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I’ve visited Ireland multiple times and each time I’ve traveled there solo. On my first ever trip to the Emerald Isle I booked a 6-day Paddywagon Tour to see the whole country and I had the time of my life!
I’ve also returned to Ireland numerous times since then and I’ve always had a good ‘craic’ as they say. If you’ve never heard that word before, craic is basically Irish for ‘a bloody good time’.
Solo travel in Ireland is pretty easy since the people are so friendly and if you walk into any bar the locals will usually welcome you with open arms.
If you only speak English and no other languages, Ireland is also an easy place to travel because there’s no language barrier (although the accent can be a bit difficult to understand sometimes!)
If you’re considering solo travel to Ireland, rest assured you should have a great experience. In this guide I’ll cover the best ways to get around Ireland when you’re traveling alone plus some of the best places to stay.
Best Ways to Travel Solo Around Ireland
There are a few options for getting around Ireland including renting a car and taking a tour. If you’re traveling solo in Ireland and you want to see more than just Dublin then I definitely recommend booking a group tour.
Paddywagon has been in operation since 1998 so they’re very well known in Ireland. They offer a variety of day tours and multi-day trips led by 100% Irish guides. Vehicles are modern and safe and they have free Wi-Fi so you can use the Internet while you’re on the road.
I’ve personally taken two trips with them – one was the Glendalough & Wicklow Mountains Half Day Tour from Dublin and the other was their 6-day Tour: All Ireland which costs €549. This tour covers Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, historic Derry, the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, The Ring of Kerry and the Blarney Stone in Cork.
I had such a good time on the 6-day Paddywagon tour and made a few friends from the US who I ended up visiting when I traveled around America.
There was definitely lots of drinking and dancing and we had a lot of laughs on the bus. This tour is a great intro to Ireland and the best part is you don’t have to worry about directions, itineraries or driving hungover (and I definitely had a couple of hangovers!) You get to see places you may not necessarily have considered visiting and receive plenty of local insight and knowledge from your tour guide.
Accommodation-wise you can choose between dormitory style backpacker accommodation or economy private rooms such as B&B’s, apartments & budget hotels.
Day Trips & Tours
Paddywagon also offers day trips so if you want a bit more flexibility or you don’t have the time for a week-long tour. Day trips are available from cities like Dublin, Cork and Belfast.
- From Dublin: Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny Full-Day Trip
- Dublin: Cliffs of Moher, Kilmacduagh Abbey & Galway Day Tour
- From Galway: Connemara & Kylemore Abbey Full-Day Guided Tour
- Best of Ireland 6-Day Backpackers Economy Tour
- South Ireland: Galway and Kerry 3-Day Budget Tour
Renting a Car
If you’d prefer to have the freedom to go wherever you want and not be stuck to a schedule, then you may prefer to rent a car. Make sure you search several sites such as Kayak and Rentalcars.com to get the best rates.
Here are some of my top tips for renting a car in Ireland:
Remember they drive on the left – If you’re from the US or Europe or any country where people drive on the right, you’ll need to remind yourself constantly to stick to the left. Don’t get distracted! Remember that when you’re on a highway with multiple lanes that the right lane is the fast lane.
Some of the country roads can be tight and narrow – It can be beneficial to have a small vehicle in Ireland just because some of the country lanes can be small and narrow. If there’s a car coming from the other direction, you may have to reverse to a passing place.
Be wary of animals in the roads – There are sheep all over Ireland so watch out for animals and wildlife in the roads. Always stay alert!
You can’t turn on a red light – In some states in America you can make a turn on a red light. In Ireland you can’t turn on a red light under any circumstances.
Most cars are manual in Ireland – If you’ve never driven manual (stick shift) before, don’t start in Ireland! Either practice driving stick shift back home before you visit Ireland or rent an automatic car. While they’re less common, some car rental companies have a few automatics available, they’ll just probably be more expensive.
