What should I do to prepare my passport?
Make sure your passport is signed.
Make two copies of the signature and biography pages of your passport. Give one copy to friends or family who will be staying here in the U.S. (your emergency contact), and bring the other copy with you to Ireland. Should your passport get lost or stolen while we’re abroad, obtaining a new one will be much easier if we have a copy of your old one.
When should I book my flights?
For your return flight, please book a flight that leaves no earlier than noon on July 27. We will leave early in the morning and travel from Galway to Dublin airport, a trip of approximately 2 hours. Participants who have earlier flights will need to arrange their own transportation (for very early morning flights, you may want to consider leaving Galway on the evening of the 27th or spend an extra night in Dublin and depart on the 28th). Participants flying out of Shannon will need to arrange their own flights; Shannon is about 1 ½ hours away from Galway.
Please send us your flight itinerary so that we can coordinate our airport pick-ups upon arrival. As we receive your information, we will post the flights you have selected to other members of the group so that they might seek out the same flights should folks like to travel together.
What forms of identification should I bring?
The law requires that you carry identification on your person at all times. While traveling from place to place within Ireland, that form of identification should be your passport. While we are on-site (e.g. on walking tours or day trips), it is better to leave your passport in a secure location in your room and carry a secondary form of identification. One effective solution is to make a copy of the signature and biography pages of your passport, and have it laminated before you leave home.
Driver’s license: All transportation on the trip has been arranged in advance. However, if you plan to rent a car for independent sightseeing, your driver’s license is necessary. It is generally a good idea to have an International Driver’s License if you plan to rent a car in Ireland. You can learn more about the International Driver’s License through a Google search, from your travel agent when you book your flights, or from a travel service (such as AAA).
If you don’t have plans to rent a car, bring your U.S. driver’s license anyway. It’s good to travel with at least two forms of identification (driver’s license + passport).
What types of insurance should I look into?
Most U.S. health insurance companies provide limited coverage for overseas travel. For example, your health insurance plan may cover you for emergency or urgent care. Also, most U.S. health insurance companies have different policies and procedures for international coverage. For example, many health insurance plans will require you to pay for treatment up front while you are abroad and will reimburse you after you open a claim with them. This is very different than going to an in-network health care provider in the U.S., presenting your insurance card, and simply paying a co-pay on your way out or getting billed later.
Before you leave the U.S., it is a good idea to contact your health insurance provider to obtain information about the international coverage for your plan and the payment/reimbursement policies and procedures. You may not need it, but it’s just good to have a general awareness of what needs to happen if you have a health emergency while we are in Ireland.
Also before you go, please make a copy of your health insurance card to leave with your emergency contact. You should carry your original health insurance card with you while in Ireland.
You may wish to purchase travel insurance against flight/trip cancellation, delays, or lost baggage. You should discuss this with your travel agent when you book your flights (if you are a member of AAA you can also discuss this with an AAA travel advisor). Our office does not provide travel insurance, nor can we make any specific recommendations on where to purchase travel insurance.
What health considerations should I bear in mind?
Before your departure it’s a good idea to schedule a physical appointment with your primary care physician to make sure that you are generally in good health and are up-to-date on vaccinations, etc. You should let your physician know that you will be traveling to Ireland, and see if he/she has any specific recommendations for you to stay healthy during your trip. You may also consider visiting a traveler’s health clinic, such as Passport Health (http://www.passporthealthusa.com/) before you go. While you are extremely unlikely to encounter exotic infectious diseases in Ireland, it is important to realize that travel can be stressful to your health. It’s important to be as prepared as possible.
If you take prescription medications, you need to have a plan for carrying them abroad and making sure you have what you need while you are in Ireland. Here are some steps to take before you go:
You need to make sure the prescription you are taking is legal in Ireland. Some prescriptions that are legal in the U.S. may not be legal in Ireland, or may be restricted. You can find this out by checking online, calling the U.S. embassy in Ireland or making an appointment at a travel health clinic like Passport Health (see link above).
