Ireland's capital city is compact and easy to navigate on foot, which means that if you plan to stay in the city center, you might not ever need to take public transportation in Dublin. The central area is small enough that walking is usually the most efficient way to get around the city. But even though Dublin is fairly condensed, it still has a fantastic and easy-to-use public transportation system. Between the bus, LUAS, DART and train networks, there are so many ways to get around Dublin, that you'll actually be spoilt for choice.
With extensive public transportation at the ready, there is really no reason to ever drive a rental car into Dublin as a tourist. Cars bring all sorts of additional problems with traffic jams, getting lost or caught in one-way systems even locals have problems with, and high rates for paid parking. In fact, instead of driving yourself, you are much better off using public transportation or taking a taxi in Dublin when walking just won’t do.
How to Ride the Bus in Dublin
There is no subway or underground system in Dublin, so the best transportation option inside the city center is the bus.
The name might be a dead giveaway, but Dublin Bus is the main provider of road-based public transport in the Irish capital. If, however, you are only planning on seeing the main sites in Dublin, it might be worth choosing a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus that is run by a private tour company rather than depending on the public bus. These tours stop near all the major attractions, tickets cost more than the regular bus fare are valid for the whole day, and the buses take a circular route so there is really no chance of getting lost.
However, if you are feeling up for the rush of navigating a new city like a local, or are planning to go off the well-beaten track, Dublin Bus is the provider of choice. The first order of business should be to get a bus map, preferably at the main office on O'Connell Street, where they have all the information you need including tours.
Buses in Dublin are double-decker style and, like all traffic, drive on the left side of the road (an important point to remember when you are trying to decide which direction to take the bus).
Learning how to catch a Dublin Bus takes a bit of practice because you may need to flag them down to stop, even when you are standing at a marked stop (which are blue signs with the bus company’s logo). Some of the routes covered by Dublin Bus can, at times, be on long and winding roads, and connections to other routes might be inconvenient. But you will get almost anywhere in the capital and suburbs for an affordable price.
You can buy tickets directly on the bus, but you can only do so using Euro coins. No bills or cards are accepted and no change is given, so it is best to have the exact fare already counted out in coins in your hand, ready to drop into the machine next to the driver when you board.
Adult fares for Dublin Bus purchased on board are:
- €2.15 (for Stages 1-3, which covers all journeys within the city center)
- €3.00 (for Stages 4-13)
- €3.30 (over 13 Stages)
- €7.00 (Airlink 474 bus to the Dublin Airport)
One child under 5 can travel for free with a paying adult.
Child fares (up to age 16) for Dublin Bus purchased on board are:
- €1.00 during school hours (Monday to Friday until 7 p.m. and Saturday until 1:30 p.m.)
- €1.30 during all other hours
You can use the official online Fare Calculator to determine the correct fare if you are not sure of how many stages you will pass through. Or, simply ask your driver. Paying the correct fare is important because there are sometimes ticket inspections and having the wrong ticket can result in a €100 fine.
If you are planning to take Dublin Bus or other Dublin public transportation extensively, it may be worth investing in the LeapCard. The reloadable travel card offers slightly lower fares on every journey and using one means you will never have any hassle dealing cash on board.
LUAS: Tram into the City Center
The LUAS (initially known as the Dublin Light Rail System) is tram connecting the city center to the suburbs that is named after the Irish word for "speed.” Dublin's LUAS is the city’s newest form of public transportation and includes two lines: one starting at St. Stephen's Green, the other at Connolly Station (now extended to the Point Village in the Dublin Docklands).
LUAS trams are fairly fast, but they are also very popular, meaning they can often be slightly cramped at rush hour. They run along roads and on some stretches of dedicated track. The LeapCard is also valid on the LUAS, or tickets can be purchased on board. You can find a map of stops, timetables and pricing information on the LUAS website.
DART: Train on a Coastal Route
Dublin Area Rapid Transit, always shortened to DART, is one of the most convenient ways of public transport in Dublin – but only if you are planning to go from north to south (or vice versa), and if you are planning to travel along the coastline of Dublin Bay. These trains are the easiest and fasted way to visit Malahide (with its pretty castle) and Howth in the north, down to Greystones in the south.
These Dublin neighborhoods make for fantastic trips out of the city, but keep in mind that they are also major commuter towns so trains will be crowded in the mornings and evenings. However, DART trains are easy to use and also connect (in a loose, geographical sense) to the LUAS at Connolly Station, and to suburban and intercity services at several other stations as well.
