Train travel from London to Ireland with a combined train and ferry ticket is the easiest way to travel. London to Dublin costs just £24 one-way, £48 return (£2 more each way in July & August) with unlimited availability, valid on any train and on any ferry run by your chosen ferry operator, at any time, on any day. You just need to choose your route and ferry operator. A ticket starting at your local station costs either the same, or less.
Train and ferry is the traditional way to travel to Ireland, through the countryside by train and across the Irish Sea by ship. It's a much better alternative to flying.
In just under 4 hours you can arrive in Holyhead (north Wales) from London and then either:
Irish Ferries operate both the 'Ulysses' cruise ferry and the 'Dublin Swift' fast catamaran from Holyhead to Dublin Ferryport. Train+ferry tickets for Irish Ferries are valid on both the cruise ferry and the Swift.
Dublin Swift - this is the fast catamaran taking just 1 hour 49 minutes to cross to Dublin Ferryport. There are reclining seats and refreshments available on board.
Ulysses - is the 50,000 ton, the worlds largest, car ferry taking 3 hours 15 minutes. The Ulysses is more line a cruise liner with bars, lounges, a restaurant and even a cinema. There are also open decks and for an extra charge you can have a private cabin with a shower and toilet.
There is a shuttle bus from Dublin Ferryport to the city centre & main railway stations, fare about £1.50, pay on the bus.
Children aged 5 to 15 travel at a 50% reduced fare. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Unaccompanied children 16-17 years old must have written authority to travel from their parent or guardian.
Bicycles go free on Irish Ferries, no special reservation required. Bikes are also carried on trains to Holyhead, but reservations are usually required and a small fee is payable.
Unfortunately, foot passengers cannot take dogs on Irish Ferries.
Train travel is much better value as many cheap flights are non transferrable, whereas these train+ferry fares are flexible - you need a reserved place on the ferry, but you can change your travel plans as you like, and leave your return open, making the ferry reservation for the return journey in Dublin when you know when you want to come back. Train travel also takes you from city centre to city centre, not airport to airport. When comparing the cost of a flight, remember that it will cost £12 one-way or £24 return for the train ride from central London to or from Luton, Stansted or Gatwick airports, in addition to the air fare. Also remember that short-haul airlines are the fastest-growing contributor to global warming.
Buying tickets if you're in the UK - book London to Ireland rail+sea tickets in person at most British railway stations or by calling the sailrail booking line, 08450 755 755 or visit www.sailrail.co.uk for more information. Another option is to call Virgin Trains on 0845 7 222 333. It is not possible to book tickets to Ireland online.
How to buy tickets if you're in Ireland - from Dublin to London, the normal flexible one-way train+ferry fare is 39 euros (42 euros in July & August). If you're in Ireland, you can buy these cheap rail+sea tickets by calling Irish Railways on (01) 703 1884 or Irish Ferries on 0818 300 400 or in person at Irish Rail's travel centre at 35 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1 or by e-mail to
Buying tickets if you're overseas - It's recommended that you wait until you arrive in the UK and book at your train station. The cheap flexible fares have unlimited availability so you don't need to book far in advance. Tickets can be posted to any UK address or alternatively you can pick them up at any UK rail stations.
Train times from other UK cities to Dublin - Simply choose a ferry crossing that suits you thhen use the online train timetable at www.nationalrail.co.uk to find train times from your starting station to Holyhead to connect. Allow at least 50 minutes between the train arrival and the ferry departure at Holyhead.
The fastest option, though now not the most frequent, with a 1 hour 40 minute sea crossing and a ferry terminal right next to the station in Holyhead is using Stena Line HSS which also has bars, restaurants, lounges and a cinema.
London to Rosslare & Waterford
A regular fully integrated train and ferry service from London Paddington to Rosslare in Southern Ireland via Fishguard is now available. Inclusive rail and sea tickets are sold from any UK railway station to any Irish railway station via this route. Connecting buses and trains link Rosslare with Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick.
From London to Cork via Holyhead - this is the most regular route. Simply travel from London to Dublin on any of the train+ferry services shown in the London to Dublin section above, then take an Irish Rail InterCity train from Dublin to Cork. Visit www.irishrail.ie, the Irish Rail website, to check train times from Dublin to Cork. You can buy a through ticket from any UK station to Cork via either via Stena Line or via Irish Ferries - the fare from any UK railway station to Cork is £15 one-way or £30 return more than the appropriate fare to Dun Laoghaire with Stena Line or Dublin Ferryport with Irish Ferries. So London to Cork costs £39 one-way or £78 return.
You can buy tickets at your local railway station, or by calling Virgin Trains on 0845 7 222 333 or (if you plan to travel with Stena Line) directly with Stena Line on 0870 5 455 455.
From London to Cork via Swansea to Cork Ferries
Travel by train from London to Swansea and then on a direct Swansea-Cork ferry. First, check sailing dates and times with Swansea-Cork Ferries, at www.swanseacorkferries.com. As of 2006, sailings won't operate in deep winter but will resume in March. Once you know the sailing times, you can check train times from your local station to Swansea with www.thetrainline.com. Allow at least 3 hours to transfer which includes a 2 hour check in allowance, between train and ship at Swansea. A bus is provided from Swansea station to the docks, included in the price of all combined train+ferry tickets. The ferry arrives at Cork's Ringaskiddy ferry terminal, 12 miles from Cork. Buses link Ringaskiddy with Cork city centre, included in the fare if you buy a ticket to Cork City, but not included if you only buy a ticket to Cork Ringaskiddy.
