Traveling in Europe, especially the Emerald Isle, can be expensive, but it does not have to break the bank. Ireland uses the euro () as its main currency, while Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling (). Since currencies can fluctuate a great deal, prices in this guide are listed in local tender.
Bring ample cash in dollars (or better yet, euro), debit and credit cards of various types (Visa or MasterCard are best), and phone numbers to your banking institutions. Know the pin numbers for each. And, call your bank ahead of time so they are aware of your travels.
If you find your card is not accepted, you might have to call your bank or credit card company to release it. Finally, have an emergency account or credit card with accessible funds available from the United States: $2,000 to $5,000 for couples and more for families.
Once the ultimate form of travel currency, traveler's checks are no longer accepted or appreciated the world over. Irish banks and some hotels will accept them, but do not bring all of your funds in the form of traveler's checks, as smaller B&Bs and guesthouses, restaurants, and shops will not accept them. American Express has shut down their main office in Dublin, so that is no longer an option.
If you lose your credit or debit card while traveling in Ireland or it is stolen, report it immediately. Write down the phone numbers from the back of the credit card with the last four digits and expiration date on a separate piece of paper. If you do not have this information available at the time an incident occurs, check the Internet for any phone numbers for your bank and/or credit card agency.
The currency converter found on XE will give you an idea of the current rate of exchange. In Ireland, banks offer the best rate, while post offices come close. Exchange bureaus offer the worst rates, but they are often open for longer hours.
Twenty-four-hour phone numbers to major credit-card issuers are listed below. The first number listed is the corresponding office in the United States. The second number listed is the respective office within Ireland.
American Express: (623) 492-8427 (US) 1850 88 2028 (Republic of Ireland)
Visa: (410) 581-9994 (US) or 1800 55 8002 (Republic of Ireland)
MasterCard: (636) 722-7111 (US) or 1800 55 7378 (Republic of Ireland)
When calling any of these credit card companies, state your problem and wait for them to connect you to the proper representative. Following, you will most likely have to answer various security questions (your social security number, home phone and address, birth date, etc.). You should not be responsible for any fraudulent actions on your account and should receive a replacement card within a couple of days.
Running on Empty
If you find yourself in need of fast cash, friends or family back home can send you quick funding via any international transfer service. These include Western Union, American Express (Amex), or Thomas Cook. Such services charge a fee, keep a commission, and often offer the worst rate of exchange. However, for emergency situations, they often work flawlessly.
Taxes, Refunds, and Customs
In Europe, each purchase has a value-added tax (VAT) that is usually above 20 percent. This percentage adds up over time, especially if shopping is high on your list. If you do not work or live in Ireland (or Europe), you are entitled to receive a refund on a portion of this tax. Some larger sellers can automatically deduct the tax when you are purchasing an item, so simply ask.
Contact your insurance company about the coverage you might have on your valuables while traveling. Most agencies will charge a supplemental fee to cover your items while you are on the road. If you travel often, buy a yearly plan that is well worth the small investment. What warranties do not cover, there is a good chance that insurance will.
Knowing about the VAT refund is important before you go because you will need to ask each seller if they are able to provide you with the necessary form(s), signature, or stamp.
The steps for obtaining this tax credit are:
The seller of an item should help you complete the tax-free shopping document.
At the airport upon leaving Ireland (or any other European country), find the agent in the airport who deals with VAT refunds. This is most often done before going past security into the duty-free lobby. If you have purchased large or restricted items, make sure you do not check your baggage before the customs officer verifies your purchases.
The next step can vary, but most often sellers of items work with an agency called Global Refund, which you can either locate at larger airports or mail your documents to. If your refund is claimed in person, you can obtain cash or have credit applied to your credit card. If mailed, you will have to supply the credit card number used for most of the purchases. The credit might take a few months to appear on your statement. For any other information about bringing items back to the United States, read over the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
If you have taken valuable merchandise with you abroad, such as cameras, computers, or jewelry, then you might be required to pay duty fees on these items if you cannot prove that you bought them within the United States before your trip. For this reason and as a precaution, consider registering your items with customs before departing on your journey.
At the airport, visit customs and obtain a Certificate of Registration, which will allow you to enter without issue on items you have brought along. If you do not register them with customs, bring original receipts or a copy of your insurance policy that verifies all that you own.
Electric shavers can be used in various B&Bs, hotels, and guesthouses that have an American style outlet in the bathroom. These are labeled with a small shaver icon and display that their output is 110–115 volts. Many rooms offer hairdryers, but ask your host at the time of booking if this is a concern.
Electricity and Electronics
Electricity in Ireland is 240 volts at 50 cycles, which is common throughout Europe. In most cases, electronics from the United States will work fine on 240 volts. Check the fine print in the user's manual for details. Laptops and portable DVD players are fine with a prong adapter (not a voltage converter). Irish plugs are the same as those in the United Kingdom (which are not typical European plugs): two large, square front prongs and one equally sized at the top.