You’ve made up your mind.
You’re moving to Ireland.
The Emerald Isle. The Land of Saints and Scholars.
A country so steeped in myth and legends that the Irish themselves no longer know what’s real and what isn’t.
Do you know what you’re getting into?
Moving to Ireland is all well and good.
Except for one thing:
Which Ireland are you moving to?
You’re not the only one.
Let us explain:
While Ireland is one island, it is actually two different countries.
There is the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in the South. And then there’s Northern Ireland (NI) in the North.
You’re probably wondering:
What the heck?
What’s the difference?
Essentially, the ROI is an independent country. NI, on the other hand, is part of the UK.
WHAT DID THE BRITISH DO?
To understand why Ireland is not one but two different countries you need to understand Ireland’s history.
For centuries, Ireland was ruled by the British. They were awful to the Irish, stealing their land, burning their homes and even wrecking their crops.
Irish rebellion was inevitable.
Granted, they took their sweet time, and in the process lost their language.
Nonetheless, between 1919 and 1921 the Irish fought a War of Independence against the Crown.
By 1922, Ireland was a free state.
Most of the inhabitants of the six counties in the North were Protestant, and consequently, they voted to remain part of the UK.
Decades of violence in the North followed. It was brutal.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TODAY?
The last few decades saw a significant decrease in violence between the two ethnicities although paramilitaries are still around, and they still pose a threat, as demonstrated by a recent public awareness campaign:
What does that mean for you?
The streets of Belfast and Derry, as well as other NI cities and towns, are completely safe for Americans and other foreigners.
There’s only one thing that the division between the South and the North means for those moving to Ireland:
If you’re moving to the South, you’re making your application to the government of the Republic. On the other hand, if you’re going to the North, you are making your application to the government of the UK.
NOT CONVINCED? HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULD MOVE TO IRELAND
There are plenty of reasons!
A steadily growing economy
Accessibility to Europe
Castles, castles, castles!
Low crime rate
COST OF LIVING OR WHY IS DUBLIN MORE EXPENSIVE THAN LONDON?
Most expats find the cost of living in Ireland manageable.
The cost of living varies. Dublin is by far the most expensive place to live in.
And here’s a crazy fact:
It’s more costly to live in Dublin than it is to live in London!
And that makes zero sense.
Rent prices are currently on the rise. The national average rent is slightly more than 1,000 euro, or €1,000 (more than $1,130 U.S.). Add another €500 (just over $560) on top of that if you plan on living in Dublin.
Public education is free. However, private and international schools are costly.
Public healthcare in Ireland is also either free or semi-free. Nonetheless, many expats choose to opt for private healthcare which is expensive.
Public transport in Ireland is also pretty costly, especially train travel.
IRISH CULTURE: THERE’S MORE TO IRELAND THAN ST. PATRICK’S DAY
Let’s be honest. When most of us think of Irish culture, we think of St. Patrick’s day.
But moving to Ireland will show you that there is more to Irish culture than that.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE IRISH LANGUAGE?
Did you know that Ireland has its very own language?
It’s called Irish Gaelic, and it’s technically the official language of the ROI.
Every kid has to learn Gaelic in school. However, despite years of cramming vocabulary and grammar, they are far from fluent. Indeed, only 2 percent of the Irish population speak Irish daily.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will understand the locals after moving to Ireland.
The Irish have their very own way of speaking. Some of the words and phrases that they use can be very confusing. In fact, it will probably take you years to become fluent in “Irish English.”
COMMON WORDS AND PHRASES TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH BEFORE MOVING TO IRELAND:
Furthermore, being able to crack Irish accents is a talent in itself. Indeed, the Irish themselves don’t always understand one another.
THE ART OF “TAKING THE PISS”
The Irish also have a unique, self-deprecating sense of humor. In other words, they love to “take the piss” out of one another. If you stay there long enough, you’ll undoubtedly learn the ways of the Irish.
We have to mention Father Ted, a British-made sitcom that is in the bloodstream of Irish culture. Everyone you will meet will have seen it. Moreover, they’ll talk about it, quote it and ask you if you’ve seen it. Consequently, you best acquaint yourself with it.
