Considering moving to Ireland? Keep reading for tips and information from someone who did it!
I moved to Ireland in August of 2020 with my partner as his de facto spouse. Originally, we settled on a farm in rural Wicklow, then moved to Cork City in southern Ireland after a year. In total, we spent three years living in Ireland. It was my first experience living abroad, outside of my study abroad program in college.
When we decided to move to Ireland, I had visited a few times but never spent an extended amount of time in the country. My partner had family in Ireland, so we thought that the transition would be easy; truthfully, I underestimated how challenging it would be to start a new life in Ireland.
Overall, my experience was full of a lot of positives and negatives. There were wonderful people in Ireland, and ways that it was simply hard to adjust to Irish life.
I wanted to share a list of the things I wish I’d known before moving to Ireland. This list reflects my own experience, which may be different to yours if you decide to move. Especially if this is your first time moving abroad (it’s different from traveling!), consider all of the ways that life in Ireland will be different from the life you have now.
Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Ireland
Although I had plenty of positive experiences while living in Ireland, there were lots of other aspects that blindsided me. Here are all of the things I wish I’d known or considered before moving to Ireland.
1. The weather feels very cold
Don’t be fooled by the lack of snow! The relatively high average temperatures in Ireland are quite deceiving – Irish winters feel very cold. There are strong, cold winds that whip over the island from the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea, so areas near the coast are especially chilly.
In addition to cold winters, I was surprised by how chilly the weather is even in the summer. I have photos of myself wearing a beanie, blanket, and thick sweater in June. It’s not cold for the entire summer, but I was surprised by how short the stints of warm weather actually were – sometimes less than a few weeks.
2. It’s cold indoors, too
This one was much more shocking to me than the outdoor temperatures. Having grown up in the US, I was accustomed to living in homes that were warm and fairly well insulated. I might not be able to wear a t-shirt in January, but with a sweater I’d typically be at a comfortable temperature.
This was not my experience in Ireland, where the homes tend to be quite cold for three reasons: houses are poorly insulated, heating is expensive, and locals prefer cooler indoor temperatures. As a result, I felt cold almost the entire first year I was living in Ireland. I adjusted by buying warm slippers, renting a well-insulated house, and learning to heat specific rooms at specific times for maximum comfort.
3. You need a dehumidifier
One of the most important pieces of equipment in my Irish home was Meaco, our lightly personified dehumidifier/hero. The high levels of humidity, chilly temperatures, and often poor insulation in Irish homes mean that battling mold will be one of your biggest tasks.
You’ll want a dehumidifier that you can easily clean, lift to move around the house, and remove/dump the water basin. For us, Meaco was perfect and it even had a humidity reader we could use to see how close to “dehumidified” the room was at any point in time.
4. Get a warm coat
One of my biggest wardrobe mistakes when I moved to Ireland was waiting too long to get the right clothes to stay warm. I left my warm coats behind in Colorado, figuring that it can’t get that cold somewhere that also has palm trees. It took me over a year, but I finally went to Decathlon and got this 3-in-1 style coat, which has a removable lining and waterproof shell.
If I had it to do again, I’d get an even warmer coat for the coldest months of January and February. This ski jacket is waterproof, warm, and would allow you to feel comfortable wandering around the Irish countryside, even when the frigid Atlantic winds are blowing.
If you’re shopping in the US, I also have a Patagonia down sweater that I wear with a rain jacket. It works really well!
5. Irish culture is quite different from American culture
I assumed that it would be an easy adjustment to Irish culture, partly because I subconsciously thought it would be similar to the US. In this respect, I was totally wrong. Ireland is a higher context culture than the United States, so everyday interactions can be harder for foreigners and outsiders to understand.
There were countless times that I’d walk away from a social interaction and be absolutely bewildered by what had just happened. Often, people would respond in ways that I simply didn’t expect, or they’d seem offended by a comment I made that, to me, seemed innocuous.
Over time, I was able to ask questions of friends who had lived in Ireland and the US and could explain some of the cultural differences to me. One example came from a friend’s Irish husband who had lived in the US for many years: Irish people don’t have each other over for dinner. It’s just not a thing.
Instead, people meet for coffee or a drink at the pubs. They’ll stop by each other’s houses for a cup of tea or chat while standing outside. No matter how well you know them, it’s very unlikely that an Irish friend will invite you over for dinner.
6. The rental market is very steep
One of the common challenges faced by people moving to Ireland is the difficulty they face finding a rental apartment. There is a severe and persistent housing crisis unfolding in Ireland, partly due to the increasing population but relatively stagnant rate of housing development.
