Until January 2 of 2002, the Irish Punt is still the currency of the Republic. At that time the Euro, €, will replace the Irish pound, £.
While pegged to the US $, the Euro has stayed at or near 85 cents, US.
Each of the European Economic Union countries, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, will use bills with one common side and one custom design.
Great Britain will not join this program and as a result Northern Ireland will accept the Euro based on the British Pound.
I suggest that you buy your travelers checks in Euro denomination and save the exchange hassle in the Republic.
If you visit the north, convert only what you must. The exchange rate carries a 20 to 30 percent penalty.
Car rental and gasoline are far more expensive than in the US. Expect to pay 50% more for rental and at least three times the US price for gasoline. More in Northern Ireland, so fill up in the Republic if you have the choice.
Driving on the Wrong Side
A valid US, Canadian or Common Market driver's license is all you need for Ireland and Britain. Otherwise check your home country; as some are not valid and could lead to arrest.
Full auto insurance is necessary. Either add it with the rental company or save yourself some big money and use a credit card that covers collision damage. We actually got a letter from Diner's Club to take with us. Even then we met with some resistance.
Be warned: Extra coverage from the rental company can cost $20 to $30 per day !
Changing to the left on the larger roads and highways is not a real problem. Just remember, all the traffic on your right is in YOUR lane. Left turns are easy, and right turns can be downright deadly if your attention lapses.
Roundabouts are really quite easy and far safer to negotiate than large intersections. Yield to all traffic on your right, enter the circle and move to the left as you approach your exit. Signs are posted well before the roundabouts and it is a simple matter to go around again if you miss it.
Road signs are good, but street signs are almost non existent. Many street names appear only on the top of buildings and can be a real problem to see. Secondary roads are very narrow and you must give way to large trucks. Watch out for the stone walls on your left. They are closer than you think. Broken outside mirrors and left side sheet metal damage appear to be the most common rental car claims.
Buy a good road Atlas, not a map. We found the Michelin version to be a real life and time saver.
While you will not master the art of driving on the "wrong" side, you will develop a certain level of comfort.
There is a pub everywhere you look or drive. On some streets there may be three or more in a single block. Pubs come in every possible style, shape and personality. The "Local" is the heart of social life in Ireland and deserves your attention. Even if you do not drink. This is also where you find the best, or at least most popular, local musicians and singers.
There seems to be a real sense of pride among pub owners about the food they serve. this works very much in your favor. The quality and variety of food available is almost without end. Only the much loved and maligned, Indian Curry, seems to be in the minority.
For the most part, pub food is simple, inexpensive and plentiful. One does find the pub/restaurant combination in may places.
This usually means a larger and more ambitious menu and slightly higher prices. At least in the sit down area as opposed to the pub itself.
Be adventuresome. There is more to Irish food than fish and chips, (French fries). Excellent beef and lamb. Abundant seafood that Boston could only wish for. Lots of potatoes, of course, and many other vegetables. A noticeable French influence is observed in many places and offers a real change of pace.
While Guinness Stout is the national beverage of Ireland, and you need to try it, there is no shortage of other local favorites.
Murphy's, Harp, Smithfield and locally brewed Budweiser, to name a few. The days of the one brand pub seem to be gone and most offer at least six different brands of draught and bottled beer. Stick to the draft! No comparison in flavor.
Blum's Cider is quite good and packs a healthy kick. Numerous local soft drinks and types of bottled water are easily found.
Only in Dublin will you find those American icons of fast food; McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut. Best avoided if you expect to get any real sense of Ireland. It appears that Americans and other tourists are their mainstay.
Map of Ireland