Ireland September 2017
This eccentric site is meant to . . .
- provide friends (of Jerry Griswold) with information about my travel plans to Ireland in September 2017
- give tips to folks planning to travel to Ireland on their own
- suggest some opportunities for getting together (should that prove desirable)
- and provide a convenient way to add new information as it comes along
- (oh, and please excuse the information on either side of this page: I just had to park this page somewhere on the internet and dropping it on one of my websites was convenient)
The first week of September (2-9): Consider joining me on a group bike tour of “Connemara, Galway and Mayo Safari“ with Cycling Safari. The tour starts in Galway on September 2 and (via Westport, Clifden, and the Aran islands) ends in Galway on the 9th: read about the route here. The cost is 815 euros ($910 US) and covers bike rental, accompanying van, lodging & breakfasts, etc. As for questions about the level of fitness/experience required: generally speaking, you should be able to bike 35 miles a day (with some hills). Book early and let me know that you did so: firstname.lastname@example.org If you like, read my essay about biking in Ireland: here.
The second week of September (9-16). I plan to rent a place in Galway for the week. This would be the best time to visit or rendezvous. You will find a New York Times article on Galway here. You might also want to rent a place; in which case, I recommend you book a place in town or near the center so you can walk around rather than have to drive. If you’re passing through Galway around those dates, contact me. If you’re using Galway as a base, I’d be happy to suggest daytrips out of town; for example, you can book bus tours (or drive your rental car) to places like the Cliffs of Moher, Yeats’ castle, Clifden, the Aran Islands, Kylemore Abbey, etc. [see below] During what I’d like to call my “birthday week,” in the evenings, I expect I’ll be celebrating with friends at various pubs in Galway.
The third week in September (16-23) is basically set aside for traveling and visiting relatives; generally speaking, I will be unavailable. And Come the fourth week I’ll be leaving Ireland for other places.
Traveling in Ireland.
I’m sorry to say I won’t be organizing any kind of “group tour” (chartering a bus, making hotel reservations, and the like). You wouldn’t want me to; when near lively pubs and Irish whiskey, my sense of responsibility evaporates. But as time goes along, I will provide on this website many links and suggestions that will help you make your own travel arrangements. Happily, Ireland is an easy country to get around and arrangements are easily made via the internet.
First off, you will want to fly into Dublin or Shannon (which is near Limerick); or you can fly into one place and out of the other. From Dublin, you can pretty much find a bus or train to any place in the country. You can also rent a car (note: they drive on the “other side” of the road & you need to look into the car insurance situation since your credit card policy usually doesn’t cover Ireland). Unlike Dublin, public transportation is a bit more complicated from Shannon but not impossible; car rental from that airport as well. You can find a lot information on the internet. (Again, I’ll add some links as I develop this website below.)
As for where to go... it’s probably worth getting a travel guide or maybe even booking a professional tour. It’s a small country: about four hours from coast to coast, but there’s lots to see: the Ring of Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Donegal–all pretty much referred to as “the West.” Then there’s Cork and Waterford and Wicklow. Then you got Dublin itself–a mighty city–and the surrounding places. Plus the center of the country–Tipperary and the like.
Caveats (or Warnings)
I’m uneasy about the political situation these days; something might happen in the U.S. or in Europe that could lead me to cancel or alter my plans. Of course, we never know what might happen on the personal front that might require last-minute changes in our travels. On my part, I’ll be getting travel insurance. That is said to make the point that you should build your own trip as you like and create a trip (or book a tour) that suits you, doesn’t depend on me, and would work in my absence. Let me add that at this point Linda, as well as Breca & family, have not “signed on” but I’m hopeful I will be able to persuade them.
I’ll be updating information here when things become more clear and when there’s information to share. So, check back as often you like.
25February17. News has it that inexpensive airfares might be got from two new airlines: Condor seems to fly direct from San Diego and other American cities to Frankfurt; and Norwegian flies from a number of American cities to some 100 European destinations (including three in Ireland). You can sometimes get good fly/drive package vacations from www.travelzoo.com
9March17. After planned stays on the Continent and travel twixt Donegal and Dublin, Aisling and Brian French send word that they have plans to celebrate in Galway September 10-16. Warning is hereby given.
