Northern Ireland Travel Tips

Original Official Site of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board

  • A collection of important information,
    sometimes hard to find,
    that can make your trip more enjoyable.

Travel Documents

You will need your passport, vacation insurance and driving license (for car rental). US and Canadian visitors do not need a visa. For a really carefree vacation, you are advised to take out proper insurance to cover health, major travel costs and possessions. Shop around for good value, and check that all your personal belongings are included.

Medical Insurance

It is important to take out medical insurance before leaving home. Under the NHS (National Health Service) you may receive treatment for emergencies only. You will have to pay for any other treatment and if you need to stay overnight in a hospital. You can call in at any NHS doctor's surgery (the telephone operator will give you the addresses). In an emergency dial 999 and ask for 'Ambulance' or, if you can, go to the casualty department of a hospital.

If you need special medicines bring them with you. They will be available in Northern Ireland, but probably under a different name. For minor ailments, chemists (drugstores) can give useful advice and remedies.
Vaccination certificate: not necessary, but check that one is not required for re-entry to your home country.

Customs Procedures

Customs operate green and red channels at most ports and airports in the UK. Go through the green channel if you have nothing to declare over the duty and tax free allowances for overseas visitors. Go to the red channel if you have goods to declare or if you are unsure about import restrictions.

Import Restrictions

Visitors on self-catering holidays are advised not to bring food with them. There are import restrictions on meat products and other foodstuffs. The import of animals is also strictly controlled. For full details, contact: HM Customs & Excise, 22 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PY. Dial 0171-620 1313

Tax Free Allowances

You are entitled to certain duty and tax free allowances. Check at the airport's duty free shop before departure. Tourists under 17 are not entitled to tobacco or drinks allowances.

Reclaiming VAT

Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged at 17-1/2 percent on most goods bought in the UK. If you are taking gifts and souvenirs back home, check whether the store operates the Retail Export Scheme before you buy. This allows you to reclaim VAT on goods for export. The shop assistant will need your passport to complete the Tax Free Shopping form.

Calling From The US Or Canada

If you are calling from home the country code for Northern Ireland is 44. The first 0 in the area code is dropped. For example, the Belfast code becomes 1232, so to call Belfast 246609, dial 011-44-1232-246609.

Electrical Equipment

The voltage in Northern Ireland is 240V, 50AC. (The US runs on 110V, 60AC.) To prevent a US appliance running twice its usual speed and burning out, buy a converter - or dual voltage appliance (eg hair dryer). You can also buy a plug before you leave to fit different socket configurations. Many hotels can supply adapters for small electrical appliances such as razors. Hairdryers and irons are increasingly available, either in your room or on request.

The Weather

Ulster's climate is mild and temperate, with mild winters, very little snow, and warm summers. It tends to be breezy, with sudden changes from cloud to sunny skies and vice versa.

Average temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Jan/Feb: 44 34
Mar/Apr: 51 38
May/Jun: 61 46
Jul/Aug: 65 51
Sept/Oct: 59 46
Nov/Dec: 47 37

Sunniest months: May and June
Driest period: March to June
Average annual rainfall: 43 inches
Click here for the current four-day weather forecast in Belfast.

What To Wear

Lightweight woolen and cotton clothes are suitable in summer, with thicker wool sweaters or jacket for spring and autumn days. Although public buildings are centrally heated, indoor temperatures are lower than those in the US and Canada. Pack a raincoat and sweaters, whatever the season, and comfortable shoes for sightseeing.

Useful Maps

The handiest one for touring is the Ireland North Holiday Map (scale: 1 inch= 4 miles or 1: 250 000). In the US you can order it by mail. Maps of the whole of Ireland may also be ordered by mail.
Worth noting is the 1 mile = 1-1/4 inch (1: 50 000) series which covers the whole province on 18 sheets. A large-scale outdoor pursuits map Mourne Country is a good buy for walkers in this beautiful mountainous area. The scale is 1 inch = 1/4 mile (1 :25 000). Other 1: 25 000 maps are The Fermanagh Lakeland (Upper and Lower Lough Erne) which are useful if you are spending time on or around the lakes. All these larger scale maps are published by the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland and are available from bookshops throughout Ireland. In case of difficulty in finding them, contact the tourist board.


American Consulate 14 Queen St,
Belfast BT1 6EQ Tel (01232) 328239

Canadian Embassy
65 St Stephen's Green
Dublin 2
Republic of Ireland
Tel (01) 478-1988


Northern Ireland's currency is the British pound (sterling) divided into one hundred pence (100p). Notes are issued to the value of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pounds. Coins are issued to the value of 1 pound, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and lp.

Mastercard (Interbank card) and Visa etc are widely used in shops, restaurants, hotels and for car rental. Diner's Club and American Express cards are less widely accepted. Please note, however, that most guesthouses and even a few small country hotels do not accept cards - so you will need cash. You can use a US bank card (eg, MAC) to get cash at some automatic teller machines. Check which system your US bank uses before leaving.

How To Change Money

You can change money in large banks, and in some post offices and tourist information centres.

Banks in main towns are open 9.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri. Elsewhere, some may close from 12.30-1.30pm. In small villages, the bank may not open every day so aim to change money in the bigger centres. Thomas Cook of North Belfast and at the international airport also change money and travelers' cheques.

If you are entering Northern Ireland from the Republic, the main post offices in Enniskillen, Londonderry, Newry and Strabane offer currency exchange facilities.

If you plan to travel south to the Republic, stock up first with Irish pounds from a bank. The Irish pound (the punt) and sterling are not interchangeable .

Be sure to change enough cash to see you through Sundays and bank holidays, and bring enough cash with you to tide you over your first few hours in Northern Ireland.


At a restaurant check your bill to see if service is included. It usually is. If not and if you are satisfied with the service, pay 10-15 per cent as a tip. In hotels, the tip works out at about 50p per bag for the porter. It is customary but not obligatory to give your hairdresser and the assistant who washes your hair a tip - about 2 pounds in all is adequate. Remember, tips are for services beyond the call of duty.

Mailing Letters

Postcards require a 35p stamp for the US and Canada; airmail letters under 10gm need a 41p stamp. Available from post offices (open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri and until 12.30pm Sat), some newsagents, garages and wherever you see the red sign 'We sell postage stamps'.

Using The Telephone

Post offices, pubs, hotels, restaurants and large stores have public phones. Bear in mind that hotels often add a surcharge on calls made from guests' rooms. Minimum charge for a local call from a payphone is 10p. You may prefer to buy a 'phonecard' from newsagents and post office. To call the US or Canada dial 001 then the area code. In case of difficulty, dial the international operator on 155. Cheapest time to call home: 8pm to 8am (UK time), and weekends.

A prepaid phonecard, available from newsagents and post offices, is convenient for long distance calls. To use a credit card or calling card (eg AT&T, MCI) dial the 0800 number you need. An operator will connect you.

Most telephone kiosks are British Telecom However, Mercury payphones are beginning to appear in Northern Ireland. International calls are cheaper from Mercury phones, so look out for them in Belfast city centre, airports and other public places.


Shops in Belfast city centre are open 9am-5:30pm Mon-Sat, later on Thursdays. Most other towns close half-day on one day a week (different from town to town) and small shops tend to close at lunchtime. Some large shopping centres on the outskirts of town stay open until 9pm.

Many towns have a market once a week.

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