The Ultimate Guide to Transport in Ireland

Today I wanted to talk about the best ways to get around Ireland. When you arrive here, you might find getting from place to place a little confusing, so its about time that we sit down and talk about the best ways to do it.

I have already spoken about how to get around Ireland without a carOpens in a new tab., but we need to go into more detail on the different options for transport that you have. Though getting around Ireland has improved a lot in the last couple of decades, the infrastructure here is still not up to the same standard as the rest of Western Europe.

In this article we will talk about all your options for getting around Ireland and I will tell you the best ways of travelling around the country. When exploring Ireland, you will notice that there are different options depending on where you are. I have divided this guide into 3 sections; Dublin, the rest of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Leap Card

Leap Card
This can really help you on your stay in Ireland.

One of the most useful things you can get for your stay in the Republic of Ireland is a Leap Card. There are similar programs in other parts of the world, like the Oyster Card in London, so the idea behind this card should be familiar to most of you. It is a card that you pre-load with money and can use, contactless, to pay for transport services around the Republic of Ireland at a discount (of up to 31%).

Your leap card will work with the following companies in Ireland:

  • Dublin Bus
  • DART and Commuter Rail
  • Luas
  • Bus Eireann in County Dublin and the Surrounding Counties
  • Bus Eireann in the cities of Cork and Galway
  • City Direct
  • Wexford Bus
  • Swords Express
  • Matthews Coaches
  • Collins Coaches

There are over 650 locations where you can purchase a leap card and top them up in Ireland, including 2 in Dublin Airport. For a complete list of these locations, you can find the leap card website SourceOpens in a new tab..

Visitors Leap Card

If the prospect of getting and topping up your card seems a little daunting, you have the option of getting a pre-paid leap card that will give you unlimited travel for several days. The visitor’s leap card prices are as follows:

  • 1 Day (24 Hours): €10
  • 3 Days (72 Hours): €19.50
  • 7 Days (168 Hours): €40

You can purchase this leap card in Dublin airport and at various locations in Dublin city. You can also have it delivered.

Dublin

All the roads in Ireland lead to Dublin. The capital city of the Republic is by far the largest city on the island, with a population of just under 2 million people, Dublin is the most-developed part of the country when it comes to infrastructure. This means that if you want a good base from which to explore the rest of Ireland, Dublin is probably your best option, but before we talk about that, we need to discuss how to get around this city.

Public Transport

Dublin Transport Map
Courtesy of Transport for Ireland.

Dublin and the surrounding areas are well-connected via different public transport links. Though there is plenty of room for improvement, public transport is a good option if you plan on exploring the city and the surrounding areas.

In fact, you could explore a lot of Ireland just using public transport from Dublin, in another article I talk about some great places near DublinOpens in a new tab. that you can explore using public transportation.

One thing to note about public transport services in Dublin is that they will stop running at 11.30pm on weekdays and 12.30am on weekends. There will also be limited services on public holidays, bus this will be well-signposted.

For alternate means of transport, please consult the taxi section below.

Let’s talk about some of the different options available in Dublin. I will start by going into detail on each of the three main methods of public transport, then I will compare them afterwards.

Dublin Bus

Dublinbus
A part of Dublin Bus’ fleet

There are plenty of Dublin Bus routes throughout the city and some of them will go into neighbouring counties. This is the cheapest method of transport in Dublin, though it is not without its flaws. I have created a pros and cons list for Dublin Bus below:

Pros Cons
Cheapest public transport option. Most journeys will cost less than €3. Journey time is heavily dependent on traffic. Rush hour can double journey time.
Offers the most routes. You will be able to get to far more locations using the bus. Most routes go from the suburbs to the city centre. There are few routes that link the outskirts of the city, meaning that if your want to get form one suburb to the other, you might have to go through the city centre and change busses.
There are apps and displays that will tell you when the next bus will arrive. This information is often inaccurate in the city centre.
When paying via Leap Card, there will be a cap. Meaning that you have unlimited bus use after you spend about €10 in one day. If you don’t have a leap card you will have to pay in coins. Notes are not accepted, and you will not be given any change.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons for and against using the bus. If you want to know when the next Dublin bus will arrive, you can download the Dublin Bus app, or check their WebsiteOpens in a new tab..

