are taken.
SMOKING Smoking is banned in ALL public places in Ireland. There are heavy fines payable by the publican, restauranteur or whatever who allows it and as a result it would be almost impossible to find anyone smoking in these places. However many restaurants and pubs/bars have built outside smoking areas to accommodate guests who wish to smoke. There are stict laws in place too for the design of these places in that they must have two or three sides open to the outside air, ie no windows. The anti-smoking laws in Ireland are so stringent that a homeowner cannot smoke whilst a tradesman or worker is in their home. However, it is legal to smoke in hotel bedrooms WHERE the hotel has allocated smoking bedrooms. Cigarettes are still available and are sold in shops, bars, hotels, etc. from vending machines.
LAVATORIES It should be noted that the signs on washroom doors may be in Irish and this can lead to confusion. The Irish for men is fir so you will see FIR on the gentlemens washrooms. The Irish for women is mna so you will see MNA on the ladies washrooms.
A "pint of the black stuff", Guinness
DRINKING: BARS & PUBS
DRINKS Pubs and bars in Ireland offer a vast range of alcoholic drinks including beers, spirits, wines, alcopops, and so on. Beers and lagers are available by the bottle and on tap. Even though Ireland is metric beers and lagers are still sold by the pint or half pint. There is always a good selection of soft drinks too and many offer coffee too. The prices of drinks MUST by law be displayed.
SMOKING As with restaurants and cafes (and indeed all public place) smoking in Ireland is totally banned but as above, many premises have arranged smoking areas outside for smokers.
PUB GRUB Many pubs and bars now offer food. The pub grub menu will usually be a more casual form of dining than in a restaurant and mostly offer less expensive menus. Food on offer is generally burgers, steaks, salads, sandwiches, stir fries, desserts and so on. The menus are usually left on the table but some may just be on a chalkboard on the wall displaying what is available and the prices.
CHILDREN Children (under 18) are not allowed in pubs/bars or hotel bars after 9pm and it is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18. Over 18s may be asked for proof of age and acceptable proof is either a passport or driving licence. Sometimes ID cards are accepted but not always.
OPENING TIMES (from vfi.ie)
"Normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol in pubs are as follows:
Monday - Thursday (incl): 10.30am - 11.30pm
Friday & Saturday: 10.30am - 12.30am
Sunday: 12.30pm - 11.00pm
St Patrick's Day: 12.30pm - 12.30am
Christmas Eve: 10.30am - 11.30pm
Christmas Day: Trading prohibited all day
Good Friday: Trading prohibited all day
The Eve of a Public Holiday (except Christmas Eve): 10.30am - 12.30am (Mon - Sat), 12.30pm - 12.30am (Sun)
Drinking up time applies for 30 minutes after normal closing hours.
Off sales must cease at 10.00pm every day and cannot commence before 10.30am (12.30pm on Sunday)"
Nightclubs and special events may serve alcohol until 2 am
TIPPINGIN PUBS/BARS In earlier years people here were not in the habit of leaving tips in pubs/bars but would often offer to buy a drink for the barman or woman. However now it is becoming more prevalent to leave a monetary tip.
So while it is not mandatory to leave a tip, if you are in a pub/bar and have received good service then you may give a tip or offer to buy the server a drink ~ this does not mean the server will actually drink the drink there and then but rather take the price of a drink which will be kept to collect as a tip or as an after work drink.
IN CAFES It is now usual to leave a few coins of small change in cafes which do table service if you have had good service. In self service establishments tips are usually not given though there may be a dish beside the till in which to deposit any small change should you so wish.
IN RESTAURANTS Generally nowadays one leaves around 10-15% of the total cost of the bill as a tip PROVIDING you have received good service. If you come across stroppy or sullen service you should NEVER leave a tip anywhere. Prior to leaving a tip in a restaurant make sure that the restaurant hasn't charged you a service charge on your bill. Places who do charge this ridiculous charge generally have it noted on the menu but certainly on the bill. One other thing about tips, we would recommend that you give the tip ~ in cash ~ directly to the person from who you had the good service. This ensures that the person who served you actually gets the tip and it is then a matter for them whether it goes into a kitty to share with co-workers or they keep it themselves. Please don't just add it to the bill to leave at the till as some unscrupulous owners may not give the tips to their staff instead viewing it as help to pay the wages or whatever.
WASHROOMS/LAVATORIES In some hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and even in one of the grander stores in Ireland there are washroom attendants and if so it is customary to leave some small change on the top or sink stand after freshening up. If you are unsure just see what others do.
TAXIS If you wish to offer a tip do but it is not compulsory. Generally 1 euro is enough but if your taxi driver has been ultra helpful, say with suitcases, and chat and information then a little more is good.
BELLHOPS/PORTERS/ROOM SERVICE WORKER In hotels if a porter has helped carry your lugage to your room then a tip of a euro or two. If you have room service then it is customary to give the person delivering it a euro or two.
