A good friend of mine is going to be studying in Dublin in the spring and I wanted to put together a list of things for her to know from my experience. As I was typing it up I realized that it was information that many people could potentially use. So here is my advice on studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland.
These are entirely my opinion and are things that as a college-aged female I found helpful. If you have any further questions PLEASE ASK! I would love to answer questions!
1. Open an Irish bank account
-It takes about a week to set it up but it will save you the hassle of international interest charges, fluctuating exchange rates and the hassle that some Irish retailers don't know how to or cant accept American credit cards. Irish cards operate on a pin and chip system very different from ours. Most convenience stores, like Spar don't even accept American credit cards and you'll find your self needing to buy things like bus passes there often. At the end of the semester close it about a week before you leave and exchange all your euro at the GPO (General Post Office) on O'Connell St, they have the best exchange rates and don't charge a commission. There's an AIB (Anglo Irish Bank) right on UCD's campus.
2. Know if you need a converter and/or an adapter for your computer.
-Most computer cords have a converter already in them, those weird boxes, and only require an adapter. I didn't realize this and bought one unnecessarily. Some hair straighteners will work with European plus, just check the box.
3. Pack light.
-I'm serious. I did not and I regretted it because bag fees are darn expensive and I had to check THREE of them. There are many discount retailers in Ireland and abroad so you will for sure be buying things there. Umbrellas are unnecessary because its so windy but bring a good rain jacket and rain boots are also a great thing to bring, as they are hard to find in stores. I found layers to be the best option. At first it will be cold. I had a north face and a shell it zipped into, it was a good thing to have. Also bring a scarf, hat and gloves. February is a rough month. Bring a travel alarm clock and a watch. There are no clocks anywhere. Oh and learn to love the 24 hour system! It's not so hard, subtract 12. Also get used to converting Celsius in your head. And be prepared for Irish girls! They did tended to dress up considerably more than we did. If you don't want to be noticed as being American don't wear jeans out at night.
4. Know, Realistically How Much You Eat.
-Having never cooked or shopped for just myself I went way overboard on food and supplies in the first month or so and spent too much money. Produce and fresh things are expensive in Ireland because everything is imported. Also take note of milk's percent of fat. Whole milk in Ireland is nearly 10% fat. Also there is a really great farmers market right near Christ Church on Cows Lane in the spring! Also right off of Cow's Lane is the Queen of Tarts, a bakery/lunchery that is so, so delicious I would recommend it to everyone!
5. Bring reusable shopping bags and a backpack.
-It is a government mandate that all plastic bags cost 22 cents, consequentially everyone uses reusable ones which are more durable and eco friendly. I brought a few with me and always used my backpack for the heavier items such as milk. My backpack was what I did all of my traveling with. It's easy to carry and you can generally fit enough in them. Also Ryan Air only allows them as carry ons if you are going to be traveling with them you would be well advised to have one with you. In addition be careful traveling with Ryan Air as they have many hidden fees and particularities. Many of my friends expressed the wish that they had spent the extra money to fly with Aer Lingus and save themselves the hassle of flying with Ryan Air.
6. Buy alcohol at tesco and drink before you go out.
-Drinks in bars can run you from 3 euro (very cheap beer like a Foster's) to 8 euro for a mixed drink (Jameson and ginger ale) and that can add up very very quickly especially if you are going out several times a week. Also you can buy "half pints" of beer if you dont want an entire one. Places to go: Dicys and Copper Faced Jacks were really popular but they were definitely more of a club scene. Theres a place called O'Neils on Suffolk Street that was more of a bar and we thought it really great, also Messrs and Maguires right over the O'Connell Bridge was good too.
7. Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Items.
-Bring cold medicine, Advil and things like that with you.Irish pharmacies are not like ours. They have very few options and they use different terminology. Also I brought shampoo and stuff like that with me because I'm particular.
8. Where to Buy Important Things Like Groceries and Clothes.
-Buy groceries at Tesco or Aldi. Buy clothes at Penny's. Marks and Spencer is another grocery store and they have great produce but are very expensive. They also have really good lunches for a decent price. 5 euro for lunch is the cheapest you'll find. Penny's was my favorite store in Ireland. They have an awesome shoe department (flats start at 3 euro) and an even better scarf department!
9. Being On "Irish Time"
-There is no such thing as "on time." Try not to get frustrated, that's how the whole city is. Except for Bus Eireann (the Irish equivalent of Greyhound) nothing is on time.
