The official Irish tourism machine is your friend. About 7.6 million international tourists arrive in Ireland each year, and the powers-that-be are prepared to make sure those travelers have such a good time they’ll want to come back. 🙂 Be sure to avail yourself of everything they have to offer.
It’ll be easy, because there are 115 Discover Ireland Tourist Information offices scattered throughout the country. I love the one on Suffolk Street in Dublin—it has a lot of information, a large gift shop, and is in a beautiful historic church building. But look what else it offers:
• box office for theater tickets
• booking services for tours (including bus, rail, water, walking, and literary and musical pub crawls)
• tourist literaure and guides; tourist information of all sorts
• accommodation and reservation service
• ticket desk for music and sporting events
• itinerary planning
• Dublin Pass
• multilingual staff
Be sure to make use of the Discover Ireland website too.
Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland, is responsible for the tourist information offices and the website, but it’s meaningful for you in other ways, most notably because it sets standards for business in hotels, B&Bs, tour operators, attractions, even food and drink. Watch for the green shamrock logo—you’ll see it all over the country. (Oh, and pronounce this FALL-cha.)
Fáilte Ireland works hand in glove with OPW Heritage Services, and you’ll see that OPW logo a lot, too, because the Office of Public Works looks after national monuments and national historic properties, among other things. Their main web presence is Heritage Ireland.
I tell you all this so you will recognize the official websites when you see them. You can trust the information to be accurate and up to date. You might find sites or blogs with more information when you are deciding whether or not to visit a location, but as I say, the information here is up to the minute.
The Heritage Service operates most (though not all) of the major tourist attractions in the country, and almost all of them require admissions fees. They’re not expensive (the ones I’ve visited ranged from €2.50 to €7.50 per person, with the majority falling in between), but if you visit several, the fees can add up. So here’s where official tourism becomes your friend—you can purchase a Heritage Card.
Currently, cost of the cards are €21.00 for adults, €16.00 for seniors (age 60 and over), and €8.00 for students ages 6 to 18 with valid ID. And it gets better. A family pass is €55.00 for two adults and “a reasonable number of children under 18 years.” The Heritage Card guarantees free admission at all OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use. In Dublin alone you could recoup the cost of your investment.
You can buy the card at any OPW Heritage Site; the OPW maintains a desk at the larger Tourist Information Centres too.
There’s one more official tourism entity: Tourism Ireland. In the Republic, it works with Fáilte Ireland to market Ireland as a tourism destination to overseas consumers. It also has a wonderful website: Tourism Ireland.
If you must, you can also consult online travel guides (some still print travel books)—sites like Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Rough Guides, and others. But so has everybody else; take your chances. (And I’ll be frank: I’m not a fan of review sites like TripAdvisor.)
So let’s recap. I cannot possibly tell you everything you want to know about Ireland, so here are three official websites that will be of interest to you:
Here are some local/regional websites:
And one last thought: don’t forget about unofficial Irish tourism. That is—ask a local! We’ll talk more about the magic that can result when you have a chat with a cab driver, a docent at the museum, a shopkeeper, a fellow traveler … We’ll talk more about this in the last post of this series.