Here’s a taste:
GAELIC FOOTBALL, HURLING,
AND OTHER STRANGE IRISH SPORTS
The Irish are incredibly passionate about their traditional Irish sports.
Are all popular in Ireland.
TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC SESSIONS AND WHY IRELAND IS A BOOKWORM’S PARADISE
We can’t talk about Irish culture and not mention Irish music and literature.
Irish traditional music is famous in all four corners of the globe.
And it’s by no means a thing of the past. Wander into almost any pub in the country to find yourself face to face with old Irish men crooning the songs of yesteryear.
As for literature:
If you’re a bookworm, you are probably well aware that countless world-famous writers and poets hailed from Ireland, including Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis, and James Joyce.
ARE THEY REALLY THAT HARD TO COME BY?
It’s the question on everyone’s minds:
Do I need a visa when moving to Ireland?
Unless you’re an EU/EEA citizen, the answer is yes.
But don’t worry:
Acquiring a visa might be simpler than you think.
NOT IF YOU’RE HIGHLY SKILLED!
You won’t be granted permission to work in Ireland unless you have a job offer or employment contract.
Are you highly skilled?
Then moving to Ireland won’t be an issue.
OR A STUDENT
When moving to Ireland to study, you don’t need a visa. However, you do need to enroll in a course and pay for it before you enter the country. You also need to be financially secure.
After moving to Ireland, you will have to apply for permission to stay as well as register with immigration.
As for NI, you can apply for a student visa if you are:
EVERYONE WANTS TO RETIRE TO IRELAND BUT FEW PEOPLE CAN
The ROI is the seventh best place in the world to retire.
But here’s the catch:
Moving to Ireland as a retiree is not as simple as it sounds.
Here’s how that breaks down:
In addition to having access to at least €50,000 (about $56,400) per person per year, you also need to have a lump sum of money (equivalent to a home in the U.S. for example) in case of emergencies.
On the other hand, you can retire to NI if you are:
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC IS EASIER THAN EVER
You’ve sorted out your visa situation. Now what?
Now it’s time to pack up your belongings, say goodbye to your old home and embark on one of the biggest adventures of your life.
Luckily, this part’s easy.
In theory, there are two ways you can get to Ireland:
Either by plane or by car ferry.
Traveling by plane is very simple. Countless airlines, including Aer Lingus and Lufthansa, fly to Ireland. There are five international airports in Ireland:
Traveling to Dublin is almost always the cheapest.
But what about the ferry?
Traveling by ferry is somewhat more complicated, not to mention only a viable option for those who live in Europe.
There are six ferry ports in Ireland:
DON’T FORGET YOUR FURBABY!
Can’t leave your furkid behind? Luckily, moving to Ireland with pets is not an issue.
But be warned:
It’s not going to be easy.
Prepare for lots of vet visits and lengthy phone calls with airport personnel.
To bring your pet dog, cat or ferret into the country you need to make sure that they have:
Upon arrival, pets need to undergo a compliance check.
It is your responsibility to arrange this check beforehand. It is also your responsibility to give advance notice of your pet’s arrival in Ireland.
Keep this in mind!:
The same rules apply to guide dogs.
And don’t think that you can be careless. Pets who don’t meet the above criteria can be refused entry or placed in quarantine.
In extreme cases, they may even be euthanized (at the owner’s expense no less!)
We meant it when we said it wasn’t easy.
CHOOSE YOUR NEW HOME
Finding suitable accommodation is the first step to getting settled.
You have two options:
Renting or buying.
THE APARTMENT OF YOUR DREAMS IN IRELAND
May be hard to find in certain markets, here’s why:
Apartment rentals, house rentals, and house shares are all popular options when it comes to finding suitable rental accommodation in Ireland.
In big cities such as Dublin where the housing market is more competitive apartment rentals and house shares are the two most popular rental options.
However, the rental market in Dublin is so dysfunctional that it is sure to leave you astounded. There are whole threads on Irish forums dedicated to the ridiculous rental adverts found online.
Like this one:
An example of what over €1000 in Dublin will get you.