Swansea to Cork Ferries 'Superferry' is one of the more elderly ships serving the UK, but is still comfortable. When the ship sails into Cork Harbour, make sure you're on deck - she sails between the headlands at the harbour entrance where the trans-Atlantic liners, including the Titanic, dropped anchor to pick up passengers from Cobh (called Queenstown before 1920), then passes right by Cobh seafront on the way to the ferry dock at Cork Ringaskiddy. The yellow 'Titanic Bar' is the old White Star Line shipping office, where the Titanic passengers boarded the tenders taking them out to the ship in June 1912. The low red building next along to the right of it is the old Cunard office where survivors (and victims) of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 were brought ashore.
There are inclusive fares available from ANY English, Scottish or Welsh railway station to ANY Irish railway station via this sea route. London to Cork Ringaskiddy from £70 to £87, London to Cork City from £73 to £93, Bristol to Cork City from £57 to £83 and Birmingham to Cork City £68 to £91.
Call the SailRail booking line on 08450 755 755 or in person at any UK railway station
You can check out www.sailrail.co.uk for more information although you cannot book online.
Once you have bought your ticket, you can book cabins yourself, should you want one, direct with Swansea-Cork Ferries by calling 01792 456 116. Pullman seats are free, and there's no need to book these in advance.
London to other places in Ireland:
London to Limerick - You have two main choices:
From London to Dublin via Holyhead, then take an Irish Rail InterCity train from Dublin to Limerick. See the 'London to Dublin' section, then visit the Irish Rail website, www.irishrail.ie, to check train times from Dublin to Limerick. Then get a through ticket from any UK station to Limerick via this route - Limerick is £15 more oneway or £30 more return than the equivalent fare to Dun Laoghaire with Stena Line or Dublin Ferryport with Irish Ferries.
Or you can travel from London to Limerick by connecting train+ferry+train service via Fishguard and Rosslare. See the London to Rosslare & Waterford section above for times. You can buy a through ticket from any UK station to Limerick via this route.
London to Sligo, Galway, Kilkenny, Tralee - Train travel to these destinations from London, Birmingham or Manchester, would probably be via Holyhead to Dublin/Dun Laoghaire - see the 'London to Dublin' section above for train and ship times from London to Dublin. Then visit the Irish Rail website, www.irishrail.ie, to check train times from Dublin to Sligo, Kilkenny, Tralee or Galway. You can buy a through ticket from any UK station to Sligo, Galway or Tralee (or any station in Ireland) via this route - the fare to Sligo, Galway, Kilkenny or Tralee is £27 more than the equivalent fare to Dun Laoghaire with Stena Line or £25 more than the equivalent fare to Dublin Ferryport with Irish Ferries.
Tickets are issued using one ferry operator for both inward and outward journeys - you cannot go out and back with different operators.
For a really interesting trip - get a map of Ireland out and remember you can book tickets to any Irish railway station - just choose which ferry crossing you want to take.
Train travel in Ireland
Train travel is a pleasant and relaxing way to get around Ireland. As you'd expect, most rail lines radiate out of Dublin. Trains run from Dublin (Heuston Station) to Limerick (2 hour 45 minutes), Cork (2 hour 40 minutes - change at Cork for Cobh), Sligo (3 hours), Killarney, Tralee, Galway (2 hours 45 minutes), Kilkenny, Waterford. Trains also link Dublin (Connelly Station) with Belfast, Dun Laoghaire, Bray, Wicklow, Wexford and Rosslare. Dublin to Belfast takes just 2 hours on the modern 'Enterprise' express trains.
For Irish train times & fares, see the Irish Railways website, www.irishrail.ie. Irish rail enquiries are on (in Ireland) 01 836 6222 or (calling from outside Ireland) 00 353 1 836 6222.
The Thomas Cook European Timetable
The Thomas Cook European timetable has train travel, bus and ferry times for every country in Europe, plus currency and climate information. It's essential for any independent traveller. It costs around £11.50 and is available from the 'Books on Rail Travel' section of this website.
Never travel by train, independently or in a group, without a good guidebook. The best guides are the the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. Both guidebooks have the same excellent level of practical information and cultural and historical background. Again these are available from the 'Books on Rail Travel' section of this website.
If you're on a very tight budget you may find a room or a bed in a dorm at a backpacker hostel. Take a look at www.hostelbookers.com.
Travel insurance isn't a luxury - it's a necessity. Ensure its included in your holiday budget. There are many providers these days so shop around to get the best deal but always make sure you have adequate cover and that it is underwritten by a reliable insurer. Sometimes an annual multi trip is cheaper than separate policies for each trip.
EU health card
UK citizens travelling in Europe should carry a European Health Insurance Card. This replaces the old E111 forms as from January 2006. The EHIC card is available free from www.ehic.org.uk and entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the UK's NHS.