You need to make sure you have enough supply of your prescription to last the entire time we are in Ireland, plus a few extra days supply in case of delayed return to the U.S. (remember that volcano in Iceland that erupted in 2010 and disrupted air traffic in Europe for week).
On a separate piece of paper, you should record the name of the prescription you are taking, the dosage amount, how you take the prescription, and why you have to take it. When recording the name of the prescription you take, make sure you write down the generic name of the drug in addition to the brand name (brand names of prescription drugs will change from country to country while the generic or chemical names will stay the same). Ideally, you should have the doctor that prescribes the drug record all of this on his/her letterhead. This paper should be carried with you while you travel in a different place than the drug itself. If you lose your medication, this information can help you replace it.
When packing your prescription medications, leave them in their original containers (do not mix them into the same container or into a day-of-the-week pill dispenser as it can cause problems with customs). You can bring a day-of-the-week pill dispenser to put them in when you get through customs and into Ireland, if necessary. Pack the bottles in a clear, zip-lock bag, in your carry-on luggage. Do not put prescriptions in your checked luggage. Should your checked luggage get lost, you would be without your medications. Carry the record of the prescription with your carry-on luggage as well.
Eyeglasses or Contacts
If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses bring an extra pair with you. Also bring a copy of your prescription with you (similar to how you will bring a record of your other prescriptions). Even though your prescription can be taken from your lens, it is still a good idea to bring a record of it in case your glasses get lost.
It’s always a good idea to bring a supply of your favorite over-the-counter meds. What do you usually take when you have a headache, stomachache, etc.? It’s also a good idea to bring your favorite anti-histamine. You’ll be in a new environment and you may run into a certain type of pollen or something that irritates your allergies.
A Final Note on Health Considerations:
If you have any medical conditions that you think the trip leaders should know about, please get in touch with us in advance. Our contact information is included in this packet. Examples may include food allergies, bee sting reactions, low blood sugar, depression or anxiety, anything that could significantly affect your experience in Ireland or require emergency attention.
If there is an emergency, we will assist in obtaining the medical attention that you need. The little everyday things that you can take care of before you get there are better done in advance.
What if I want to bring a cellphone?
You can also rent or buy a European cell phone off the Internet, or buy a European cell phone once you arrive in Dublin. The phone will be prepaid, so you will purchase a certain number of minutes for your stay in Europe. Phones and prepaid minutes are usually fairly reasonable. Please note that you will not need a cell-phone for any program related items, so if you choose to purchase, rent, or bring your own cell phone, you are only doing to so to be able to make personal calls or keep in touch with home. Before spending money on one of these items, read below about the wireless devices and decide if the cell phone will really be worth it for the 10 days you are in Ireland.
Should I bring a wireless device?
Throughout the trip, we will be working with a limited number of documents, images, maps and other texts. We will provide you with a link to electronic versions of these materials before we leave. Please bring a copy with you on the trip. A paper copy is fine, but a copy accessible through a tablet or similar portable device will be much more convenient.
You can store most of the contents of this site for viewing on an iOS device (iPhone or iPad) by following our instructions here. Once stored on your device, the site’s pages, including text and photos, can be viewed even when you don’t have an internet connection.
There are internet cafes in most major cities Ireland if you do not wish to bring your own wireless device and do not have an international cell phone. Internet cafés will typically charge a small fee for every hour you spend online. Some internet cafes also have phones for making international calls (for a fee).
What should I do for money when abroad?
While abroad, it is best to carry enough cash with you each day to get through that day’s expenses, only using your credit or debit card when necessary. We strongly advise that if you are going to be out of town for a day (either on an excursion with the group or on your own during the free day in Sligo) that you make sure you are carrying enough cash for that day’s expenses. Do not rely on having access to an ATM wherever you may be going. ATMs can be rare in rural Ireland and you could find yourself stuck without any cash.
You may want to invest in some sort of under-your-clothes money carrier. These usually come in two forms: a money belt, worn around the waist, or a money pouch worn around the neck. It’s good to keep some money readily accessible in a wallet or purse, but under-the-clothes carriers are good for packing large bills or an extra credit or debit card.
You may want to invest in an RFID blocking wallet (Google “RFID blocking wallet” if you aren’t sure what we’re talking about). These wallets have special electronic chips in them to block potential thieves from electronically accessing credit card information while your credit cards are tucked away in your wallet or purse (welcome to the space age of pick-pocketing). If you don’t want to purchase a whole wallet, some travel stores (like AAA) carry RFID blocking sheaths that fit individual credit cards.
We will be operating in two currency zones: in Ireland prices will be in Euros (€) and in Northern Ireland, in British Pounds Sterling (£). The currency and exchange rates are different, so keep this in mind if you make purchases when we are in the north. Many retailers in Northern Ireland will accept Euros, but may charge an exchange fee. If you make ATM withdrawals in Northern Ireland (including Giant’s Causeway and Derry), try to take out only the money that you will spend while we are in the north. Otherwise, you will pay exchange fees converting Pounds into Euros when we return to Ireland. Some ATMs in Northern Ireland will dispense British banknotes (noted with “Bank of England” on the face of the bill), but others will dispense “provincial banknotes” unique to Northern Ireland. These are currency notes issued by one of four different banks in the north. They are legitimate currency, but can sometimes be difficult to exchange, so you should spend or exchange them before we leave Derry.
When you arrive in Ireland, you should have €100 – 150 in cash. You can arrange this at your bank before you leave, at a currency exchange kiosk at the airport, or use an ATM at the airport upon your arrival.
Credit/Debit ATM Cards
Generally, use of ATMs and credit cards will result in a much better exchange rate than you will receive if you plan to use currency exchange services. Before you leave the US you should make sure of the following things about your credit and/or debit ATM card:
- Check the expiration date on your cards. Make sure that they are good for your entire visit.
- If the magnetic strip is starting to wear, get a new card. Don’t wait for it to be rejected abroad. Many places in Europe are now also taking cards that have computer chips in them, rather than magnetic strips. If you will be renewing or getting a new card before your departure, see if your credit card company or bank offers this as an option and tell them you’re traveling to Europe.
- If you’re planning on using a debit card, it has to have the seal of a major credit card (just like in the U.S.). You will need to know your PIN number to use the ATM (again, just like in the U.S.). ATMs are available in most cities and towns where there are banks. When in country stick to sheltered ATMs, and never go to the ATM alone.
- Notify your credit card and debit card institutions that you will be traveling in Ireland and the UK. You will need to tell them when you will be traveling and for how long. We recommend you do this no more than a month, but no less than 10 days, before your departure. Given modern-day information security concerns, many institutions have a security system that will reject transactions outside of the U.S. unless prior notification has been given by the authorized user. This can result in a credit or debit card being frozen by your bank, which can create many problems. Also check the daily limit you may access from an ATM and adjust it if necessary.
- Write down your bank and/or credit card’s emergency phone number (usually available on the back of the card; note that 800-numbers will not work overseas). Keeping this information separate from where you carry your cards is useful in the unlikely event that you experience a theft.
Please note that your credit or debit card institutions may charge an “international processing fee”. For debit cards, this fee will be levied in addition to the ATM fee when you get cash out of the ATM. For credit cards, it will be levied at each international transaction. You should call your credit or debit card institution and ask them what the international processing fees are. For the most part, these fees are unavoidable, but it helps to have an idea of what they will be when you are planning your budget for spending money.
You may choose to get a “travel” debit card for the time you will be in Ireland. For example, AAA offers a travel debit card that you can put money on and manage electronically. The main advantage to a travel debit card is that it is not directly attached to your bank account, so if it gets lost or stolen, all the cash that can be taken will be what is already on the card. One of the downsides of the travel debit card is that the international processing fees are high, usually 7% or more of the transaction cost.
Don’t bring unnecessary credit cards with you.
