Moving to Ireland?
A Guide to Irish Living
Planning Your Move
Well before you plan to pack your bags, you’ll want to start planning your move to Ireland. Immigrating to Ireland can be difficult and it’s wise to start preparing well in advance. The immigration rules in Ireland can be stringent, and it pays to contact the Irish Embassy well in advance of your move. This is true for everyone except citizens of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, who are free to move throughout and settle within Ireland as they see fit. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t extend to the spouses and children of these citizens, who will still have to obtain the correct Irish documentation to settle within the country. As with any country, the first step to moving to Ireland is to check out the Visa requirements the country has set in place. If you meet the requirements, you can apply for an Irish visa that will allow you to live in the country for three months, after that, you’ll have the option to apply for additional permits like a work permit or a Residency Certificate. Regardless of what you plan to do once you’re in Ireland, it’s wise to work on getting your Visa paperwork hammered out early since it can take months to process entirely.
Living in Ireland
Once you’ve squared your visa away, it’s time to secure housing for yourself in your new country. While Ireland offers many different housing choices, the most common method of securing housing is to rent a flat or a home. Despite the fact that Ireland is not an overly large country, the housing markets within it vary broadly. Rents will be higher near the main cities like Dublin and will be cheaper (and potentially harder to find) in rural or country areas. When you get to Ireland, you’ll find the following types of housing options available to you:
- Rental homes. Rental homes and apartments abound in Ireland. Expats can choose between furnished or unfurnished spaces and will generally enjoy rental properties that are in good repair and kept tidy by landlords. Bear in mind that rental prices in Ireland are expensive and that it’s not uncommon for expats to be a bit shocked by housing prices here.
- Homes for sale. If you’ve always had a dream of purchasing property in Ireland, it’s far from impossible. Ireland has many parcels of property available throughout the country and expats who want it will have no trouble finding a place they love. Again, however, property values in Ireland are steep, and many expats find the idea of renting cost-prohibitive. If you do choose to buy, be sure to hire a real estate agent before you take the leap.
Additionally, if you have children, you’ll need to look for housing near the school you want them to attend, as public institutions generally grant priority to children who live in the immediate area of the school itself. Since the housing market can be competitive in Ireland, it’s wise to ensure that you start looking for housing early and are prepared to view various properties before finding “the one.” It also helps to have a cash for your deposit and to have compiled all needed documentation and paperwork ahead of time.
The Five Best Cities in Ireland
One of the most iconic cities in Ireland, Dublin has a population of roughly 500,000 people and is known for its charming, quirky air and bustling base of life. Home to various artists and writers throughout the centuries, Dublin was host to James Joyce and now houses the Dublin Writers Museum and the iconic Old Library at Trinity College. Even if you’re not a literary fan, however, Dublin has plenty to offer. The city features beautiful old architecture, plenty of kitschy leprechaun-themed gift shops, and more job opportunities than many other cities in Ireland. Ideal for expats who want to live and work in the centre of everything Ireland has to offer, Dublin is a city that combines fun and frivolity with function and seriousness.
Galway, Ireland is lesser-known than Dublin but no less exciting. The bohemian hub of Irish arts, architecture, and creativity, the streets of Galway buzz with pubs, cafes, live music, and plenty of weekend frivolity. Despite the city’s ancient history (remainders of medieval ruins still pockmark the streets), Galway is currently considered one of Ireland’s most progressive and exciting areas. Ideal for any expat who wants easy access to fresh seafood and plenty of beautiful artwork, Galway is widely known as “the most Irish city in Ireland.”
A quiet town situated on a series of Holland-esque waterways, Cork features brightly painted buildings and a liberal population. Despite the fact that Cork took a significant hit during the recession, the city is rising from its own ashes and has recently rejuvenated into a lively pub scene and plenty of industry. Located on an island in the midst of the River Lee, Cork is a fantastic place for expats who work in water-based industries or want to be close to any of Ireland’s best pubs, shops, and galleries.
Killarney is known as the tourist capital of Ireland. Filled to the gills with stores, bars, diners, cafes, galleries, and cultural attractions, Killarney is an interesting mix of shopper’s delights and stone's throw proximity to some of the most beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and woods Ireland has to offer. Just outside of Killarney, you’ll find breathtaking peaks and dense forests fit to explore. Ideal for expats who want to live in an outdoor paradise without sacrificing the comfort and convenience of being in town, Killarney is, quite literally, the best of both worlds.