In order to find a rental apartment or a property to buy, the best place to look is Daft.ie. For roommates, you can check Facebook groups – try searing “[city, town, etc] housing” to find housing in specific areas of Ireland. Although scams are not as prevalent in Ireland as the US, it’s still good to keep your guard up and avoid anything that looks too good to be true.
Many people find a short term rental on Airbnb or VRBO while they look for more permanent housing. I also had a Spanish friend who stayed in a hostel while searching for an apartment, but based on her experience I would not recommend it.
7. Unless you’re in the middle of a city, you really need a car
Ireland’s public transit is simply not at the same level as other countries in Europe.
There are only a few train lines and they aren’t always convenient, nor do they always take you where you need to go. For instance, there is no train service from Cork City to the Dublin airport – the train goes to Dublin, then you need to grab a bus (or take a private charter bus directly from Cork). Other areas are serviced by buses, both public and privately operated.
Outside of main centers like central Dublin, Cork, and maybe Galway, you’ll need a car to get around on a daily basis. The buses are often unreliable, especially in very rural areas. Even if you live in a city like Cork or Dublin, you may still want to buy a car.
8. Getting a driver’s license is very involved
Once you start reading the forums on moving to Ireland, you’ll immediately notice that seemingly everyone is trying to get a driver’s license. It’s truly a headache, no matter how great of a driver you are, and even if you have a spotless driving record.
If you’re lucky enough to be moving from a country that Ireland recognizes for drivers license reciprocity, you can skip this section. For the rest of us, including people from the United States and Brazil, the process is very involved.
You’ll need to take a written test, driving lessons, and pass your driving test to be able to drive in Ireland. The system is fairly overloaded, so each step can take many months to accomplish. Technically, you can drive on your US/foreign license for a year. So, if you’re moving, get a start on your license immediately. I loved my driving lessons at Ladybird Driving School.
Car insurance is also very expensive in Ireland, especially for your first year. I’d check the Ireland expat Facebook groups for the most recent information about saving on premiums.
9. Most cheap international flights are out of Dublin
Dublin is the main airport for most international travel, especially flights across the Atlantic Ocean. This is great news if you live in Dublin, but can create quite a headache if you move to other parts of the country.
If you’re thinking of moving to Cork or Galway, consider that you’ll need to travel over an hour (over three hours in the case of Cork) to get to the major airport. It makes for very taxing, long travel days, whether you’re traveling within Europe or across the Atlantic. Taking public transit to the Dublin airport adds an additional 20-60€ to the cost of each trip.
The effect is magnified if you live somewhere more remote. You’ll probably have to drive to a nearby hub with transit to Dublin or just drive and pay to park at the airport.
10. It’s important to link up with the expat community
When I first moved to Ireland, I wanted to make Irish and European friends, and I wasn’t very interested in spending time with other people from the US. After a year in Ireland, I learned how valuable it is to have friends who understand your cultural context and can help to explain the local systems in terms that you’ll understand.
From taxes to housing to figuring out where to buy things, the expat community has had answers to the countless problems I wasn’t able to solve on my own. I’ve also made a number of wonderful friends who are also living abroad in Ireland.
The easiest way to connect with the local expat community is through Facebook groups. American Expats in Cork and Americans living in Ireland are my two favorites, and the advice people give is generally very accurate and kindly delivered.
11. There is no Uber in Ireland
Uber and Lyft are not available in Ireland, so locals rely on personal cars, taxis, and public transit. FreeNow is a taxi service with an app that looks somewhat similar to Uber and Lyft, so you can use it if you’re not comfortable actually calling taxis.
The advantage of using taxis is that they have a central dispatch and the prices are less prone to fluctuation. Overall, the experience is more highly regulated than Uber or Lyft in the United States.
There’s no need to tip your taxi driver, but a few euros is always appreciated.
12. The food options get monotonous
I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say that Ireland isn’t known for its cuisine, unlike its European neighbors like Italy and France. As such, the options available can start to get monotonous. Many pubs have very similar menus, and restaurants serving international food are limited (though they do exist).
After moving to Cork, I started to get very tired of Mediterranean food because one of the best restaurants in the city is Izz Cafe, a Palestinian spot. Even in the Food Capital of Ireland, the options started to get dull after a few years.
The best advice I can give you is to cook your own favorite meals and learn to substitute ingredients as necessary. While living in Ireland, I learned how to make bagels, vegetarian biscuits and gravy, soft pretzels (with salt my dad brought me on a visit), and handmade corn tortillas. If you can’t find the variety you’re looking for, you can always try to make it.
13. It’s an island
Of all the things I try to help people understand about moving to Ireland, this one is probably at the top of my list: Ireland is an island.
