Expat Guide To Living In Ireland

Ireland illustration

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

The Emerald Isle is a small country with a big personality that is a magnet for expats, with 291,000 Brits calling Ireland their home.

Let’s take a walk around the rolling valleys of Eire, and discover what the island has to offer in terms of quality of life, career opportunities and living standards.

With lush green landscapes, a striking coastline, a diverse art culture, and famously welcoming locals, it’s little wonder that Ireland is ranked as the fifth most popular destination abroad for UK nationals.

Although Ireland sits less than 100 miles from the UK, it’s important to remember the country is an independent nation and stays part of the European Union after Brexit.

Best Places To Live In Ireland

Around 30% of people in Ireland live in the capital of Dublin, and so this is far and away from the biggest and busiest place in a country with a total population of 4.9 million.

The most popular cities with expats are:


A cosmopolitan and international city, which still feels historic and pays tribute to its heritage. Half of the 1.4 million residents are aged under 25, with many attending several top-rated universities in the city.

Nightlife is outstanding, public transport excellent, but on the downside, the cost of living is higher than much of the rest of the country. The further outside of the centre you live, the cheaper the rent – the suburbs have some popular expat areas such as Dundrum, Donnybrook and Blackrock


This city is smaller than Dublin, with around 124,000 residents, but still offers modern city living and has growing tech and pharmaceutical industries. Kinsale is about 30 minutes drive away and a popular coastal village and tourist destination.


In the west on the River Corrib and right next to the Atlantic Ocean. Like Cork, Galway has grown significantly with many tech companies setting up shop, and a large Apple data centre in Athenry, just down the road. The city has around 80,000 residents and is a hub of arts, culture and music.


Also, in the west, the small city of Limerick has around 195,000 residents and sits on the River Shannon, close to Cork and Galway. With several large international organisations in the city, it has excellent employment opportunities and is home to Intel, GE Capital, Ingersoll Rand and Veritas Software.


In the southeast, Waterford is a small city of 53,500 and offers lower living costs, cheaper rents; and is hugely popular with expat families. In addition, this seaport holds a tremendous amount of history and is perfect for people who enjoy living along the wild coastline.

Wherever you choose to live in Ireland, it’s wise to research rental costs and property prices in advance.

Rents in Dublin rose 2.7% between June and July 2020, primarily due to the high demand for housing for expats and university students.

House prices are also robust, with the average cost to buy a property being around €267,000 (£243,000) across the country.

Irish Expat Communities

You won’t just find British expats in Ireland; the country is popular with American, Canadian, and European citizens.

Around 12% of the population was born abroad, and approximately 15.5% of people are foreigners in Dublin. There are large expat communities from the UK and countries such as Latvia, Slovakia and Lithuania, so it feels like a truly global community.

With many multinational companies having headquarters or manufacturing centres in Ireland, most expats move here for work. In fact, half of the business service sectors in Ireland are employed through the booming pharmaceutical industry.

Suppose you are considering purchasing property as an investment or living in Europe. Make sure to check out our guide to buying a property in Portugal. A country further afield but still in Europe? Check out the guide to buying property in Greece.

Travelling Around Ireland

Fuel in Ireland is about the same as in the UK, but great public transport networks in the cities negate the need to drive. However, if you live in a small village or a more remote area, a car is the fastest way to get around.

Cycling is also popular, and with around 120 miles of cycle tracks around the capital and 450 public hire bikes, you can travel from one end of Dublin to the other in about half an hour.

People drive on the left, and some of the rural roads, such as the Wild Atlantic Way, make for an iconic road trip. Rental cars are cheap, so many people hire a car if they only need to drive occasionally or for leisure.

As a UK national, you don’t need to convert your British driving license but may do so if you wish.

Public transport links run right across the country, so although services are less regular in rural spots, it is still possible to get around without a car:

  • TFI Local Link provides low-cost public transport in villages and remote parishes.
  • Irish Rail delivers intercity rail links, and Dart trains throughout Ireland.
  • Dublin Bus operates across the capital and out to County Wicklow and County Kildare.
  • Bus Eireann has a network of local, city, community and long-distance bus services.

