World ? Europe ? Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland: Fast Facts

Area Codes -- Area codes in Ireland range from one number (the Dublin area code is "1") to three. Area codes are included in all phone listings in this guide. Within Ireland, you dial 0 before the area code. It's like dialing "1" before the number in the U.S. Outside of Ireland, however, you do not dial 0 before the area code.

Business Hours -- Banks are open 10am to 4pm Monday to Wednesday and Friday, and 10am to 5pm Thursday.

Post offices (known as An Post) in city centers are open from 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1:30pm Saturday. The GPO on O'Connell Street in Dublin is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday, and 10:30am to 6:30pm Sunday (for stamps only). Post offices in small towns often close for lunch from 1 to 2:30pm.

Museums and sights are generally open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and 2 to 5pm Sunday.

Shops generally open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with late opening on Thursday until 7 or 8pm. In Dublin's city center, most department stores and many shops are open noon to 6pm Sunday.

In Northern Ireland, bank hours are Monday to Friday 9:30am to 4:30pm. Post offices are open 9:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday and Saturday 9am to 1pm. Some in smaller towns close for an hour at lunchtime. Shopping hours are much the same as in the Republic, with some smaller shops closing for an hour at lunchtime.

Drugstores -- Drugstores are called "chemist shops" and are found in every city, town, and village. Look under "Chemists -- Pharmaceutical" in the Golden Pages of the Irish telephone book or "Chemists -- Dispensing" in the Yellow Pages of the Northern Ireland telephone book.

Electricity -- The Irish electric system operates on 220 volts with a plug bearing three rectangular prongs. The Northern Irish system operates on 250 volts. To use standard American 110-volt appliances, you'll need both a transformer and a plug adapter. Most new laptops have built-in transformers, but some do not, so beware. Attempting to use only a plug adapter is a sure way to fry your appliance or, worse, cause a fire.

Embassies & Consulates -- The American Embassy is at 42 Elgin Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 (tel. 01/668-8777); the Canadian Embassy at 65-68 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/678-1988); the British Embassy at 31 Merrion Rd., Dublin 2 (tel. 01/205-3700); and the Australian Embassy at Fitzwilton House, Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/676-1517). In addition, there is an American Consulate at 14 Queen St., Belfast BT1 6EQ (tel. 028/9032-8239).

Emergencies -- For the Garda (police), fire, ambulance, or other emergencies, dial tel. 999.

Internet Access -- Public access terminals are no longer hard to find in Ireland; they're now in shopping malls, hotels, and even hostels, especially in the larger towns and more tourist-centered areas. Virtually every town with a public library offers free Internet access, though you may have to call ahead to reserve time on a PC. (For a list of public libraries in Ireland, visit www.libdex.com/country/Ireland.html.) Additionally, there are an increasing number of Internet cafes sprouting up across the island.

Language -- Ireland has two official languages: English and Gaelic (also known as Irish). All native Irish can speak English, however. Gaelic is growing in popularity, and there is a strong national movement to preserve and expand use of the language. Areas of the country where Gaelic is protected are known as the Gaeltacht and include Donegal, Galway, and parts of Kerry. In these regions, signs are in Gaelic, which is a complex and ancient language that you will not be able to figure out on your own. Ask for help if you get lost -- despite the government's best efforts, everybody in Gaeltacht regions speaks English.

Liquor Laws -- Individuals must be age 18 or over to be served alcoholic beverages in Ireland. Restaurants with liquor licenses are permitted to serve alcohol during the hours when meals are served. Hotels and guesthouses with licenses can serve during normal hours to the public; overnight guests, referred to as "residents," can be served after closing hours. Alcoholic beverages by the bottle can be purchased at stores displaying OFF-LICENSE signs, and at most supermarkets, but only during legal drinking hours.

Ireland has very severe laws and penalties regarding driving while intoxicated, so don't even think about it.

Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. For American Express, call tel. 01/617-5555 in Ireland; for MasterCard, call tel. 1800/557378 toll-free in Ireland; and for Visa, call tel. 1800/558002 toll-free in Ireland.

If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).

Identity theft or fraud are potential complications of losing your wallet, especially if you've lost your driver's license along with your cash and credit cards. Notify the major credit-reporting bureaus immediately; placing a fraud alert on your records may protect you against liability for criminal activity. The three major U.S. credit-reporting agencies are Equifax (tel. 800/766-0008; www.equifax.com), Experian (tel. 888/397-3742; www.experian.com), and TransUnion (tel. 800/680-7289; www.transunion.com). Finally, if you've lost all forms of photo ID, call your airline and explain the situation; they might allow you to board the plane if you have a copy of your passport or birth certificate and a copy of the police report you've filed.

Mail -- In Ireland, mailboxes are painted green with the word POST on top. In Northern Ireland, they are painted red with a royal coat-of-arms symbol. From the Republic, an airmail letter or postcard to the United States or Canada, not exceeding 25 grams, costs €.90 ($1.10) and takes 5 to 7 days to arrive. From Northern Ireland to the United States or Canada, airmail letters cost 90p (€1.80) and postcards 50p (90Ţ). Delivery takes about 5 days to a week.

Measurements -- The metric system of measurement is used in Ireland, with nonmetric equivalents as follows. Temperature: 32ŶF = 0ŶC. Liquid volume: 1 liter = .26 U.S. gallon; 1 U.S. gallon = 3.8 liters. Distance: 1 foot = .30m; 1m = 3.3 feet; 1 mile = 1.6km; 1km = .62 mile. Weight: 1 ounce = 28 grams; 1 pound = .4555 kilogram; 1 gram = .04 ounce; 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds.

