Are you dreaming of visiting Ireland? Do you want to make the most of your trip and avoid any trouble?
Then you need to know what not to do in Ireland!
Ireland is a beautiful and friendly country, but it also has its own rules and customs that you should respect. You don’t want to offend anyone or break the law, do you?
So, follow our advice, and you’ll have a blast in Ireland! We’ll tell you what to avoid, from common faux pas and legal troubles to tourist traps and bad jokes.
Things to Avoid When Talking about Irish Culture and History
Some things to avoid in Ireland are: overlooking the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland and being insensitive about Ireland’s past.
Additionally, it’s best to avoid claiming you’re entirely Irish when you’re not, complaining about the weather, calling it ‘St. Patty’s Day’, mocking the Irish language, making fun of Irish sports, and searching for leprechauns.
Avoid Overlooking the Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland
If you’re a first-time visitor to Ireland, you might be confused by the fact that Ireland and Northern Ireland are not the same country. They’re part of the same island but have different political and economic systems.
Ireland uses the Euro as its currency, while Northern Ireland uses the British pound. They also have different flags, governments, and even different units of measurement (kilometres in Ireland and miles in Northern Ireland).
These are just some of the main differences between the two countries, but there are more. It’s important to be aware of them before you travel, especially if you want to see both parts of the island.
Don’t Be Insensitive About Ireland’s Past
Ireland has a history of political and religious conflicts, especially in the north, where the violence known as The Troubles lasted for decades.
Many Irish people still bear the wounds of this period and may not want to talk about it with strangers. If you’re curious about Ireland’s past, you can join a tour with a guide who can explain it to you in a respectful way.
In the South, people are more open to discussing politics and religion as long as you’re sensitive and polite. However, these topics are best avoided if you just want to have a casual chat with the locals.
Don’t Say You’re Entirely Irish When You’re Not
If you have Irish ancestors, you might feel a connection to Ireland, but don’t expect the locals to share your enthusiasm.
The Irish don’t consider anyone who wasn’t born and raised in Ireland to be Irish, no matter how many generations back you trace your roots.
It’s not that they don’t appreciate your interest in their culture, but they don’t like it when you claim to be one of them.
A better way to start a conversation is to mention the specific place where your relatives came from, and then they might be more willing to talk about it.
Never Complain About the Weather
Ireland is a beautiful country, but its weather can be unpredictable and wet.
Many Irish people complain about the rain and the sudden changes in temperature, but they don’t like it when foreigners do the same. They have a strong sense of national pride and love their country, despite its flaws.
If you visit Ireland, you should be prepared for any kind of weather, especially in the summer months. You might get lucky and enjoy some sunny days or get soaked by showers and storms.
It’s not the best place for outdoor activities that depend on clear skies, but it’s not impossible either. You just need to be flexible and adaptable, and appreciate Ireland for what it is.
Don’t Call It ‘St. Patty’s Day’
One of the common mistakes that visitors make when they come to Ireland is to call the national holiday ‘St. Patty’s Day’.
This is incorrect and annoying to many Irish people, who prefer the full name ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ or the shortened form ‘St. Paddy’s Day’.
The reason is that Patrick is an Irish name that’s abbreviated as Paddy, not Patty.
St. Paddy’s Day is a great occasion to celebrate Irish culture and enjoy the fun and festivities, but be careful not to drink too much or stay out too late, as things can get out of hand.
Don’t Mock or Make Fun of the Irish Language
A better way to enjoy your visit to Ireland is to respect the local culture and language.
Don’t make fun of how people speak or try to copy their accents. Just use your normal voice and avoid stereotypes.
The Irish language is a source of pride and identity for many people. If you’re unfamiliar with it, don’t attempt to say words or phrases you don’t know. Stick to English instead.
Also, don’t use clichés or expressions that you’ve seen in movies. They are not realistic or authentic, and they might offend some people.
Avoid Making Fun of Irish Sports
If you want to understand Ireland better, you should know that sports are very important for the Irish people. They enjoy many kinds of sports, some are familiar like horse racing, basketball, and boxing, and some are unique to them.
One of their sports is hurling, a popular sport in Gaelic Ireland with a long history, and it’s important to respect and not mock it as it holds significance to the Irish and their traditions.
Watching a Gaelic game is a must-do in Ireland to fully immerse in their sports culture, but make sure to choose the correct team colors to avoid being a typical tourist mistake.
Never Search for Leprechauns
Contrary to popular belief, leprechauns aren’t friendly or cheerful but rather cunning and spiteful creatures who refuse to share their gold and will deceive anyone who attempts to capture them.
Leprechauns are not for sale! They’re living beings with rights and feelings, not objects to be traded, and you won’t be able to take them out of Ireland anyway, and they’ll end up homeless and miserable.
Leprechauns have nothing to do with the ancient Irish legends, either. They’re a product of stereotypes and caricatures that insult the Irish people and their culture.
If you want to learn more about the real Ireland, you should avoid the leprechaun-themed attractions and look for genuine sources of history and folklore.