This might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but living on an island comes with its own set of unique challenges. And there’s another complication to keep in mind: the Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union, but it is separated from the rest of the EU by Great Britain, a larger island.
Having never lived on an island before moving to Ireland, I didn’t realize how different it would feel than being in the middle of a continent. Unless it is grown or produced in Ireland, everything you might need or want to buy is brought to Ireland by air or ferry. Not only does this drive up prices, it also limits availability pretty significantly.
There was one day a few years ago when my partner was trying to make a salad and couldn’t find cucumbers. He went one store then another, before eventually learning that the boat carrying all of the cucumbers had been delayed by the weather, so we couldn’t get cucumbers that week.
14. You have to fly almost everywhere
Because Ireland is an island, you’ll have to fly almost anytime you want to leave. I’m sure you’re wondering if there are ferries – and there are – but I flew every single time I left the Republic of Ireland, except the one time I drove to Belfast.
I’m not an anxious flier, so this wasn’t a huge ordeal to me. However, there’s a whole rigamarole that you have to go through anytime you need to fly, and it would only be more time intensive and challenging if you had small children.
There’s also the fact that, although flights are cheaper in Europe than in the US, it’s still more expensive to fly than drive. So, in addition to the extra hassle, you have the added expense of needing to fly – whether you’re going to London for a weekend, Paris for a city break, or Abisko, Sweden to play in the snow.
15. Rural areas feel very rural
I want to start this one off by saying that I have never been the sort of person who has wanted to get off of the grid. I like the grid. Understandably, many people who move to Ireland are looking for a life that is quieter and slower paced, and I think you can definitely find it.
However, I hadn’t realized how off of the grid you could be in a country that only takes a few hours to drive across.
When I moved to Wicklow, Ireland, I was about a 10 minute drive from the nearest shops (one in each direction) and over 20 minutes from a large grocery store. To get to my favorite, large shop was a 40 minute drive. We couldn’t get food delivery of any kind. Most of the surrounding land was privately owned and used for timber or farming.
If that sounds like your idea of heaven, you might love living in rural Ireland. On the other hand, if you’re a bit daunted, I’d encourage you to consider more populated areas that have great access to services.
16. There is no direct Amazon service
As of this writing, there is no direct Amazon service anywhere in the Republic of Ireland. Meaning, Ireland does not have a dedicated Amazon website or delivery service. I mention this both as a warning to Amazon users, and as an example of a way that Ireland might be more isolated than you think.
So in order to use Amazon you’ll need to sign up for another Amazon country and select delivery in Ireland. Most people I know use Italian, German, French, or UK Amazon deliveries for their packages. Not everything you’ll want will be available, and sometimes there are additional customs fees that you’ll only find out about when the item arrives.
Because we couldn’t use Amazon, we had three options: order similar products from local shops, order them in the US and either ship them or ask guests to bring them to us, or go without. Obviously we were able to buy most common items locally, but we had guests bring us specialty items like Annie’s mac and cheese and other snacks, tech accessories, and certain books.
17. Ireland feels very safe
Ireland is the safest place I’ve ever lived, and one of the safest places I’ve ever been. Cork felt especially safe, even when I was living in a “rougher” area (there was some drunken property damage in the area from time to time).
There’s very little violent and petty crime, so much so that friends have reported their purses being returned to them after a night out or taxis delivering their cell phones after they were left in a cab.
The relatively high levels of security mean that women usually feel safe walking home at night, the gardai (police) are not armed, and when a crime occurs it’s usually regional or national news.
Of course, Ireland is not a perfect utopia and some crime does happen from time to time. Just take normal precautions like locking up your bike and keeping track of your things and you shouldn’t have any problems.
18. Consider getting a therapist to help you cope
This one is probably good advice for moving to any new country, but I’d encourage you to consider getting a therapist to help you cope with the transition.
Even if you’ve always dreamed of moving abroad, there can be unforeseen stressors and complications to work through. If I had it to do again, I would have started therapy soon after moving so that I would have additional support for the process.
If at all possible, find a therapist with a similar background to you. A therapist who has moved abroad from your country will be better able to understand and support you through the transition than someone who hasn’t. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in my experience – and in talking to friends – it makes a big difference.
For affordable therapy in Ireland, check out My Mind. Therapy sessions start at 60 euros without insurance.
19. Prices are high and wages are low
One common complaint among expats who move to Ireland is the relatively high prices. Recently, a blog ranked Ireland the 6th most expensive country in Europe. Only Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Luxembourg have higher costs of living on the continent.
