NEED TO KNOW
Language: English and Gaelic
Capital City: Dublin
Population: 4 million
Area: 27,000 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 353
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Euro = $1.36 US Calculate Other Amounts
Ireland, a member of the EU, does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
The Kennedys aside, Ireland's greatest contributions to Western culture have been literary, from the medieval Book of Kells to Roddy Doyle's 1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. Read James Joyce's Dubliners to experience the capital, or Finnegans Wake to experience the outer limits of the imagination. Oscar Wilde—born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde—still provokes riotous laughter, with plays like The Importance of Being Earnest. Romantics will swoon over the poetry of Yeats, and film buffs can explore different sides of modern Ireland in movies as varied as The Crying Game and Waking Ned Devine.
What's the traditional Irish seven-course meal? If you answered "a six-pack of Guinness and a baked potato," you should experience the new Ireland. Sure, pubs are still everywhere, drawing pint after pint of the black stuff alongside shepherd's pie and fried fish, but that's not the only option anymore. Ireland has always had great produce, seafood, and meat, and now a new generation of chefs—Ireland's first—is taking Alice Waters's mantra to heart, offering fresh food in season and enticing presentation.
As in the rest of the European Union, buying anything on the Emerald Isle takes a lot of green. Crystal from Waterford and Galway is exquisite, but you can find it anywhere. The deal here is on imperfect pieces that are not for export. (Nobody will notice the tiny bubbles, goes the standard calculation. See what you think.) Wool from Western Ireland is supposed to be great, but it's better fit for the bogs than the runway. Your best bets for gifts are the omnipresent Guinness gear or one of the fine whiskeys not available off-isle.
Ireland is no longer the bargain destination it once was, due to its membership in the European Union. The 21 percent VAT tax doesn't help, either, but at least tourists can obtain a refund at the airport. At restaurants, service charges are usually included. If not, add 10 to 12 percent to the bill.
January: 1, New Year's Day
March: 17, St. Patrick's Day
May: First Monday of May, May Holiday
June: First Monday of June, June Holiday
August: First Monday of August, August Holiday
October: Last Monday of October, October Holiday
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, St. Stephen's Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday