- A collection of important information,
sometimes hard to find,
that can make your trip more enjoyable.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
65 St Stephen's Green
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
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
If you are entering Northern Ireland from the Republic, the main post
offices in Enniskillen, Londonderry, Newry and Strabane offer currency
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.
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
To use a credit card or calling card
(eg AT&T, MCI) dial the 0800 number you need. An operator will connect
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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