So it comes as no surprise that house rentals are more popular in the countryside.
Popular websites for finding rental accommodation include:
Can’t find anything online?
Stop by a letting agent (such Sherry Fitzgerald or Savills), leaf through the accommodation section in newspapers and keep an eye on notice boards in shops. If you’re a student keep in mind that student unions keep lists of accommodation too.
A PLACE OF YOUR OWN
Do you plan on moving to Ireland for an indefinite period?
In that case, buying a home might make more financial sense than renting.
You can find homes for sale in Ireland via online websites, estate agents, auctioneers, and property supplements in newspapers.
Popular websites for house hunting in Ireland include:
Found a home you like?
Have a look at a step-by-step guide on buying a home in Ireland that was put together by The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
MAKE A BUCK
Save yourself from unnecessary stress.
Find a job before moving to Ireland!
Popular job search websites include
CALLING ALL ENTREPRENEURS!
Are you moving to Ireland in the hopes of starting a business?
There are two schemes you can apply for:
The Immigrant Investor Program and Start-up Entrepreneur Program.
Both require that you have plenty of money.
You’ll also need an innovative business idea if you want to apply for the Start-up Entrepreneur Program.
In NI, you can apply for a “high-value migrant” visa reserved for entrepreneurs and investors.
NO ONE LIKES THE TAX COLLECTOR
Before you start your employment you need to:
Apply for your Personal Public Service Number (PPS number) in the ROI or your National Insurance Number (NIN) in NI.
You will need this number for all your dealings with the public service.
So, how much tax can you expect to pay?
It’s pretty straightforward:
The more you earn, the more tax you pay.
In general, Irish tax rates are lower than those in Europe but somewhat higher than those in the U.S.
You could also be eligible for tax credits which reduce the income tax you are required to pay.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
Every employee in the ROI and NI is entitled to basic employment rights, such as:
In general, the Irish have an excellent work-life balance.
IRISH EDUCATION: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you are moving to Ireland with kids, you are probably wondering about the education available.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH PRESCHOOLS?
Preschools are free both in the ROI and NI.
In ROI, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides early care and education for kids aged three years or older. The scheme is available for three hours a day, five days a week, for 38 weeks of the year (for two academic years).
Here’s what we found on Northern Ireland (NI):
In NI, the Pre-School Education Programme funds early education for kids that are one year away from starting school. This scheme is provided for at least 2.5 hours a day, five days a week, for 38 weeks of the year.
ARE ALL PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS RELIGIOUS?
It sounds kind of weird, but:
In the ROI, most national schools, which are free of charge, are run by religious orders.
A few years ago everyone had to study religion in secondary school. Even if you were allowed to opt out of a religion class, you still had to sit at the back of it.
Thanks to recent educational reform, that’s no longer the case.
But here’s the kicker:
That still doesn’t mean that your kid won’t have to pray in primary school however or that he won’t be dragged to the local church to confess his or her sins.
If you’re religious, this might suit you.
If not, you might want to enroll your kids in a private or international school.
Private schools are costly.
In NI, you can also enroll your child in grammar school, provided that he or she is academically gifted.
Irish primary education is pretty straightforward.
SECONDARY EDUCATION IN IRELAND IS SOMEWHAT COMPLICATED.
For example, it consists of two cycles:
Junior Cycle (12 – 15 years) and Senior Cycle (16 – 18 years).
Some schools offer Transition Year (TY) between the two cycles. TY allows children to try different subjects and gain work experience.
Each cycle ends with state exams. Places for university courses are determined by Leaving Certificate results.
Keep in mind that some schools are single-sex schools whereas others teach through the medium of Irish (these usually have the word “Gaelscoil” in their title).
WHAT ABOUT THE IRISH LANGUAGE?
We mentioned before that it is compulsory for all students.
But will your child have to learn it too?
Kids who were educated outside of Ireland until they were 11 years old, as well as those with learning disabilities, may be granted an exemption.
Furthermore, Irish is not compulsory in NI.
IS IT HARD TO GET INTO TRINITY?
Are you moving to Ireland for college?