Things to Avoid On Transportation and Driving
Don’t Drink While Driving
This should be obvious, but driving after drinking in Ireland is a serious offense, and it’s one of the few Irish laws that we get many questions about.
The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.05 by law.
The Gardaí (Irish Police) often do roadside breathalyser tests, so apart from the higher chance of causing a crash, you also face the possibility of getting fined.
So, if you’re planning to have a drink, make sure you leave the car behind for the night!
Don’t Drive Without Planning
If you want to rent a car in Ireland, you should be prepared for the driving conditions there. Ireland has many different types of roads, from narrow lanes and country tracks, to motorways and toll roads.
You should learn the rules of the road before you get behind the wheel and the common driving etiquette.
This will help you avoid breaking the law, getting fined, and causing accidents through dangerous driving.
Don’t Rely Solely on Buses and Trains
Don’t think that traveling around Ireland is easy just because the country is small.
Ireland has a rich and diverse culture, where modern cities coexist with traditional towns and villages. However, getting around in some parts of Ireland can be challenging, especially if you want to visit the more rural areas.
Public transportation in Ireland is not very reliable or convenient. Some of the most amazing places to see, like County Donegal and southwest County Cork, are only accessible by car.
You can usually find buses or trains to go from one big city to another, but you might need to plan ahead or rent a vehicle for other destinations.
Never Forget to Drive on the Left and Not on the Right
If you plan to drive in Ireland, you should know that they follow the British system of driving on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.
If you’re used to driving on the right, this might seem strange or confusing, but it’s not impossible to adapt. Just be careful and attentive when you cross the road, turn, or overtake.
Driving in Ireland can be a great way to explore the country, but if you prefer not to, there are other options for transportation.
The reason why Ireland drives on the left dates back to the history of France and England and their rivalry over who had the right to drive on which side.
Don’t Argue with Taxi Drivers
A little-known fact is that Irish taxi drivers are all highly educated, with PhDs in philosophy, economics, and political science. They have a vast knowledge of every academic topic imaginable.
However, they also have a genetic condition that makes them express their views on everything under the sun.
The best thing to do if you get a taxi is to just nod along, enjoy the ride, and tune out. Or better yet, bring some earphones, but whatever you do, don’t argue because it’s not worth it.
Never Forget Road Manners
Driving in Ireland can be a rewarding but challenging experience, especially in the countryside. You should be aware of some etiquette and safety rules that are unique to this island.
For example, many rural roads are very narrow, and you may have to pull over to let another car pass. In this situation, it’s customary to greet the other driver with a slight lift of your index finger from the steering wheel.
This is a friendly gesture that shows respect and gratitude. Similarly, if someone lets you overtake them, you should flash your hazard lights and wave in the rearview mirror to say thank you.
These are some ways that Irish drivers communicate and show courtesy on the road.
Never Ask for Directions in Kerry
Kerry is a beautiful and funny place, but don’t ask for directions there. The locals love to tell stories and jokes, and they’ll give you directions that make no sense.
You’ll see pubs and cows everywhere, but they won’t help you find your way. The roads are curvy and confusing; the locals will tell you to go straight on.
They are not mean; they are just playful. So use a map, a GPS or someone from outside Kerry if you don’t want to get lost.
Things to Avoid When It Comes to Travel Planning
Don’t Pack for Only One Season
If you want to avoid some common mistakes when visiting Ireland, you should pay attention to what you pack for your trip. The weather in Ireland can be unpredictable and change quickly.
Don’t assume that summer means hot and sunny. You might need shorts, sunscreen, and light clothing, but you should also bring some warm layers and a rain jacket.
Another thing to remember is to bring the right plug adapter for your electronics, like a plug with three pins. And don’t forget to bring any medication you need and a copy of your passport, just in case.
Avoid Arriving Without a Clear Itinerary
Ireland offers stunning beauty and plenty to do, but it can be overwhelming without a plan. That’s why we recommend creating an itinerary before you arrive or at least having some general goals and preferences in mind.
If you don’t have an itinerary, you might end up wasting time, money, and energy on things that don’t interest you or missing out on some of the best attractions and activities that Ireland has to offer.
You might also run into problems with accommodation, transportation and weather if you don’t plan ahead.
Don’t Forget to Book Time-Sensitive Tours
If you want to visit some of the most amazing attractions in Ireland, you should plan ahead and book a tour. Some places, like Newgrange, are very popular and can sell out quickly.
Don’t wait until the last moment to book your tour, because you might miss out on a great experience.
It’s better to reserve your spot early, especially for day tours.
Even for attractions like the Guinness Storehouse, booking in advance is a good idea, especially if you’re visiting in summer and want to see as much as possible in Ireland.
Avoid Being Afraid to Explore Off-the-Beaten Path
Ireland is more than just its famous cities and landmarks. If you want to experience the true beauty and culture of this island, you need to explore some of the hidden gems that are often overlooked by tourists.
