There are a few things that you will need to make the most of your adventures in the Emerald Isle and a few other things to consider packing if you want to go all out on your expedition. Some of these things are quite obvious and even the most novice of a backpacker and explorer will be aware of their necessity. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of them and having a list that you can check off can go a long way when planning the itinerary and logistics of a trip.
- Maps.me. On your smartphone, considering that you have one, it is absolutely vital that you download this app to help navigate. What makes this app so great is it works offline. Thus if you download the app and then download the data for Ireland, you’re golden. Alas, if you don’t purchase a SIM card, you can still use this app to help find routes either by foot, bicycle, car or subway.
- Hiking Shoes or Boots. Whether you choose a pair that fits above the ankle or below, it is vital you bring a good pair of durable footwear that are comfortable because you will be wearing them pretty much everyday. Backpacking and exploring, requires quite a bit of walking so it is important that what ever is on your feet, not only feels good but is able to take a beating as well.
- A 65 to 70 liter Backpack. There are numerous packs to choose from at your local REI or other outdoor store. Personally, I am a huge fan of Osprey and have been hauling my 65 liter pack up mountains in the Pacific Northwest, through Asia and Europe for nearly a decade now. It has without a question, proven its durability and resistance to wear and tear.
- A Hardshell Jacket and Backpack Rain Cover: Whichever month you choose to come to Ireland in, it goes without saying, that you are going to get wet. In the broader scheme of things, no matter where you are on the island, you are never really that far from the ocean and the Atlantic is bound to hurl its ferocity on you at some point or another. I remember being in Dublin one day during February in which the morning was pleasantly warm and sunny before the afternoon first brought some rain, then sleet and finally hail and snow. It was the most radical change in climate and temperature that I had personally ever seen. Thus, it is advisable that you rarely venture outdoors, even if you are just walking to a local café or pub, without being adequately prepared.
- A One to Two Person Tent: Wildcamping is a must in Ireland for those want to experience the stunning natural landscape in it’s purest form. You want to look for a freestanding, double-walled, 2-berth, 3-season tent weighting around 1.5-2.5kg. Something that would ideally fit at the bottom of your pack or on the rear rack of a bicycle. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a great option, as well as the Black Diamond Fitzroy Vestibule Tent. If planning on adventuring during the winter months and specifically into Connemara or the MacgillyCuddy mountains, you probably want to look for a durable four season tent, in which Black Diamond and MSR will have a good selection. The MSR Advance Pro is a quality alpine tent as well as the Black Diamond Eldorado, which might be a tad overkill but you will not be uncomfortable!
- Sleeping Bag and Pad: Roughing it in Ireland is like roughing it in pretty much any place, you need to have the proper gear that is comfortable and allows you to get a good nights sleep. The Therm-a Rest Neoair Uberlite is a good lightweight pad to consider and REI and Marmot have probably the greatest selection of sleeping bags on the market. In the summer months, it is defiantly possible to sleep under the stars but the potential for a drastic change in weather is always something to be on the lookout for in the North Atlantic.
- A Stove Top and Fuel: During your excursions, you will most likely want to cook your own food rather than hauling along an enormous supply of granola and candy bars. For this, an MSR pocket rocket is the best product you can buy. Its extremely lightweight and portable and works like a charm.
- Easy Energy: In my opinion, if you do not have a peanut or nut allergy, the best way to avoid ever going hungry is to haul around a jar or two of peanut butter in your pack. It’s a quick and easy source of energy and calories, and it could possibly save you a lot of money. During a long cycle trip, along with drinking plenty of water, one can pretty much live off a spoonful of peanut butter and maybe a piece of fruit for every meal of day and still feel and perform optimally.
If you have a passport, are a UK or European Union Citizen, then alas, you have nothing to prepare for when arriving in Ireland. In fact, as an EU or UK citizen, you can show up in Ireland and look for work without any red tape and filling out any paperwork. If you are a non-EU or non-UK citizen then the situation can be a bit complex. While obtaining permission to enter Ireland is much easier than many other countries across the world, Irish immigration is surprisingly tough and poses specific requirements to those arriving from outside Europe.
For Americans, we can stay in Ireland for up to 90 days, given your passport is valid for at least six more months upon entering, you possess and are able to show evidence of your return plane ticket and are able to show evidence that you can financially support yourself during your stay.
Doesn’t sound that complicated right? Actually its not as simple as it sounds or in my opinion, as it should be. Immigration at Dublin Airport in particular, are notorious for playing hardball. They will want to know every little detail and nuance of your trip and in the end, if your answers or documents aren’t clear in their eyes, they can refuse your entry or limit you to a one or two week stay, instead of the usual 90 day allowance. Thus it is vital that you arrive in Ireland, with printed documents of your bank account statement, return plane ticket, places you are staying and perhaps more than anything, the most charismatic first impression that you can muster.
It is actually a relatively unknown fact that Americans, are increasingly being refused entry in Ireland due to failing to impress the immigration officials. There was an incident a few years back when a couple lads from Texas showed up in Dublin without any proper financial documentation. They were detained by the garda and thrown in jail for a few days before being sent home. Its very well a shocking story, given the Irish people’s renowned reputation of kindness and hospitality.
Despite the strong ties between our two nations, the Irish government doesn’t seem to want that many Yanks hanging around the island for too long. The economy has been doing quite well relatively speaking in the last few decades and they don’t want or need anyone coming in and becoming a drain on the economy. The policy in Ireland promotes jobs and opportunites to Irish and EU citizens first and anybody else, including Americans, last. For example, if during your stay in Ireland, you were offered a job, your potential employer would have to sponsor your work visa application and present evidence in the application that an Irish or EU citizen were unable to fill the vacancy of the position.
Even if you are student who qualifies for the Irish working holiday Visa, Americans can still only stay for up to a year while Canadians can stay for up to two years and then apply for residency if they desire.
In the end, is this prejudice? No, as one Irishman told me at a hostel in Dublin while we were discussing the Visa process for Americans and non-EU people, “Well if we didn’t have restrictions, there would probably be 60 million of yah over here right now.”