Taking a bus in Dublin? The good news first - it's generally a great experience to explore Dublin by bus, and the system operated is fairly easy to master.
However, it does have its pitfalls. Tales of tourists abandoned at the back of beyond in pitch darkness, to fight their way back into Dublin are usually exaggerated ... but rarely totally fictional. Don't become the hero if such a tale, just follow some simple advice.
Get a Bus Map of Dublin
The office of Dublin Bus in O'Connell Street can supply good maps outlining the routes. As they are free it might be a good idea to get one immediately. Alternatively visit the website of Dublin Bus and search for bus connections by street name - though this is far less visual and a much more cumbersome process.
Get the Relevant Timetables
Once you have a map you will be able to quickly identify the routes you are most likely to travel - like between your hotel and the city centre. You can pick up printed timetables free by route number in the Dublin Bus office. Or you might visit their website and download timetables. Note that only major bus stops will display timetables at all ... and those are often vandalized.
Consider a Leap Card
If you are planning on using the bus regularly and several times a day - you may want to purchase a Leap Card, which can be used on several private bus services, the LUAS, the DART, and even the Suburban Rail Network.
Stock up on Change
If you are not using a Leap Card, be prepared to carry change - drivers will only accept the correct fare in cash. You may overpay, change is not given - instead you get a slip enabling you to redeem the excess in O'Connell Street (awkward). Drivers are at times very reluctant to accept paper money at all, and credit cards will get you nowhere, literally
Identify a Bus Stop
Bus stops are normally identified by a blue "lollypop sign" showing the Dublin Bus logo (red signs usually mark Bus Eireann stops). In a very minimalistic moment it was decided that any further information is unnecessary at most stops, so do expect no information boards, timetables or even route maps.
Many modernised bus stops now show the approximate time at which the next bus will arrive, using an LCD display.
Make Sure You Are on the Correct Side of the Road
The Irish drive on the left - which may lead to confusion if you are coming from continental Europe or the Americas. Your normal sense of direction may lead you to the wrong side of the road, instead of catching a bus into the city center you might catch one actually coming from there.
Queue or Earn Withering Glances
People in Ireland will queue in an orderly fashion when boarding a bus, with only ticket holders squeezing past those waiting to pay the driver. Jump the queue and you are at the receiving end of withering glances and scathing remarks.
Look Out for Your Bus and Check the Sign
Most bus stops serve several routes - so look out for buses approaching and check the route number. Then check the sign. Though usage can be erratic (and downright confusing) it should display the general direction.
An Lar is Irish for "City Centre", As Seirbhis for "Out of Service. And "Bus Full" means exactly that.
Always Make Sure it is the Right Route
Take note that some routes are split into A, B and C sub-routes, running parallel for some time, then splitting dramatically. If you are on a 38C and should be on a 38A, you might as well have taken the fast service to Lhasa - if in doubt, ask the driver whether he actually passes your destination.
Wave the Bus Down - Literally
Buses generally do not stop without you requesting it. Unless you clearly signal your intention to board the bus you will be left standing at the bus stop (and rain will set in two seconds later). Wave down the bus by hailing the driver. And never trust other people to do so - they might be waiting for a different route or simply be loitering!
Take a Seat ... or Hold on Tight
The best piece of advice after entering a bus is "Find a seat, now!" Buses tend to go quite fast, especially around corners, and older buses tend to lurch like there is no tomorrow. Unless you sit or hold on tight you will be thrown about.
Get the IMAX-Experience on a Doubledecker
If possible, sit in the front seats of the upper deck - the view is breathtaking. Sometimes literally, as drivers tend to prefer coming to a stop just inches away from buses in front of them. Occasional screams of panic from first-time visitors to Dublin are the result.
Watch Out for Your Stop
Again - buses go full tilt until asked to stop, this means that the last few hundred yards to your stop can be very quick. And there are no announcements. If in doubt ask the driver to help you and give you a shout, most will do so gladly.
Push the Button to Make the Bus Stop
If you see your stop approaching (or know it is the next one), push the "Stop" button and you will hear a satisfying *PING*. The driver will then slow down when approaching the next stop, giving you time to get to the exit.
Mind Your Step!
With Dublin traffic being notorious for drivers ducking in and out of lanes, expect the bus to occasionally swerve and lurch at any time. This is especially dangerous if you are negotiating the stairs from the upper deck downwards, so get a good grip.
The Dublin Bus offices in O'Connell Street will help you with all enquiries, including property lost or forgotten on the buses. Don't expect miracles, though - many Dubliners adhere to the code of "Finders Keepers".