Or maybe you’re merely thinking ahead for your kids’ sake?
Ireland is a great place to seek higher education. It is home to ten universities (seven in the ROI and three in NI), as well as countless colleges, institutes of technology, colleges of education and private institutions.
The oldest Irish university, Trinity College Dublin, was founded back in 1592.
Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker (the man behind Dracula) and The Wickedest Man in the World (aka Alesteir Crowley) are just a handful of famous individuals that attended this prestigious university. Of course, getting into it is no easy feat.
Healthcare in Ireland consists of public and private sectors.
It’s a good idea to know which sector you’ll avail of after moving to Ireland.
PUBLIC HEALTHCARE IS FREE, BUT IS IT GOOD?
So, what’s the difference between the HSE and the NHS?
It’s quite simple:
The NHS is free for all who qualify, with some minor exceptions.
The HSE, on the other hand, is free only for those who are in need (i.e., those whose income is below a certain level) whereas others have to pay a subsidized fee.
WHAT IS A GP?
A GP is a General Practitioner.
In other words, he or she is a doctor who works from a private surgery.
You’ll want to register with one immediately after moving to Ireland.
IS PRIVATE HEALTHCARE WORTH IT?
Due to long wait lists for medical treatment, many expats choose to take out private health insurance after moving to Ireland.
Furthermore, foreign retirees have no choice but to take out private health insurance.
Popular health insurance companies include:
Don’t be surprised if you pay for private health insurance but find yourself in a public hospital.
Many public hospitals provide private beds to boost their income.
BANKING: KEEP YOUR MONEY SAFE
After moving to Ireland, you will naturally want to open a bank account.
Most banks in Ireland charge high fees and offer little interest.
So shop around and see what different banks have on offer.
Popular Irish banks include:
WHY IS OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT NEAR IMPOSSIBLE?
Opening a bank account as a foreigner in Ireland is no easy feat.
In fact, it can feel as if nobody wants your money.
As such, make sure that you have access to enough money right after moving to Ireland while you wait to open your bank account.
The biggest challenge that most ex-pats face is, of course, producing proof of an Irish residential address.
IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?
Public transport in Ireland is certainly not the best.
In big cities, buses are slowed by congestion whereas parts of the country have a serious lack of rail links.
Let’s say you want to go from Waterford city to Cork city.
It’s going to take you less than two hours.
Let’s say you want to go from Waterford city to Cork city.
It’s going to take you less than two hours.
But only if you have a car.
If you want to take the train, your journey will take up to six hours.
The bus is slightly better, but you are nonetheless looking at a three-hour journey.
Let’s have a closer look at the public transport available.
Bus Eireann (ROI), Dublin Bus (ROI) and Translink (NI) are probably the three most popular bus companies operating in Ireland.
Irish Rail is the national railway network in the ROI whereas NI Railways is the railway operator in NI.
Dublin also has a light rail train. The LUAS has two lines. One covers the city center; the other goes further south. However, the two lines are not connected.
Dublin Area Rapid Transit, known as DART, is a Dublin train ideal for day travel around Dublin County. It runs from Howth to Greystones.
You’re probably thinking:
Public transport doesn’t sound too bad, at least not in Dublin.
Dublin’s LUAS is pretty useless. As a result, it is not at all surprising that the Irish are always making fun of it.
Few things to keep in mind:
RENTING A CAR: WHY YOU NEED TO BOOK IN ADVANCE
Don’t want to use public transport?
We don’t blame you.
Some of the best spots in Ireland are only accessible with a car.
After all, you don’t want to miss those fairy forts that look like something out of this world or those ancient megalithic tombs, right?
We didn’t think so.
However, purchasing a car takes times.
This is where a rental car comes in handy. Renting a car in Ireland is pretty straightforward.
There are countless car rentals to choose from.
But be careful:
Most cars in Ireland are manual so expect to be charged a premium for an automatic.
DO YOU REALLY NEED TO BUY A CAR?
Owning a car in Ireland is pretty expensive.
Before you go ahead and make the plunge, make sure that it is worth your while.