Geography And Climate

Ireland is a small island exposed to harsh weather coming off the Atlantic Ocean, so that you can expect wild winds, plenty of rain, and mild temperatures year-round.

The Irish Sea is to the east and separates Ireland from England, and the centre of the island offers some of the most unspoilt scenery you’ll find anywhere in Europe.

This consists of mountains, hills, moors, forests, lakes and wetlands, all bracketed by quiet sandy beaches and hidden gems where the gulf stream warms the bays.

Wildlife in Ireland is well preserved, and off the coast of Cork, you can spot seals, dolphins and even whales.

You’ll also find plenty of rivers, with River Shannon running 360 kilometres from the Shannon Estuary down to the Atlantic.

Irish Culture

Irish pub culture and a love of Guinness might be a stereotype, but a reasonably accurate one.

Pubs remain popular in Ireland but aren’t just about drinking. Instead, they act as social clubs, gaming venues, eateries and places to listen to live music.

Irish people are often fiercely proud of their heritage and history – you’ll find plenty of cool and contemporary bars around Dublin, but just as many traditional venues.

Folk music, including the fiddle, acoustic guitars, pianos and native instruments such as the Celtic harp, are still widely enjoyed by all age groups in bars throughout Ireland.

As an expat, here are some tips about how to slot in with the local Irish culture.

Irish Culture Tips

  • People are generally amicable, particularly in local pubs. Don’t be taken aback if a local starts a conversation; they will often be genuinely interested in talking to you.
  • Sometimes things may not move at the pace you’re used to – getting a broadband connection and phone line can take weeks. Buses can be late, and people tend to value spending time doing things carefully, rather than quickly.
  • In rural areas, roads are reasonable if narrow, but it’s not unusual to get stuck in a traffic jam on your way home when the local farmers move their sheep through the village.
  • The weather is unpredictable, even in the height of summer; bring a waterproof with you.
  • Tipping is expected, with 10-15% the norm.
  • Humour is a big part of the culture, and you’ll quickly get used to the craic; usually gentle teasing, storytelling or sharing jokes.
  • It’s best not to get drawn into any conversations about religion, with Catholicism still the main faith and held in respect by most people.

It’s also well worth taking the time to try local foods, although modern Ireland is packed with all the chains and international restaurants you’d expect.

While the Irish staple food is the potato, you’ll find an abundance of rich soups, broths, stews and cakes that are far tastier than most expats expect the cuisine to be.

Jobs And Employment

Ireland has the fastest-growing economy in the EU, and so there are plenty of job opportunities. You’ll often find vacancies in technology, hospitality and tourism, with a fair balance of seasonal and permanent roles.

Almost half of Ireland’s GDP comes from Dublin; hence many expat jobs being based in the capital.

Current skills shortages mean that there are a larger proportion of vacancies in the following.

Roles and Sectors

RoleSectorAverage Salary €Average Salary £
Chartered AccountantBusiness & Finance€63,064£57,270
Business Intelligence AnalystsBusiness & Finance€49,542£45,000
Financial AdviserBusiness & Finance€48,620£44,150
Risk and Compliance InvestigatorBusiness & Finance€47,304£42,960
Biomedical EngineerEngineering€35,263£32,020
Chemical EngineerEngineering€40,478£36,760
Electrical EngineerEngineering€49,873£45,290
Energy EngineerEngineering€32,485£29,500
App DeveloperIT€49,460£44,900
Data AnalystIT€45,597£41,410
Software DeveloperIT€53,456£48,550
IT Support SpecialistIT€26,611£24,170
Logistics ManagerTransport & Logistics€47,842£43,450
Supply Chain ManagerTransport & Logistics€46,863£42,560
Supply Chain AnalystTransport & Logistics€33,295£30,240
Transport ManagerTransport & Logistics€51,591£46,850

The minimum hourly wage in Ireland is €10.10 (around £9.17) compared to £8.72 in the UK, and the average annual salary across all jobs is €38,500 (£34,960), with the UK average being £29,600.