BED & BREAKFASTS/GUEST HOUSES It is not necessary and probably mostly not expected to leave a tip with the owner (if there are servers in the dining room then you may leave them a tip). However if the owner has made you very welcome and gave you a great stay then maybe a small box of chocolates or flowers would be in order ~ as we said, not expected but still a nice gesture.
Finally, another good way to thank a place for good service, food or rooms is to give a favourable review on one of the many internet tourist sites.
MONEY SAVING TIPS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY IN IRELAND Ireland is not the cheapest place to visit but nor is it the most expensive. Most businesses here are not trying to rip off our visitors ~ our taxes are very high and added to that all employers must pay at least a minimum wage as set by the government, plus insurance etc.
The taxes we pay include a VAT (value added tax) charge which is currently 23% so that means that 23% of anything you buy here or pay for is made up of this tax. Unlike in places like, say, America where the tax is clearly shown restaurants, bars and so on do not show that 21% goes to the government.
After that tax the businesses will have to pay up to 48% tax to the government on any profit made. Add into the mix the very high rents that many businesses pay and you see where a lot of the money you spend here goes. Most people in businesses here try to keep their prices as low as they can but in fairness to them they do have an awful lot of outlay, as outlined here, before they make a penny. Or a cent as it is now.
All that said, we now move on to ways you can save money whilst holidaying here. If you have any more ideas on saving money whilst holidaying in Ireland, please let us know by sending them via our CONTACT page.
ACCOMMODATION When telephoning/emailing to book your accommodation, particularly if booking out of season, always ask if there is any discount available ~ especially if you are staying for more than one night. You should also check that you are emailing the hotel directly as many are registered with booking sites who make a page which looks like it is the actual hotel site but is actually the booking agents site. Obviously the booking agent has fees included in the price (or the hotel has the agents fees included). Email via that site, get a price then find the actual hotel site and ask the price for the period you want (also asking about any discounts available), compare the prices and go with the best price.
If you are travelling alone you will find that many places charge a 'single supplement'. Try to negotiate out of this extra charge or at the very least, get it reduced.
If you are booking room in a hotel and you will have a hire car with you be sure to check when booking if there is extra charges for parking. Many of the hotels in our cities do not have their own carpark and you will be parking in a nearby public carpark who will have their own charges. Make sure you get the 'overnight' charge so you are not paying an hourly charge and check too the time the 'overnight' charge expires because if you are late picking up your car you will be paying the hourly rate from the time the 'overnight' charge ends for each hour or part of an hour. Many of the hotels have an arrangement with these carparks and you should check when booking.
INTERNET ACCESS If you have a laptop with you check the price of using the hotels internet access ~ some can be very expensive but most offer access prices either per hour or a 12 or 24 hour period which works out much less if you will be using the net for any length of time.
NIGHT/MIN BAR See under the 'DRINKING' section below why you should not use these.
SELF CATERING If booking self catering accommodation always check prior to booking what the rental fee includes. Some may charge extra for bed linen, towels, electricity, oil and so forth. Also note that some may not supply towels at all and this would add massively to your luggage charges if you had to take your own with you ~ not to mention the inconvenience. If you can't find another house in your chosen are who supplies towels and you really want to book the house you have chosen despite their not supplying towels, then we would suggest you purchase the towels once you arrive here. You can get very inexpensive towels in some of the big retailers like Dunnes Stores or Pennys.
CAR HIRE Obviously you should compare rental prices prior to agreeing to take a car from any particular company. Check what your fee includes (insurance etc.). We suggest you search some of the sites such as tripadvisor.com to read hints and tips from people who have rented here. Check too if you have to leave the car back with a full tank of petrol/gas. In relation to hire charges, you will probably be told that the company has a sum of excess. This means that if the car is damaged whilst in your custody you will be charged the excess amount up to the figure quoted.
If you are staying in a city it might be better not to hire a car at all because in cities there is always good transport choices available. In Dublin we have the DART and the LUAS, buses, taxies etc. Added to that parking is difficult to find and once found is very expensive.
PETROL/GAS Prices around the country vary and it has to be said that car fuel in Ireland is expensive and currently petrol is more expensive than diesel. You can check the best prices for any paticular area in Ireland on a site called pumps.ie
CINEMA/MOVIES Check if the cinema runs afternoon shows as these will probably be cheaper than evening viewings. The soft drinks and food sold in cinemas can be very expensive so if possible bring your own popcorn and drinks bought in any local shop. Note though that some cinemas don't allow you to bring your own food/drinks.
EATING OUT Check for restaurants who offer an 'Early Bird' menu. The 'Early Bird' menu is to encourage diners in earlier in the evening and will be considerably cheaper than the later evening menu and usually runs from 5.30/6pm until around 7.30pm (check times with restaurant).