10. Irish Food
-Chips are fries. Crisps are potato chips. Learn to love tea. If you are a coffee drinker, I'm sorry. Their chocolate is amazing, notably Galaxy and try the other candy as its interestingly different. Food in restaurants is generally heavy. Go to Italy if you want good pizza. Irish Stew is ALWAYS a great bet. Also if you are a vegetarian-- I'm sorry, the Irish like their meat. For when you're on the go they have NutriGrain and Nature Valley bars almost identical to American ones. If you want peanut butter, make sure it is "American Style." There is no boxed mac and cheese. Don't buy the Ragu sauce, it's yucky. They don't have "alfredo" sauce, but they do have "white lasagna sauce." DON'T GET IT, it is gross. They also rarely have ricotta cheese at all, or if they do its expensive and comes in tiny portions. Their tuna is almost entirely dark meat. An "Irish Breakfast" is sausage, blood and white pudding (not my favorite) hash brown-like potatoes, eggs and toast. They do not put ice in anything so I hope you don't mind your water room temp. Also if you drink a lot of water bring a nalgene. Bottled water over there is extraordinarily expensive.
11. Public Transport
-Dublin bus is the way to go. But be careful it stops running at 11:30. All the buses will line up on O'Connell St and at 11:30 sharp they leave and don't pick up additional travelers. There is a late night bus but don't take it. After 11:30 cabs are the safest bet. Also don't sit on the top of the bus at night especially if you are alone. Buy the weekly STUDENT bus pass. They are so so worth it. Careful with the monthly because they are expensive and easily lost. You technically need a student traveler card (like an ID card you get at Dublin Bus on O'Connell) but most spars don't ask you for it. Sometimes the transit police will come on the buses and check passes and ID cards but if that happens just say you just got to Dublin and didn't know it was required. Or just spend the 12 euro. The Bus Eireann online system is confusing but once you figure it out, its great. The main terminal is right off the Liffey and it's called Busaras. Also always have your student ID with you because you get discounts and Bus Eireann requires it to get the student rate even if you bought the ticket online.
-They are everywhere. They are much more noticeable in Dublin than in Boston. It's obviously a personal choice but I wouldn't give them money. Someone did a study and found that on average beggars in Dublin make over 100 euro a day!
13. Making phone calls.
-To dial TO the US FROM Ireland: 001 + the number. To dial TO IRELAND from the US you dial 011 + 353 + your phone number (making sure to drop the 0 that comes first).
14. The Irish Language, Government and Pronunciation
-"Irish" is the national language of Ireland. Every other country calls it Gaelic but there it's just "Irish." You'll see these on the buses and signs around the city, An Lar = City Center, As Serbhis = Out of Service. Also one of the most used slang words is "craic" pronounced crack. It means fun but can also be used as "Whats the craic?" or what's up. [bh= v sound ex. Cobh (cove) Siobhan (Shavon)]
-Also their government words are also in Irish. The Dail Eireann (pronounced Doy-ILL) is their parliament and their Taoiseach (tea-shock) is like a Prime Minister. They do have a president who has a more ceremonial position. Their main political parties are Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party. Fine Gael is pronounced finna gwael and loosely translated means the Tribe of Ireland. Fianna Fail is pronounced fina foil and means the Warriors of Destiny.
-Also their police force is the Garda Síochána (Gard-a shia-conna) literally translating into The Guardians of the Peace. A singular police man would be refered to as a Gardai (gardee, ai pronounced e.) An interesting fact is that the Garda are an unarmed police force!
15. Cellular Plans
-Get the same wireless plan as your friends. Since I have been there and experienced the different wireless carriers, I prefer Meteor. Also you can "top up" your phone (add money to it) at most ATMS! It's very convenient. Cell phones are referred to as mobiles.
16. SEE IRELAND!
-Dublin is the most accessible part of Ireland and buses are leaving and coming constantly. You have no excuse to stay in Dublin. Ireland is the size of South Carolina. Go West, South, and North. The country side is the true Ireland, Dublin is a city just like Boston or New York. Also I would recommend buying a Heritage Card. It's 8 euro and gets you into a TON of historic places free. You totally get your money's worth.
Update 6/23/14: Since I was in Ireland several years ago I'm sure a lot of things have changed. So I can't speak specifically to what it is like now, only what I experienced then but I'm happy to answer your questions!