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If your stay in Dublin is short, geography is on your side. The vast majority of the capital’s best sites are concentrated in the city center, which is small and very walkable, no more than a few square kilometers. This leads to your first, most important (and quite frankly, easiest) decision: If you have a car, leave it behind at your hotel. Dublin’s streets are choked with traffic, with baffling one-way streets and inadequate signage. If your feet get tired, there’s a good tram and bus system, and resonably-priced taxis are plentiful. In fact, with its perennial traffic and parking problems, this is a city where the foot is mightier than the wheel.

By Bus

After walking, buses are the most convenient and practical way to get between the city center sights. Dublin Bus operates a fleet of double-deckers and single-deckers. Most originate on or near O’Connell Street, Abbey Street, and Eden Quay on the Northside, and at Aston Quay, College Street, and Fleet Street on the south side. Look for bus stop markers resembling big blue or green lollipops—they’re every few blocks on main thoroughfares. To tell where a bus is going, look at the destination street and bus number displayed above its front window; those heading for the city center indicate that with an odd mix of Latin and Gaelic: VIA AN LAR.

Bus service runs daily throughout the city, starting at 6am (10am on Sundays), with the last bus at about 11:30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, Nitelink service runs from the city center to the suburbs from midnight to 4am. Buses operate every 30 minutes for most runs; schedules are posted on revolving notice boards at bus stops.

Inner-city fares are based on distances traveled. Daytime journeys that take place entirely within the designated “City Centre Zone” cost €0.70. This zone stretches from Parnell Square in the north to Connolly Station and Merrion Square in the east, St. Stephen’s Green in the south, and Ormond Quay in the west. Longer journeys cost anything from €1.75 all the way up to around €5 if you’re going as far as the outer suburbs.

You pay on board the bus, using an automatic fare machine located in front of the driver. You can pay in coins, or with a smart card known as a Leap Card. No Dublin bus accepts notes or gives change. If you don’t have the exact money in coins, the driver will issue you with a “change receipt.” You must then take this to the Dublin Bus headquarters on O’Connell Street to collect your change (a process not designed to encourage refunds). The sole exception to this rule is route 747 (the Airlink), which runs between the airport and the city center—on those buses, drivers accept notes and give change normally.

By DART

An acronym for Dublin Area Rapid Transit, the electric DART trains travel aboveground, linking the city center stations including Heuston, Connolly Station, Tara Street, and Pearse Street with suburbs and seaside communities as far as Malahide to the north and Greystones to the south. Check a map to see if it serves your area. Service operates roughly every 10 to 20 minutes Monday to Saturday from around 6am to midnight and Sunday from 9:30am to 11pm. For further information, check the DART website (www.dart.ie; [tel] 1850/366-222).

By Tram

The sleek, modern (and wheelchair accessible) light-rail tram system known as Luas runs from around 5:30am to 12:30am Monday to Friday, 6:30am to 12:30am Saturday, and 7am to 11:30pm on Sunday. (The last trams to certain stations are earlier—be sure to check the timetable.) There are two lines, Red and Green: The Green Line runs southeast from St. Stephen’s Green to Sandyford and Bride’s Glen in the south; the Red Line runs from Connolly Railway Station to the southwestern suburbs of Saggart and Tallaght. For further information, contact Luas (www.luas.ie; [tel] 1850/-300-604). As this was being written, the Luas system was being expanded, with a cross-city line connecting the red and green lines and a green line extension continuing north to Broombridge. Further extensions are planned. Ticket prices depend on the length of your journey and how many city zones it crosses. A single peak-travel journey within the city center (zone 1) costs €1.54, rising to €2.50 for rides to zones 5-8. Ticket vending machines are located at every Luas stop. Purchase your ticket in advance using coins, paper money, or a credit card. Leap Cards are also accepted on Luas, and include a small discount.

Leap Cards

If you’re likely to use public transport a lot while in Dublin (which we highly recommend), do as the locals do: Get a Leap Card, a pre-paid smart card for reduced-cost travel on all Dublin buses (including Airlink and Nightlink), DART, Luas, and commuter trains. You can buy them at around 400 shops in and around the city—look for the distinctive green logo depicting a somewhat over-excited frog in mid-leap. (In Dublin Airport, you can pick one up at the Easons, Kiosk, and Spa shops.) Ticket machines in some city center DART and railway stations also dispense Leap Cards, or you can order them online at www.leapcard.ie. They’re free, but you have to pay a refundable deposit of €5 adults, €3 children, and buy at least €5 worth of credit upfront.

On Foot

Marvelously compact, Dublin is ideal for walking. Just remember to look right and then left (and in the direction opposite your instincts if you’re from North America) before crossing the street. Pedestrians have the right of way at specially marked, zebra-striped crossings (these intersections usually have two flashing lights).

By Taxi

Taxis are everywhere in Dublin, and they are a cheap and handy way to get around. You can either hail a cab on the street (if the light on top of the car is lit, it’s available), or find one at the many taxi stands (called “ranks”) located throughout the city—outside hotels, at bus and train stations, and on prime thoroughfares such as Upper O’Connell Street, College Green, and the north side of St. Stephen’s Green. You can also phone for a taxi. See Fast Facts. 

By Car

We’ll say it again: You do not want to drive around Dublin if you can possibly avoid it. However, if Dublin is your first stop on a wider tour of Ireland, you may want to rent a car to leave town and see the rest of the country. If that’s the case, try Hertz (www.hertz.ie) at Dublin Airport ([tel] 01/844-5466; or 2 Haddington Rd., Dublin 4 ([tel] 01/668-7566). Europcar also has branches at Dublin Airport ([tel] 01/812-2800) and Mark St. (off Pearse St.), Dublin 2 ([tel] 01/648-5900).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.