From bustling cities to stunning countryside, Ireland has everything you could want from a holiday whether it’s a minibreak or a longer stay. Plus, when Ireland say they have something for everyone, they really mean it. As well as sights and attractions to suit every kind of person, they also have great public transport accessibility so that all visitors with special needs and reduced mobility can enjoy what they have to offer too. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and want to know if your trip can be an accessible one or if you’ve just been looking your next accessible holiday destination, here’s a look at how easy it is to get around Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland
Getting around by bus
You can use the national bus service Bus Éireann to get around in the Republic of Ireland. Their fleet is 86% wheelchair accessible with 78% off their Commuter and Expressway services offering wheelchair accessibility and 100% of their City and Town services now wheelchair accessible. Each of their City and Town services has a designated wheelchair space and integrated ramp access. While there are slightly fewer accessible Regional and Expressway coaches, those that are also offer a hydraulic wheelchair lift for loads up to 300kg and a designated wheelchair space although this needs to be booked 24 hours in advance using their reservation system.
When it comes to limited mobility including for the elderly then all their services also have a suspension lowering feature that can be used to assist people when boarding along with contrasting grab rails throughout. They also have stop request buttons fitted, PA systems to announce stops or other information and destination displays to help the blind and deaf.
You can find out more about Bus Éireann accessibility on their website here, including standard measurements for their wheelchair spaces.
If you’re visiting Dublin specifically then you might want to get around using their main bus service, Dublin Bus. They take accessibility seriously with a dedicated Access Officer and a fully accessible public office located in the heart of Dublin. There you’ll find ticket counters with hearing loops and even a separate wheelchair accessible counter.
There is a wheelchair space on all low floor buses that can accommodate wheelchairs up to 70cm wide and 120cm long and they guarantee all buses will stop when there is a wheelchair user at the bus stop. You can access every bus via an integrated ramp and they can lower to cater to other passengers with mobility difficulties. A wheelchair stop button lets drivers know that a wheelchair user is getting off at the next stop so that they can prepare the ramp and provide any necessary assistance. If you have a mobility scooter, you will need a permit as their size and weight can mean some mobility scooters are too big. At bus stops, you’ll find bus stop numbers in Braille and large font and many have been upgraded with accessible kerbs to help wheelchair users.
You can also take advantage of the free Travel Assistance Scheme run by Dublin Bus. The scheme provides an assistant that can accompany you the first few times you travel and give advice on planning a journey with Dunlin Bus, Luas or other transport. You can find out more about the scheme and Dublin Bus accessibility on their website here.
Getting around by train or tram
Irish Rail or Iarnród Éireann accommodates wheelchairs on many trains but not all stations are accessible. For example, DART trains that operate on Dublin’s rail system feature generous space for wheelchairs but journeys should be planned to check that stations are accessible. Irish Rail recommends always contact them ahead of your train journey so they can help you plan and carry out your journey as easily as possible. While every train has spaces for wheelchairs there is a limited number so it’s always recommended to book in advance. Just as with buses, trains may not be able to accommodate all mobility scooters to double-check this before you travel.
When it comes to boarding the train staff will use a ramp to provide access to wheelchairs but again these need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance to ensure that they can help with this. For those that have mobility problems or visual impairments, it’s also best to contact a member of staff before you travel as some stations may have large gaps between the train and the platform and assistance might be required.
If you’re travelling within Dublin specifically, along with DART trains, you’ll also find that Maynooth and Northern Commuter have recently looked to improve their accessibility after a review. You can take a look at the changes they made including their new hub-station set up which ensures there is always a member of staff for you to plan your journey with beforehand and provide assistance when you get to your station.
You can use the Irish Rail website to plan your journey and check whether your stations are accessible with lift or other wheelchair friendly access.
Finally, you’ll also find two tram lines in Dublin known as the Luas. They are completely compliant with current accessibility standards and look to accommodate all disabilities. All trams and platforms are fully wheelchair accessible with lifts, ramps and improve parking spaces where necessary. There are additionally two designated wheelchair spaces located at either end of the tram. There are Emergency Help buttons located at platforms that you can use to contact the Central Control Room and provide assistance if needed.
For those with vision impairment, the Emergency Help button can also be used to request a bell system that will indicate when the tram is approaching or leaving a platform with a certain number of bells. There are also automatic audio announcements on board providing the names of each stop along with other relevant announcements. A warning tone will indicate when doors are closing.
To find out more about the full range of accessibility services Luas offer and to contact them to help plan your journey, head to their accessibility page here.
You can find all the information you need to get around Northern Ireland from their main travel site Translink and their accessibility guide. They operate coach, bus and train services throughout Northern Ireland and on some cross border routes.
Northern Ireland bus services
Goldline coaches provide cross border services as well as intercity routes, Ulsterbus run to and from Belfast as well as between other towns and villages across Northern Ireland while Metro and Flider bus services operate in and around Belfast. Most of their buses and coaches are now accessible with a lowered floor facility plus ramped access along with handrails throughout. They offer a dedicated space for a wheelchair user and priority seating. While all Metro services are accessible, some Ulsterbus and Goldline vehicles may only offer stepped access. Timetables will always show which routes are using an accessible vehicle, but you can call ahead to plan your journey as well.
Trains in Northern Ireland
Most of the trains operating on NIRailways are accessible with space for two wheelchairs, an accessible toilet and a ramp stored on board to assist with access as well handrails throughout. Not all train stations are accessible especially smaller stations. Use their journey planner to check what accessibility your station has including whether they are staffed, have step-free access or ramps or lifts to provide access if not. Again, you can contact Translink to help plan your journey and ensure you have accessibility where necessary.