Prices are driven up by the fact that most things need to be imported (again, it’s an island), the ongoing housing crisis, and other factors. Housing will be one of your most significant expenses, with average rents around €2,300 in Dublin and €1,700 in Cork. Many single, young working professionals live in shared flats with roommates well into their 20s and 30s.
The problem is compounded by low wages. Especially when compared to the US, wages in Ireland will seem quite low. For example, the average salary for a software developer in Ireland is €62,500, while the average salary for a software developer in the US is $156,800.
20. Ireland is a small country
When I first moved to Cork, I would occasionally mention a fact about the US and get the response, “Yeah, it’s a big country.” At first I heard it as a term of endearment (arrogant and American of me, I suppose), but I eventually realized it was just a statement of fact. The United States is enormous, especially compared to Ireland.
Ireland’s small size comes with advantages and disadvantages. The government is generally more responsive to public opinion than the US, and there’s a whole lot less bureaucracy. On the downside, small local divisions and infighting can often halt progress on key issues like development and housing.
Also, if you’re working towards Irish citizenship and counting your reckonable residence days, you’ll have a lot less room to roam than someone living in, say, France or Germany.
21. Ireland is not a part of the United Kingdom
It would be hard to overemphasize this point: Ireland is not a part of the United Kingdom. Be very careful to avoid saying or insinuating otherwise – it’s quite offensive to the local population. Ireland was, in fact, colonized by the British for hundreds of years and fought hard for its independence.
The Republic of Ireland is its own country and, unlike the UK since Brexit, a part of the European Union. For that reason, EU passport holders and their families enjoy freedom of movement in Ireland.
Northern Ireland is part of the UK. For a great overview of Ireland’s important and recent political history, I loved Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. It gives an accessible and thought-provoking overview of The Troubles – Northern Ireland’s ethno-nationalist conflict that lasted from the 1960s to 1998.
22. People are generally very helpful
As a general matter, the locals I encountered in Ireland were generally friendly and helpful. Of course, there are a few bad eggs anywhere, but I had overall great experiences with the people I met. This is most true with government administrators, who were often surprisingly helpful and kind to me when I had to interact with them.
You might not immediately notice how helpful locals are because they’re not smiley or outwardly charismatic in the way that Americans tend to be. Still, there’s a generally slower and more relational pace of life in Ireland, so you don’t often meet people who are too rushed to talk to you or annoyed by your presence.
Your experience might be different, but I would say that was true for me across Ireland.
23. There are fewer scams (and sometimes things just work differently)
One of the biggest surprises I encountered when I moved to Ireland was the lack of scams. Living in the US, I felt like I was dodging scams left and right – from the spam calls I got on my cell phone to shady attempts to buy furniture online. My guard was always up, and I still got scammed here and there.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Ireland is free of scams! There certainly are scammers and shady people living in the country, it’s just a lot less common than I was used to seeing in the US.
Here’s a great example: I was trying to mail a laptop using Fedex in early 2021. After finally convincing a truck to drive to our house in rural Wicklow, I was expecting to see a painted, official-looking Fedex truck and driver.
Instead, a man pulled up at the arranged time in a beat up, unmarked white box truck and didn’t speak a word of English. Still, he had my name on his paper so off he went with the computer (and he was, in fact, working for Fedex or some subsidiary). So, yes, not everything that seems fishy in Ireland is a scam – even if I’d never in a million years hand over a laptop under similar circumstances in the US.
24. Eir codes are specific to the house, not the area
Many of the topics on this list are big, important topics to know before you move. I wanted to include a bit about eir codes both as a practical matter and to offer some context for how relational Ireland is today.
Eir codes were introduced in 2015, and before that time Ireland did not have a postcode system. Instead, the postmen generally knew where people lived and delivered mail using house numbers and names.
When I was living in rural Ireland, the postman came to our door and asked me if I knew a mail recipient by name. I said no, and he kept on delivering packages, presumably asking around until he found someone who knew the intended recipient.
Today, eir codes are the most trusted way to find addresses using gps devices. Locals will usually give or ask for your eir code, sometimes without offering any other part of the address.
This is because eir codes are specific to the house, not the building or area like zip codes, so they’re very reliable. A duplex, for example, will have two eir codes – one for each dwelling.
25. Get an Irish SIM and bank account as soon as you can
One of my biggest financial regrets from my move was waiting too long to get an Irish account and SIM. I used my US SIM for far too long, dramatically overpaying for the service because I was daunted by the process of getting a new one.
Pro tip for people from the US: Port your US number to Google Voice before you close down your account. This way, you can still continue to receive text messages and calls to your US number, but you won’t have to pay to keep the line active.
As for banking, Revolut is one of the most popular local bank accounts. It’s a popular way to send money – similar to Venmo or the CashApp.
