Ireland Trip Pre-Departure Information and To-Do List
a. Check Your Passports. Everyone on this trip needs a valid passport – you can’t board your Europe-bound flight let alone enter Ireland without one. Additionally, an increasing number of European passport officials now check to see if passports have more than 6 months validity remaining as one exits their countries on departure. Some airlines deny boarding if this requirement is not met. If your passport’s expiration date falls within six months of the date you are returning from Europe, renew it now. To be safe, I suggest renewing your passport if it is set to expire between now and the end of the year. If you don’t yet have a passport, need to renew, or yours requires additional pages, apply now without delay. Renewal instructions can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/renew.html
b. Safeguard Important Information. Place a photocopy of your passport’s picture page in each piece of hand carried and checked luggage to help verify your identity in case your passport is lost or stolen. This also helps should your baggage become misrouted. Make a list of all your credit card and ATM card numbers as well as the phone numbers to call in case they’re lost and stolen. Keep this list in a safe place separate from your wallet.
c. Register Your Trip with the State Department. This is a highly recommended item. Registering the trip at the State Dept’s Smart traveler web site https://step.state.gov/step facilitates assistance in case of lost or stolen passports, medical emergencies, falling victim to crime or otherwise requiring the services of a U.S. consular officer abroad.
d. Notify Credit Card Companies of your Travel Plans. Call the customer service numbers on each of your credit cards to provide them a list of countries you’ll be visiting and the dates you’ll be in each. This will alert them that any charges from those countries are legitimate and prevent your card from being placed on an automatic security block should overseas charges appear. Confirm the number to call should your card be lost or stolen and determine how to obtain a replacement card while overseas.
e. Leave Contact Information with Neighbors and Relatives. In addition to providing cell and hotel phone numbers, the Dept of State recommends leaving a copy of your air itinerary and photocopies of your passport picture page, driver’s license and the credit cards you take.
f. Health Issues Check List.. While Ireland has excellent health care, a bit of pre-planning now will save trouble later, particularly for those with pre-existing illnesses. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. Carry medications in their original labeled containers. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. Carry spare pairs of contact lenses and glasses, and bring along a copy of your optical prescription.
1. Inoculations. It’s a good idea to ensure your shots are up to date. Although none are required for Ireland, the Center for Disease Control and the WHO recommend that all travelers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis B, regardless of destination.
2. Prescription Medicines. Be certain to bring an adequate supply of all prescription medicines as it will be difficult to obtain refills on the trip. To avoid complications it’s best to bring along a list of your meds and their dosage signed by your physician. Again, anyone with pre-existing medical problems should carry a letter from their physician, describing the condition and the specific dosage, including the generic name, of prescribed drugs.
3. Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD) aka Delhi Belly While unlikely, any of us could be struck by TD as a result of unsanitary conditions or improperly prepared food. At the first sign of problems you’ll want to aggressively treat the symptoms. Ask your physician for a three-day supply of ciprofloxacin or other quinolone antibiotic and some ammodium. Chewing Pepto-Bismol tablets also helps. Beyond frequent hand washing, the best ways to avoid trouble are insuring food is well cooked and avoiding street vendors.
4. Vision: Bring extra spectacles, sunglasses (prescription or otherwise); “cheaters” (magnifying glasses for reading), contact lenses, storage cases and solution.
g. Take Out Travel Insurance. Everybody should have insurance for this trip. The State Dept recommends that all Americans traveling overseas consider purchasing a travel insurance policy to cover unexpected illness, injury or other circumstances adversely affecting travel plans. The cost of medical care abroad can be considerable, as is the expense of evacuation home in case of illness or injury. Without adequate insurance you must cover all costs yourself. NB: Medicare coverage doesn’t extend overseas. Everyone should be covered for the worst possible case — an accident or injury requiring EMTs, hospital treatment or emergency medical evacuation home — by getting a trip health insurance policy. You may prefer a policy that pays health-care providers directly rather than having to pay on the spot and claim later. Take the following steps:
1. Check what coverage your medical insurance provider offers you abroad.
2. Once purchased, verify what your trip travel health insurance covers and find out in advance what forms or documentation you’ll need to submit with an insurance claim for medical expenses abroad.
3. Email yourself scanned copies of your travel insurance so you have it available in addition to carrying along a printed set.
USAA offers trip insurance policies: https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/travel_main
h. Country Description. Ireland is a highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Nearly half the populace of 4 million is under 30 years of age. Although the global economic downturn severely affected the Irish economy, the people are welcoming and it remains a beautiful and thoroughly delightful place to visit. For a concise but excellent primer, check out the Ireland Background Notes at www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3180.htm. State also offers a downloadable app for easy access to frequently updated country information, travel alerts, maps, and Embassy locations: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/smart-traveler/id442693988?mt=8.
1. Currency: Ireland uses the Euro (exchange rate approx 1€ = US$1.36). The British pound is the unit of currency in Northern Ireland. It’s best to obtain Euros from airport ATM’s upon arrival. Although there are ATMs in Killarney, neither of our hotels has one. The front desk does convert dollars to Euros, but hotel exchange rates are generally unfavorable
2, Safety and Security. Ireland is safer than most European countries, but normal precautions should be observed, especially against pickpockets. Crimes involving ATMs are also of concern. Protect your PIN at all times and examine ATMs for evidence of tampering before use. Ireland has seen an increase in the use of “skimmers”, tiny electronic devices that steal ATM or credit card data. In busy areas, thieves also attempt to distract ATM patrons once they’ve entered their PIN, allowing an accomplice to rapidly withdraw cash from the account and then flee. If distracted in any way, cancel the transaction immediately. If the machine doesn’t return your card, report the incident to the issuing bank immediately.
3. Weather and Dress. The May through September season is ideal for travel to Ireland with temperatures in the sixties and seventies, but the weather can be variable and the only constant is change. Bring at least one sweater and rain jacket with hood, and comfortable walking shoes. Casual attire is the norm for the week. Since we’ll be in the northern latitudes, it will remain light late.
4. Hygiene The best way to avoid contamination is frequent hand washing or sanitizing. We’ll experience the highest levels of cleanliness in our hotels. For excursions, bring along soap flakes or pocket hand sanitizer gel. Make up an excursion kit for cycling and touring. This should include handy-wipes, toilet tissue packets, sunscreen, insect repellant and a portable medical kit (band aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, aspirin or ibuprofen, and tweezers).
5. Electrical Appliances and Adapters. Ireland use 230 volt electricity so unless your appliances are dual voltage, you’ll need a converter or transformer. Cycles (Hz) are 50 per second. You will need to bring UK electrical adaptors (pictured below) since Irish electrical outlets feature standard United Kingdom grounded sockets. You can order converters and adaptors on line at http://www.walkabouttravelgear.com/c_ire.htm. Our hotel rooms will be equipped with hair dryers.
6. Cell Phones. U.S. cell phones don’t work overseas unless they’re both GSM compatible and equipped with a multi–national SIM card good for the countries you’ll be visiting. Check now with your service provider about your phone’s suitability. A simple solution is to rent or purchase an international cell phone. Cellular Abroad currently has a special offer with National Geographic to rent a phone for 15-28 days for $89. Alternatively buy a quad-band unlocked GSM phone for as little as $40 from cellhut.com or www.cellularabroad.com/internatRcell.php and get a SIM card for it. Be sure to opt for a supplementary data plan for $3-$4 per day lest you burn up all your mobile credit on the first day. Another option at www.onesimcard.com, offers new or reconditioned multipurpose GSM phones (camera, MP3 player, radio) for $99 with substantially lower sending and receiving rates. If you already have a GSM compatible phone and simply need a SIM card, you can purchase these individually either through Cellular Abroad or OneSimCard. Other recommendations, courtesy of Tom Samiljans, the United Airlines’ tech specialist writing in the current Hemisphere’s magazine, include these useful suggestions:
- Take Along Your Own Hot Spot. For short trips like ours rent a portable MiFi device from Xcom Global (www.xcomglobal.com) which provides a mobile broadband wi-fi hotspot with unlimited data for as little as $15/day good in more than 195 countries. This handy gadget fits in your pocket and allows you to use your smartphone as you would at home. Can simultaneously deliver 3G speeds to a laptop and Ipad. Best deal for those with pre-or post reunion travel plans because it avoids Wi-Fi charges in other hotels.
- Find a Hot Spot. Our reunion hotels offer free wi-fi. Check for free hot spots elsewhere at www.jwire.com . To ensure access to as many hot spots as possible, Samiljans recommends subscriptions to Boingo Wireless ($8 per month, boingowireless.com) or FON ($49 one-time charge, fon.com). These services access millions of paid hot spots across the globe— many of them in airports and hotels — at no additional charge.
- Get a Global Roaming Plan. Verizon and AT&T offer international data packages for as little as $25 per month for 50MB. Both plans can be activated and deactivated instantly. Without a roaming plan one pays about $6 for each Facebook message read while abroad.
- Buy an inexpensive Tesco supermarket “top up” pay-as-you-go mobile phone for about 12 euro at any Tesco supermarket in the country and “top up” with minutes at literally any convenience store in the country when you need minutes.