23Mar2017: Day Trips Out of Galway. You can make Galway a stop on a larger journey around Ireland that might include, say, Kerry, Mayo, Dublin, et al. You can also use Galway as a base for daytrips returning to the “City of the Tribes” each night. Here a travel guide like Lonely Planet’s “Ireland” might be handy for planning. Among the possible places you might consider: south and west to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren (and Doolin is a lovely city for the music); north into Connemara with stops at Kylemore Abbey and Clifden, maybe Leenane and Westport as well; and more or less over the water to the northwest to the Aran Islands by ferry (Inis Mor, the big island, is the most popular destination). You can get to these by rental car (add in a ferry to the Aran Islands) or by tour bus (usually out of Galway’s centrally located Coach Station). You can book tours at the Galway Tourist Office (across from the Coach Station) or online at, for example, Lally Tours, Viator, and others.
27March. Event Calendar. You might take a look at Galway’s event calendar for September … with an eye towards taking in some events while you are in the area but also–and perhaps more importantly–noting when there are some major events that will make difficult the booking of accommodations unless you book early.
2April. Weather in September. The average temperature in Galway in September is 57F (with a high of 60F and a low of 53F). On average, one day out of four will have rain (6.2 days per month) with a total monthly accumulation of 4 inches. Again on average, there will be three hours of sunshine a day with the rest being overcast. So, think light sweater and carry a rain jacket.
2April. Low-cost airlines continued. The 25Feb entry above refers to new low-cost airlines now flying to Europe. A new carrier is Level Airlines, the low budget side of British Air/ Aer Lingus/ Iberia. They currently fly out of LAX and Oakland to Barcelona (BCN). Gossip has it that it’s better to book one-way tickets. Expect to pay extra for checked luggage. Best one-way fares are around $300 and $400. http://www.flylevel.com/
4April. Euro to dollar conversion rate. Currently favorable: (5/28/17), 1 euro = $1.12 (U.S.) You will find a handy conversion site here.
4April. Hotel. A good quality Galway hotel and centrally located is Jury’s Inn.
8April. Chasing Ancestors. Americans often come to Ireland with the idea of locating their ancestors. You can find my own comic account of doing that by clicking here.
9April. Guided Tours. Honestly, I don’t know anything about guided tours. But you might have a look at this firm, since you hear about them all the time: Brendan Vacations.
14April. Travel Insurance. Check to see what coverage you already have: for example: does your credit card have trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage? does your health program cover medical expenses abroad? does your home insurance cover loss of possessions? Consumer Reports (November 2016) suggest spending no more than 5-7% of the total expenses covered. They advise not buying too much insurance (e.g., you can live without lost luggage), considering terrorism insurance (but making sure that the coverage actually fits), and probably not getting cancel-for-any-reason insurance because it is too expensive. They also suggest not getting travel insurance from a travel agent (expensive) but shopping online at InsureMyTrip.com or squaremouth.com
15April. Large Listing of Tours & Activities Out of (and around) Galway: tripadvisor
15April. Travel between Shannon Airport and Galway. A taxi would be about $120 each way. The principle public transport is the national bus line Bus Eirann and the one-way trip of about 2 hours costs $20 each way, with buses leaving the airport (more or less) hourly. If you’re driving a rental car, it takes about an hour to make the trip.
15May. Searching for Airline fares. When to buy? There are several sites (like Kayak) that have historical information on air prices for those who want fine detail; otherwise, the advice is pretty general: buy tickets 3-12 weeks out and for a shoulder season (for ex, September) rather than high season (for ex, August). Where to search for fares? Some people swear by Expedia, others by Kayak, others by others. I like Matrix-ITA which is now offered by Google. Best deals: If you have the time to do the research, you can often find good deals by flying into hubs: for example, look for a good fare into London (usually Gatwick) and then fly back to Dublin on a budget airline. Budget airlines: There’s a bunch of low cost airlines that fly around Europe to European destinations; and many of these do not appear on conventional travel websites like Kayak or Expedia (instead, you have to hunt them up). While there are dozens of these, among the most well known are Ryan Airlines and Easy Jet but a word of caution: pay attention to the details about luggage charges and other add-on charges. Let me know what bargains you find or what recommendations you have for searching out fares: Use the feedback form below.
