The police force is known as An Garda Síochána or just "Garda", and police officers as Garda singular and Gardaí plural, pronounced Gar-dee, though informally the English term Guards is usual. The term Police is rarely used, but is of course understood. Regardless of what you call them, they are courteous and approachable. Uniformed members of the Garda Síochána do not, unlike the Police force in Northern Ireland, carry firearms. Firearms are, however, carried by detectives and officers assigned to Regional Support Units and the Emergency Response Unit ERU, a tactical unit similar to SWAT. Police security checks at Shannon Airport can be tough if you are a solo-traveller.

Crime is relatively low by most European standards but not very different. Late night streets in larger towns and cities can be dangerous, as anywhere. If you need Gardaí, ambulance, fire service, coast guard or mountain rescue dial 999 or 112 as the emergency number; both work from landlines and mobile phones.

Road safety is well maintained, and Ireland has a reputation for having some of the safest roads in Europe. However, most of the roads in the country are very narrow and winding, and there has been a recent increase in traffic density. Drive safely.

by mobile

There are more mobile phones than people in the Republic of Ireland, and the majority of these are prepaid. Phone credit is available in very many retailers, usually in denominations from €5 to €40. Be aware, that some retailers charge a small commission on this credit, while many others don't, so it does pay to shop around.

All mobile numbers begin with 087, 086, 085 or 083 this code must be dialled regardless of location or operator of dialler. Mobiles are cheap by European standards to buy, and if staying for more than 2 months, it could be cheaper to buy a phone than phone cards.

A tri- or quad-band GSM phone will work, but you should check that your operator has a roaming agreement. It can be expensive to receive and make phone calls while roaming.

You can also buy a cheap prepay SIM card if you have an unlocked handset. This can be considerably cheaper as it means that you will be assigned an Irish number which you can be called at during your trip and your outgoing calls are charged at normal Irish mobile rates.

If you do not have an unlocked tri- or quad-band GSM phone then is possible to buy a mobile phone in Ireland from any of the cell phone companies. If you need a cell phone number before you travel, you can rent a phone from - Rentaphone Ireland (http://www.rentaphone-ire...).

Phones that have the 1800MHz band but not 900MHz will work but coverage is extremely poor outside urban areas.

Ireland has 4 mobile networks prefix code in brackets. Additional virtual networks such as Tesco mobile exit which piggy-back on the infrastructure of another network

Operator Band Dialling Prefix
Vodafone GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100 087
O2 GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100 086
Meteor GSM 900/1800/UMTS 2100 085
3 Three UMTS 2100 083

However, customers who change between networks have the option to retain their full existing number, so it is possible for a Vodafone customer to have an 085 prefixed number, for instance. Digiweb are expected to launch services in the near future, with a prefix code of 088.

calling home

Pay phones are fairly widely available but becoming less so and most take euro coins, prepaid calling cards and major credit cards. You can also reverse charges/call collect or use your calling card by following the instructions on the display.

for dial internationally: 00 + country code + area code + local number

To dial Northern Ireland from Ireland a special code exists; drop the 028 area code from the local Northern Ireland and replace it with 048. This is then charged at the cheaper National Irish rate, instead of an international rate.

To dial an Irish number from within Ireland: Simply dial all of the digits including the area code. You can, optionally, drop the area code if you're calling from within that area, but it makes no difference to the cost or routing.

Fixed line numbers have the following area codes:

01 Dublin and parts of surrounding counties

02x Cork area

04xx parts of Wicklow and North-East midlands and Northern Ireland (048)

05x Midlands and South-East

06x South-West and Mid-West)

07x North-West

08x Mobile phones

09xx Midlands and West

Operator service is unavailable from pay phones or mobile phones.

Emergency Service dial 999 or 112 Pan European code that runs in parallel. This is the equivilant of 911 in the US/Canada and is free from any phone.

Directory information is provided by competing operators through the following codes call charges vary depending on what they're offering and you'll see 118 codes advertised heavily:

118 11 eircom

118 50 conduit

118 90

These companies will usually offer call completion, but at a very high price, and all of them will send the number by SMS to your mobile if you're calling from it.

non-geographic numbers

Non-geographic numbers are those which are not specific to a geographical region and are technically charged at the same rate regardless of where the caller is located.

