Accessible Travel

All new buildings have wheelchair access and hotels have accessible rooms. Buses have low floors for easy access, but few have conductors who can lend a hand when you're getting on or off. Many taxis take wheelchairs.

Disability Action can give advice to travellers with disabilities. For a comprehensive list of accessible shops, visitor attractions and other public places, see the Belfast section of www.accessable.co.uk.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Even at the height of the Troubles, Belfast wasn't a particularly dangerous city for tourists. It's still best, however, to avoid the so-called 'interface areas' – near the Peace Lines in West Belfast, Crumlin Rd and the Short Strand (just east of Queen's Bridge) – after dark.
  • If in doubt about any area, ask at your hotel or hostel.
  • You will notice a more obvious security presence than elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, such as armoured police Land Rovers and fortified police stations. There are door attendants at many city-centre pubs.

Terrorism

Dissident Republican groups continue a campaign of violent attacks aimed at police and military targets, but have very little public support. Security alerts usually have no effect on visiting tourists (other than roads being closed), but be aware of the potential danger. You can follow the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Twitter (@policeserviceni) and receive immediate notification of any alerts.

Victim Support

Victim Support NI is an independent charity that supports people affected by crime.

Discount Cards

A Belfast Visitor Pass (adult/child one day £6/3.50, two days £11/6, three days £14.50/7.75) includes unlimited travel on all buses and trains within the greater Belfast area and offers discounts on admission to visitor attractions and at shops and restaurants. Available from the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre.

Embassies & Consulates

Emergency & Important Numbers

International access code00
Country code44
Police, Fire & Ambulance999

Etiquette

People in Belfast are generally keen to chat and welcoming towards visitors.

  • Round of drinks If you go to the bar in a pub it's polite to offer to buy drinks for the other people in your party, known as buying a round; the favour will be returned when your friends take their turn to get a round.
  • Politics and religion It's best to avoid potentially sensitive topics of conversation and hold off on offering opinions on local politics if you're with people you don't know well.

Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended. Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

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Internet Access

Belfast has a network of 104 free wi-fi hotspots at visitor attractions, community and leisure centres and other public buildings. Search for BelfastWiFi. All hostels and hotels and most cafes, restaurants and bars have wi-fi.

LGBT Travellers

Belfast's gay and lesbian scene is concentrated in the Cathedral Quarter around Union St. Nightspots include Kremlin, Maverick and Union Street.

Since 2014, civil partnerships (legally binding unions) between same sex couples have been legal in Northern Ireland, but gay marriage is not legal here. Love Equality (www.loveequalityni.org) campaigns for equal marriage rights.

Belfast has a thriving LGBT community and LGBT travellers are unlikely to experience problems based on their sexual orientation. The Rainbow Project (www.rainbow-project.org) provides an advocacy service for victims of hate crimes.

Ireland's largest celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender culture, Belfast Pride in late July to early August, culminates in a huge city-centre parade.

Money

ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in nearly all hotels and restaurants.

Tipping

Restaurants Around 10% in restaurants and cafes with table service. Nearer 15% at smarter restaurants. Tips may be added to your bill as a 'service charge'. However, paying a tip or a service charge is not obligatory.

Pubs & Bars Not expected unless table service for your meal and drinks is provided; then 10% is usual.

Taxis Tipping is not expected.

Opening Hours

Banks 9.30am–4.30pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants noon–2.30pm and 6.30pm–9.30pm

Cafes 8am–5pm

Pubs 11.30am–midnight

Clubs 9.30pm-2am

Shops 10am–5pm Monday to Saturday (open to 8pm Thursday)

Post

There are several branches of the generally reliable UK postal service, the Post Office (www.postoffice.co.uk), in Belfast. International postage costs £1.35 to £2.30 for a standard letter and £4.50 to £5.65 for a 100g parcel. Detailed rates are listed on the website.

