travel ireland without a car
Travel Tips

How To Get Around Ireland Without a Car

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When many people think of Ireland, they think of the vast countryside and the windy roads. There are endless roads to explore and cities spaced out around the country that you’ll want to visit. However, you may wonder if it’s possible to travel in Ireland without a car.

Not everyone is comfortable driving in another country. That’s especially true when they drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side. It took me three visits before I was brave enough to learn how to drive there.

Luckily, getting around Ireland without a car is easier than you might think. This article explains how to get around Ireland without a car and goes over the different options you have when visiting the country so you can still get to where you want to.

How to Travel in Ireland Without a Car

Here are various ways to enjoy an Ireland itinerary without a car.

ireland road trip country

Join a Group Tour

The most obvious option to get around touring Ireland without a car is to join a group. Taking part in a group tour of Ireland has several advantages. This is especially true if you’re traveling without a car in Ireland outside of the major cities. 

Although Ireland is a small country, its highways congregate around the cities. The countryside can be hard to navigate, with one-way lanes and poor signal in far-flung places such as the stunning Irish west coast. By taking a guided tour, you save yourself the time and hassle of planning a rural area trip. You’ll have a vehicle take you door-to-door!

You also won’t have to do too much research since your guide will know the best spots and answer any burning questions you may have. They will also introduce you to locals, giving you an insider’s view of Ireland.

With other travelers in the group, you’ll have a more sociable time than if you traveled solo. Group tours are a common method of transportation in Ireland for tourists. They’re also a good way to see famous landmarks in Ireland if you don’t want to drive yourself.

Train Travel in Ireland

train travel in ireland

The train is a fantastic method of transport in Ireland. Not only is it handy when you travel in Ireland without a car, but the railway goes through some breathtaking scenery. Train travel is an activity many people want to put on their bucket list for Ireland.

What Are the Ireland Train Routes?

The Irish Rail operates 16 train routes, and the railway runs in every direction.

These are the some of most popular:

  • Dublin to Belfast (although Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, a British territory, the two countries jointly run the route)
  • Dublin to Galway
  • Dublin to Cork 
  • Dublin to Limerick 

If it’s the scenery, and not so much the destination you’re interested in, you won’t be disappointed. The Dublin to Rosslare Airport journey is an exquisite route through Eastern Ireland. The journey between Derry~Londonderry and Coleraine on the Causeway Coastal Route is also sublime. 

How Often Do the Trains Run?

On Sundays and public holidays, trains come by much less frequently. In most cases, trains between Dublin and the major cities arrive anywhere from four to 15 times a day. Check the timetable before booking anything when traveling around Ireland without a car.

Cost of Ireland Train Travel

train station in ireland

A cross-European comparison revealed that public transport in Ireland is quite affordable. It’s more expensive than Portugal or Germany but generally much cheaper than England, France or Denmark. 

The most popular routes give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay. The range is quite broad, but you can expect to score on the lower end if you follow our bargain-hunting tips.

  • Dublin to Belfast — from €17.99 to €38.00 ($21.71 to $45.85)
  • Dublin to Galway — from €17.99 to €36.65 ($21.71 to $44.22)
  • Dublin to Cork — from €21.49 to €59.20 ($25.93 to $71.43)
  • Dublin to Limerick — from €14.99 to €47.80 ($18.09 to $57.67)

There are some ways for you to save money. It won’t come as a surprise to you but booking your rail tickets at least seven days in advance is a great way to save some cash.

The Irish Rail’s website has a section where it indicates the lowest online fares available. Round-trip fares are also substantially cheaper than buying two standard one-way tickets unless you’ve scored a deal on one-way fares.

Eurorail passes are valid in Ireland, which is fantastic if you’re on a multi-country trip. Irish Rail also offers a family ticket for two adults and four children. 

There’s also the Trekker Four Day pass, which gets you four consecutive days of unlimited travel for €110. The Explorer Pass offers five days of unlimited journeys out of 15 consecutive days for just €160 for an Adult and €80 for a child. Both of these passes are only available at ticket offices.

How Long Does it Take to Travel by Train?

Like most European countries, Ireland’s relatively small, so it won’t take too long to get from A to B.  Most journeys last less than three hours. 

  • Dublin to Belfast — 2.5 hours
  • Dublin to Galway — 2.5 hours
  • Dublin to Cork — 2.5 hours
  • Dublin to Limerick — 2 hours 45 minutes

You can also join in on day tours such as a train and bus trip from Dublin to the west coast or a train to North Ireland.

Bus Travel in Ireland

bus in dublin

Bus travel is a much more widespread form of public transportation in Ireland than hopping on the railroad. Many people consider it the best way to see Ireland without a car due to how many different places you can go.

Buses are much cheaper and cover many of the small towns the railway doesn’t. The country is celebrated for its rural charm, so there may come a time when you need to jump on a bus. 

This doesn’t mean that you should neglect train travel but rather that you should be ready to combine it with bus journeys. While you’ll find a direct line from Dublin for most significant towns, there’s no such thing between Cork and Waterford, or Killarney and Limerick. In these cases, you’ll need to use the bus. 

Bus Éireann is the national operator for bus travel in Ireland, transporting passengers to more than 3000 destinations in Ireland. While buses are subject to traffic, they can take the amount of time as trains and are cheaper when traveling in Ireland without a car. 

The cost decreases further when you purchase an Open Road Tourist Travel Pass. For €60, you can travel on three days out of six (you only travel on three of the six days the pass is valid for); for €126, you have unlimited transport on seven out of 14 days. 

Exploring Dublin Without a Car

dublin public transportation

Visiting Ireland without a car is especially easy in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. The city center is small, so you can easily walk from attraction to attraction. If you stay in a central Dublin hotel, you may not even need to use public transport. If you only visit Dublin for a day, I don’t recommend going through the hassle of renting a car. This is especially true if you spend a busy holiday like St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.

