A sunset by the Spelga Dam in the Mourne Mountains
To help you along with your self-catering or other holiday to Northern Ireland, we have this quaint guide to a few things to bear in mind before travelling to Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and as such uses Great British Pounds (GBP, £) as their currency. Euros (€) are used in the Republic of Ireland and are acceptable at select establishments but it is advised that you don’t rely on using them here as most places do not accept them. You can always exchange any native currencies once you get over here; airports have these facilities but you can always use a bureau du change or post office.
Most people in Northern Ireland speak English in the Ulster-Scots dialect; this is a variant of the English language originating from Scotland. As such, some may be stumped by words which are commonplace in the country. Here are a few Ulster-Scots words to get you started;
Banter: Fun and non-serious conversation/chat
Craic/Crack: Good time/fun
Is that you?: Have you done whatever you were doing?
Sound: Something/someone that’s good
Tea: Dinner/food (as well as other meaning)
Veda: Bread native to Northern Ireland
These are just a few basics and there are many more local words that you may come across. Most are pretty easy to catch but if you are stumped; ask a local.
A common misconception is that Northern Ireland is a dangerous place. This couldn’t be more to contrary with Northern Ireland having one of the lowest crime-rates in Europe and Belfast has a lower rate than any other capital in the UK. Though there can be some trouble once in a while, these are usually isolated small incidents in the odd pocket of a town or city. These areas are easily avoided while the events themselves are also blown out of proportion by the media. Even during the height of the troubles, tourists and foreigners are rarely hassled. It may be a good idea just to read up a little bit about The Troubles but best not to talk politics or religion publicly as the scars of the past are still fresh. Don't let this put you off in any way, it is very unlikely that you'll find yourself in an uncomfortable situation and almost every local you meet will be more than friendly.
Should you need it, the number for emergency services (police, fire service or ambulance) is 999.
Northern Ireland is known for its mild climate with temperatures rarely hitting extremes at either end of the scale. While most countries this far north find things quite cool, Northern Ireland benefits from the passing Gulf Stream which much of the west coast of Ireland and Scotland also enjoy. Northern Ireland can be pretty wet and windy so it’s best to pack a decent waterproof. The best time to visit is between April and October but things are still pretty mild outside of this period.
As part of the UK, Northern Irish devices use the standard 3 pin plugs. These are quite different to the sockets found on the continent and are rarely used outside of the UK. If you plan on bringing your own electronics with you, you’ll need an adapter. These are pretty easy to find and can usually be bought in airports or at tourist information centres.
Getting to Northern Ireland is easy; from the UK there are ferry links between Belfast and Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway and between Belfast and Liverpool. If you’re further afield and looking to fly, there is an international airport in Belfast (Belfast International airport) that you can fly into. There are also a number of smaller airports which take domestic and flights from some European countries. Within the country itself, you’ll find a great number of taxis and buses throughout the region. Taxis are a very common sight in the cities of Belfast and Londonderry/Derry and transport links between towns are strong. Due to the rural nature of much of the country, bringing your own car or hiring one is probably the best course of action.
Remember to research exactly what documentation you need for travelling to Northern Ireland; for the UK this is simply some photo ID, for most of the European Union you’ll need a passport and elsewhere you’ll be needing a passport, a visa and maybe more.
While Northern Ireland has plenty of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses; self-catered cottages are in abundance and offer a stay much more integrated with the local community. With much of Northern Ireland set in stunning rural scenery, to make the most of this you'll find self-catering properties soaking up these wonderful views. Self-catering is ideal for couples and groups a like and is much more inclusive than each person to their separate rooms. It is a experience for friends and family alike. We provide the ability to find properties in Northern Ireland from a comprehensive list that ranges from very unique country cottages to flats and apartments set within the city's hustle and bustle. Click here.
Words by John Temke
Image by Jason