Passports -- Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes 4 weeks but can take longer during busy periods (especially spring). And keep in mind that if you need a passport in a hurry, you'll pay a higher processing fee.

For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).

For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a €12 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525) or at most main post offices.

For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand, or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-year passport for children under 16), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.

For Residents of the United States: Whether you're applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov. To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Police -- In the Republic of Ireland, a law enforcement officer is called a Garda, a member of the Garda Sȷochȥna ("Guardian of the Peace"); in the plural, it's Gardaȷ (pronounced Gar-dee) or simply "the Guards." Dial tel. 999 to reach the Gardaȷ in an emergency. Except for special detachments, Irish police are unarmed and wear dark blue uniforms. In Northern Ireland you can also reach the police by dialing tel. 999.

Restrooms -- Public restrooms are usually simply called "toilets" or are marked with international symbols. In the Republic of Ireland, some of the older ones still carry the Gaelic words FIR (MEN) and MNA (WOMEN). Among the newest and best-kept restrooms are those found at shopping malls and at multistory parking lots. Free restrooms are available to customers of sightseeing attractions, museums, hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, theaters, and department stores. Most of the newer gas stations (called "petrol stations" in Ireland) have public toilets, and a few have baby-changing facilities.

Smoking -- Ireland has a broad antismoking law that bans smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Most restaurants and pubs have covered indoor smoking areas these days.

Taxes -- As in many European countries, sales tax is called VAT (value-added tax) and is often already included in the price quoted to you or shown on price tags. In the Republic, VAT rates vary -- for hotels, restaurants, and car rentals, it is 13.5%; for souvenirs and gifts, it is 21%. In Northern Ireland, the VAT is 17.5% across-the-board. VAT charged on services such as hotel stays, meals, car rentals, and entertainment cannot be refunded to visitors, but the VAT on products such as souvenirs is refundable.

Telephones -- In the Republic, the telephone system is known as Eircom; in Northern Ireland, it's British Telecom. Every effort has been made to ensure that the numbers and information in this guide are accurate at the time of writing. Overseas calls from Ireland can be quite costly, whether you use a local Phonecard or your own calling card. If you think you will want to call home regularly while in Ireland, you may want to open an account with Vartec Telecom Ireland in Ireland (tel. 1800/4110077; www.vartec.ie). Its rates represent a considerable savings, not only from Ireland to the United States but vice versa (handy for planning your trip as well as keeping in touch afterward).

To call Ireland from home:

1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S., 00 from the U.K., 0011 from Australia, or 0170 from New Zealand.

2. Dial the country code: 353 for the Republic, 44 for the North.

3. Dial the local number, remembering to omit the initial 0, which is for use only within Ireland (for example, to call the County Kerry number 066/12345 from the United States, you'd dial 011-353-66/12345).

To make international calls: To make international calls from Ireland, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and local number. For example, to call the U.S. number 212/000-0000 you'd dial tel. 00-1-212/000-0000. The toll-free international access code for AT&T is tel. 1-800-550-000; for Sprint it's tel. 1-800-552-001; and for MCI it's tel. 1-800-55-1001. Note: To dial direct to Northern Ireland from the Republic, simply replace the 028 prefix with 048.

For directory assistance: Dial the toll-free number tel. 11811 if you're looking for a number inside Ireland. In Northern Ireland, try tel. 118888. From the United States, the (toll) number to call is tel. 00353-91-770220.

To make local calls: To dial a local number within an area code, drop the initial 0. To dial a number within Ireland, but in a different area code, use the initial 0. Local calls from a phone booth require a Callcard (in the Republic) or Phonecard (in the North). Both are prepaid computerized cards that you insert into the phone instead of coins. They can be purchased in a range of denominations at phone company offices, post offices, and many retail outlets (such as newsstands). There's a local and international phone center at the General Post Office on O'Connell Street in Dublin.

Time Zone -- Ireland follows Greenwich Mean Time (1 hr. earlier than Central European Time) from November to March, and British Standard Time (the same as Central European Time) from April to October. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of the eastern United States.

Ireland's latitude makes for longer days and shorter nights in the summer, and the reverse in the winter. In June, the sun doesn't fully set until around 11pm, but in December, it is dark by 4pm.

Tipping -- Most hotels and guesthouses add a service charge to the bill, usually 12.5% to 15%, although some smaller places add only 10% or nothing at all. Always check to see what amount, if any, has been added to your bill. If it is 12.5% to 15%, and you feel this is sufficient, then there is no need for more gratuities. However, if a smaller amount has been added or if staff members have provided exceptional service, it is appropriate to give additional cash gratuities. For porters or bellhops, tip €1 ($1.30) per piece of luggage. For taxi drivers, hairdressers, and other providers of service, tip as you would at home, an average of 10% to 15%.

For restaurants, the policy is usually printed on the menu -- either a gratuity of 10% to 15% is automatically added to your bill or it's left up to you. Always ask if you are in doubt. As a rule, bartenders do not expect a tip, except when table service is provided.

Useful Phone Numbers --

U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202/647-5225 (staffed 24 hr.)

U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202/647-0518

U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's Hotline: tel. 404/332-4559

Water -- Tap water throughout the island of Ireland is generally safe. If you prefer bottled water, it is readily available at all hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, and pubs.

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