DART

The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (or DART) is a light-rail system that largely sticks to the coast of county Dublin. The line was originally built in the 1830’s and has existed in its current form since the 1980’s.

Today you will be able to go from Greystones at the southern end of the line to Howth and Malahide at the northern end. The line goes through the centre of Dublin, making it one of the best ways to get to some of the most beautiful areas surrounding the city.

Please consult the table below for a list of pros and cons to the DART line:

Pros Cons
Most straightforward to use of all the forms of public transport in Dublin. Most expensive form of public transport in Dublin. €6.25 for an adult return between the city centre and Howth.
Can easily reach places like Howth or Killiney from the city centre with the DART. Construction work on the line can often halt services on weekends.
Regular Services. Services on Sundays and public holidays are often more limited than during the week.
Journeys on the train are usually less than half an hour long. The trains are often older models and not particularly comfortable.

This is the form of transport that I would recommend, getting to specific places along the coast.

Luas

Luas
The Luas

Luas is the Irish word for speed and is the name given to the new tram system in the city. Originally constructed in 2005, this system was expanded at the end of 2017. There are two lines, the green line operates in the south and the red line operates in the north and west.

The Luas is used every day by locals on their commute to and from the city centre, but for visitors, the usefulness of this service is more limited. The red line offers a reliable way of getting from the city centre to places like the 3 Arena and the Guinness Storehouse.

Aside from that, using the Luas to get around is probably not practical for most visitors to Dublin. Having said that the fares for the Luas are lower than the DART and it will go to some interesting parts of the city.

The following are a list of some main places in Dublin reachable by the Luas from the city centre, the line they are on, and the stop name:

Attraction Line Stop Name
G.P.O, O’Connell Street, the Spire Green Line + Red Line O’Connell Street (Green) + Abbey Street (Red)
Collins Barracks Red Museum
The Guinness Storehouse + Heuston Station Red Heuston Station
Connolly Station Red Connolly Station
Dundrum Shopping Centre Green Dundrum + Balally
The 3 Arena Red The Point

A single adult ticket for the Luas should cost €3.10. For more information, you can visit the Luas website HEREOpens in a new tab..

Those are the main methods of transport in Dublin. To summarise, I have created a comparison table below:

Method of Transport Price of Adult Single Ticket with NO Leap Card (fares may vary) Easy to Use for Visitors? Connected to Many Attractions?
Dublin Bus €3.00 (stages 4-13) No (ask a driver for help) Yes
DART €3.30 Yes Yes
Luas €3.10 (3 Zones) Yes No

Taxis

taxi
A Taxi Rank in Dublin

Taxis are a viable option to get around in Dublin, especially after the public transport services stop running in the evening. Taxis in Ireland are safe and generally reliable.

This industry is well-regulated, which means that fares are set, and you will can consult the table below to learn more about taxi fares in Ireland.I

Taxi Fares
Courtesy of Transport for Ireland

You can get taxis form a variety of different sources, the main ones are; on the street, at a taxi rank, or from an app. Though you can also ring various taxi companies or ask your accommodation to order one for you, provided you are staying at a hostel or hotel.

One issue that many travellers have in Ireland is that Uber is not common here. In Ireland, this App will only allow you to book a regular taxi or a private limousine, making its use rather limited for most people.

If you want to learn more about taxis in Ireland, including my recommended apps, please consult my article Does Ireland Have Uber?Opens in a new tab.

Cycling

Dublin city is compact and one of the best ways of traversing it is by cycling. Probably the easiest way of doing this is by using the Dublin Bikes service, which has locations all over the city.

You can sign up for an annual subscription to Dublin Bikes for €25, though you can also use your Leap Card.

This service is great for people who know their way around the city, or for the more adventurous travellers. I would advise caution for people who are not used to Dublin.