But if you’re planning to go a bit off the beaten track in Dublin, then you’re likely to need some other form of transport. The public transport system is very efficient, so you shouldn’t have any difficulties with getting around Dublin, Ireland without a car.

Traveling by Bus

Unlike many other European capitals, you won’t find a subway or underground in Dublin’s historical heart. This means that the bus is your new best friend when it comes to public transport!

Dublin Bus is the name of the public bus service. The bus stops have blue markers with the company logo. Make sure you flag down the approaching bus: it may feel a bit silly when you’re standing under the stop, but they don’t always stop automatically. 

Before getting onto one of the double-deckers, count out the exact fare in coins — no cards or bills accepted, and they don’t give change. Get a map to understand the different zones in the city. Stages 1 to 3 cover most of the city center and cost €2.15 (or $2.60). A trip between the center and airport is €7 (about $8.45). 

Top tip: If you’re just in town for the major sites or on a tight schedule, book a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket. It’s a bit costly than the public bus, but it is much more convenient (you won’t get lost or waste time walking from a bus stop to the attraction itself), and you’ll score discounts on attraction entrance fees.

Traveling by Bicycle

bike sharing

Cycling from site to site is not only eco-friendly but super affordable and fun, too. Dublin is one of the top 10 bicycle-friendly cities globally, thanks to 74 miles of bicycle tracks. A three-day pass to the city’s bike-share service costs just €5 (or $6).

Traveling by Tram

If you’re heading out of the city center, you can take the LUAS. This is Dublin’s tram system, which connects the suburbs to the heart of the city. The trams are fast, but they are very popular and crowded at rush hour. 

Traveling by Train

The train is best if you’re exploring the outskirts of the city since they’re designed for commuters. You can try DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) trains for a trip to the pretty Malahide Castle or Howth. Just note that they can be packed in the mornings and evenings.

The Suburban Rail Network is best for trips to off-the-beaten-track commuter towns that surround Dublin. There are fewer trains in the middle of the day and on weekends. 

Traveling by Taxi

You won’t have any trouble finding a taxi cab in Dublin, and it’s certainly a comfortable way to get around.  It’s ideal for late-night journeys, in particular. Naturally, it costs more than taking public transport for solo travelers, but it might work out cheaper if you’re traveling in a group.

An Itinerary for Getting Around Ireland Without a Car

touring ireland without a car

First, you need a public transport map when planning a trip to Ireland without a car. This helps to visualize the distance between destinations and decide on what order to follow. 

A second pro tip is to base yourself in a handful of well-connected towns and take day trips into the surrounding areas rather than stay a night in every destination. 

Here’s a sample Ireland itinerary without a car:

Stop 1: Dublin

Ireland’s capital city sits on the east coast. You could easily spend a week in Dublin, but try to get in at least three nights. That’ll give you enough time to explore Christ Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle, as well as The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.

For convenience, book a hotel in the city center. This way, you do not even need to use Ireland’s public transportation in the city.

Stop 2: Kilkenny

Kilkenny’s not hard to reach when figuring out how to travel around Ireland without a car. The train gets here in an hour and forty minutes from Dublin, but you could also travel by bus, which is cheaper and takes the same amount of time.

St. Canice’s Cathedral and the impressive Kilkenny Castle are some of the highlights of a city tour. The town is compact, with sites within walking distance, so you don’t have to stay longer than a night. Find a hotel in the city center. 

Stop 3: Cork

There’s no direct train line between Kilkenny and Cork, but the bus takes just two and a half hours. Visit Cork’s attractions: the English Market, the Shandon District, and the ‘South Parish’ Walk, for instance. 

While in Cork, take the train out to tour Cobh, the charming coastal destination with a museum dedicated to the Titanic. There’s also Blarney Castle, where legend holds that if you kiss the stone, you’ll gain a silver tongue! 

With so much to do, you won’t regret spending three to four nights on a stay in quaint Cork.

Stop 4: Killarney

You’ll reach Killarney within an hour and a half of leaving Cork, whether you go by train or bus. Try to stay in Killarney for at least three nights to see the city and fit in a couple of day tours.

Killarney is the ideal base for day trips to the eponymous national park, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Skellig Islands. If you’d like to spend more time in the countryside, you can easily swap Killarney for the Skellig Islands.

Stop 5: Limerick

church in ireland

From Killarney, hop on the bus to Limerick (there’s no direct train connection). The journey takes just under two hours. 

Many people skip Limerick, but that’s a pity because it has plenty of historic charm and artistic buzz. The medieval King John’s Castle and the Limerick City Gallery of Art are some iconic attractions. 

Limerick isn’t a place you get FOMO over, but it is an unforgettable experience for those who visit. Try sleeping in Limerick for one or two nights. 

Stop 6: Galway

Once you board the train to Galway, you know you’re heading for the famed west coast of Ireland. The trip lasts just under two hours and then you can check into one of the beautiful B&Bs in Galway.

When you’re ready to explore Galway, head to St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, which Christopher Columbus visited, and admire the Spanish Arch in the city walls.

Galway is a fantastic base for venturing into the rugged countryside of Ireland’s west coast. A day trip to the Cliffs of Moher is an unforgettable experience on the coast of Ireland. Meanwhile, you’ll find tranquility touring the Aran Islands. You could also opt to spend time in the Burren, a desolate landscape that’s now a national park.

Budget three to four nights for a stay in Galway.

Final Thoughts on Traveling in Ireland Without a Car

As you can see, traveling in Ireland without a car is possible when you plan ahead. Whether you take the train, the bus, or a combination of public transportation in Ireland, you’ll still be able to access most of the country during your trip.

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