No International Permit needed – If you have a driver’s license from the U.S., Canada, Australia, UK or E.U. then you won’t need an International Driving Permit. Just make sure you bring your license with you.
While there are trains that run between major towns and cities in Ireland, I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on the train network to get around. Trains are good for traveling long distances but they wouldn’t be able to take you to more remote, rural places and national parks.
Part of the experience of traveling around Ireland is driving scenic routes like the Wild Atlantic Way or the Ring of Kerry which you just wouldn’t be able to do by train.
If you do want to book a train between cities, you can book online with Irish Rail or buy a train ticket at the station. Fares tend to be cheaper the further in advance you book.
In Dublin there’s a tram system called ‘Luas’ which has two lines and makes it very easy to get around. There’s also a train system called DART — Dublin Area Rapid Transit – which will take you to places outside the city center.
Aside from trains there are also buses, including long-haul buses and local buses. For long distance journeys between cities you can book buses through BusEireann.ie.
Best Hostels in Ireland
Hostels are generally a great way to meet people and make solo travel to Ireland a lot easier. You’re never really alone when you stay in hostels because there are always people to chat to and events like walking tours and pub crawls. Here are some of the best hostels in Ireland:
- Jacob’s Inn (Dublin)
- Abigails Hostel (Dublin)
- Generator (Dublin)
- Bru Bar & Hostel (Cork)
- Sheilas Cork Hostel (Cork)
- Galway City Hostel & Bar (Galway)
- Woodquay Hostel Galway City (Galway)
- Kinlay Eyre Square Hostel (Galway)
- Botanical Backpackers (Belfast)
- Vagabonds (Belfast)
- Belfast International Youth Hostel (Belfast)
- Kilkenny Tourist Hostel (Kilkenny)
- The Black Sheep Hostel (Killarney)
- Neptunes Town Hostel (Killarney)
Other Accommodation Options For Solo Travelers in Ireland
In addition to hostels there are also lots of cozy B&Bs and guesthouses with friendly owners who will feed you a nice breakfast and give you plenty of tips for things to do. So if you want your own room and don’t feel like staying in a backpacker hostel, then there are plenty of good options. To get the best prices, look on Booking.com or Google Hotel Search.
Friendly Locals & Pubs
As I already mentioned, the Irish are known for their hospitality. They definitely have the ‘gift of the gab’ as they say and can charm just about anyone with their banter and chat. People are very friendly so if you want to go out by yourself just sit at the bar and usually the bartender or some patrons will start talking to you.
Pubs often have live music and dancing, so it’s best to join in and go with the flow!
Recommended Experiences for Solo Travel in Ireland
When it comes to things to do, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Ireland. Here are some highlights:
Book of Kells – This is Ireland’s greatest treasure – an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, which is on display at Trinity College. The Book of Kells is written in Latin and dates back to the 9th century. When you visit the book you’ll also get to see the Long Room, which is one of the world’s most beautiful libraries in the world.
Guinness Storehouse – An absolute must-do in Dublin is a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, where you’ll get to learn about the history of Guinness and have a go at pouring your own pint. You can also sip on a pint of Guinness in The Gravity Bar, which offers panoramic views of Dublin.
Titanic Museum – If you have a day or two in Belfast, make sure you visit the Titanic Museum, which tells the story of the sinking of the Titanic. The Museum is located on the site where the Titanic was designed, built and launched.
Black Taxi Tour of Belfast – One thing you should definitely do in Belfast is a black taxi tour. You’ll be driven around in a black taxi to see Belfast’s political murals and learn all about ‘The Troubles’ and the civil war between the mainly nationalist catholic community and mainly loyalist protestant community in Northern Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher – These towering, dramatic cliffs run for about 14km in the southwestern part of County Clare. The cliffs are one of the most iconic landmarks in Ireland and on a clear day you can see all the way out to the Aran Islands.
Giant’s Causeway – Located in County Antrim on the coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway consists of 40,000 massive black basalt columns that protrude out of the sea like stepping stones. According to local legend the giant Finn McCool had a fight with a Scottish giant called Benandonne from across the sea and in retaliation he grabbed huge rocks from the coastline and hurled them into the water.