Main Post Office

Donegall Square

Queen's University

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January

St Patrick's Day 17 March

Easter March/April (Good Friday and Easter Monday)

May Day First Monday in May

Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May

Battle of the Boyne 12 July

Summer Bank Holiday Last Monday in August

Christmas Day 25 December

Boxing Day 26 December

Smoking

  • Smoking Forbidden in all enclosed public places in Northern Ireland. Most pubs have a smoking area outside.

Taxes & Refunds

Value-added tax (VAT) is a 20% sales tax levied on most goods and services. Restaurants must always include VAT in their prices, but it is not always included in hotel-room prices, so be sure to ask when booking. It’s sometimes possible for visitors to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods; see www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/taxfree-shopping for eligibility criteria.

Telephone

Northern Ireland uses UK mobile networks and landline providers and the UK country code. Phone boxes and public payphones are increasingly rare.

Mobile numbers begin 07 and local landlines begin 028. To call from an international number, use the UK country code 00 44 and drop the initial 0 from the number (ie, dial 00 44 7 for mobiles and 00 44 28 for landlines).

Mobile Phones

International roaming charges can be high, and you'll probably find it cheaper to get a UK number. This is easily done by buying a pay-as-you-go SIM card (from £5 including calling credit) and sticking it in your phone.

Toilets

  • Public toilets in Belfast are free to use and generally clean and modern.
  • Most pubs and restaurants stipulate that their toilets are for customers only.
  • Your best bet may be to use the toilets in free-to-enter museums.

Tourist Information

Visit Belfast Welcome Centre Stacks of information about Northern Ireland. Services include left luggage (not overnight), tour and accommodation bookings, bus-ticket sales and wi-fi.

More Information

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

PRONI If you're hoping to track down your Ulster ancestors, PRONI has its headquarters in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. Entry is free, but there are charges for copies of documents. Check the website for details of how to register and search the records.

Travel with Children

With its excellent museums, green spaces and family-centred attractions, easy-to-navigate Belfast is a fantastic city to visit with kids of all ages. If you're in town in March, look out for cultural and educational events during the Belfast Children's Festival.

Rainy-Day Fun

Belfast's weather can't be relied on but a rainy day doesn't have to dampen the fun.

  • Titanic Belfast

Interactive exhibits and a shipyard ride will keep kids engaged at this spectacular multimedia museum.

  • Ulster Museum

This museum has plenty of exhibits and special events designed for children of all ages, including three hands-on discovery rooms with kid-centred activities.

  • W5

Fantastic hands-on science centre aimed at children aged three to 11, with themed educational spaces and a virtual-reality room.

  • Vertigo Indoor Skydiving

Children aged four years-old and up – and adults – can experience the thrill of skydiving at this indoor centre.

Outdoor Activities

When the sun is shining, the little ones can let off some steam at a number of outdoor sights.

  • Ulster Folk Museum

The reconstructed historic houses, costumed guides, period sweet shop and farmyard animals of this fantastic outdoor museum make an easy and enjoyable day trip from Belfast.

  • Belfast Zoo

See more than 120 species in spacious enclosures on the attractive, sloping site of Belfast Zoo.

  • Botanic Gardens

There's plenty of space to run around and a children's playground at Botanic Gardens.

  • CS Lewis Square

See sculptures of characters from The Chronicles of Narnia at this East Belfast plaza.

Family-Friendly Tours

Fun tours add excitement to sightseeing and help keep older kids and teens entertained.

  • Lagan Boat Company

Explore the docklands from the water on a boat tour. You might even spot some seals.

  • Wee Tram

Give little legs a rest and tour the Titanic Quarter on these cute hop-on hop-off replica trams.

Need to Know

  • Transport Under-5s travel free on trains and buses; under 16s pay half the adult fare.
  • Restaurants Most have children's menus and high chairs, and bathrooms with baby-changing facilities.
  • Family Tickets Most attractions offer family tickets – usually two adults plus two children – for less than the sum of the individual entrance charges.