Belfast was once one of Ireland’s rougher areas. While this area used to have a bad reputation that urged travellers to run in different directions, the Belfast of today is ripe with hip accommodations and plenty of safe, exciting, and unique attractions. Once a town steeped in the maritime industry, the Belfast of today continues to focus on the water at its core. Visitors and residents can still enjoy a stroll down to the Lagan’s old shipyards or visit the HMS Caroline – a WWI warship turned into a museum that’s open to the public. Regardless of whether you want to live in Belfast for the unique, grungy vibe it casts off or is simply looking to take advantage of the proximity to water and plenty of maritime industry, Belfast is a fantastic place for new expats looking to settle.
The Weather in Ireland
Even if you’ve not heard much about Ireland, the chances are that you’re familiar with the weather. While Ireland offers many beautiful and outstanding attractions, the weather here can be tough, and it’s not uncommon for expats to have a difficult time adjusting. The country gets rain for much of the year and winters in the northern portion of the country can be cold and harsh. If you can stand up to the weather, however, Ireland is a lovely place that offers a fantastic quality of life.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Ireland
Moving to Ireland is a large decision, and it pays to be prepared. While it’s impossible to predict everything that will take place during a move to Ireland, expats can ensure that they’re going into the process with their eyes open by being aware of the typical pros and cons of living in Ireland. Here’s a list to help you get started:
- Affordable housing. While Ireland isn’t the least expensive place in the world to live, it’s also not the worst. With few exceptions, expats who move to the country can find affordable, enjoyable housing for all price ranges. Keep in mind, however, that housing within the cities can be somewhat competitive, so it’s wise to begin your search early.
- Proximity to other European countries. Living in Ireland makes travelling easy. Just 45 minutes from the UK and only two or three hours from Rome, Ireland is the ideal place for expats who want to go to other European countries during their tenure.
- Long paid holidays. Unlike many other places in the world, Ireland offers its employees 20 days of paid leave each year. What’s more, employers actually want you to go and take holiday. They believe it helps keep workforces robust and happy.
- Safety. Ireland is an incredibly safe place to live. Guns, for example, are illegal for everyone except farm owners, who can purchase guns fit for defending their livestock. Compared to many parts of Europe, however, Ireland is a dream of safety and low crime rates.
- Affordable healthcare. Citizens of Ireland will enjoy the public healthcare system, which allows for free or no-cost visits for many different conditions.
- Great food and drink. Ireland is the land of food and beer. Residents here will have their choice of nice pubs to choose from and can easily find a nice meal out any night of the week.
- Public transportation. Ireland offers award-winning public transportation designed to help its visitors and residents get anywhere they need to go quickly and easily.
- The weather. While some people don’t mind it, many people consider Ireland’s weather to be a drawback. It’s not uncommon to get sun, rain, and even snow here in a single day. Luckily, the Irish countryside often rewards its strongest standbys with breathtaking rainbows after a sudden rainstorm.
- Shaky economy. Ireland was hit hard by Europe’s financial crisis. Today, unemployment in the country is high, and it can be difficult to get a rental without proving up front that you have the funds.
- The high cost of living. Everything from rent to groceries and amenities is expensive in Ireland, and it’s not uncommon for new expats to find the cost of living a bit cost-prohibitive.
- Public transit delays. While the public transit system in Ireland is fantastic, delays are frequent. Because of this, people who utilize the system on a regular basis need to be aware of the fact that most of Ireland’s public transit systems are subject to stoppages or delays in service. What’s more, petrol is very expensive in Ireland, and delays may worsen as gasoline prices climb.
The Case for Ireland
While there are many fantastic things to love about moving to Ireland, there’s no doubt that this is a big decision to undertake and that this country isn’t right for every expat. First of all, Ireland has some of the most trying weather of anywhere in the E.U. From foggy in the morning to blistering hot in the afternoon, it can be difficult to predict, and many expats find it frustrating. If you can live with the weather, however, Ireland is a lovely place to establish a new life. Complete with picturesque cities, a high quality of life, ample paid leave, a good healthcare system, good schools, and safe neighbourhoods, Ireland is virtually every expat’s dream. What’s more, since you can choose your Irish experience based on where you decide to live and work, it’s easy to ensure that you wind up in a place where you’re enjoying all of your favourite things about Ireland. Ancient, modern, forward-thinking, and wonderfully quirky, Ireland is a place that’s as absolutely rich with natural beauty as it is good neighbours, good food, good art, and attractions that expats from around the world will learn to love like home.