We drive on the left side of the road in Ireland and this can cause confusion. Parts of the city centre are also about a thousand years old and these medieval streets were not built for cars. This can make things dangerous for cyclists.

If you want more information on this service, or have any safety concerns, you can find their website HEREOpens in a new tab..

Walking

This is likely the best way to get around Dublin city. The centre is walkable to a large degree and if you are staying anywhere central, this should be your main method of getting around.

This is the best way to get a feel for Dublin and the best way to explore the city’s atmosphere. There are going to be places a little further out that you will need transport to get to, but most of the time you should be able to walk around.

The only real issues you might have with walking are going to be related to the weather. It rains a lot in IrelandOpens in a new tab., and you should follow that link to learn more about how to deal with it.

When walking around this city, make sure you are wearing the right footwear and have checked in with the Irish weather service. The link is in the article above.

Renting Cars

If you are sticking to Dublin, then you don’t really need to drive. In fact, driving will probably make things more difficult. Getting around via the methods already mentioned are probably the best ways to explore this city.

However, if you want to explore the rest of Ireland a car is a good idea. I will talk more on this later in the article.

Rest of Ireland

The transport links in the rest of Ireland are not as developed as in Dublin. This means that you will have to do a little more research when exploring certain parts of Ireland. Fortunately, I have done most of it for you!

If you are exploring Ireland and not using a car, you will find this section very useful. One thing to note here is that many of the transport links you will find in Ireland are mainly useful getting from Dublin to other parts of the country, and this can often be easier than travelling between smaller towns that are closer to one another.

Leap Card

Your Leap Card will still serve you well in the Republic, outside of Dublin. This will mainly come in useful when making your way between larger cities, or in the cities of Cork and Galway. Please refer to the above section for more Leap Card information.

Rail

This is one of the easiest to use methods of transport in the country and many towns in Ireland will be connected by train. The only downside is that this method is often more expensive than a coach or bus.

For specific questions on journeys, you can checkout Irish Rail’s website HEREOpens in a new tab..

I want to give you all a rough overview of the main train routes in Ireland, how long they take and their prices.

Journeys from Dublin

Below is just a quick guide to trips from Dublin, I have far more detailed information in my guide to the best Day Trips From DublinOpens in a new tab..

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult
Galway 3 Hours €20
Belfast (from Connolly Station) 2 Hours €20
Cork 3.5 Hours €40
Kilkenny 1.5 Hours €15
Killarney 3.5 Hours €40

Journeys from Galway

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult
Dublin 3 Hours €20
Cork 4 Hours €20
Limerick 2 Hours €7.50
Killarney 6.5 Hours €41

Journeys from Cork

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult
Dublin 2.5 Hours €40
Galway 4 Hours €22
Limerick 1.5 Hours €15
Killarney 2 Hours €20

Coaches

Though the rail network in Ireland has been improving in recent years it is not up to the same standard as other countries in Western Europe. It can also be quite expensive.

For a cheaper alternative, there are many coach services that will bring you around Ireland for less, though your journey may not be as comfortable and might take longer.

Below are the same journeys as before, but by coach. I have also included links to buy tickets as there are many companies that run these routes and the ones below offer the best value for money I could find.

From Dublin

Below is just a quick guide to trips from Dublin, I have far more detailed information in my guide to the best Day Trips From DublinOpens in a new tab..

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult Booking Link
Galway 2.5 Hours €13 GoBus
Cork 3 Hours €14 Gobus
Belfast 2 Hours €10 Dublin Coach
Kilkenny 1.5 Hours €18 jjKavanagh

From Galway

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult Booking Link
Dublin 2.5 Hours €13 GoBus
Cork 3 Hours €13 CityLink
Limerick 1 Hour €14 CityLink

If you want information on getting to the Cliffs of Moher and attractions near Galway, you can find my guide to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway HERE.Opens in a new tab.