Irish Schools And Education

Irish schools are open to all children of any nationality. So you can expect waiting lists and crowded schools, and it’s wise to apply early or consider private education options.

Public education is free and of high quality; hence many of the schools are being oversubscribed.

You can expect to pay for some costs, such as uniforms, lunches, and learning materials.

If you decide on private education, costs vary significantly between establishments, but the average cost is around €10,000 (£9,050) a year.

You will find world-class private schools and colleges throughout Ireland and prestigious universities, with the most significant based in Dublin. The most popular and highly rated include:

  • Trinity College Dublin – the oldest university in Ireland and a respected research institute offering a wide variety of courses.
  • RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, which has held a royal charter since 1784 and is Ireland’s largest medical school.
  • University College Dublin – actually based in Belfield about four kilometres south of the capital, UCD specialises in humanities and sciences and is renowned worldwide in clinical and health sectors.

Healthcare For Expats In Ireland

UK expats can access state healthcare at any time. However, usually, this is easiest after having lived in Ireland for at least a year when you can comfortably demonstrate that it is your primary country of residence.

Healthcare is provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE), and most services are free or subsidised. 

Healthcare Cost

Costs are relatively low, and some of the typical patient contributions depending on the circumstances and whether you have been referred, are:

  • €100 for an emergency visit.
  • €179 maximum a week for long-stay healthcare with 24/7 care.
  • €134 maximum a week for long-stay healthcare without 24/7 nursing.

Most people living in Ireland take out private healthcare insurance as some services, such as care required following a traffic accident, are not subsidised.

You can apply for a medical card, which exempts you from paying for state healthcare, dental care and any service related to your sight or hearing.

Medical cards are granted to applicants on a means-tested basis and are designed to make health services accessible to low-income residents.

Make sure you get the correct expat healthcare insurance and cover while travelling or living in Ireland.

Cost of Living And Housing

Ireland can be an expensive place to live, but a lot depends on whether you are in the heart of Dublin or enjoying a quiet life in the countryside.

On average, the Irish cost of living, excluding housing, is around 20.6% higher than the UK, with rent around 45.6% more expensive.

Below you can find some everyday living costs, both in Dublin and Limerick, compared with London.

ExpenseDublin €Dublin £Limerick €Limerick £London £
Meal for two€60£55€50£46£60
Cup of coffee€3.31£3.01€3.06£2.78£3.01
Litre of milk€1.01£0.92€1.03£0.94£0.96
Monthly public transport pass€140£127€75£68£150
1 litre of petrol€1.41£1.28€1.43£1.30£1.26
Monthly utilities€161£147€120£109£171
Gym membership€41£37€54£49£43
Nursery fees for one month€1,065£969€841£765£1,436
Monthly rent for a 1-bed central apartment€1,687£1,535€985£896£1,730
Average monthly net salary€2,475£2,252€1,985£1,806£2,845

Interested in other countries in the same region, read our article about the top 10 European expat destinations.

Irish Visas, Passports and Residency

Ireland is an excellent option for British expats, without any requirements to obtain a visa or apply for the right to work. This unique agreement is determined by the Common Travel Area (CTA), which covers:

  • The UK
  • Jersey
  • Guernsey
  • Isle of Man
  • Ireland

The CTA is independent of the EU, so it is not impacted by Brexit, and all the nations have agreed to uphold the terms of the CTA.

Therefore, UK nationals may travel to Ireland, live and work there, and access state benefits and healthcare, including education for school-aged children.

Residency in Ireland

You do not need a visa or to apply for a residency card.

However, you still must inform the tax authorities of your relocation, as this will impact your residency status, banking, pension and social security contributions.

After five years of living in Ireland, you can apply for Long Term Residency or Citizenship through naturalisation.

For Ireland citizens looking to get permanent residency in the UK, look at our Tier 1 Investor Visa guide.

Taxes For Expats In Ireland

Unlike the UK, Irish tax years run alongside the calendar year, and you’ll need to apply for a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) before you start work, which is the equivalent of a British National Insurance number.

