Bed & Breakfast: How it Works

Wendy (IrishFlair) lives in California and has visited Ireland many times, mostly staying in Bed and Breakfast accommodation. She is a regular contributer to many forums for those planning their trips, where questions about staying in bed and breakfasts come up very regularly. In this article she gives the best and most comprehensive overview of this kind of accommodation I’ve ever read.

Arriving at Your B&B

Are you expected?

If the answer is yes you are good.

B&B sign, photo by salerie

B&B sign, photo by salerie

Knock on the front door, or ring the bell, and explain who you are and what you have reserved (or what you would like), and your hosts will show you to your room.

You are usually shown the room in advance, before bringing in your luggage. If the room is acceptable, agree to take it.  If you’d like something different, explain what you are hoping for in more detail.

If all is well you will also be shown the Common areas – usually the breakfast area and a sitting area – and you may be offered a snack or tea/coffee.  Each B&B is different so don’t be offended if you get different treatment at each establishment.

If you are not expected, simply go up to the house and knock as usual.  Ask if rooms are available and what type of room you are looking for.  You will be shown a room (or two) and you can accept or decline as you like.  If it’s just not what you want, thank the owners for their time but move on.

You’re IN! Now what?

Make sure your car is parked properly.  Most B&Bs will have a lot to park in. Make sure you leave room for other guests to park their cars, too. Bring in your luggage and collect the key or keys you need.  You will have a key to your room and sometimes a separate key for the front door.

Arrange breakfast by being sure you know when it is offered. There’s usually a time frame of a couple of hours in the morning for breakfast. If you need to make any special requests now is the time to do so.  You may have an early day or flight. You may have some sort of food allergy.  If you’ve already discussed these matters with your hosts, a gentle reminder is usually helpful so you are both on the same page.

The rest of your day

Got Plans? Go to them!

If you need ideas or help finding somewhere, just ask your hosts.  Often the proprietor will have brochures, business cards or suggestions for the best places to eat or visit.  They may also offer to make you a reservation for dinner at one of the local restaurants if you are in need of a place to eat.

Staying in?

You can keep to your room or feel free to use the common room(s).  Even if you are watching TV expect that other guests may come in and chat with you or at least say HI.  By staying in the more Public areas you are signaling that you are OK with interaction with other people.

You are heading OUT for the evening – what do you do?

On your way out make sure to lock your room.  You should also pick up the B&B’s business card – there’s usually a stack of them near the front door – as getting back to the B&B in the dark can look a lot different than when you arrived in daylight.  You may also want to inform your hosts of your plans, though they’ve probably already asked, just so they know how late you expect to be out and if there are special arrangements needed for a late entry.

Enjoy your night out!

Coming back to the B&B

Is it Late?  Shhhh! Other people are sleeping. At the very least, the B&B owners and their family are sound asleep.  Pine or tile floors are regularly used in Irish B&Bs as they’re easy to clean but they can be quite LOUD, so walk softly when you get in late at night.


  • Talk loudly or yell, especially if you come back late
  • Clomp around your room or the main hallway that leads to the rooms
  • Slam any doors
  • Watch TV too loudly, especially at night
  • Go outside your room in little or no clothes, even if you are sharing a bathroom

Checking out

Once you are finished with breakfast it’s time to check out. Pack up your belongings (don’t forget to check in the shower), remove your luggage, find your hosts and return all the keys.

Normally cash is the way a B&B is paid, however some do take credit cards and some may take vouchers.  Both these “alternative” payments must be set up in advance, before you accept your room or when you make your reservations.  RETURN YOUR KEYS!!!  And enjoy the rest of your day.

Issues: When something is just not right

B&Bs, while being someone’s home, are also subject to everyday wear and tear.  Sometimes things get broken or wear out and the host either was not told about it or is not aware of any issues.

If something in your room is broken, needs to be repaired or replaced, or if something got spilled or damaged by you, let your hosts know as soon as possible so that it can be corrected. This is especially true if it’s something that is serious, such as the shower is not draining properly or the toilet is not working.

