Visit the Emerald Isle
Ireland is an island in north-western Europe which has been divided politically since 1920. Most of the island is made up of Ireland. The remainder is Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
The island of Ireland historically consists of 32 counties, of which six, collectively known as Northern Ireland, have remained as part of the United Kingdom since the rest of Ireland gained self government in 1922. The name "Ireland" applies to the island as a whole, but in English is also the official name of the independent state (ie the 26 counties which are not part of the United Kingdom), since 1921.
Tourism in the Republic of Ireland is one of the biggest contributors to the Economy of the Republic of Ireland, with over 7.3 million people visiting the country in 2014, about 1.6 times Ireland's population. Most tourists visiting Ireland come from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and France.
Image: Where's the pub?
Ireland is divided into the following areas:
The Irish heartland - home to the capital and vibrant metropolis of Dublin.
Northern Ireland - A home nation of the United Kingdom.
Northwest Ireland and Lakelands - County Cavan, County Donegal, County Leitrim, County Monaghan & County Sligo. A region that is growing in tourism activity and has a lot to offer by way of natural beauty.
Ireland's rail network covers most of the island, and reaches almost all the major cities and towns. The density of railway services is somewhat less than other European countries, due to lower population densities, and a lack of a connection to the greater European network, but most of the island is covered, with the exception of the North-West. Rail services are generally centred on Dublin and Belfast. Although hundreds of miles of rural lines were closed during the twentieth century, recent investment in passenger rail has soared on both sides of the border, and passenger numbers have been rising. Prices and service levels are comparable to other, similar lines around Western Europe, although journey times can be relatively long.
Overall, Ireland has a mild but hot changeable oceanic climate with few extremes. In Ireland you may indeed experience 'four seasons in one day', so pack accordingly and keep up-to-date with the lastest weather forecast. No matter the weather, expect it to be a topic of conversation amongst the locals.
You may notice slight differences in temperature between the north and south of the country, and more rain in the west compared with the east.
Mean daily winter temperatures vary from 4°C to 7°C, and mean daily summer temperatures vary from 14.5°C to 16°C. Temperatures will rarely exceed 25°C and will rarely fall below -5°C.
Regardless of when you visit Ireland, even in middle of the summer, you will more than likely experience rain, so if you intend being outdoors, a waterproof coat is recommended.
Visitors to Ireland are likely to find the Irish to be among the most courteous nationalities in the world. It is not uncommon for locals to approach confused looking visitors and offer to help.
Often, in smaller towns and villages (especially on rural roads), if you pass somebody unknown to you, it is customary to say hello. They may instead simply greet you by asking "how are you?", or another similar variation. It is polite to respond to this greeting, but it is not expected that you would give any significant detail on how you really are! If the person is a stranger - a simple hello and/or "how are you?" or a simple comment on the weather will suffice! In this regard, try something like "Grand day!" (if it isn't raining, of course). The response will often be "It is indeed, thank God".
When driving on rural roads (particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass), it is customary to wave "thanks" to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas of the West of Ireland where many drivers will automatically wave at everyone who drives past them. A polite hand wave (or even with just the index finger raised from the steering wheel) is customary and will be appreciated.
When accepting gifts, a polite refusal (such as, "No really you shouldn't") is common after the initial offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer is accepted, at which point your answer is likely to become more recognised. However, some people can be very persuasive and persistent. This usually isn't intended to be over-bearing, just courteous.
One thing which some visitors may find disconcerting is the response an Irish person may give to a "thank you". Most Irish people will respond with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all". This does not mean that they didn't try hard to please, but rather it is meant to suggest "I was happy to do it for you, so it was not any great difficulty" (even though it may have been!).
The Republic of Ireland and Britain undoubtedly have notable similarities. However, Irish people generally take great pride in the cultural differences that also exist between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain. Locals can be quite offended by tourists who do not acknowledge or show respect to these differences. Indeed, it is not uncommon for visitors (both before and after arrival into the country) to incorrectly assume that all of Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom (similar to Scotland and Wales). This incorrect assumption will generally cause offense and/or bemusement to locals, who take pride in the Republic of Ireland's status as a state independent of the United Kingdom. This may lead to genuine curiosity about the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Public or semi-public discussions about religious differences, political views and 20/21st century troubles are generally avoided by locals on both sides of the border. This is because opinions between individuals are so vastly divided and unyielding, that most Irish people (of moderate views) have grown accustomed to simply avoiding the topics in polite conversation. Most Irish people are moderate in their views. However, it is wise to avoid any political or religious discussion unless you are invited to discuss these topics. Tourists (who are often fascinated by the history of the division) would be advised to show respect and caution if they choose to discuss the differences of opinion that still exist on historical matters.
The Irish are renowned for their upbeat sense of humor. However, their humor can sometimes be difficult to understand for more unfamiliar tourists. Joking on almost any topic will be welcomed, although even mild racism is not appreciated by the majority. Most Irish people are quite happy for friendly jibes regarding the Irish love of potatoes and drinking alcohol. However, any jokes regarding the potato famine of the 19th Century (in which approximately two million people died or fled), should be avoided. Joking about this topic could in many instances cause a similar amount of offense (for example) as joking about the Holocaust would among Jewish people.
If the official name of an institution is in Irish (such as the Oireachtas or Gardaí), try to use the Irish name, even if you are unsure as to the correct pronunciation. Irish people will generally be understanding and appreciate the effort even if you get it wrong, whereas they will often consider it culturally ignorant and rude if you simply use the English term instead.
LGBT visitors will find that some of the Irish are tolerant of same-sex couples. Ireland has recently passed a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage in May 2015 although it had had quite a bit of push-back from the religious community so LGBT rights is a discussion you should avoid. Care should be taken outside large towns. Conservative values are still hold dear in rural Ireland. Ireland has anti-discrimination laws and it's not often enforced. Gay people will be welcomed in some clubs and bars. Common sense should prevail in all areas but particular care should be taken in poorer areas. Some gay visitors may find themselves the butt of mild jokes. However this is normally the Irish sense of humor. If one feels this is not the case then common sense should prevail and if they feel in danger the Gardaí (Police) should be called.
Tourism Ireland was established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It is jointly funded by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on a two-to-one ratio. Tourism Ireland works together with the two tourist boards on the island, Fáilte Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, to promote Ireland as a leading tourist destination, both North and South.
Fáilte Ireland is the biggest tourist body in Ireland, and promotes tourism as a leading component of the Irish economy. The organisation provides strategic and practical support to develop and sustain Ireland as a tourist destination.