For example, you can visit the stunning Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, which are higher than the Cliffs of Moher, or the scenic Beara Peninsula in Cork, which has a rich history and heritage.
You can also walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Antrim, which offers breathtaking views of the coast. These are just some of the gems that Ireland has to offer, and you will not regret discovering them.
Things to Avoid in Terms of Social and Dining Etiquette
Don’t Smoke Indoors
Ireland is a pioneer in banning smoking in public places, including workplaces, pubs, restaurants, and other enclosed spaces.
The law was introduced in 2004 and has been enforced with fines of up to €3,000 for offenders. Smoking is also prohibited in cars with children since 2016.
The only places where smoking indoors is allowed are private homes or the houses of friends and family. Visitors should respect this law and smoke outside if they wish to do so.
Avoid Misunderstanding the Use of the Word ‘Sorry’
A notable cultural difference you may come across in Ireland is the usage of the word “sorry”. The Irish often say sorry not only to express regret but also to ask for clarification or attention.
For instance, if you say something that they don’t understand or agree with, they may respond with “sorry?” to indicate their confusion or disbelief.
Similarly, if they want to get your attention or interrupt you politely, they may say “sorry” to say “excuse me”.
To avoid misunderstandings, pay attention to the tone and context of the word “sorry” when you communicate with the Irish.
Never Take Offense to the Banter or Swearing
The Irish have a unique way of communicating that might seem rude or offensive to outsiders, but it’s actually a form of friendly teasing. This banter, often found in pubs and gatherings, involves a combination of humor, sarcasm, and wit.
It’s important to have a thick skin and not take these remarks personally. While some individuals may not be very nice and give you trouble, it’s usually easy to distinguish between those trying to offend and those just joking around.
Additionally, the Irish tend to use casual swearing in day-to-day conversations, even when not angry, and it’s advised not to be offended by it but rather embrace the Irish way of communication.
Don’t Let Tipping Confuse You
Tipping isn’t a common practice in Ireland as it’s in the U.S., but some people still do it.
The main rule for tipping in Ireland is that it’s not obligatory in most situations, but it’s usually appreciated if you decide to tip. The only exception is when you have a sit-down meal with table service at a pub or restaurant.
In this case, you can tip 10% of the bill, or 20% if you’re in a large group, but only if you’re satisfied with the service!
You don’t have to tip every time you order a drink at a pub, but you can leave some change at the end if you enjoyed your experience.
Never Order Corned Beef and Cabbage
Corned beef and hash is a common dish in Hollywood movies set in Ireland, but it’s not really authentic.
Most Irish people don’t eat it regularly, and you might have a hard time finding it on the menu of a typical Irish pub or restaurant.
If you want to taste the true cuisine of Ireland, go for an Irish stew instead. It’s the national dish of the country, and it’s delicious.
You can also ask a local to make it for you at home if you’re lucky enough to make some friends there.
Avoid Picking Gastro Pubs Over Traditional Bars
There’s no doubt that Ireland has some excellent gastro pubs that offer fine dining and quality drinks. However, many of them lack a distinctive Irish identity and could easily fit in any other country.
The real gems of Irish pub culture are the traditional, old-fashioned pubs that have preserved their history and charm over the years.
Never Be Ensnared by Irish Slang
One thing you might find hard to dodge in Ireland is the slang. There are loads of Irish slang words and phrases that you can use.
Some of them are pretty famous, like ‘what’s the craic’ or ‘eejit’, but others can be pretty baffling when you hear them as a visitor.
You don’t have to know everything, but it’s a good idea to learn some of the most common slang words if you don’t want to look like a total melter when someone asks you where the jacks are!
Don’t Feel Compelled to Imbibe at Trad Sessions
A traditional live music session is a must for many visitors to Ireland. You can find the best sessions in pubs, where the music is lively and the atmosphere is friendly.
But you don’t have to drink alcohol to join the fun. You can order a soft drink, a tea, or a coffee and still enjoy the music.
And, if you prefer a quieter setting, you can also look for traditional music outside of pubs. There are some amazing alternatives, like Galway’s ‘Tunes in the Church‘ for beautiful traditional Irish music in a serene setting.
Never Neglect to Buy Your Round
A common Irish custom when drinking in a group is to follow the ’rounds’ system. This means that each person takes turns to buy a drink for everyone else in the group, whether it’s a small or a large one.
This is a way of showing respect and generosity to your friends and fellow drinkers. If you only buy a drink for yourself, or if you don’t buy any rounds at all, you will be seen as rude and stingy.
This rule applies to any pub in Ireland, from the cities to the countryside. So if you want to enjoy the Irish pub culture, make sure you know how to buy your rounds.
Avoid Professing Affection for Irish Politicians
Politics is a sensitive topic in Ireland, and there are some places in Dublin that you should avoid as a visitor. One of them is the area around Leinster House, where the Irish Parliament is located.
This is where a group of people that most Irish despise hang out. They are called politicians.
A good way to get along with the locals is to use this simple trick – open every conversation with, “Bloody politicians, what have they done now.”