The system works quite similarly to that in the UK, with taxes payable being:

  • Income tax – either PAYE or self-assessment
  • Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI)
  • Universal Social Charges (USC)

Universal Social Charges (USC)

USC is paid by all Irish tax residents earning over €13,000 per annum unless your income falls into an exempt category. If you earn over this threshold, you pay USC on all of your income, including the first €13,000. The standard rates are below.

Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI)

PRSI works similarly to National Insurance, with the amount payable depending on your income bracket and other circumstances, with an employer’s and employee’s contribution.

Income tax

Income tax is straightforward and paid at either 20% or 40% depending on your income, with tax credits claimable depending on factors such as your work status and marital status.

Tax is charged on net income after USC, PRSI and pension contributions. The personal allowance depends on your marital status but is typically €1,650 for an individual and €3,300 for a person in a marriage or civil partnership.

Universal Social Charge Rates 2020

Income €Around Income £USC Rate %
Up to €13,000Up to £11,8000%

If earning over €13,000:

Income €Around Income £USC Rate %
Up to €12,012Up to £10,9000.5%
€12,012 – €20,484£10,900 – £18,6002%
€20,484 – €70,044£18,600 – £63,6004.5%
€70,044 and above£63,600 and above8%
Weekly income €Around Weekly Income £PRSI Rate %
Under €352Under £3200%
Over €352Over £3204%

Income Tax Rates 2020

Income €Around Income £Individual Tax RateSingle Parent Tax RateMarried Couple Tax Rate (if one person is  employed)Married Couple Tax Rate (if both employed)
Up to €35,300Up to £32,05020%   
Over €35,300Over £32,05040%   
Up to €39,300Up to £35,680 20%  
Over €39,300Over £35,680 40%  
Up to €44,300Up to £40,200  20% 
Over €44,300Over £40,200  40% 
Up to €70,600Up to £64,100   20%
Over €70,600Over £64,100   40%

Expat Guide To Living In Ireland FAQ

Ireland is one of the favourite places for British expats to start a new life as a near neighbour just an hour by ferry across the Irish Sea.

In reverse, thousands of Irish people have family relationships with their own expats in the UK.

For expats considering a fresh start in Ireland, here are some of the most asked questions about settling in Dublin and beyond.

Does it always rain in Ireland?

Ireland has famously poor weather, but it’s not always raining. Weather is usually at its worst in December and January, but there is a chance of rain at any time of the year.

Temperatures are mild, with the southeast usually being the sunniest, and in the season between June and August, you’ll find the warmest weather and average temperatures of around 16-20 °C.

On the plus side, all that rain is what makes Ireland so green and keeps the rolling hills and countryside so abundant.

Is Ireland a safe place to live?

Yes, it is considered a safe country. The highest chances of crime are in Dublin, as you’d expect from most capital cities. Still, the vast majority is petty theft and drunken behaviour – the Temple Bar area is just as raucous as its reputation.

How are north and south Ireland different?

The island itself is split into two countries, independent from one another. The republic covers around 84,400 square kilometres, whereas Northern Ireland is much smaller at 14,130 square kilometres.

Northern Ireland is part of the UK, whereas Ireland is a separate state. Eire refers to Ireland, an independent republic, and is the word for Ireland in Gaelic (Gaeilge).

Can I still travel freely to Ireland after Brexit?

Yes, you can. This is covered by the Common Travel Area (CTA), which allows citizens to travel freely between the two countries, as laid out in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed in May 2019.

Do people in Ireland speak English?

They do – everybody in Ireland speaks English. There is the Irish language, which is referred to as Irish in Ireland, but elsewhere is known as Gaelic.
Irish is still spoken, although less than 50% of people can converse in it; you will find street signs in both English and Irish but are highly unlikely to come across anyone who is fluent in Irish and does not speak English.

Other European Destination Guides

Make sure you read the guide on moving abroad before you decide. In addition, you can find other European country guides following the links below.

Below is a list of some related articles that you may find of interest.

Questions or Comments?

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