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Travel by Train in Ireland

Overview

 

Train travel in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland covers all the main cities and towns. It’s comfortable, convenient and easy to use. It does not have the reach that the main bus networks do; however, it’s a great way to get to all of the major cities and can be combined with the regional bus networks to get to the more rural areas.

 

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have similar processes; however, each has its own network.

  • Republic of Ireland - Irish Rail connects the major cities and towns. Note that Irish Rail does not connect to the major airports like Dublin and Shannon Airports. Also, trains connecting Dublin with surrounding towns fall under DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit). DART services operate every 10 minutes all day.

  • Northern Ireland -  Northern Ireland Railways connects the major cities and towns of Northern Ireland. There are several lines heading north from Belfast - to Bangor, Larne, Portrush and Derry (aka Londonderry). And then there’s the line heading south, from Belfast, towards Dublin.

 

Pros

  • This option is very relaxing and it's easy to sightsee and chat with your travel companions.

  • Great option when you’re overnighting in major cities and towns.

  • Should be cheaper than renting a car if you’re traveling solo or as a couple; maybe not if you’re traveling as a family.

 

Cons

  • Does not “directly” connect major towns and cities in some cases. You might have to double back to Dublin to get from one city to the next. This increases the total time of travel.

  • Does not reach to many of Ireland’s more rural areas.

  • Not a good option, if you’re interested in sightseeing at various places along the way between stations.

Important to know

  • There are two options when planning your journey in the Republic of Ireland. These are great first steps when planning your travel.

    1. Irish Rail Journey Planner for both inter-city train travel and the DART.

    2. TFI (Transport for Ireland) Journey Planner to consider all of your public transportation options including bus, train, taxi, ferries, etc.

  • There are two rail stations in Dublin:

    1. Dublin Connolly is located north of the River Liffey and services northwest of Dublin (ends at Sligo), Belfast (in Northern Ireland) and south of Dublin along the coast to Rosslare Europort.

    2. Dublin Heuston is located south of the River Liffey and services the south, southwest and west parts of the island.

  • Use the Translink website to plan your train travel in Northern Ireland.

Things to consider

  • Two cities (or towns) might be close together and both have train stations; however, if they’re on different lines, you might have to route through another city (e.g. Dublin) thus greatly extending your commute time. In these cases, the bus option is much timelier.

  • The train does not have stops at Dublin Airport or Shannon Airport; whereas, many bus companies operate from/to these airports. As a result, the bus is probably a better option when traveling to/from the airport if you’re not renting a car.

 

Tourist Tickets and Special Offers

 

Irish Rail tourist tickets include:

  1. The Trekker Four Day (adults) - Four consecutive days of unlimited travel on all Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) services in the Republic of Ireland from the date of issue on the ticket. Tickets must be purchased at an Irish Rail ticket office. Currently €110 per adult ticket. 

  2. The Explorer (adults and children) - Irish Explorer Rail Only offers customers 5 days unlimited travel out of 15 consecutive days on all Iarnród Éireann services in the Republic of Ireland for only €160 for an Adult and €80 for a child. Again, tickets must be purchased at an Irish Rail office.

 

Northern Ireland Railways ticket options include:

  1. Family and Friends tickets - £22 for unlimited day travel on all Translink services within Northern Ireland. Or the Metro and Glider Family Day Ticket is only £9 for unlimited day travel. Tickets permit up to 2 adults and 4 children. Family & Friends tickets are available from the driver on the day of travel, from main bus and train stations or Glider Ticket Vending Machines at halts.

  2. Dublin Rail Web Saver - Online 'Web Savers' offer discounted single, day return and monthly return tickets on Enterprise services from Belfast, Lisburn Portadown and Newry to Dublin. Services start at £10.99 from Belfast and must be purchased 72 hours prior to travel. 

  3. Dublin Rail Family Ticket - For a stress-free family trip with a difference, why not take advantage of the great Enterprise Family & Friends Day Return ticket to Dublin from just £50. Tickets are valid for up to two adults and four children and departure is after 9.30am. To get your day return family ticket, simply plan and buy, choose a rail service after 9:30, select 'Standard Fare Ticket', add two adults and up to four children and a 'day return' as your ticket.

Is this a great way to see Ireland?

  • Yes, as long as you’re staying in Ireland's main towns and cities. From your overnight home base, it’s very easy to take day trips using the extensive bus network, hiring a driver/guide for the day or taking a day tour.

 

How does this impact my choice of lodging options?

  • For the most part, you’ll have to overnight at the hotels and B&Bs located in the cities/towns that the train station is located in. You can venture out from these destinations by tacking on a bus trip, a taxi ride or some other form of transportation.

 

Price perspective

  • Similar to buses, this will be one of your cheaper options unless you have a large group/family.

Ease of use

  • It’s very easy to use the train network on the island - as long as you understand the process. The Journey Planner is very helpful with your decision-making.

 

Are reservations suggested?

  • In general, online tickets/reservations are helpful so you can go directly to your train car without having to stop and purchase a ticket at the train station - just in case you’re running a little late.

How Book Ireland Travel can help you

  • We understand train travel in Ireland. We’ll help you to understand how the process works (for long distances or short commutes), navigate the travel planning process and provide you with travel tips if you do decide to travel by train.

  • We’ll provide our thoughts and suggestions about this form of transportation and help you evaluate the various options available to you.