It’s best to work things out sooner rather than later because if there are other rooms available and the problem cannot be quickly solved you want to be able to move before the other rooms are sold out.  If the problem is not a big issue and you can live with it, it will be a huge help to the owners if you let them know about it sometime before you leave the B&B.

What you get at an Irish Bed & Breakfast

1. Your Room

Photo by jtriefen

Photo by jtriefen

Most rooms are en suite meaning the room also has a bathroom inside. This is fairly standard for most B&Bs.  Some older homes, especially old guest or manor houses, may have some rooms where you will need to share a bath.  This Shared Bath means the bathroom is down the hall, open, and more public.

Facilities within the room vary with each B&B.  They can be basic or abundant some examples would be:

  • Minimum:
    bed, bath, dresser, chair, soap, towels, extra pillows & blanket, usually a TV.
  • A lot more:
    shampoo/conditioner, hairdryer, pants press, tea/coffee service, mini fridge, clock, phone, TV w/ cable, radio, bath salts or bubble bath.

2. Breakfast

When you arrive at the dining area you will find one of two kinds of seating arrangements – individual and communal.  Most B&Bs have individuals tables set up for groups of two or four.  Some B&B have a single communal table where guests all sit together to eat.  Either way, you pick a spot, have a seat and start in on breakfast.

A basic meal will be a choice of eggs, toast or possibly porridge (oatmeal) or Traditional Irish Breakfast (also called a Fry or sometimes a Full Irish Breakfast) with tea or coffee.  A more elaborate menu may also be yours with some options being eggs as you like them, kippers, pancakes (more akin to crepes then what Americans call “pancakes”) with sugar rather than syrup, scones, jams, butter and brown bread.

A traditional Irish Breakfast includes:

Click the image to see more breakfasts

1 or 2 fried eggs
1 or 2 slices of rashers (aka bacon)
1 or 2 links of sausages
sautéed mushrooms
grilled or sautéed tomato
fried potatoes
1 slice of black pudding
1 slice of white pudding

It’s a lot of food and will last you through the early afternoon at the very least.  Visitors to Ireland will often have only a snack or nothing at all at midday as breakfast is so filling.  It’s a great way to save a few dollars anyway!


B&B Customs& Practices


The quickest and best way to make a B&B reservation is to call, either before you leave on your trip or once you arrive in Ireland.  You can make reservations months in advance or in as little as a few hours before you are due to arrive.  The popular places sell out fastest though.

Email is another option and one growing in popularity.  Don’t write off a B&B if you don’t get a reply right away.  It’s not poor business etiquette when an owner doesn’t write you back directly, it’s just the Irish are more social and tend to do things face to face.  If you’ve tried several emails without a reply, try calling directly.  Remember the time difference!

It’s a good idea to confirm any reservations you have made as the date draws near.  This is especially true if you have made reservations months in advance.

Lastly, you can go and knock on the door to a B&B.  If they are full there is usually a sign out front letting people passing by “No Vacancy”  It’s better to do so earlier in the day as that is most convenient for both you and B&B owners.

Check out

Check-in usually around 4 to 6pm.  If you are running late and have a reservation, it’s best to call and let your hosts know you are on your way.  Otherwise you may lose the hold on your room.  Alternative check in times may be arranged with your hosts; best to let them know (and remind them before you arrive) what you need and work it out.

Check-out can be as early as 10am or as late as noon.  Be sure you know both check-in and check-out times.  Again, ask for exact times or to arrange something different.


Cash is the standard way to pay for a B&B and is accepted by all of them.  Vouchers are accepted by some B&Bs, but be sure you let your hosts know when you book that you are planning on using this method of payment. Some B&B accept credit cards, though sometimes there will be an extra fee.  Many B&Bs will hold a reservation using a credit card number, but that does not mean they will accept payment on a credit card.  (It’s more for the owner in case of No Shows.)


