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Getting Around In Ireland - Part 2 Trains

Irish Rail Engine entering Athenry Station

Trains are a comfortable and economical way to travel throughout Ireland, most of the time. This blog discusses some of the ins and outs of using Irish rail that will make your experience much smoother. The primary focus is on Heuston Station in Dublin, and the Dublin to Galway rail route. This is the route taken most often by our visitors and ourselves.

The Irish Rail website is very useful and is a great place for additional exploration and ideas. Most tourist are using the rail lines to/from Dublin where there are two major train stations, Connolly and Heuston. (There is a third called Pearse that is mostly used for commuter trains). Heuston Station has trains to Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Mayo, and Kerry. Connolly Station has trains to Belfast, Sligo, and Rossiare(Wexford County). Novice riders can sometimes be surprised that they have to change stations in Dublin. This can add up to an extra hour of hectic travel to your journey.

Irish Rail Map

The trains in Ireland are relatively comfortable and relatively modern. They are not as modern, fast or comfortable as some of the trains I have taken in Germany, Italy, and France, but to be fair, the journey is usually 1/4 the distance or less. For many of the trains, beverages and snacks are available, but I have not seen a full dining car. (The train ride from Dublin to Galway is a tad over 2 hours and probably doesn’t warrant a full dining car). Some of the trains (Dublin to Galway) offer reserved seating, but don’t be surprised if your seat is taken. I have never had a problem asking people to move if alternate seats were not easily available.

There are horror stories about over crowded Irish Rail trains, just like any railway, but I have only experienced this once during almost five years of ridership. This was on a Galway to Limerick train on a Friday afternoon before a bank holiday (3-day) weekend and the train was full of University Students going home. If you stay away from Friday afternoons and rush hour trains, then you shouldn’t have a problem.

Buying tickets is very easy. There are kiosks at every station, and the larger stations have ticket counters. The kiosks take cash, debit and credit cards. Tickets bought at the last minute do not assign you a reserved seat. The savings are significant when buying in advance, either through the kiosk or on-line.

Ticket Kiosk

Buying Tickets On-line

If you are arriving at Dublin airport and taking my suggestion of first visiting the West of Ireland or a variation, I would suggest buying your 1st ticket in advance. Buying in advance will save you $’s/€’s and it will let you see in advance the exchange rate and Foreign Transaction fees for your Credit Card.

If your flight is late, not a problem, go to the ticket counter where they will charge you an additional €10 or wave the change fee. BTW, you can do this in reverse if you happen to arrive at the rail station in time for an earlier train. I would not suggest purchasing a ticket for a train less than 2 hours from your landing time at Dublin airport (30 minutes for a late flight, 45 minutes in Irish customs & immigration, and 1 hour bus ride to the train station (30 minutes with a taxi)). It’s OK to buy all your tickets in advance, but it’s not necessary. The prices depend on the demand for the train. Local trains (Athenry to Galway) do not seem to offer discounts for advance purchase tickets. Once you start pricing tickets just a few days out, then less expensive fares become available (20-25% less). Remember to check the family fares and the Tourist Tickets (Trekker or Explorer tickets) at the ticket info portion of Irish Rail’s website.

Buying Tickets

The steps for buying a ticket on-line can also be found at the Irish rail website.

Here’s a reprint of the steps with my added comments: