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|From About Ireland Travel and Lonely Planet:
Money Costs The collapse of the economy in the space of six short months over late 2008 and early 2009 has left the country in a state of flux: prices are coming down in many areas, but theyre coming down from such a height that to many visitors Ireland remains a pretty expensive destination. For a decade, Irish wallets were at the mercy of a rip-off culture that stung everybody, including visitors, who felt it most when it came to bed and board. In Dublin, the bare minimum to survive is about 50 a day: 20 to 25 for a hostel and 20 for sustenance, which leaves enough for a pint. If your purse strings are a little more relaxed, you can get a decent bed for around 80 in the capital, 60 outside of it. For 120 you can sleep pretty luxuriously most anywhere except those very special places. Outside the capital things are a little better, but not much: if youre in a tourist hot zone, itll be reflected in the prices, which are only marginally better than in Dublin. Although restaurants are closing down all over the country, the new economy hasnt resulted in a marked decrease in the price of food. For less than 10, dont expect much more than soup and what comes between two slices of bread. Very ordinary meals will cost 20 or more; the better restaurants wont blink twice when charging 35 for fish in a fancy sauce. In Northern Ireland, the bite isnt as deep. The rip-off Republic tag that for so long dogged the south wasnt as much of an issue north of the border, but it certainly hurts them if they go south: exchange rates make the eurozone very expensive for anyone using pounds sterling (as they do in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK). Once in the north, though, you can get by on £35 a day without too much bother if youre on a budget and limit yourself to hostels or self-catering accommodation. Accommodation costs generally mirror the Republic, but youll find real savings in food you can get excellent two-course lunches in lots of good restaurants for £10 or less, while main courses in Belfasts best eateries range from £14 to £18. Car rental is costly throughout the island. Be sure to check your car-insurance policy back home before accepting the exorbitant insurance policies offered at car-rental agencies. If your credit card usually covers car-rental insurance, confirm that the policy applies in Ireland. ^ Back to top Money Tips of around 10% in metered cabs and in restaurants where the service charge isnt included are expected. ^ Back to top Cash & travellers cheques Nothing beats cash for convenience or risk. Its still a good idea, though, to arrive with some cash in the local currency (both euros and sterling, if travelling to the North) to tide you over. Amex and Thomas Cook travellers cheques are widely recognised and they dont charge commission for cashing their own cheques. Eurocheques can also be cashed in Ireland. Travellers cheques are rarely accepted outside banks or used for everyday transactions (as they are in the USA). Take most cheques in large denominations. Its only towards the end of a stay that you may want to change a small cheque to make sure you dont get left with too much local currency. ^ Back to top International transfers The most practical way to receive money from overseas is by telegraphic transfer. There are two ways to do this. The first can take up to eight days through the banking system. Your bank sends money to an Irish bank nominated by you. You will need identification, most likely a passport, before the money is paid to you in euros, minus the transfer commission. The quickest way to receive cash from home is to transfer it through Amex, Thomas Cook or Western Union. It is not practical to receive money by bank draft. Irish banks are notorious sticklers about drafts and wont allow you to cash them unless you first open a bank account, a small bureaucratic nightmare. Even then, it can take three weeks to clear. If youre not planning a long stay, stick to telegraphic transfers. ^ Back to top Taxes & refunds Value-added tax (VAT) is a sales tax of 21% that applies to most luxury goods in Ireland, excluding books, childrens footwear and second-hand clothing. Visitors from non-EU countries can claim back most of the VAT on purchases that are subsequently exported from the EU within three months of purchase. Most shops in the Republic and Northern Ireland operate a taxback scheme the most popular are Cashback and Ireland Tax Free which operate roughly as follows: if youre a resident of a country outside the EU and buy something from a store displaying a Cashback or Ireland Tax Free sticker, youll be given a relevant voucher with your purchase which can be refunded directly on to your credit card or in US, Canadian or Australian dollars, British pounds or euros at Dublin or Shannon airport; one advantage of Ireland Tax Free is that you can reclaim your tax at the nearest Travelex office, usually Thomas Cook. If you reclaim more than 250 on any of your vouchers youll need to get the voucher stamped at the customs booth in the arrivals hall at Dublin or Shannon airport before you can get your refund from the Cashback desk. In Northern Ireland, shops participating in the Tax-Free Shopping refund scheme will give you a form or invoice on request to be presented to customs when you leave. After customs have certified the form, it will be returned to the shop for a refund.
Weather Thanks to the moderating effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, Irelands climate is relatively mild for its latitude, with a mean annual temperature of around 10°C. The temperature drops below freezing only intermittently during winter, and snow is scarce perhaps one or two brief flurries a year. The coldest months are January and February, when daily temperatures range from 4° to 8°C, with 7°C the average. In summer, temperatures during the day are a comfortable 15° to 20°C. During the warmest months, July and August, the average is 16°C. A hot summers day in Ireland is 22° to 24°C, although it can sometimes reach 30°C. There are about 18 hours of daylight daily during July and August and its only truly dark after about 11pm. One thing you can be sure of about Irish weather is how little you can be sure of. It may be shirtsleeves and sunglasses in February, but winter woollies in March and even during the summer. And then theres the rain. Ireland receives a lot of rain, with certain areas getting a soaking as many as 270 days of the year. County Kerry is the worst affected. The southeast is the driest, enjoying a more continental climate. When to go The Irish weather works on the four seasons in a day principle, which basically means that you cant predict a thing when it comes to the behaviour of the sky. Some basic assumptions, however, can be made. In summer, from May to July, the days are reasonably warm and most importantly very long: at the height of summer you wont need to turn on lights until after 10pm. It is also peak tourist season, which means there are far more people just about everywhere but the most remote corners of the island, and prices are at their highest. Not surprisingly, most of the yearly festivals occur during these times so as to take advantage of the crowds and the more favourable weather. Spring (February to April) and Autumn (August to October) make good alternatives, although the countrys ever-growing popularity as a tourist destination can often blur the lines between mid- and high-season tourism. Still, you have a better chance of some peace and quiet, and the weather can be surprisingly better in April and September than in mid-July again, its all part of the uncertainty principle. Spring festivities include the ever-popular St Patricks Festival. Although temperatures will barely venture below freezing, winter (December to February) can be brutal, but huge parts of the country the west and northwest in particular are at their savage and beautiful best in the cold winter light. Crowds are at their thinnest, but many of the countrys tourist attractions and services close down in October and dont reopen until Easter, which paradoxically leaves visitors with a more convincing taste of how Ireland is experienced by most of the Irish: its cold, grey and dark by 5pm, but theres always a pub to escape into when the rain starts sheeting down.
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