I don’t have Revolut, so I use Wise for everything I do in euros. It allows me to transfer between currencies and send money by wire or ACH. It’s also one of the easiest ways to establish a bank account in the EU.
Popular Ways to Get an Irish Visa
If you want to move to Ireland, you’ll need a visa to stay in the country for more than 90 days if you’re from the US (other countries may need a visa to even visit for 90 days). The best place to learn about Irish visas is to visit the Irish Immigration Service website, which is the official source for all immigration information.
Still, I wanted to share an overview of the most popular ways to get an Irish visa, at least among the people I met while living in Ireland.
Note: This section is no substitute for the advice of an immigration attorney or official guidance from the Irish Immigration Service. This post is for informational purposes only.
Irish citizens moving to Ireland
One of the best ways to move to Ireland is to become an Irish citizen. If your parents or grandparents were born in Ireland, you might be able to apply. You can read more about this process by visiting the Applications based on Irish descent or Irish associations page on the Department of Justice website.
Note: You cannot apply for Irish citizenship on the grounds that your great grandparents were born in Ireland. I see this question several times a week in the Irish immigration Facebook groups and the answer is always no. It has to be a parent or grandparent.
De Facto Partners or Spousal Visas
When I moved to Ireland, I did so as the de facto partner of an Irish citizen because my partner holds an Irish passport. Of the Americans I met in Ireland, this was by far the most common situation.
Normally, the spouse or de facto partner of an Irish national will receive a Stamp 4 visa, which permits them to work in Ireland. With this visa, you can travel and live normally in Ireland. This visa will need to be renewed periodically.
Studying in an Irish University
Many people move to Ireland to study, whether it’s for an undergrad or graduate degree. This is a popular route because students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week while pursuing their degree and 40 hours per week when school is not in session. This is helpful for offsetting the cost of your education and coping with Ireland’s high cost of living.
After graduating from a degree program, most students have a period during which they can seek Irish employment, especially if they have a critical skill. Their employers can then sponsor them, which is ultimately a route to naturalization.
Moving to Ireland for Work
Another popular way to move to Ireland is through an employment contract. There are several types of employment visas, but the most coveted is the critical skills visa. You can check to see if your occupation is included in the critical skills occupation list.
If you have a critical skill that requires a special license (nurse, physiotherapist, etc) be prepared for a sometimes lengthy process to transfer or otherwise recognize your license in Ireland. This is usually a prerequisite to getting hired and receiving a critical skills visa.
FAQs: Moving to Ireland
Still interested in moving to Ireland and have additional questions? Here’s some more information that might help you if you’re planning a big move.
Can a US citizen move to Ireland?
If US citizens want to permanently move to Ireland, they will need a visa that permits them to stay longer than 90 days. There are several types of visas available, depending on your situation. Some of the most common are spouse/de facto partner visas, employment visas, and student visas.
Is it hard for an American to move to Ireland?
It really depends on your situation. Many Americans choose to move to Ireland either after obtaining Irish citizenship through descent or to join family as the spouse/de facto partner of an Irish national. Outside of those two routes, you’ll probably need to either enroll in an Irish university or find a job that will sponsor you (though other routes are available).
Overall, it can be challenging for Americans to move to Ireland. Once you have your visa, you’ll still need to relocate to the new country and establish your new life, neither of which is a small feat. Still, it’s doable and many Americans have relocated permanently to Ireland.
Is it a good idea to move to Ireland?
Whether or not you should move to Ireland depends a lot on, well, you. Are you considering a move to Ireland because you’re concerned for your safety? Ireland might be the right choice. Does the country have the perfect graduate program for your career? Another reason it’s definitely worth considering.
However, there are also plenty of negatives and drawbacks to moving to Ireland. It’s an expensive place to live, there’s an ongoing housing crisis, and wages are typically lower than you’ll find in the US.
Is it cheaper to live in Ireland or the US?
It really depends on where in the US you’re considering. Many major metropolitan areas like DC, New York City, or San Francisco are much more expensive than living in Ireland. The prices in Ireland are more comparable to small and mid-sized US cities.
Importantly, wages are lower for many occupations in Ireland, so be sure to take that into account when comparing costs of living.
Conclusion: Moving to Ireland
Though my experience moving to Ireland was mixed, I met some incredible people and learned a lot about myself. I made some life changing friendships, got to host a number of friends and family as they explored the country, and traveled extensively within Ireland.
Ireland is a beautiful country with fabulous landscapes, friendly locals, and liberal immigration policies that have enabled lots of people to move. It’s also decently well connected to the rest of Europe, even if it means that you have to take a plane to get there.