Getting there & away
EU citizens can travel freely to and from Ireland if bearing official photo ID. Those from outside the EU, however, must have a passport that remains valid for six months after entry.
The dogfight on European routes between full-service and no-frills airlines has generally resulted in an all-round lowering of fares, which makes cheap tickets much easier to get than ever before. You can get your ticket from a travel agency (in person or online) or direct from the airline, where the best deals are usually available online. Whatever you do, shop around. Internet travel agencies work well if you’re doing a straightforward trip, but more complicated travel arrangements are best handled by a real live travel agent, who knows the system, the options and the best deals. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of the cheapest fares before purchasing.
Best Fares (www.bestfares.com) American site offering discounted airfares and hotel rooms.
Cheap Flights (www.cheapflights.com) American- and British-based site that lists discounted flights and packages.
ebookers (www.ebookers.com) Irish, web-based internet travel agency.
Expedia (www.expedia.co.uk) Microsoft’s travel site.
Opodo (www.opodo.com) Joint booking service for nine European airlines.
Priceline (www.priceline.com) American, web-based travel agency.
STA Travel (www.statravel.com) International student travel agency.
Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) American, web-based travel agency.
There are many ferry and fast-boat services from Britain and France to Ireland.
Brittany Ferries (in the Republic 021-427 7801, in France 02 98 29 28 00; www.brittany-ferries.com) Weekly service from Roscoff to Cork from early April to late September. The crossing takes 14 hours and costs up to €79/430 without accommodation.
Irish Ferries (in Rosslare 053-33158, in Cherbourg 02 33 23 44 44, in Roscoff 02 98 61 17 17; www.irishferries.com) One to three times a week from Roscoff to Rosslare from late April to late September; the crossing time is 17½ hours. Ferries from Cherbourg to Rosslare sail two to four times per week year round, except in late January and all of February; crossing time is 20½ hours. Both services cost up to €130/575 without accommodation.
There are numerous services between Britain and Ireland but it’s definitely wise to plan ahead as fares can vary considerably, depending on the season, day, time and length of stay. Often, some return fares don’t cost that much more than one-way fares and it’s worth keeping an eye out for special offers. International Student Identity Card (ISIC) holders and Hostelling International (HI) members get a reduction on the normal fares.
These shipping lines operate between Britain and Ireland:
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company/Sea Cat (1800 805 055; www.steam-packet.com) Ferry and fast-boat services from Liverpool to Dublin or Belfast via Douglas (on the Isle of Man), and from Troon to Belfast.
Stena Line (0870-570 7070; www.stenaline.com) Ferry services from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, Fleetwood to Larne and Stranraer to Belfast, and fast-boat services from Holyhead to Dublin, Fishguard to Rosslare, and Stranraer to Belfast.
The main routes from the UK to the Republic include:
Fishguard & Pembroke to Rosslare These popular, short ferry crossings take 3½ hours (from Fishguard) or four hours (from Pembroke) and cost around £24/114; the cost drops significantly outside peak season. The fast boat crossing from Fishguard takes just under two hours and costs around £30/130.
Holyhead to Dublin & Dun Laoghaire The ferry crossing takes just over three hours and costs around £24/124. The fast-boat service from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire takes a little over 1½ hours and costs £30/139.
Liverpool to Dublin The ferry service takes 8½ hours from Liverpool and costs £22/160. Cabins on overnight sailings cost more. The fast-boat service takes four hours and costs up to £35/240.
Swansea to Cork The 10-hour crossing costs around £30/160 but only operates from mid-March to early November.
The main routes from mainland Britain to the North:
Cairnryan to Larne The fast boat takes one hour and costs £19/175. The ferry takes 1¾ hours and costs £14/115.
Fleetwood to Larne The six-hour crossing costs £119; no foot passengers are carried.
Liverpool to Belfast The 8½-hour crossing costs £40/155 (incl meals) during the day and £30/235 (incl cabin and meals) at night.
Stranraer to Belfast The fast boat takes 1¾ hours and costs £20/130. The ferry takes 3¼ hours and costs £16/85.
It’s possible to combine bus and ferry tickets from major UK centres to all Irish towns on the bus network, but with the availability of cheap flights it’s hardly worth the hassle. The journey between London and Dublin takes about 12 hours and can cost as little as £15 one way. The London to Belfast trip takes 13 to 16 hours and costs £44 one way. For details in London contact Eurolines (0870-514 3219; www.eurolines.com).
An increase in the number of foreign nationals seeking asylum during the last decade has meant a far more rigorous questioning for those from African and Asian countries or from certain parts of Eastern Europe. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland still exists as a political reality, but there are few if any checkpoints left; for non-EU nationals it is assumed the screening process occurred upon entry to the UK.