Given the universal acceptance of debit cards at most ATMs, traveler’s checks have effectively become a thing of the past. The “travel” debit card mentioned above would be a good replacement for traveler’s checks if you are looking for something that is a travel-specific way of carrying money and is not officially attached to your bank account or credit card institution. Fewer and fewer banks and merchants will honor traveler’s checks – in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, currency exchange shops will exchange traveler’s check for cash, but will charge a hefty service fee.
How can I avoid being pickpocketed?
Pickpocketing can be a problem, especially in areas with high tourist traffic. Here are a few pointers:
- Avoid fumbling with your valuables or cash in public.
- If you have a choice, use a sheltered ATM machine.
- If you find yourself carrying large amounts of money on your person, keep a small amount in your purse or wallet, and put the rest in a safe place on your body. As mentioned above, a money belt or pouch around your neck is a good place to keep extra money and other important items.
- If you carry a wallet, keeping it in your front pocket or in a pocket with a button can help you protect your property. In crowded situations, hovering your hand over your valuables can help you cue into potential thefts.
- If you plan on carrying a purse or backpack, always make sure that it is closed and secure. If you are in a crowd, keep these items close to you and carry them in front of your body if possible. Backpacks are not good places for important documents as they can be accessed while on your back when you might not see or feel it. Fanny packs are an open invitation to a thief.
- Pickpockets often strike as you are making a transition on or off public transportation. If someone bumps hard into you, assume that someone is stealing something from you.
Should I be concerned about sectarian violence in Northern Ireland?
- July is “marching season”, a time when various Catholic and Protestant groups sponsor parades and other demonstrations. These events can be flashpoints for violence. Our trip will be avoiding areas where problems can occur, but if you are on your own, be aware of your surroundings and avoid any demonstrations, parades, or other political events in Northern Ireland.
- Since religion and politics are deeply intertwined and extremely sensitive issues in Northern Ireland, it is best to refrain from conversations with locals about religion or politics. Be especially careful about expressing strong religious or political views in bars or pubs.
- Please be sensitive to the impact of The Troubles while touring. We will visit a number of sites throughout Ireland, but especially in Northern Ireland, that have very strong emotional associations for locals, so please be respectful. [As a frame of reference, consider how you would like—or wouldn’t like—foreign tourists to behave at, say, the Ground Zero Memorial in New York].
Do I need an Irish language dictionary?
What guidebooks should I bring?
What are adapters and converters and do I need them?
- Adapters: The adapter is the thing that you use to plug your electronics into the socket in the wall. Throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, sockets will accept a standard UK adaptor (three prongs). You can purchase these at many retailers in the US; most adapters sold today will also include a USB charger that you may use with portable media and digital cameras.
- Converters: The converter is the thing that converts the volts running through the wires in the walls to the volts that your electronics are compatible with. In the past, it was necessary to travel with both an adapter and a converter. Today, most electronics either come with their own converters or are made to handle the maximum and minimum voltage ranges that can be found throughout the world (110V – 240V). For example, most laptop computers, tablets, and digital cameras have a converter box as part of the charging cord unit. You can check the voltage range your electronics were built for by looking in the owner’s manual or user guide, or by checking the specifications on the electronic device itself.
- Please do not pack electronics that contain heating elements such as hair dryers, curlers, or irons. These will not work and at any rate, most hotels will have similar items in your room.
What type of clothing and footwear should I pack?
With this in mind, pack clothing suitable for wet weather. Mid-day showers are common even on days that are otherwise warm and sunny. At the very least, you should have a small collapsible umbrella and rain jacket (a jacket that can be rolled into a small package and kept in your backpack or purse is best). Rain pants and waterproof footwear may also be useful, especially when we have outdoor activities in the north and west.
Layering is the best strategy for coping with Ireland’s unpredictable weather. A wardrobe consisting of a mix of short and long sleeved shirts, a light sweater, and a pullover would be ideal. It may be cool in the early morning or evening, so a jacket, sweatshirt, or fleece is a must. Khakis, slacks, and jeans are all good options. Generally you will see very few people wearing shorts in Ireland – and almost all of them will be American tourists.
