In Ireland, breakfast is often included with the cost of your room. Booking and hotel Web sites often indicate "bed and breakfast" packages (which for many places is the default package), and if they don't, you will almost always be given an option to add breakfast for an additional fee. Most places offer a hot and cold buffet with the typical Irish breakfast options -- fried eggs, bacon, sausages, black and white pudding (another type of sausage), mushrooms, grilled tomato and baked beans.
A typical feature of nearly all rooms, from five-star to super budget, is a tea set: hot water kettle, some tea bags, milk, sugar and sometimes cookies. Having a cup of "tay" is somewhat of a ritual for the Irish; rarely do you drink a cup without a touch of milk and a little treat.
When booking any accommodation in Ireland, be sure to find out if the quoted rate is a per-night or a per-person rate.
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As in most countries, there is a star-rating system for hotels in Ireland.
Five-star hotels offer the very best in service and comfort, as well as in sheer space. European hotel rooms are notoriously small, and Ireland is no different, but most five-star hotels offer spacious rooms and suites. Types of five-star hotels in Ireland range from decades-old castles to stately country manors and sleek city hotels; a good number also feature award-winning restaurants.
Four-star hotels provide high-quality service, relatively spacious rooms and all the modern amenities. Most also feature notable restaurants and room service. Hotels in this category would usually be classified as modern-style or upscale country estate-style hotels.
Three-star hotels feature solid service, in-room telephone, television and a private bathroom with shower and/or bathtub. The service is more relaxed than in four- to five-star locales, and offerings such as room service are frequently not available.
Two-star hotels typically offer charm and character over luxury, with suitable accommodation for those who are more interested in saving money than getting extras. Rooms have telephones and a private bathroom, and most two-star hotels have a casual restaurant or cafe.
One-star hotels are for those on a budget. Rooms feature the basics: bed, telephone and maybe a private bathroom, and service is likely a more "help yourself" type of offering.
A good resource for Ireland hotels is GoIreland.com.
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Bed and Breakfasts
Bed and breakfasts are hugely popular in Ireland, though they are known more as a budget-friendly option than as luxury accommodation. While there are four- and five-star B&B's in Ireland, the majority are in the one- to three-star range and are geared toward those who prefer "cheap and chipper" over style and glamour. Some one-star B&B's are just a step up from a hostel, with shared bathrooms and very little in regards to amenities. A two-star B&B may be as basic as a room with a bed, a small television and a shared bathroom; the unfussy breakfast just eggs and toast and some cereal. Three-star B&B's will feature more amenities and likely offer more breakfast options; many will have a small menu with two to three main course choices for hot food.
Luxury B&B's are rare but do exist; they offer all the amenities of five-star hotels, though the service and fixtures may differ slightly based on the particular B&B's theme or approach. For example, there are a number of luxury B&B's in country locations that specialize in peace and quiet, and therefore may opt not to offer televisions in the rooms.
No matter what classification of B&B you stay in, remember that it's more like staying at someone's private home than it is a hotel; check-in and check-out times may be somewhat limited, and guests are not as anonymous as they are in big hotels. The Irish are extremely friendly and accommodating, so if you're looking for an authentic Irish experience, a B&B might be your best option.
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For bookings, visit BandBIreland.com.
There's a lot of confusion as to the difference between a bed and breakfast and a guesthouse. Technically a B&B offers a small number of bedrooms and no common area for guests to hang out in (other than the kitchen during breakfast). Meanwhile, a guesthouse is a larger home, typically with at least five bedrooms and a lounge and/or sitting area(s) where people can gather to socialize or just relax on their own.
Guesthouses in Ireland range from five-star to three-star and are typically stately manor houses and large estates with a lush, spacious yard or garden area. Sometimes, however, B&Bs will list themselves as guesthouses and vice versa, so be sure to check closely depending on what you're looking for. Guesthouses, like many B&B's, are mostly family run and always include breakfast as part of the per-night rate.
HiddenIreland.com specializes in private estates and manor houses.
If you'd rather have your own space without the distraction of other guests, a self-catering house or apartment may be exactly what you're looking for. This type of accommodation ranges from country houses to city apartments (with everything in between) and is available in price ranges from super budget all the way to money-is-no-object.
This option is ideal if you want to stay in an area for longer than a few days and really explore. With fully stocked kitchens (as in appliances, not food), you can do your own cooking. You can live like a local, venture out, do your shopping at the market and cook your own homemade Irish feast. You can rent anything from a thatched-roof cottage to a splendid stone castle.
See SelfCatering.ie for rentals.
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Camping and Caravans
With more than 200 official campsites and miles of lush, green hills, Ireland is a wonderful place for camping and caravanning (RV's, motorhomes, etc.). And because you're responsible for your own food and amenities, this is one of the cheaper options if you already have camping equipment.
The only downside to camping in Ireland is the unpredictable and often cold and wet weather. But the weather never stops the Irish; they say if they waited for sunny weather to do something, they'd never do anything! So if you're willing to brave the elements, camping can be a great way to see the Irish countryside.
See Camping-Ireland.ie for comprehensive info on camping and caravanning.
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--written by Clare Kleinedler, AnAmericaninIreland.com