The Suburban Rail Network
As the name implies — the Suburban Rail Network serves mainly the Dublin suburbs and the so-called "commuter belt." The latter extends further into the country than you might imagine, a legacy of the Celtic Tiger years. The long-distance train rides may be bad news for the workforce (long commutes from satellite towns), but the rail network offers intrepid travelers the chance to reach interesting Irish towns that lie quite far beyond Dublin. Trains are frequent during rush hour but you may find long pauses in the timetables during the middle of the day and on weekend. The Suburban Rail Network is not very helpful for travel within central Dublin and is mostly used for destinations that lie off the DART routes.
Bus Eiréann is Ireland's national bus transportation provider in the Republic, but it does not run in competition with Dublin Bus. This means that you may see Bus Eiréann running on the same routes or using the same stops as Dublin Bus with one major difference: Bus Eiréann buses will only pick up passengers traveling outbound, to destinations beyond the reach of Dublin Bus, and will only drop off passengers traveling inbound from these same places. You cannot use Bus Eiréann for trips within Dublin city center, but it is worth knowing about the well-used service if you are traveling to or from Dublin to other parts of Ireland.
Specifically, you may find some connections into the suburbs and into the "commuter belt" (extending ever further) that suit your travel needs. These same destinations within the greater Dublin area may also be reachable by Dublin Bus, but Bus Eiréann will be the faster (and more expensive) option by road.
Bus Eiréann is at its best if used for day-trips to destinations outside Dublin. For timetable and services information, check the Bus Eiréann homepage — which might also give you some good travel deals when booking ahead online. Otherwise, you can pay for tickets inside Bus Eiréann stations or directly to the driver when boarding. Unlike Dublin Bus’s double-decker fleet, Bus Eiréann buses are usually newer, coach-style buses with free Wi-Fi and even charging ports in the seats. Luggage can be stored underneath the bus before boarding.
Taxis are regarded as part of Dublin's public transport system and since deregulation, actually finding a taxi has become much less of a problem. Dublin taxi drivers have a bit of a reputation for being ready to chat, joke, and share their (sometimes uninvited) opinions on everything from politics to family matters. Some unscrupulous cabbies have been known to take the unwary tourist down the not-really-scenic-but-certainly-more-profitable route, but this is not common.
Taking a taxi in Dublin city is recommended particularly at night if it means you can avoid walking down poorly lit side streets, or at any time of day to save journey time if there is no alternative direct service. A taxi to and from the airport can also be a good option, especially if you are not staying near convenient bus stops for the airport bus routes. Taxi prices are, naturally, higher than those of all other public transport alternatives — but bear in mind that with a taxi you pay for the whole cab, while on other services you pay per passenger. Do the math because sharing a taxi between other travelers in your group can work out to be quite an affordable option.
Getting to and From Dublin Airport by Public Transport
There are multiple ways to reach Dublin Airport using public transportation but the most affordable is by bus — either those run by Dublin Bus or by other private companies. The main transportation options between the airport and the city are:
- Bus: There are a number of different buses available here, for both travel into Dublin, and travel to other Irish destinations. All buses leave within an easy walking distance of Terminal 1 but the walk to more modern Terminal 2 is considerably longer. The most popular bus is Airlink 747 which makes multiple stops in the city center and costs €7 for a one-way ticket. All other buses to the city center stop in the same area at the airport so you can also choose to take whichever arrives first.
- Taxi: There is a well-signposted and controlled staging area for taxis outside both terminals. Bear in mind that a taxi might start to make economic sense when you have a group of four or more passengers (six- and seven-seaters are available, but you may have to wait a bit), and it will drop you off in front of your destination, rather than at the nearest stop on a pre-planned route like the bus.
There is no train connection to Dublin Airport though plans to add a rail link have been in the discussion phase for many years.
Rental Cars in Dublin
Driving in Dublin is not recommended because of traffic, the small size of the city center, the convenience of public transportation and the cost of parking. If you do choose to rent a car in Dublin, there are a few small rental agencies in residential areas of the city but it is best to pick up a car at one of the agencies near the Dublin Airport. Here you will find a greater selection (and free shuttles to and from the terminals). Keep in mind that you will have to pay a toll to enter Dublin via the M50.