You might find that public transport, city bikes, and the occasional car rental are more than enough. If you do decide to purchase a car, take into account that petrol costs are just the starting point.
You will also have to pay:
STAYING SAFE ON THE ROADS
One thing you absolutely need to keep in mind when driving in Ireland is that:
Drivers in Ireland drive on the left-hand side of the road!
What about the speed limits?
In the ROI, speed is measured in kilometers per hour whereas in NI, speed is measured in miles.
What about the speed limits?
In the ROI, speed is measured in kilometers per hour whereas in NI, speed is measured in miles.
Some roads, especially those in the countryside, have speed limits that don’t make any sense, especially in the ROI.
For example, the speed limit on a twisty, bendy countryside road might be 80 kilometers an hour. Nevertheless, remain cautious and drive at the speed limit that makes sense to you.
Other things to watch out for on Irish roads:
WHAT ABOUT THE DRIVER’S LICENSE?
You can use your driver’s license from back home for up to 12 months.
However, after 12 months you are legally required to exchange it for an Irish license.
But don’t think that that’ll be easy:
You’ll have to take a driver’s theory test as well as pass a driving test.
It doesn’t make any sense to us either.
ADDITIONAL ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
CHOOSING A PHONE NETWORK
You can purchase an Irish SIM card from any mobile store.
The most popular phone networks are:
Best of all?
Many phone networks offer unlimited texts and unlimited phone calls as well as 50 gigabytes of data for just €20 euro (just over $20) a month.
NOPE, YOU’LL HAVE TO PACK YOUR OWN…
Used to someone else packing your groceries?
You’ll have to pack groceries yourself in Ireland, at least most of the time. Although sometimes there is a person raising funds for a charity that will assist you, in which case you will be expected to make a small donation.
Popular Irish supermarkets include:
Lidl and Aldi sell cheap, staple items. In addition to selling food, Dunnes Stores and Tesco usually also offer a small range of clothes and homeware. Supervalu sells a wide range of local produce whereas Spar is a convenience shop.
STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
Irish people love binge drinking.
And you might be suckered into their ways.
So let’s talk about alcohol laws.
Similarly to other European counties, alcohol is only sold to those who are 18 years old or older.
Thinking of driving after a pint of Guinness?
Random drink driving checks are carried out all the time in Ireland.
Under a recently passed law, those caught with a blood alcohol concentration of between 50 milligrams and 80 milligrams in the ROI will not only receive a €200 euro (over $220) fine but will also be disqualified from driving for three months.
In contrast, in NI you won’t be penalized unless you drive with a blood alcohol concentration of over 80 milligrams.
HOW TO: BEHAVE LIKE A TRUE LOCAL
These pieces of life advice will help you fit in in no time:
- Irish are not big tippers so don’t go over the top. The only time they tip is after a meal at a restaurant (a 10 percent tip is considered good).
- It’s almost mandatory to end the night out with the lads (or the girls) with fish and chips, curry or a burger from Supermac’s or McDonald’s.
- Are you meeting someone at an arranged time? Don’t rush. They’ll almost certainly be late.
- The Irish love to apologize. Indeed, sometimes it’s not even clear what it is they’re apologizing for. You’ll probably adapt this habit also.
- Never say no to tea. The Irish are big tea drinkers. Indeed, the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle are the second largest consumers of tea in the world. They need it to get through the grey, foggy winters.
- Always carry a rain jacket or an umbrella with you. Even if it looks sunny, it will probably rain later.
- Everything in Ireland takes time. And everyone takes their time. The bank forms you could fill out online? You’ll certainly have to go in person. The worker you hired to repaint the house? He’ll surely be a week late. It’s infuriating. But you’ll get used to it.
YOU’LL HAVE A WHALE OF A TIME!
In other words, you’ll enjoy yourself!
Of course, we’re not saying that relocating to Ireland is going to be easy.
Rents are high, waiting lists at public hospitals impossible and the weather is depressing.
On the other hand, the impressive natural wonders, the friendly people and the excellent work-life balance make it all worthwhile.
So, what are you waiting for?
Pack your bags, and we’ll see you on the other side of the Atlantic!