Getting around Ireland sans a car is not the simplest of things. Yes, there are a number of options, but there are not plenty of cheap and quick options. Let’s say, for example, you want to go from Dublin to Cork – a very heavily trafficked route, to be sure, and one that many people – both locals and visitors alike – are bound to undertake at some point.
By Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail), the journey is a little less than 3 hours. Sounds good until you realise that a return ticket costs a whopping €47 (and only goes up from there)! Bus Éireann, by contrast, charges only €20.90 for a return journey between Dublin and Cork, but takes a full four and a half hours to get there.
Despite it’s rather specific name, Aircoach offers services well beyond the airport (although they have those too for a decent enough price). For our hypothetical Dublin-Cork journey, Aircoach charges a mere €22 return and does the journey in 3 hours 45 minutes.
Now, I have my reservations about bus journeys, mainly because I find them cramped and bumpy and all other manner of ill comforts. So, I was a bit hesitant about booking Aircoach from Dublin to Cork over Christmas. But, in these trying times, we of course wanted to save a few quid, so this seemed like our best option.
The trip down from Dublin to Cork was, admittedly, a bit of a trial. The coach was smaller than I expected and had no toilet, which left us with coffee bladders for the first half of the ride. Luckily, there is a “comfort break” on this journey, with a stop at a large petrol station in Urlingford (exactly 2 hours from Dublin) where toilets, cheap coffees and breakfast rolls abound. There are also two very friendly donkeys that stick their heads over the wall near the smoking area looking for treats.
The trip back from Cork to Dublin was considerably better. It was a different coach model with much bigger seats, foot rests and, yes! a toilet! This return coach also boasted leather seats and more leg room and was generally a lot more comfortable (comfort break was the same on the way back).
One thing I have to laud Aircoach for is the existence of free wifi on board. What a huge leap! I’m not sure why other transport services find it so difficult to get this service going, but this was a wonderful service that allowed us to read the news, email and keep in touch with the family we were heading to see. (Connection was a bit spotty on the return route, for some reason).
So, the question is, would I recommend Aircoach? Yes and no. If you are looking for a semi-comfortable, slightly quicker and much cheaper way of getting from Dublin to Cork, this is a great option (CityLink, meanwhile, provides similar services to/from Galway and Limerick). If money is not such a problem but comfort is, take the train. Bus Éireann? I can’t honestly see a reason to use it unless you’re going to a small town or village that is otherwise unserved by public transport.