B&B owners usually have a small number of rooms which they take care of themselves.  This is why no shows on reserved rooms is such a big deal to them.  If you are running late or cannot make your reservation, call the B&B as soon as you can to let them know so that they have the opportunity to rent the room out to someone else.

Remember: The House is a Home

Your hosts have a separate living area – often where the rest of the family lives, too.  Some hosts even have a second job or will run a farm as well as a B&B.  Their home is theirs and is off limits to you.  If you need something and can’t find someone to help you, try a knock at the kitchen door or call out. Only enter the kitchen or Host’s living room if you are invited to do so.

B&B Lingo

Purpose Built: Means the B&B was built to be a B&B rather than just a few extra rooms the owns have decided to rent out.  Most B&Bs in Ireland these days are Purpose Built one though a few are not.

En Suite: This means that a bathroom is provided within the parameter of the room you rent in the B&B.  It is yours and yours alone, no one else can get to it without having a key to your room.

Shared Bath: Means that you are renting a room only, not a bathroom.  You are provided a bathroom but it’s not within your private room and you may have to share with other guests.

PPS (Per Person Sharing): The cost of B&Bs are usually listed as the cost of each person with the assumption that two (or more) people will be sharing the room.

SS (Single Supplement): A single person renting a B&B room must pay the going rate (PPS) plus an additional amount, the single supplement.

Tarriff : Is the same as the Rate or Price; what you pay for staying at the B&B.

Single: Is a single bed that sleeps one, a twin sized bed.

Double: is a bed that sleeps two adults, it may be a double size or it may be a large queen or even king sized bed.

Family Room: Has enough beds for a small family, usually two adults and two children.  The bed arrangement will vary and can be two double beds, a double and 2 singles or a 2 doubles and one single.  Some family rooms sleep many more than 4. I’ve seen rooms that slept up to 8, all with their own bed.  It’s best to ask beforehand if you need special arrangements or are unsure of what is available in the family room.

Cot: Usually refers to a crib for a child, but can be a rollaway bed or an actual camping-like cot that just folds open.

Types of B&B

Country House: A B&B that is not within a town’s limits. Often you will need a car to get into town, or will need to take walk a short distance.  It’s also often an upscale B&B in the country.

Farmhouse: A B&B that is either on a farm, connected in some way to a farm or out in a farming area.  These B&Bs are often less in price because they are out of the way.  They can be charming, cozy establishments or newer purpose built ones.

Town House: A B&B that is in a town or village.  Some may be detached but often they are semi-detached or a row house turned B&B.  With a town house B&B you are usually within walking distance to a pub, restaurant or shops in town.

Guesthouse: An upscale B&B, often and older home someone has turned into a B&B.  These can vary from being full of period pieces and lots of authentic antiques to just being a large home of a former Landlord set up as a B&B to being Purpose Built as a B&B.  Prices for these properties are higher than “regular” B&Bs.

Manor House: Ahese are old homes that have been kept as or refurbished as a guesthouse.  Often the homes are 100’s of years old, usually with antiques and more rooms than a regular B&B.  Some will have staff or provide dinner upon request, others have extensive property where fishing, horseback riding, golf or other activities may be offered to guests.

Published: April 4, 2009 | Updated: April 19, 2017 | Image Credits

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1 Comment

  • Danna says:

    Hi, Wendy!  Your info is very helpful!  Question…our children will be 17 and 13 at the time of our hopeful trip in May/June 2013.  We stayed in a family room near Dublin in March 2012, and it was simply 20 euros per person…what a deal, I know!  Do you know, since then, the website now lists 38 euros per person…low season!  I feel really blessed to have found it when we did!  🙂

    I am discovering on the west coast that the age limit for children staying in a family room w/out extra cost is age 3.  So, to save money, do most people in our situation book two rooms…one double for the parents and a twin for the children?  A family room won’t help us if the children are too old to benefit; we may come out better to reserve two rooms.

    Thank you for your insights!

    In appreciation,

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