Thursday, July 24, 2014

From Dublin Airport to Limerick (the easy way)

Limerick is a great place to visit, and an excellent base of operations if you want to explore the beautiful West coast of Ireland, plus the hinterland of Limerick, Claire, and Tipperary counties.

But it's not as easy to get here as it should be.

It used to be that there were many flights into Shannon Airport, which is the closest and most logical choice. Unfortunately that once prestigious transportation hub is only just coming out of a long period of decline and mismanagement. It currently has far fewer flights than Dublin.

Both airports suffer from what is a terrible Irish problem, the poor rail service. In fact, there is not a single Irish airport connected to the rail system! Worse yet, if you choose Cork, Knock, or some other point of entry, you won't even get good coach service, and will be practically forced to rent a car. In my role as festival organiser I've often advised people against Cork, which, though significantly closer to Limerick than Dublin, requires a change of buses in Cork City, making travel next to impossible at morning or evening hours -- when flights are actually likely to arrive.

So that leaves Dublin as the next best choice, in the event that you can't get a good connection to Shannon. You'd think it would be a piece of cake to get from Dublin Airport to Limerick. There are indeed several options, but read on and I'll fill you in on the best choice.

The most obvious choice is the national coach provider, Bus Éireann (roughly pronounced "air-an" with emphasis on the first syllable). But the regular route takes 4.5 hours to get to Limerick, since it stops simply everywhere. Cost is at least €17. Even the "express" Bus Éireann route 12/X12 takes 3.5 hours, since it still goes into Dublin city and back out. If it's rush hour, that's a disaster. This coach departs from bay 12 and is likely the first one people would see marked "Limerick". Don't be fooled.

It's best to get the so-called Dublin Coach, which is so badly named you have to wonder. It doesn't necessarily even go to Dublin, and that is its advantage in this case. It is not to be confused with Dublin Bus, or the local service. Instead, look for the buses that are a bright green in colour. Though you may have difficulty finding them, since they are in an obscure part of the transfer area.

Check out this interactive map. You want to get to Zone 14. From Terminal One, walk out the main doors and cross the first road, where taxis mill. You then need to walk into the parking garage building, where you pass a useful ATM (on your right) and a handy shop where you can refuel (on your left). Walk right through the concourse, back outside.

Now you are in an array of bays, filled with buses of every description. Ignore them all and keep walking, towards the church. (Yes, there's a church at Dublin Airport. This will only confuse you if you are not Irish.) Pass by the church on the left-hand side, following the path, and then angle to your right. Here is another coach bay. And this is where you will find the Dublin Coach. There might even be a schedule pinned up on a board. But no-one to help, no pixel-board announcing incoming buses, no numbered bays, or anything remotely helpful.

The journey is in two stages. The first stage is called the N7, though that designation won't be on the bus -- doh! Instead it might well be marked with some random number and a placard marked Portlaoise, which is the terminus. It will likely be a double-decker bus. The N7 arrives about every hour, on the half hour, until 11:30pm. Here's the actual schedule.

Tell the driver you want the "Red Cow" and pay a fiver. The Red Cow LUAS is indeed the first stop on the route. It is a car pool area for those travelling on the light rail (LUAS) into Dublin. But of course we are going the other way. The trip will take only 15-20 minutes on the motorway, so don't nod off.

After a short wait at the Red Cow a second green bus, a single-decker this time, will arrive. This is the M7 route (schedule here), though again the bus will not be marked M7. That's just too easy! It should indeed be marked Limerick, and takes you through to your destination with only three stops on the way. It arrives every 30 minutes, with the last one at five past midnight. The timetable is planned so that connections with the N7 are efficient -- well done Dublin Coach!

Pay €10 and say you want "Arthur's Quay", which is in the heart of the city. Unless you'd rather get off one stop prior at the University of Limerick. Travel time is about 2.5 hours.

Before you start off, be sure you have cash in hand for the total of €15. Get your tickets from the drivers.

So there you go. Dublin Coach is cheaper, faster, and more convenient than the alternatives. Unlike other lines, the bus even has a washroom. And, in my experience, the driver is less likely to play bad country music.

Finally, you will be in Limerick. Relax and have a pint. You can even buy me one using the handy PayPal donation button to the right, in case this article has saved you money and aggravation.

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