Public transportation has improved massively over the last few years, but it is still worse than in other European cities. This is more of a problem for the commuter than the visitor to Dublin, however, as the city centre is easy to get around on foot.
The Luas (a tram/light-rail system) runs frequently and reliably, and is handy for getting around the city centre. There are two lines: Red - running from Connolly railway station and the Point Theatre to the suburb of Tallaght) and Green - running from Saint Stephen's Green to Bride's Glen in Cherrywood. The lines do not connect. The distance between Abbey Street on the Red line and Saint Stephen's Green, the start of the Green line, is about a 15min walk. Tickets can be bought on the platforms at the machines and do not need to be validated. The fare structure is based on zones, with rides within the central zone costing €1.60. A large further expansion of this network is expected within the next decade.
The DART suburban rail service runs along the coast between Greystones in the south and Howth and Malahide in the north. Tickets can be bought in the stations, from a window or a machine. There are four other suburban rail lines servicing areas around Dublin: map. Three of these lines operate from Connolly Station, the other from Heuston Station.
An extensive bus service, operated by the state-controlled Dublin Bus, serves the city and its suburbs, right out to the very outer suburbs. There are around 200 bus routes in Dublin. However, the route numbering system is highly confusing, with numbers having been issued non-sequentially, with suffix letters and alternate destinations. The bus will display its final destination on the front of the bus, but there are no announcements for intermediate stops; therefore, obtaining a route map from Dublin Bus is essential.
Unfortunately, there is no system map available on-line. There is a Dublin Bus mobile phone app which can give directions only if you know exactly which bus stop you want to go from and to, but does provide real-time arrival information. Google Transit does not work in Ireland as of September 2013, but hittheroad.ie does have a journey planner that can take you from address to address using Dublin Bus, Luas, and DART as appropriate.
Here are some other pointers about using the bus services:
Recently introduced, Leap Card is a rechargeable E-purse card that can be used across Dublin Bus services, Luas and DART/Commuter rail lines within the city metropolitan area. Leap cards can be purchased in some outlets in both terminals of Dublin Airport, and at retail outlets within the city area displaying "Leap Card" adverts. The card costs €10 to purchase and comes with €5 credit and a €5 reserve credit. The card can be topped up at retail outlets, Luas ticket machines and shortly at DART/commuter rail station ticket machines. The card can also be managed on-line with balance retrieval and top up at the Leap Card website. The card should be tagged on and tagged off at Luas stop validator poles, and when entering rail stations through the turnstiles. On buses, either present the card to the reader on the drivers machine and state your destination (the driver will deduct the correct fare from the card) or present the card to the reader on the right hand side of the door (a flat maximum fare of €2.45 will be deducted). You do not need to tag off when leaving the bus. The Leap Card fares are not integrated across different modes of public transport at the current time of writing, so no capping or rebate is applied for multiple uses of the card. Fare are however on average 10-18% cheaper paying with a Leap card than paying with cash.
Hiring a bicycle is a handy way to get around if you want to get outside the very centre of the city and are comfortable cycling in traffic. That being said, the city is not very bicycle-friendly, either in terms of quantity & quality of bike paths, pedestrians and drivers honouring the bike paths, road space available where there is no bike path (i.e. numerous narrow roads), or driver attitudes in general.
There are bikes to hire in several locations around the city centre with the Dublinbikes scheme, and there is also a bike hire place located at the entrance to the Phoenix Park, Dublin 8. When cycling in Phoenix Park, note that while there is a dedicated cycle lane on both sides of the main thoroughfare unfortunately pedestrians also use these. When cycling in the city centre, be aware that cycle lanes, where they exist, are generally shared with buses, taxis, motorcycles, and parked cars; cyclists should pay particular attention when approaching bus stops where a bus is pulling out.
Motorbikes are not allowed to use the cycle lanes, but many still do so. Passing on the left is also allowed only in limited circumstances but is in fact still common.
Driving in Dublin is not to be recommended for much of the day, particularly in the city centre. Traffic can be heavy and there is an extensive one-way system, which some say is explicitly designed to make it very difficult for cars to enter the city centre. Dublin is infamous for its jaywalkers, colloquially known as "lemmings" for a reason. There are a large number of bus lanes (buses, taxis and pedal cycles are permitted to use them; others are vigilantly fined). It's usually lawful to drive in bus lanes at the off-peak times displayed on signs. If you explicitly must travel into the city by private car, do research on your required route (using GPS or even Google Maps) and seek suitable parking in advance.
It can be difficult to find parking other than in multi-storey car parks. On-street parking for short periods is allowed at parking meters, but beware of over-staying your time or you will be "clamped" by the clamping companies who patrol frequently - clamp release fees vary from €70-150 per 24 hours.
A system of two ring roads around the city has been introduced in recent years, with colour coded signs in purple and blue (see the orbital route map - PDF). The M50 is Dublin's motorway, it connects to the M1 (to the north of Ireland and Belfast) near Dublin airport and to the M11 (for Wicklow, Wexford and the South) south of the city and to other motorways and national roads along its "C-shaped" route. It has recently been upgraded so is less congested, and is well signposted.
However, crossing the river using the M50 entails crossing the Westlink bridge. This is a toll bridge with the amount of the toll varying depending on the type of vehicle and how it is paid. It is important to note that the toll cannot be paid at booths while crossing the bridge but must be paid by internet or phone (or using electronic passes in the vehicle), or in certain shops. The vehicle passes through the toll gate without being stopped but the registration plate is photographed automatically. The toll must be paid by 20:00 the following day.
After this deadline, the longer the toll remains unpaid, the higher the fees involved. For foreign registered vehicles, this currently presents no problem as the Irish vehicle registration base does not have access to foreign ownership details, but for Irish registered vehicles, including rental cars, any fees due, including penalties for late payment, may well be reclaimed through the rental company and subsequently from the credit card of the person hiring the car. The car hire company may charge a hefty fee as well (Avis, for example, charges €30 per unpaid toll, on top of the original toll and the €3 notice fee).
Outside of the city centre, parking is generally not an issue, and ample free parking can be found outside of the M50 (and in certain areas within the M50 ring road).
Taxis were deregulated in 2001 leading to a massive oversupply with Dublin now boasting more taxis than New York. This is bad news for taxi drivers but good news for tourists, as taxis are now extremely easy to come by. They may be ordered by telephone, at ranks, or just on the street. Point-to-point trips in the city centre should cost between €6 and €10: many taxi drivers will also offer a set fare if asked. There is a national standardised rate for all taxis.
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