Ireland’s tourists have grown steadily throughout the years, with over 7.5 million annual overseas visitors. While many hail from mainland Europe, Ireland is a popular destination for U.S. visitors, too, with 10% of all Americans travelling to Europe headed for Ireland.
If you’re planning a visit you will need to know how to pay your way once you’ve arrived. This guide gives a quick overview of the currency and banking system in Ireland, as well as how to exchange your cash once you get to the island.
The official currency of the Republic of Ireland is the euro. Don’t forget, though, that Northern Ireland also uses British Pounds - if your trip also takes in a tour of this area, you’ll need to have some Sterling to fund your visit.
|Euro Symbols||EUR, €|
|1 EUR||One euro is made up of 100 cents.|
|EUR coins||Coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as €1 and €2.|
|EUR banknotes||Commonly used notes are 5, 10, 20 and 50 Euro denominations. Although €100, €200 and €500 notes are also available, they won’t be accepted by many businesses.|
|Sterling Symbols||GBP, £|
|GBP names||British Pound, Sterling, Pound Sterling|
|1 GBP||One pound is made of 100 pence.|
|GBP coins||Coins come in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, and £1 and £2.|
|GBP banknotes||£5, £10, £20 and £50 banknotes are common, though £100 are still in circulation.|
As with elsewhere in the Euro zone, all current euro coins and notes are accepted in Ireland, regardless of the country of issue.
Within the Republic of Ireland, currencies other than the euro are seldom accepted - so make sure you have some on you.
Euros are readily available in currency exchanges throughout the world. You could choose to exchange money before you arrive - but carrying around large quantities of cash is a risk.
Whether you’re exchanging currency at home or once you arrive at your destination, make sure you understand the mid-market rate. This is the only real exchange rate, and should be used to compare the tourist rates you’re offered. Because rates constantly change depending on the global financial market, the easiest way to check it is to use a currency converter online. Use this as a benchmark to see whether or not a deal is fair.
If you need to exchange your cash when you arrive, you’ll find plenty of places to do it at the airport - although the exchange rates there are generally poorer than elsewhere. It’s also very likely that hotel exchange rates will also be poor and include higher fees, so it’s usually best to use more competitive exchange services in town instead.
If you need some cash immediately upon arrival - for a taxi, for example - you could use an ATM at the airport, instead. This is often a good option for both convenience and a fair rate.
Wherever you make your currency exchange, you should watch out for hidden fees. Whatever that exchange service says, there is no such thing as ‘Zero Commission’ or ‘No Fees.’ It just means that they’ll sneak their profit into the poor exchange rate they offer.
Make sure that any bills you take to exchange into euros are in perfect condition. Often, currency exchange services don’t want to take notes that are damaged, defaced or torn.
Traveller’s Cheques are more or less obsolete these days in Ireland. Although some major banks will exchange them, if they’re closed you may need to use an exchange bureau in an airport (where the rates are often quite poor).
Internet travellers forums are full of struggling visitors asking about how and where to change Traveller’s Cheques. Irish banks no longer issue Cheques themselves and are gradually moving away from exchanging them too. They’re best avoided in Ireland. If possible, use a credit or debit card instead.
Most larger retailers, and service providers, will accept credit or debit cards. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa and MasterCard (along with those marked Maestro or Cirrus). American Express isn’t always accepted, so carry some cash if this is your primary card.
You’ll occasionally find that smaller independent retailers won’t accept card payments on low value transactions (€10 or less) because of the bank fees. In general, it’s a good idea to carry cash at all times, in case you’re unable to pay by card. If you ever need cash quickly, use one of the ATM locators in the next section to find a nearby bank machine.
Whenever you’re travelling, it’s a good idea to tell your card issuer that you’ll be travelling overseas. Often, if banks spot unusual activity, they block your account. Better safe than sorry.
If you use a credit or debit card while you’re away, you might be asked if you want to be charged in your home currency - it’s called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC).
With DCC, you can see the cost shown in your home currency. Unfortunately, though called a ‘service’, it means the foreign bank gives you a poor rate and, often, more fees. Always opt to pay in the local currency, euros, instead. That way, your home bank (who wants to keep you as a loyal customer) will apply a more favourable rate to your transaction.
There are so many ATMs in Ireland that you’ll yourself nearly tripping over them. You’ll find them in and outside of bank branches in addition to supermarkets, shopping centres and even night clubs. Use one of the locator tools below to find the closest one.
When you withdraw cash abroad, you risk being charged twice, once by your own bank and then also by the bank operating the ATM itself. Make sure you know before you go what your bank charges you for withdrawals outside of your home country. You’ll also need to be on the lookout for ATM messages notifying you of additional fees. Luckily, most ATMs, especially in tourist areas, will offer you a choice of languages so you can keep up with what's going on.
Despite the fees, using an ATM is a popular choice as it is convenient and the exchange rates used tend to be fair.
Always choose to be charged in the local currency at foreign ATMs
One trick to watch out for is connected to DCC (described in the previous section). The ATM might recognise that you’ve used a foreign card and ask if you want to be charged for your withdrawal in your home currency. You should answer no. Always select the option to be charged in local currency, to get the best exchange rate available.
Ireland has a large network of local and international banks. If you’re travelling there, it’s worth checking with your home bank if they have any partnerships with Irish banks. If they do, you might be able to withdraw cash from certain ATMs for a lowered or even waived fee, as part of a reciprocal arrangement between the bank networks.
Here are some of the more common Irish and International banks operating in the Republic of Ireland:
So there you have it - Irish banking and currency in a quick overview.
An alternative choice, for simple access to your money abroad - and an even better deal - is to use TransferWise.
If you have a bank account in Ireland, or know someone who does, you can transfer money between bank accounts using the real mid market exchange rate. It's a quick and convenient way to get your cash, with complete transparency - so no need to worry about hidden fees.
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