Call type Description Dialling Prefix
Freephone Free from all phonelines 1800
Shared Cost Fixed Cost one call unit generally 6.5 cent 1850
Shared Cost Timed also known as Lo-call Cost the price of a local call 1890
Universal Access Cost the same as a non-local/trunk dialling call 0818
Premium Rate Generally more expensive than other calls 1520 to 1580

Phone numbers in this guide are given in the form that you would dial them from within Ireland. This form in general is a two- or three-digit area code always begins with a 0, and the local number, which may be from five to seven digits long. When dialling a land line number from another land line within the same area i.e., the same area code the area code can be ignored, and the local number only is required.


English is spoken everywhere but Irish Gaeilge is the first official language. It is part of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic family of languages.

Most people have some understanding of Irish but it is used as a first language by approximately 170,000 people, most of whom live in rural areas known as the Gaeltachts. About 55% c. 2,500,000 of people in the Republic claim to understand and speak the language.

As the Gaeltachts are generally scenic areas it is likely that visitors will go there. Tourists are not expected to speak Irish, but attempts at speaking Irish with the locals are greatly appreciated. The language will also be noticeable on road signs, etc. For instance, a law was recently passed that changes the name of Dingle, County Kerry to An Daingean, the Irish version. This should not confuse visitors, as almost all recent maps carry placenames in both languages in Gaeltacht districts.

In order to enter most Irish Universities, it is necessary for Irish citizens to have taken Irish to Leaving Certificate Examinations taken on leaving secondary or high school level, and passed. Indeed it is a compulsory language at school in the Republic, although its method of teaching has come under criticism. Nevertheless, although it has come under threat, and some resent being forced to learn the language, others see use of the language as an expression of national pride.

There is some Irish language broadcasting on TV and radio. Irish is related but certainly not identical to Scots Gaelic. The Ulster dialect of Irish has most in common with Scots Gaelic. However, some Irish people may take offense if you call Irish "Gaelic," as this is seen as being an incorrect term, and refers to the entire family of languages that includes Irish, Manx, and Scots Gaelic. Referring to it simply as "Irish" is a fine alternative. It is not necessary to know any Irish in order to get around in Ireland though it will be appreciated if you refer to public bodies, institutions and figures by their Irish titles. See also: Irish phrasebook


Visitors to Ireland are likely to find the Irish to be among the most courteous nationalities in the world. It is not uncommon for locals to approach confused looking visitors and offer to help.

Often, in smaller towns and villages especially on rural roads, if you pass somebody unknown to you, it is customary to say hello. They may instead simply greet you by asking "how are you?", or another similar variation. It is polite to respond to this greeting, but it is not expected that you would give any significant detail on how you really are! If the person is a stranger - a simple hello and/or "how are you?" or a simple comment on the weather will suffice! In this regard, try something like "Grand day!" if it isn't raining, of course. The response will often be "It is indeed, thank God".

When driving on rural roads particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave "thanks" to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas of the West of Ireland where many drivers will automatically wave at everyone who drives past them. A polite hand wave or even with just the index finger raised from the steering wheel is customary and will be appreciated.

When accepting gifts, a polite refusal such as, "No really you shouldn't" is common after the initial offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer is accepted, at which point your answer is likely to become more recognised. However, some people can be very persuasive and persistent. This usually isn't intended to be over-bearing, just courteous.

One thing which some visitors may find disconcerting is the response an Irish person may give to a "thank you". Most Irish people will respond with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all". This does not mean that they didn't try hard to please, but rather it is meant to suggest "I was happy to do it for you, so it was not any great difficulty" even though it may have been!.

The Republic of Ireland and Britain undoubtedly have notable similarities. However, Irish people generally take great pride in the cultural differences that also exist between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain. Locals can be quite offended by tourists who do not acknowledge or show respect to these differences. Indeed, it is not uncommon for visitors both before and after arrival into the country to incorrectly assume that all of Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom similar to Scotland and Wales. This incorrect assumption will generally cause offense and/or bemusement to locals, who take pride in the Republic of Ireland's status as a state independent of the United Kingdom. This may lead to genuine curiosity about the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Public or semi-public discussions about religious differences, political views and 20/21st century troubles are generally avoided by locals on both sides of the border. This is because opinions between individuals are so vastly divided and unyielding, that most Irish people of moderate views have grown accustomed to simply avoiding the topics in polite conversation. Most Irish people are moderate in their views. However, it is wise to avoid any political or religious discussion unless you are invited to discuss these topics. Tourists who are often fascinated by the history of the division would be advised to show respect and caution if they choose to discuss the differences of opinion that still exist on historical matters.

The Irish are renowned for their upbeat sense of humor. However, their humor can sometimes be difficult to understand for more unfamiliar tourists. Joking on almost any topic will be welcomed, although even mild racism is not appreciated by the majority. Most Irish people are quite happy for friendly jibes regarding the Irish love of potatoes and drinking alcohol. However, any jokes regarding the potato famine of the 19th Century in which approximately two million people died or fled, should be avoided. Joking about this topic could in many instances cause a similar amount of offense for example as joking about the September 11, 2001 attacks would in the United States.

If the official name of an institution is in Irish such as the Oireachtas or Gardaí, try to use the Irish name, even if you are unsure as to the correct pronunciation. Irish people will generally be understanding and appreciate the effort even if you get it wrong, whereas they will often consider it culturally ignorant and rude if you simply use the English term instead.

LGBT visitors will find the most of Irish accepting of same-sex couples. Ireland has recently passed a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage in May 2015. Care should be taken outside cities and large towns. Conservative values still hold dear in rural Ireland but most rural people will follow a "if you don't annoy us we won't annoy you" attitude. Ireland has very strong anti-discrimination laws and any breach should be notified to the Equality Authority. Most cities have a strong gay scene and gay people will be welcomed in most clubs and bars. Common sense should prevail in all areas but particular care should be taken in poorer areas. Some gay visitors may find themselves the butt of mild homophobia in more working class areas. However this is normally the Irish sense of humor at its most intolerant. If one feels this is not the case then common sense should prevail and if they feel in danger the Gardaí should be called.


The Irish love their sport. It is a country with many sports. The largest sporting organisation in Ireland, and the largest amateur sporting organisation in the world, is the Gaelic Athletic Association, more commonly referred to as the GAA. The GAA governs Ireland's two national sports which are Gaelic Football and Hurling. To those that have never seen it, Gaelic Football could at its simplest be described as a cross between soccer and rugby, but there is much more to it than that. Hurling is the fastest field game in the world. If it could be categorised into a group of sports, then it would be closest to the field hockey family, but Hurling is unique. No visit to Ireland, especially during the summer months, would be complete without seeing a Gaelic Football or Hurling match, ideally live but at least on the TV. The biggest matches of the year take place during summer culminating in the two finals which are both in September, on two separate Sundays. The All-Ireland Hurling Final is normally on the first Sunday of September and the All-Ireland Football final is on the third Sunday of September. These are the two largest individual sporting events in Ireland, so tickets are like gold dust. Croke Park, the venue for the two finals, has a capacity of 82,300 people, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe. Those that can't get tickets will crowd around televisions and radios, and around the world Irish people will be watching or listening to the finals.

While Gaelic Football and Hurling are the two biggest sports, Ireland has much else to offer in terms of sport. Ireland is a world leader in breeding and training race horses. There are many race tracks around the country and many big racing festivals throughout the year.

Golf is another huge sport in Ireland. Ireland has many great professionals, but for the visitor there are many golf courses around the country. Golfing holidays are popular.

Soccer and Rugby are also popular in Ireland. Ireland's rugby team in particular is amongst the best in the world. There are also many soccer clubs around Ireland and both sports have many competitions.

Being an island, Ireland has many water sports. Sailing is big in Ireland. On the west coast in particular Ireland has very high seas, ideal for surfing, even if the weather isn't always great.

Ireland has all these and many other sports. So if you want a sporting holiday, you could do worse than going to Ireland.


Since March 2004 almost all enclosed places of work, including bars, restaurants, cafés, etc., in Ireland have been designated as smoke-free. Rooms in Hotels and Bed & Breakfast establishments are not required by law to be smoke-free. Even though they are not obliged to enforce the ban, owners of these establishments are, however, free to do so if they wish. Most hotels have designated some bedrooms or floors as smoking and some as non-smoking, so you should specify at the time of booking if you have a preference either way. The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means for example that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered under the law.

Most larger bars and cafés will have a covered outdoor smoking area, often with heating. If one does not exist be aware that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street so you may have to leave your drink at the bar.

Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of up to €3,000.