World ? Europe ? Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland: Money

Currency

The Republic of Ireland uses the single European currency known as the euro. In this guide, the € sign symbolizes the euro. In converting prices to U.S. dollars, we used the rate €1 = $1.30.

Euro notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500. The euro is divided into 100 cents; coins come in denominations of €2, €1, 50Ţ, 20Ţ, 10Ţ, 5Ţ, 2Ţ, and 1Ţ.

So far, the United Kingdom has resisted the euro and retained its traditional currency, the pound sterling. Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, uses the British pound. In this guide, the ţ sign symbolizes the British pound. The British pound is not legal tender in the Republic, and the euro is not legal tender in the North -- if you're traveling in both parts of Ireland, you'll need some of both currencies, although shops right on the border tend to accept both. For those traveling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, although the pounds issued in Northern Ireland are legal tender in Great Britain and vice versa, the paper money actually looks different, and you may find that cabdrivers and small business owners in the north won't accept bills issued in Great Britain and vice versa. In that case, you can change the money into locally issued versions at any large, central bank, free of charge. In converting prices for this guide, we used the rate ţ1 = $1.90.

The British currency used in Northern Ireland has notes in denominations of ţ5, ţ10, ţ20, ţ50, and ţ100. Coins are issued in ţ2, ţ1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p denominations.

Note for U.S. Travelers: The value of the U.S. dollar has been fluctuating a great deal lately, so it is best to begin checking exchange rates well in advance of your visit to get a feel for where they will stand for your trip.

ATMs

The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine" or a "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; or 1800/558-002 toll-free in Ireland; www.visa.com) networks span the globe; look at the back of your bank card to see which network you're on, then call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Note: Remember that many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than $2). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.

Large towns usually have an ATM linked to a network that includes your home bank. However, out in rural counties -- especially Galway, Clare, and Limerick -- ATMs can be few and far between. I once drove 50 miles looking for an ATM in Clare before finally finding one, so stock up on cash if you're headed out to the countryside.

Most Republic and Northern Ireland ATMs accept PINs of four to six digits. One hiccup, however, is that they often don't have alphanumeric keypads. If your PIN features letters (for example: STAN37), use a telephone dial to figure out the numeric equivalents (or better yet, memorize it before you leave home).

Credit Cards

Credit cards are another safe way to carry money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency). Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Ireland. American Express and Diners Club are accepted by most major hotels, but are less commonly accepted elsewhere. Cards are widely accepted at shops and restaurants, although small rural businesses and some B&Bs do not accept them.

Traveler's Checks

You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. They are offered in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and sometimes $1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.

The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/807-6233, or 800/221-7282 for card holders -- this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the 1% fee); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322, or 1800-411-055 toll-free in Ireland) -- AAA members can obtain Visa checks for a $9.95 fee (for checks up to $1,500) at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378; and MasterCard (tel. 800/622-7747).

American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, and MasterCard offer foreign currency traveler's checks, which are useful if you're traveling to one country, or to the euro zone; they're accepted at locations where dollar checks may not be. However, be advised that traveler's checks are not widely accepted by establishments in Ireland. You'll probably have to change the checks at a bank and pay a fee for the privilege.

If you carry traveler's checks, keep a record of their serial numbers separate from your checks in the event that they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.

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