Daytime activities will be informal and casual. Unless you have other specific plans or preferences, there should be no need for dressy outfits. The main thing is to bring clothes that travel well and are low maintenance. We’ll all get used to seeing each other in the same three to five outfits, and when we return home and look at our pictures, it will seem like we took them all in three days.
We do recommend that you bring at least one “step out to a nice restaurant for dinner” outfit. Again, this doesn’t have to be anything overly formal.
We will be walking a lot. It is very important to bring good, comfortable footwear. Streets and sidewalks in Ireland not always even, and we will be doing some rural walking in places such as the Giant’s Causeway. Everyone has their own choice of what works for them as far as comfortable footwear. The basic guideline is to choose shoes that you could walk in for a full day. Heavy walking demands good soles. You know your feet better than anyone else. Just remember that you will be walking and standing a lot, possibly more than you have ever done in the States. A second pair of shoes could also come in handy, especially if things get wet. If you are prone to turning your ankles, leave the heels at home. Sandals are not at all suited to Ireland’s climate.
Will I be able to do laundry when in Ireland?
What if I forget to bring something?
What kind of food will be available?
An evening meal at a restaurant will vary in price and options. Most restaurants will post a menu outside so you can make a decision before you enter. At sit down restaurants (i.e. an establishment where there is table service by wait staff), a gratuity may automatically be included in the bill. If it is not, a tip of 10% is considered reasonable.
Pubs are an integral part of Irish culture and visiting a pub is the best way to experience local culture. Pubs will feature good conversation, gossip, and occasional music sessions – collectively known as “craic”. Most pubs also serve lunch and dinner as well as snacks. Pub meals are usually well-portioned comfort foods, usually consisting of a main entrée (beef, pork and fish are especially popular), several sides, and soda or brown bread. At a pub, do not expect table service. All orders for drinks and food should be made at the bar and you will pay when you order. There is no expectation for tipping at pubs (and if you try to leave a tip, you’ll probably get a funny look).
Ireland is well known for beer and whiskey. If you are inclined, sample the range of drinks available, including options that are generally not available in the United States. Guinness definitely tastes better in Ireland, but don’t miss out on the range of other regional offerings as well as cask-conditioned ales (usually lightly carbonated and served at slightly less than room temperature) that may be available. When ordering a beer, ask for a “pint” (20 oz) or a “glass” (10 oz). A glass is also sometimes referred to as a “half.”
Most pubs in Ireland close at 11:30, but many pubs will do “lock-ins” – shutting the doors to outside customers but allowing patrons already inside to stay. If you are imbibing with the locals, it is traditional for everyone at the table to buy a round and it is considered very bad form to skip out when your turn to buy a round comes along. All pubs in both Ireland and Northern Ireland now ban indoor smoking .
Should I bring a water bottle?
What should I do if I have dietary restrictions?
Should I bring toiletries or buy them when I get there?
What should I do to help ensure my safety and avoid getting lost?
Remember that in Ireland and Northern Ireland, automobiles drive on the left side of the road. It is essential to keep this in mind when crossing the street, especially in high traffic areas – the closest traffic will be coming from the opposite direction from what you are expecting. Revert to what they taught you in kindergarten: look both ways before stepping off the curb!
American tourists have a reputation for being loud, pushy, and unaware of their surroundings. Let’s work together to dismantle this stereotype. In particular, when we are on walking tours or in crowded areas, please try to keep bunched together as much as possible and be aware of whether you are blocking traffic or causing disruptions for others.
What's the time difference?
What else should I know?
- State Department’s Travel Website: http://travel.state.gov/
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP): http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html (this was formerly known as “registering with the embassy”).
- State Department Website for Study Abroad Students: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/ (We know you aren’t students, but this webpage has some good information that is relevant to all travelers, and it’s a little easier to navigate than the State Department’s regular website).
- CDC’s Traveler’s Health Website: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
- Passport Health: http://www.passporthealthusa.com/
- United States Diplomatic Mission to Ireland: http://dublin.usembassy.gov/
- CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
- Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page (run by Wikipedia, so may not be the most authoritative, but gives some good country overviews and travel tips).