Ireland is my favourite country in the world! The people are friendly and loads of fun, there are pubs on every corner, and it's a beautiful place to boot! Ok the weather sucks, but that just gives you an excuse to pull up a stool, park yourself at a local pub and get chatting with the locals.
There's more to Ireland than getting drunk though! Because it's a small place with a good bus network, getting around Ireland is quick and easy and if you spend a year here you'll be able to see as much as you want... if your hangovers aren't too bad. Plus Ireland is well connected to Europe thanks to the country's budget airline, Ryanair, which makes taking trips across to the mainland quick and eask as well.
Ireland is packed with history and culture too and the Irish are always keen to spin a yarn and tell a story. If you're into music then you'll be in heaven! I'm convinced that every single Irish person can sing beautifully and music is a huge part of Irish culture. If you play an instrument, bring it with you and you might even be able to join in a session at one of the zillions of pubs, especially in small towns.
Ireland is a popular destination for Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians and especialy Americans as it's one of the few countries that make it pretty easy for them to get a visa. It also seems to be a popular place for French people to come to practise their English and I'm told there's been a Polish invasion in the past few years, so there will be lots of different people to meet if you get bored of talking to Irish people... but I don't think that's possible!
Dublin will be the first port of call for most new arrivals and staying at one of the many Dublin hotels is a great way to relax in the comfort of your own room before having to brave life in a dorm room at a hostel or heading out to hit the streets in search of a job or an apartment. Pampering yourself a bit on arival will go a long way.
I lived in Ireland for 3 months in 2000 when the country was still on the Irish £ and was paying a measly £8/night at a hostel for my accommodation. Some friends of mine were paying about £30/week in a flat nearby. It was a dive but you get what you pay for! Since the introdution of the euro, Ireland has gotten far more expensive across the board, accommodation included. That same hostel in Galway (Salmon Weir Hostel) now costs 13 euro which is a big jump. Plus that's one of the cheaper ones, most seem to start at 15-20 euros.
Getting around Ireland can be costly, despite the place being pretty small! Trains don't really go to many places and are expensive and slow. Bus Eireann is the way to go with coverage to almost anywhere in the country at reasonable prices. Discounts are given for students and travel passes are available. Hiring a car is a good way to get around and hitching is supposed to be quick and easy here.
To open a bank account in Ireland you will need two forms of ID including one with a photo on it (such as your passport) plus proof of residence in Ireland such as a utility bill. If you have just arrived and are staying in a backpacker's hostel as many people do then you won't be able to get a bill. Sometimes a letter from your employer with a letter from the manager of your hostel stating your are staying there will be enough.
The tax year in Ireland runs from 1st January to 31st December and everyone, both residents and non-residents, are required to file a tax return. This must be done by 30th June the following year. Due to a variety of factors it is difficult to tell exactly what you should be taxed or if your tax rate is correct. Plus if you've been emergency taxed for your first few weeks of working then you will probably be due a refund at the end of the tax year. More information on tax can be found at Revenue.
A social insurance number in Ireland is called a PRSI Number (Pay Related Social Insurance Number) and without this you will be emergency taxed a whopping 50%! Once you get your number the amount you contribute will depend on the type of job you do and how much you earn and you will get a card in the mail in a few weeks which can be used to go to the hospital, doctor etc. Income tax is also deducted and is called PAYE (Pay as You Earn).
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