Ring of Kerry – This 179km scenic drive is a very famous circular loop located in southwest Ireland. On the drive you’ll pass rolling hills, peaceful lakes and magical waterfalls as well as castles and manor houses. It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the world!
Dingle Peninsula – Dingle is a charming town filled with eclectic shops, seafood restaurants and cozy pubs. Make sure you try ice cream from Murphy’s and take a boat trip to see Dingle’s famous dolphin, Fungie, who lives in Dingle Bay.
Kiss the Blarney Stone –The Blarney Stone is built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland. Kissing it is supposed to give you the ‘gift of the gab’ i.e. the gift of eloquence. In order to kiss it you actually have to lie down on your back and edge yourself over a large gap that’s meters above the ground!
Safety for Solo Travelers in Ireland
Ireland is a generally safe place for solo travelers to visit and violent crime is pretty low. Most crimes that do occur are small and involve petty theft so just beware of pickpockets and watch out for your belongings.
Ireland is known for its pubs and drinking culture and while it’s very fun, always watch your drinks and avoid getting blackout drunk if you’re by yourself. If you see a drunken fight break out just walk away.
Whenever I travel solo, I usually tell a family member the address of where I’m staying and I share my location using FindMy with a couple of friends. This way they can trace my last location if anything happens!
The Irish Police are known as Gardaí or “the Guards” and you’ll usually see their presence in the major cities. If you have an emergency, the number to call is 999.
Best Time to Travel to Ireland Solo
The best time to visit Ireland is in the summer which is from June to September. The weather is usually warm and mild and you’ll get much longer days that last until 10pm in the evening. However this is also peak season, so places are more crowded and hotels are usually more expensive.
If you want decent weather but you’d prefer to avoid the crowds then the best time to travel would be the shoulder seasons (April – May and September – October).
For a really good ‘craic’, you may want to consider visiting during a big festival such as St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) or New Year’s Eve. I’ve visited Ireland during both events and they were both really fun! Everyone really gets into the party spirit and there are usually parades and live music. Just make sure you book your accommodation well in advance as things get booked up.
What to Pack for Your Solo Trip to Ireland
In Ireland people dress quite casual so I’d pack things like jeans, yoga pants, T-shirts, sweaters and some dress sneakers or boots.
Make sure you bring a rain jacket and an umbrella since it does tend to rain in Ireland. If you’re visiting during the winter then definitely pack a thick coat, a scarf and some gloves. In summer you can pack things like dresses or shorts and T-shirts.
If you plan to go hiking or walking in the countryside then make sure you pack some comfy walking shoes!
Your Ireland FAQs, Answered
Yes, Ireland has a relatively low crime rate and the people are generally very friendly and helpful. Obviously you should always be vigilant wherever you go and keep an eye on your belongings.
Yes, Ireland is fairly easy to travel. You can book group tours and travel around the country by coach or you can rent a car and drive yourself. There are lots of hostels for solo travelers or if you prefer your own room, you can stay in cozy B&Bs and guesthouses.
If you want to see the whole of Ireland then I’d suggest visiting for 10 days, but preferably two weeks. In 10 days you can cover a lot of places in both Northern and Southern Ireland but your itinerary will be jam-packed. With two weeks you can do things at a more leisurely pace. Obviously if you don’t have that kind of time then you could just spend a day or two in Dublin and then possibly do a day trip to Galway or Wicklow.
A Final Word…
Ireland is known for its rolling hills and peaceful countryside so it’s a great place to just switch off and be at one with nature.
While it’s fun to party and make friends, you can also just visit Ireland solo to find some solitude and get in touch with your inner self. Whatever type of trip you fancy, Ireland is a generally easy and safe place to travel solo and you’ll get to experience the friendly Irish hospitality. Every time I’ve been to Ireland I’ve been greeted with a warm welcome and I’m sure you will too!