26May. Sharmon Rice & Aiden Ely have thrown caution to the wind, booked an AirBnB, and will be joining us in Galway for September 8-15.
26May. Calling to/in Ireland. When calling Ireland from the States, dial: 011 (international dialing code) +353 (country code) + (number). Sometimes you will see an Irish phone number listed with a leading “0” (for example, 086): you drop the leading “o” if calling from abroad but you use the “0” for in-country calls (without the international dialing code and the country code).
28May. Phones & Phoning. It’s common to use cell phones (called “mobiles”) in Ireland. You will want to bring one. a) The first place to check is with your current phone provider and see what their provisions are. We’re with Sprint and once you sign up for their International program (no charge), texting is free when abroad, there’s very slow free internet service (2G), and phone calls are 20 cents a minute; we mostly text & use free wifi at hotels and coffee shops. See what your own provider provides. b) The other gambit is to bring an unlocked cell phone (maybe an older phone of yours that has been unlocked or some throw-away like cell you bought on Amazon or a phone repair shop) and then purchase a local sim card in Ireland. This is very handy in-country. Compare online various company’s offerings: noting costs of in-country calls and cost of calls back to the US, and consider whether you want to include data (say, for internet searching) and (if you’re traveling elsewhere) whether the sim card is good in other countries in Europe.
30May. more folks coming. My sister Peggy and cousin Bette Ann Phelan will be in Galway Sept 14-19, as part of their extended trip to Ireland. My cousin Julie King is joining up with that crew.
3June. car rental and credit card insurance. Search the internet on terms like “car rental credit card insurance Ireland” and you will come up with websites like this: http://www.infiniteireland.com/credit-card-car-rental-insurance/ You can save about $25/day on CDW insurance by following this procedure. 1) Most credit cards do NOT have insurance for Ireland; you need to get either the World Mastercard or the Amazon Visa (offered by Chase). 2) Most car rental prices bundle in the price of insurance; you need to make sure they are subtracted. 3) Sometimes a rental firm will demand proof that your credit card covers car insurance; you can easily request a letter of coverage from your credit card folks about two weeks before your trip and carry it with you. 4) Know that the rental company will open up a charge of some 5000 euros on your credit card as a deposit to cover any damage to the car and will charge a small administrative fee to do so (about 25 euros); that effectively means that credit card may have an open charge that maxes out your credit limit on that card until you return the car, so you will need another credit card for day-to-day use.
14June. update on cellphones. A story in today’s New York Times indicates that Europe has just done away with “roaming charges”–those obnoxious fees that accumulate when you use a cellphone from one country in another country. That’s good news. It would also seem to be a good argument for American visitors to use a European phone (see 28May above, option “b”) rather than carry their U.S. phone.
13July. you’ll want to have a look at this video of the pubs of Galway: https://www.facebook.com/latinquartergalway/videos/10153890040654364/
13August. Driving Directions whilst in Ireland. There’s no getting around it: Having a GPS can be handy if you’re driving in Ireland, but the car rental firms charge 10 or more euros a day and that’s a bit dear. My own solution was to buy a low-end Garmin unit (the Nuvi) that was a couple years out of date (and therefore cheap) that had the U.S. and Ireland; other folks might just want to buy the data set for Ireland for their existing GPS. I also like to carry a paper map and found the wire-bound Ordnance series best; buy this item while in the country.
In the meantime, I’ve also heard good things about the maps.me app. Here’s the deal: You may like to think you can use your phone for directions while in Ireland like you do in the States. But that means your phone is constantly going on the net to acquire info and figure your location; and that can bring hefty data-roaming charges even if you have a pay-as-you-go data plan through an Irish phone company. So, better I’m told is the maps.me app because you download your maps beforehand and work totally offline: http://maps.me/en/home
13August. Travel alerts. Besides suspending your newspaper and mail deliveries while you are absent, don’t forget to alert your bank and credit card companies about your travel dates. You wouldn’t want to have them put them put a hold on your account when they start receiving charges from someone in a foreign country. It happened to us.
15August. My friend Bob Reid (and professional travel guides) recommend Mary Gibbons for Tours of Newgrange and Tara. They have pick up points in Dublin, generally go from 9:00 to 4:30 and cost 40 euros. Unfortunately, I have not got their website to work as promised but here it is: http://newgrangetours.com/
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