- Pay Phones. Convenient and easy to use pre-paid phone cards for phone booths are widely available both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
i. Advisory for those Renting Cars. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in Ireland for temporary stays of up to a year. Some insurance and car rental companies also require an International Driving Permit, obtainable at any American Automobile Association office. Most rental cars in Ireland have manual transmissions, which means shifting with the left hand. Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: Ireland drives on the left and off-highway road conditions differ significantly from those in the United States. If unaccustomed to left-side driving, please be extremely cautious behind the wheel. Most intersections have circular “roundabouts” instead of signals. It’s vital that motorists pay close attention to signs and yield the right of way to those already in the circle. At traffic signals, turning on red is illegal; you must wait for either a full green (any direction turn permitted) or directional green light (which could be straight, left, or right). Country roads are likely to be narrow, uneven, and winding. Roadways are more dangerous during the summer and on holiday weekends due to increased traffic. Police periodically set up DUI checkpoints and DUI penalties are severe.
j. US Government Pre-Clearance at Shannon and Dublin Airports: Those flying home from Shannon or Dublin will clear U.S. immigration and customs there before boarding U.S.-bound flights. As a result, you bypass these formalities on arrival in the U.S. and luggage is checked to final destinations without having to be reclaimed. You must complete US pre-clearance 60 mins prior to departure so please allow extra time at the airport, [NB: Following US pre-clearance, passengers are quarantined at their departure gates and cannot return to the duty free shops or airline lounges. View the process at: http://www.shannonairport.com/gns/at-the-airport/us-preclearance.aspx.]
k. Useful Information:
1. Time Zone: Ireland is on GMT: 5 hours ahead of New York; 8 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
2. Language: English and Irish (Gaelic) are the official languages. Street and directional road signs are bilingual. In Gaeltacht areas (officially designated Gaelic speaking regions) Irish is spoken daily, however, everyone also speaks English.
3. Smoking Ban: Smoking is prohibited in public areas: including bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
l. A Personal Jet Lag Remedy
When you are traveling to Ireland to enjoy the world famous Irish hospitality, you want to optimize and maximize your travel experience and your vacation time. As many of you probably know already, jet lag can kill and waste the first day in Ireland for you. However, if you practice some sound jet lag remedies, you may find the energy to enjoy the first day in Ireland as much as the following days. In the past, before I caught on that there were cures for jet lag, I partied on the outbound legs of my trips to Ireland with the best of them. You know who you are! On vacation trips to Ireland, I partied in the departure airport lounge and on the plane. That’s what vacations are all about! However, arriving in Ireland at 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. U.S. eastern time), with a few beers or vodka tonics in me, the party came to a screeching halt! I’d take myself to the first hotel and first bed I could find, crawl in, and not emerge for hours. Hence, the first day in Ireland, and I’m a no show! Now that I’m older (and slightly wiser?), I practice the following jet lag remedy with proven good results. It may be difficult for some of you, but consider it anyway. I abstain from caffeine and alcohol 24-48 hours prior to my flight and during the flight. I have my first cup of coffee after landing in Ireland. I’ve found that now I’m energized, awake, and ready to enjoy the entire first day in Ireland. No longer do I crawl into the first bed or sofa I can find in the middle of that first day. I now have enough energy to make a full day of it, waiting until 10 p.m. or later to retire. I hope that this short term caffeine and alcohol abstinence remedy may work for you too.
m. Recommended Reading:
1. A Secret Map of Ireland is Rosita Boland’s brilliantly insightful tale of her travels across the four provinces, uncovering stories, myths and fascinating details about the counties, towns and villages she comes across.
2. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Great Britain and Ireland traces the movements of famous writers who have immortalized various towns and villages in Ireland.
3. The Height of Nonsense by Paul Clements is a delightful collection of Irish quirks and oddities travelling the Great Mountain Roads in search of the truth about Druids, banshees, highwaymen and Shabeens.
4. Ireland by James Michener
5. History of Ireland by Malachy McCourt
n. Don’t Leave Home Without It. A recommended list of must take items:
- Extra Bag: aviators kit bag (any foldable bag will do) as a “safety net’ for shoppers
- Noise Cancelling Headphones and eye shades
- Spare Memory Cards for the Camera
- Universal Device Charger
- Extension cord
- CPAP machine if you use one
- Emergency Phone Numbers in Ireland:
- Police, Fire and Ambulance: 112 or 999
- Vehicle Breakdown (Automobile Assn): 1800 66 77 88
- Irish Tourist Assistance Service for Victims of Crime: 1890 365 700
- US Embassy, Dublin: 42 Elgin Road. Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Emergency after-hours telephone: +353-1-630-6200
- Mike Healy’s Irish Mobile Phone: 083 480-2605, dialing from USA 011 353 83 480-2605
- Hotel Telephones: Dunloe: +353 64 664-4111