I just returned from a guided tour of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. With the exception of the very long flights it was a delightful experience. I’ll share short perspectives of the trip in the future. I do want to share with you some tips I noted that, if you’re in similar circumstances, may help you better enjoy your trip.
Money. At least one major money exchange would not accept US $ 100 bills for exchange, 50 dollar bills work just fine. I used a Credit Union debit card affiliated with an ATM network – this allowed me to withdraw the currency I needed directly from my credit union checking account in the appropriate currency, either euros or pounds. The exchange rates were satisfactory and the fees bothersome. Check with your financial institution on any daily limits or other restrictions. Let your institution know you may be withdrawing from your account from overseas.
Rain Gear. Bring a hat sun/rain and a rain shell, always. At least bring a large garbage bag. This is wisdom born of experience.
Tax Refund. Update yourself on the (Value Added) tax refund procedures and policies for each country you will visit. Generally, goods that you purchase and do not take into a European Union country may be exempt from the VAT and that tax may be returned to you. For the Republic of Ireland they use a swipe card that records purchases and taxes. Back home, you start the refund process on-line and complete with posting a claim to the contractor in County Galway. I sent my claim off on August 26th; I’ll post the receipt date. The web site is www.shoptaxfree.com. I’m sure the UK has something similar; if I find it I’ll post it. UPDATE: The tax was refunded to my credit card on September 13, 2011.
Neck Pillow, inflatable. Great investment.
Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. Rent the seat pillow (£2). If you have your seat tickets and are a bit early, slip down one road to Market Gardens street, and visit the bar Finnegan’s Wake. What a hoot of a place. Finnegan’s was fun because we found it on our own; it was very neighborly bar with a “bandkaroke” event just before the Tattoo gates open. Tattoo is awesome too, more later.
Bring a wrist or pocket watch.
Bring your hotel chain points cards. On this escorted tour which I’ll presume is similar to most or many such tours, about half were US branded hotel chains or affiliates that gladly awarded the stay to my card.
Sligo, Ireland. Stop and say hello to the folks at Harry’s Bar. View the piranhas, try on a diver’s helmet, and learn how to properly pour a Guinness. Very fun place, stop in if you’re near and have a pint o’.
Washcloth or Facecloth. For those who use a wash/face cloth in cleaning up, you should bring one or several disposable ones, hotels in the Republic of Ireland do not routinely provide them.
Hair Conditioner. Bring enough for your trip.
Shoes. You will probably be in the same shoes for a long periods of time so bring a half of a dryer fabric softener sheet to put in your shoes overnight.
Money Belt. I purchased a cheap one just before we left and it actually did provide the comfort of some security and was not too obvious. One of my great finds. It is called Pacsafe Luggage Cashsafe Belt Wallet from http://www.amazon.com. I provided a detailed review of the belt.