Restaurants in Ireland must by law display their menu and prices outside their premises, so take the time to wander around the town you are staying in the find a place that suits best your taste and pocket. But remember too that a good restaurant is more than just their prices ~ you could go to an expensive restaurant that serves food which might disappoint and likewise you could go to an inexpensive restaurant that serves excellent food.
WATER If you are ordering water in restaurants/cafes many will automatically serve you bottled water, which can be expensive. It is not necessary to drink bottled water in Ireland as our tap water is mostly perfect and in fact tastes very well. So if it is just tap water you want simply ask for a jug/glass of iced tap water.
WINE Check our the price of the house wine. Many places serve perfectly good house wine which will usually be less expensive than other wines on their list. If you are going to have more than one glass of wine (for two people or more) then buying a bottle will be much less expensive than buying by the glass (or snipe as is usually sold now. A snipe is a mini bottle of wine which holds around a glass and a half).
CHAMPAGNE If you decide to treat yourself with a bottle of champagne in a restaurant ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the price before ordering. Some places charge extortionate prices for the most basic champagne. Better ususally to save this expense and buy a bottle in a supermarket/off-licence and drink it in your hotel room.
SERVICE CHARGE When paying your bill in a restaurant always check whether a service charge is included. This should be stated at the bottom of your menu when ordering or if not, should certainly show up on your bill. If you are unsure ~ ask. If the service charge is included there is no need to leave a tip but if it is not you can leave a tip if you have had good service. We would suggest you give the tip in cash directly to the person who served you to avoid unscupulous owners from keeping it themselves. On the subject of paying NEVER let your credit card out of your sight as there have been cases where the card has been copied.
DRINKING Prices vary hugely around Ireland. For instance the price of a pint of Guinness in Dublin may be nearly twice what you would pay for a pint in, say, Donegal. All bars must by law display their prices (inside the premises) so have a quick look before ordering to make sure you haven't landed in a pub/bar which charges over the odds. Note too that hotel bars may be more expensive than individual pubs/bars and nightclubs will definately be more expensive ~ some actually put the prices UP after midnight. In hotels we suggest you NEVER buy drinks from the little fridge in the room as these prices can be outrageous. We suggest you don't even open the fridge as many hotels automatically debit your bill if you remove any drink from the fridge, even though you might only have taken it out to look at it. Much better to buy a drink at the hotel bar and carry it to your room.
EXCHANGING CURRENCY Always check out the different exchanges being given by the different exchange units (banks, post offices, bureau de change, tourist offices etc.) before changing your money as exchange rates can vary. Try to check on line prior to changing money to see what the rate is (we suggest xe.com).
HAIRDRESSERS Many hairdressing salons offer discounts to seniors. These discounts will usually apply to certains days of the week so check places out. Also, many salons now offer reduced fees during the early part of the week for all customers and you should check these out too to get the best prices.
INTERNET It is generally less expensive to use the internet in appointed cafes and the like than using hotel internet access.
PURCHASES If you are making purchases of gifts to take home and are buying a number of things in one shop ask if there is any discount if you pay in cash as opposed to credit cards. Some shops don't give discounts (the larger chain stores for instance) but some independent retailers might if asked. Jewellers, for instance, will usually give a discount if you are purchasing more than one item or expensive items. Ask with a smile and you never know! Remember too that visitors from outside Europe are entitled to get the VAT (tax) back so make sure you tell the store and get your appropriate receipts/documents.
SMOKING Whilst smoking is banned in all public places in Ireland, you are still allowed to smoke in allocated areas or outside and in some hotel/guest houses/B&Bs if the owner allows it. Cigarettes are extremely expensive in Ireland (high taxes) so if you do smoke it is probably best to purchase them in the duty free on your way here.
TAXIS ALWAYS check the cost of your journey before getting into the taxi. At most airports there will be a list of charges on a board inside the airport and you should find this so you have some idea of what the fee will be but still always double check the price before getting into the taxi. If you are staying in a hotel beside an airport on your arrival day or day of departure you should check if they run a bus to the airport. Many do and there is normally no charge for the trip.
TELEPHONES Often in hotels you will be charged very high rates per minute on your calls therefore it would be best to avoid making any calls on your hotel phone. You can still find telephone boxes, though not as many since many people in Ireland use mobile/cell phones. Alternatively you can always buy a cheap mobile/cell phone and credit for it. Should you need to ring one of the directory enquiry numbers here remember that some of these charge high prices and NEVER say yes to them when you are asked if you wish to be put through. It might sound like a nice idea but believe us, it is not as there is an outrageous charge per minute for these calls and they are way higher than if you dialled it yourself. If you are going to be ringing home regularly during your stay here it would be best to set up SKYPE with your home phone and then you can call from here using SKYPE too (where available).
Don't forget, if you have any other money saving trips which would be useful to visitors to Ireland just let us know via the CONTACT link at the bottom of the page.