Saturday, June 28, 2014

The art of riding a bus in Dublin

"To O'Connell Street", I said to the driver after having asked him how to use the new transport cards.
"Right O'Connell or left O'Connell?", he answered with a big smile on his lips.
"Excuse me, what do you mean?"
"Oh, just joking," he said now laughing, "O'Connell Street then. There you go."

Riding a bus in Dublin can be an intimidating thing to do for first-timers in the city and not only because drivers can be that funny. Driving on left side on the road and the English-Irish dichotomy of place names make something as simple as taking a bus a rather confusing task at first. Besides, there are some other subtleties which make riding a bus in Dublin an art rather than an ordinary daily action. But fear not, with the tips I'm be sharing in this post you will master the art of traveling by bus in Dublin as soon as you set foot on the Irish capital.


Usually, a bus ride is an easy thing to do. You learn which line to take, check the schedule, wait for the bus, step in, ride, step out and that's it. From A to B, the bus takes you to your destination in a convenient way, just like it does in Dublin. Kind of.

The first difficulty to overcome in Dublin is the language barrier. Google maps and virtually every map of the city will have all street names in English and finding out where you're going should be an easy thing to do. However, when you start checking the names of bus stops and try to figure out where to stop things start to get complicated. Sometimes it is just impossible to know where to stop or how long it will take you to get to your destination because most of the time the itineraries are given in Irish and Irish names have nothing to do with English names, at least for foreigners with zero knowledge of Gaelic Irish. Besides bus times only refer to the start point so it is nearly impossible to know at which time your bus will be due.

The next thing to figure out is how much to pay for your ride. People usually throw some coins in the machine and tell the driver how much to charge. Fees are charged per zones so you're expected to know how many zones you're traveling and how much you're supposed to pay, which is a rather difficult thing to know when you're new to a city or are there only for a couple of days. Anyway, drivers are always happy to help and if you ask them, they will not only tell you how much to pay but where to step out and even give you tips on what to see around. Bear in mind that the machine does not give change so you better put in the exact amount. Otherwise you'll get a ticket refund which can only be exchanged at the central bus office in O'Connell Street. 

So, you're finally figured out which bus to take, where to stop and how much to pay, grand! Now you only have to get through the traffic of Dublin, which can be a real nightmare on peak hours. Thankfully, riding a bus in Dublin also has a pleasant social side to it. When the bus finally arrives people queue to get in it in a quite orderly manner. People step in, greet the driver and tell him or her where they're going to get charged the right amount. Then take a seat, enjoy the bumpy ride until they reach their destination and finally queue again to step out by the front door. And just before leaving, it is only polite to thank the driver for the ride and to wish him a nice day. Eventually, I'm starting to suspect that it's all these courtesies what make buses so slow in Dublin, and not the heavy traffic.

Dublin bus stop

Anyway, technology is making it easier to ride a bus in Dublin. Most stops have now electronic panels displaying real time information, so it is always clear when the next bus is due (almost always). And there's also the Dublin Bus app, which will inform you of the next bus due to your stop via your mobile phone. 

Cash payment and paper tickets are also being phased out by the introduction of the Leapcard, which makes it easier, and also cheaper, to travel in and around Dublin. It works like the Oystercard in London or the OVcard in the Netherlands. You top it with any amount and every time you ride a bus, or tram or train, you check in and the right amount is subtracted. Besides, there's a cap for daily and weekly expenditure, which is great news if you travel often by bus - like I do. If using only buses, the cap is €27, so once you've reached that amount you're not charged anymore for the rest of the week - I usually cap by Thursday, so I can take all the buses I want for free on Fridays and during the weekend.

Finally, new buses are incorporating a back door but most of the time, people still queue to leave through the front door. After all, it wouldn't be nice to leave a bus and not thank the driver for the lovely ride. Yep, riding a bus in Dublin can be a nightmarish experience but also a good one with great views, if you know how to do it and sit on the front of the top floor! Here are some photos of Dublin as seen from the bus.

Dublin river Liffey


Dublin O'Connell Bridge

Dublin bus

Have a lovely weekend!


  1. Qué buenas estas curiosidades sobre lal vida en Dublín y especialmente el tema de los autobuses. Algunos amigos míos que han visitado Dublín me han dicho que aunque hablaban inglés no se enteraban de qué decía la gente. Te han quedado muy bien las fotos para ser desde el autobús. Bss, Irene :)

  2. I've only been to Dublin once and didn't use the buses, but I think they've got a pretty wicked sense of humour which I'd totally get on with! xx Rebecca - UK fashion blog

  3. Oh, Dublin is so beautiful! :) The bus riding part does sound a bit complicated. :) Thanks for teaching me all about it. I like that you thank the driver for the ride! Very polite!

  4. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss riding those buses everyday :)

  5. It's so lovely there, but OMG'D I would get stuck on how many ZONES I would need. LOL


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