Irish Rail and Bus Saver Cards

There is no question but that touring independently in Ireland is best done by car, but the reality is this isn’t always possible.

This article takes a look at the options and the discount fares available to those who choose to tour by bus or train. No matter how you do this it WILL take planning, not just to ensure you get the best fares but that you get the best from the routes you choose in terms of seeing as much as possible.

Touring Ireland by Bus

Bus Eireann (or Irish Bus) has a very good network which covers the entire country North and South, far more extensive than the rail network.

That said, touring by bus has its limitations. Buses to many tourist destinations outside of towns are sometimes infrequent and may not run at all in the off season. For that reason if you are depending on the bus for your transport, you need to plan you itinerary quite carefully especially as regards timing. There are several routes where you’ll want to get off at various points along the way, and you need to ensure you won’t be stranded somewhere for hours, or even overnight, if you do so.

Touring Ireland by Train

Ireland’s train network (Iarnrod Eireann or Irish Rail) is good but limited. Trains only run to large towns and the network radiates from Dublin, making options for linking between destinations outside of Dublin tricky.

In addition to the passes below you can save money on train journeys by travelling midweek and by booking in advance online. There are often good special offers too, so look out for these. For this reason you should always check that you are actually going to save with a pass, because it may not be the case.

More about Ireland’s trains.

Dart, Luas and Dublin Bus

These are the three ways of getting around Dublin.

  1. Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit): Trains to commuter areas around the city.
  2. Luas: Trams which run on two tracks, one north of the city and the other south.
  3. Dublin Bus: Services every area of the city and all surrounding suburbs.

While train passes include travel on Dart and Luas services, bus passes exclude Dublin Bus – though city services elsewhere are included.

If you are using a train pass on Dart or Luas be careful that it’s worth using up a day this way – it’s probably better to do so only on days when you are using an intercity service also.

Children, Students and Seniors

Children under 3 travel free on trains and buses provided they are accompanied by a paying adult. Children aged between 3 and 15 pay half fare.

Students with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC)  are eligible for reduced fares on intercity rail and bus services, and can purchase reduced cost multi-journey tickets for travel in Dublin.

Seniors (over 65) resident in Ireland (or Northern Ireland for travel there) are eligible for free travel on some services, mostly restricted to off-peak hours. Sadly this concession is not available to visitors.

Available Passes

Tourist passes in Ireland are not as flexible or as good value as in some other European countries, but it is possible to save quite a bit if you use them wisely. However you are going to have to do some research as they are not always the right option.

Do your research for standard rail fares and bus fares first, before you decide a pass is a good choice for you.

1. The Open Road Pass

These tickets are sold on the basis of a number of days travelling over a given period – so for example 3 days traveling over 6 days or 10 days traveling over 20 days.

Valid for: Intercity buses. City bus services except in Dublin.
Not valid for: Travel in Northern Ireland. Buses in Dublin.
Price: Prices range from €57 for three days travel upwards on a sliding scale. 10 days bus travel over 20 days costs €137.
Where to buyBuy online or at bus station on first journey.

Is it good value?

If you plan well then yes, it is. However you need to be sure than on the days you travel you travel quite a lot.

2. Trekker 4 Day

This is a rail pass which gives you four consecutive days of unlimited travel on trains.

Valid for: Intercity trains. Dart and Luas services in Dublin.
Not valid for: Travel in Northern Ireland
Price: €110.
Where to buy: At train or bus station on first journey, not available online.

Is it good value?

You’ll need to check this one pretty carefully for value as depending on where you plan to travel you could well be better off just buying standard train tickets.

3. Irish Explorer: Train Only

This gives you 5 days unlimited train travel out of 15 consecutive days.

Valid for: Intercity trains. Dart and Luas services in Dublin.
Not valid for: Travel in Northern Ireland.
Price: €245
Where to buy: At train station on first journey, not available online.

Is it good value?

Probably better value than the trekker ticket, provided you need to travel on enough days, since you are not obliged to travel everyday. Still, check the cost of the journeys without the pass before buying.

A child explorer ticket is available for €80.

4. Irish Explorer: Bus and Train

8 days unlimited travel  out of 15 consecutive days on either bus or trains.

Valid for: Intercity trains and buses. City bus services except in Dublin. Dart and Luas services in Dublin.
Not valid for: Travel in Northern Ireland. Buses in Dublin.
Price: €245
Where to buyBuy online or at bus or train station on first journey.

Is it good value?

If you are in Ireland long enough this is good value. The combination of bus and train gives you much wider options than either one separately.

5. Eurail Irish Pass

Tickets are available for either 3 or 5 days travel in a one month period. Trains in both the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are included.

These tickets are ONLY available to visitors from outside Europe.

Valid for: Intercity trains only.
Not valid for: Buses. Any travel in Dublin.
Price: There are a myriad of options, including Group, Family and Youth fares. An adult will get a 3 day ticket for €155, or €132 if travelling in a group of 2 or more.
Where to buyBuy online up to 6 months before you travel.

Is it good value?

It can be, especially if travelling as a family or group. The combination of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland makes this more flexible than other passes.

Be careful to buy 2nd class tickets – there is no 1st class on many Irish trains and even where there is the difference is not sufficient to justify the extra cost.


Published: December 16, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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  • Dolores Boyle says:

    Checking to see where I can get a bus pass for a week …Will be staying in Athenry with the family and want to be able to go back and forth to Galway. Is there a bus pass you can get for a week? Also would like to sightsee in Galway, would that be covered? Thanks

    • Katherine says:

      A Bus Eireann Open Road card might possibly suit you, assuming you are not going to Galway every day. It costs €60 and gives you unlimited travel on any 3 days over a six day period.

      However the train would probably be a better option. It’s around €16 euro return and there are trains at least once an hour, so for just getting in and out of Galway is cheaper than the Open Road ticket.

      Once in Galway, you can buy a Leap Card at the station or any Payzone outlet and use this on city buses. That said, Galway is a very walkable city.

      One advantage of the Open Road ticket though: If you wanted, say, to spend one of your days in Connermara you can use this ticket to get the bus to and from Clifden, getting off along the way and waiting for the next bus to move on, the the Open Road ticket has you covered for that too.

  • Betty Frederiksen says:

    We will be travelling throughout Ireland in September.
    We want to get around by public transportation. We are having trouble find good tourist passes for Northern Ireland. We have found what we want for travel in the Republic, but don’t see anything comparable in the North. Can you advise what the North has to offer for a rail pass for tourists?

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