From Cork

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult Booking Link
Dublin 3 Hours €14 Gobus
Galway 3 Hours €13 CityLink
Limerick 1.5 Hours €14 CityLink

Bus Eireann

You will find this company all over Ireland, they are the state-run bus company. Though they offer many inter-city routes, you might notice I haven’t recommended them yet. That is because the companies above offer better services and are cheaper.

The Bus Eireann should only really be used as a last resort if you cannot find any other means of getting between towns or cities in Ireland.

Having said that, their city bus services in Cork and Galway are good. I personally prefer them to the services offered by Dublin Bus. You will still be able to use your Leap Card and fares will be up to a euro cheaper than for a similar journey in Dublin.

Renting Cars

This will become a lot more viable once you start to move around and explore the rest of Ireland. There are some beautiful roads in places like Wicklow and Antrim that are great to drive through.

The most reliable and highly reviewed car-rental company in Ireland that I am aware of is Hertz. You will be able to rent a car upon your arrival in Dublin Airport. The normal fee is €43 per day.

If you choose to rent a car while in Ireland, you should be aware of a couple of things. Firstly, we drive on the left side of the road, this is something you should be aware of regardless of whether you drive or not. Also, many of the roads in the less developed parts of the country are winding and narrow.

Drive with caution, especially in the West of Ireland.

Taxis

If you are exploring other parts of Ireland, taxis are just as viable of an option as in Dublin. They may even become necessary in more rural areas.

Please consult the section above for more information.

Regional Airports

aircraft
An Airplane landing in Dublin Airport

If you are planning on visiting Ireland, you might not have to go anywhere near Dublin. There are plenty of airports all over the country, many of them are serviced by low-fare airlines like Ryanair.

Shannon Airport in the centre of Ireland used to be particularly popular for trans-Atlantic fliers as there was a U.S immigration check in that airport. This immigration check has since moved to Dublin, but Shannon is still a viable option if you want to explore the West of Ireland.

These regional airports are also useful if you are backpacking around Europe and want to stop off in the cheaper, rural parts of Ireland.

For details on low-fares flights to these airports, you can find links to the main Irish carriers below:

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and therefore it has different transport networks. Though they also drive on the left side of the road, that is about the only thing that is the same. Your Leap Card won’t work up here and they use pounds instead of Euro.

The main transport services in the north are run by Translink, who also have a journey plannerOpens in a new tab..

Let’s talk about what to expect from some of the main transport services in Northern Ireland.

Rail

The rail network in the north is usually cheaper than the Republic and more reliable.

Journeys from Belfast

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult
Dublin 2 Hours €20
Derry 2 Hours £13

For more details on how to see attractions like the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast you can find my guide to the subject.

Coaches

Destination Approximate Journey Time Ticket Price, Single Adult
Dublin 2 Hours €20
Derry 2 Hours £12.50
Bushmills 3 Hours £12.50

Busses

Belfast offers a Metro Bus service that is like both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, and roughly the same pros and cons will apply here as to Dublin.

A standard single fare for an adult is £1.30 and the drivers will usually offer change. Unlike Dublin Bus, they will accept notes. This is a much more positive aspect of this service, in my opinion.

Recently, Belfast has adopted new “Gliders”. These are like trams but run on wheels on the road. This service was adopted less than a year before I wrote this article and so I want to hear more feedback before I talk more about it.

Taxis

Black Taxi
A Black Taxi

Like the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland uses the famous black hackney cabs. The fares here will be noticeably cheaper than in other parts of the UK, particularly London.

For a rough overview of taxi fares in Northern Ireland, please consult the table below:

Distance (km) Price (£)
3km £5.60
5km £7.37
10km £11.80

This information was taken from nuembo.com

Regional Airports

Like the rest of the island of Ireland, there are several regional airports in the north, notably ones outside Belfast and Derry.

For more information on direct flights to Northern Ireland, there are the main airports in the region:

  • Belfast International airport
  • City of Derry airport
  • George Best Belfast City airport

Jack

Jack Redmond has been a tour guide in Ireland for the past decade. Having received a national guiding qualification, he has brought thousands of travelers all over the island of Ireland.

Recent Posts