Health, Safety, and Practical Concerns
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Safety is a pleasantly straightforward topic in Ireland. Be smart. But don't worry.
Crime is a relatively minor issue in Ireland, though you should expect roughly what you'd
expect anywhere else in Europe - things get a little worse in the bigger cities, and you need
to be careful with your valuables. But people frequently leave their doors unlocked in the
countryside, and there's very little violent crime. Most police officers don't even carry guns.
Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, has a reputation as being violent and even war-torn -
we'll explore the history of that violence in Part V, but for now it's enough to say that trav-
elers have nothing to worry about. Ever since the peace agreement in 1998, the incidence of
terrorist attacks has declined dramatically, and although the political situation remains tense,
there are no signs of an imminent eruption of violence.
The police in Ireland are known as the Gardaí (sing. Garda ), often simply called the
“guards.” They're extremely courteous and helpful, and quite happy to assist tourists.
Drive on the left in Ireland. Better yet, don't drive at all, especially in the countryside. These
days, the roads are generally well-maintained and drivers obey the laws, but this is a rel-
atively new development. Before the influx of EU money, the Irish countryside had a no-
toriously unreliable infrastructure, and cars would frequently drive right down the center-
line rather than staying in their lane. This has led to hair-raising stories, still passed down
in many youth hostels and tourist-heavy barrooms across the island. Although things have
improved dramatically over the last couple of decades, it's still best to leave your driving
needs in the hands of experienced locals.
Ireland has no special health concerns, but normal precautions always apply:
• Keep your shoes on when walking in rural areas.