Cork (ORK; 021-431 3131; www.corkairport.com)
Dublin (DUB; 01-814 1111; www.dublinairport.com)
Shannon (SNN; 061-712 000; www.shannonairport.com)
Other airports in the Republic with scheduled services from Britain:
Donegal (CFN; 074-954 8284; www.donegalairport.ie ; Carrickfinn)
Kerry (KIR; 066-976 4644; www.kerryairport.ie ; Farranfore)
Knock (NOC; 094-67222; www.knockairport.com)
Waterford (WAT; 051-875 589; www.flywaterford.com)
Other airports in Northern Ireland that operate scheduled services from Britain:
Belfast City (BHD; 028-9093 9093; www.belfastcityairport.com)
Derry (LDY; 028-7181 0784; www.cityofderryairport.com)
The main Irish airlines: Aer Árann (1890 462 726; www.aerarann.ie) A small carrier that operates flights within Ireland and also to Britain. Aer Lingus (01-886 8888; www.aerlingus.com) The main Irish airline, with direct flights to Britain, continental Europe and the USA. Ryanair (01-609 7800; www.ryanair.com) Ireland’s no-frills carrier with inexpensive services to Britain and continental Europe.
Nearly all international airlines use Dublin as their hub within Ireland. Airlines flying into and out of Ireland
Adria Airways (www.adria.si)
Aer Árann (1890 462 726; www.aerarann.ie)
Aer Lingus (01-886 8888; www.aerlingus.com)
Adria Baltic (www.airbaltic.com)
Air Canada (1800 709 900; www.aircanada.ca)
Air France (01-605 0383; www.airfrance.com)
Air Malta (1800 397 400; www.airmalta.com)
Air Transat (www.airtransat.com)
Air Southwest (www.airsouthwest.com)
American Airlines (01-602 0550; www.aa.com)
BMI (01-407 3036; www.flybmi.com)
British Airways (1800 626 747; www.britishairways.com)
City Jet (01-8700 300; www.cityjet.com)
Continental (1890 925 252; www.continental.com)
Delta Airlines (1800 768 080; www.delta.com)
EasyJet (048-9448 4929; www.easyjet.com ; Knock)
Etihad Airways (01-477 3479; www.etihadairways.com)
Finnair (01-844 6565; www.finnair.com)
Flybe (1890-925 532; www.flybe.com)
Flyglobespan (01-874 7666; www.flyglobespan.ie)
German Wings (01-865 0125; www.germanwings.com)
Iberia (01-407 3017; www.iberia.com)
Lufthansa (01-844 5544; www.lufthansa.com)
Luxair (01-477 3479; www.luxair.co.uk)
Malev Hungarian Airlines (01-844 4303; www.malev.com)
Ryanair (01-609 7800; www.ryanair.com)
S7 Airlines (01-663 3933; www.s7.ru)
Scandinavian Airlines (01-8445440; www.scandinavian.net)
Swiss Airlines (1890 200 515; www.swiss.com)
Turkish Airlines (01-844 7920; www.turkishairlines.com)
US Airways (1890 925 065; www.usairways.com)
There are no nonstop scheduled air services from Australia or New Zealand to Ireland; generally it’s cheapest to fly to London or Amsterdam and continue from there. Most fares to European destinations can have a return flight to Dublin tagged on at little or no extra cost. Round-the-world (RTW) tickets are another good bet and are often better value than standard return fares.
Flight Centre (133 133; www.flightcentre.com.au)
Shamrock Travel (03-9602 3700; www.irishtravel.com.au)
STA Travel (1300 733 035; www.statravel.com.au)
Flight Centre (0800-243 544; www.flightcentre.co.nz)
STA Travel (0508-782 872; www.statravel.co.nz)
Air Canada is the only carrier flying directly to Ireland, from Toronto to both Dublin and Shannon. Your best bet for cheaper fares may be to connect to transatlantic gateways in the USA or to fly to London and continue on to Ireland from there. Check the travel sections of the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette or Vancouver Sun for the latest offers.
Canadian Affair (1604-678 6868; www.canadian-affair.com) Cheap one-way fares to British cities.
Flight Centre (1888-967 5355; www.flightcentre.ca)
Travel CUTS (866-246 9762; www.travelcuts.com)
Price wars have made flights to Ireland from continental Europe more affordable than ever. As far as European connections are concerned, Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) is now a no-frills airline in all but name, with highly competitive fares to over 40 European cities. Ryanair (www.ryanair.com), which kicked off the price wars, is still very much in the fight, but it has the disadvantage of having to use secondary airports in or around the major cities, which can make for rather expensive and time-consuming transfers. There are also some excellent connections with Belfast. Check before you book.
There is a mind-boggling array of flights between Britain and Ireland. The best deals are usually available online, and it’s not unusual for airport taxes to exceed the base price of the ticket on the lowest fares (generally for early morning or late-night flights midweek).
In the USA, discount travel agencies (consolidators) sell cut-price tickets on scheduled carriers. Aer Lingus is the chief carrier between the USA and Ireland, with flights from New York, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles to Shannon, Dublin and Belfast. Heavy competition on transatlantic routes into London might make it cheaper to fly there and then continue on to Ireland. The Sunday travel sections of the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner, Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune list cheap fares.
Some of the more popular travel agencies:
Ireland Consolidated (212-661 1999; www.irelandair.com)
STA Travel (800-781 4040; www.statravel.com)