With only a week to go to before Galway Fest, I thought I would write a guide on how to get to Galway! With hundreds of competitors and some of the world’s best paddlers attending, Galway Fest will sure be some show! Here’s my advice for all international paddlers on how to get to Galway, where to stay and what to expect of your weekend on the land of the leprechauns …

The event

Freestyle will be held in Tuam on Friday afternoon and evening. Definitely an event not to be missed if you want to see the current World Champion Quim Fontane fight against everyone in an exciting jam style format. Saturday will see everyone racing on the Boluisce River. With the finishing line only a few meters before the ocean, everyone will enjoy the sunset while watching the team races at the end of the day. Sunday will take in place in the heart of Galway city. With the Palm boater-X down Jury’s Drop and a mass start down the River Corrib, you’ll be able to prove yourself to all the Galway girls and boys as the races finish at the famous Spanish Arch!

I attached the athlete’s pack here, you should have received it by email already if you’re registered . You’ll find everything you need there, especially the locations of all the events and places to park.

How to get there

If you’re flying in, your main options are Dublin, Knock and Shannon Airport. Aerlingus and Ryanair would be the two main companies to check out, especially if you’re flying with your boats. Aerlingus charges 40€ for a boat while Ryanair charges 35€. I’ve never had a problem with those companies when flying with a boat from Ireland, you don’t even have to pretend it’s not a kayak.

If you want to drive your car and take a ferry, you can land in Rosslare, Dublin or Belfast. Three companies you can check are Stella Line, P&O and Irish Ferries, the latter often being cheaper. If you’re coming as a foot passenger, P&O seems to let you bring a boat for free.

The following table will guide you through the ways to get to Galway depending on where you land. If you’re driving, bare in mind that there aren’t that many petrol stations on the motorways here. I tried to include easy stops in my comments, so you don’t have to exit the motorway.

From the airport to Galway

Two bus companies have direct buses from Dublin Airport: Citylink and Gobus. Each one has a bus leaving every hour, so you can catch a bus every 30 min. DO NOT TAKE BUS EIREANN unless you really like long bus journeys. The journey with Gobus or Citylink takes between 2.5 to 3 hours. A return ticket costs about 30€ (cheaper online).
You can rent a car easily (check Europcar). You can take the motorway straight to Galway (M4 onto the M6). There are not many petrol stations along the way, if you want food I’d recommend stopping at the Applegreen in County Kildare on the M4 (about 30 minutes outside Dublin). There are no easy ways to stop after that until you are about 20min outside Galway. The tolls will cost 4.80€. Warning: if you take the M50 to join the M4 when leaving the airport, you’ll have to pay the eFlow toll online (3.10€). If you want to go through Dublin city, you will probably go through a tunnel. The toll is 3€ or 10€ at peak times (6-10am going into town, Monday to Friday).
The only option is Bus Eireann (ExpressWay route 64) to Galway. Expect it to be late. It takes a bit less than 2 hours and the ticket costs €13.50 one way. The bus could be quite packed so expect to move a few suitcases if you want to fit your boat in.
You can rent a car from Knock Airport (check Europcar). The journey is about 1.5 hours. Drive down the N17 and stop in Tuam for a cheeky freestyle session!
Shannon offers some good deals with Aerlingus, so worth cheeking them out. You can take a bus from the Airport to Galway with Bus Eireann (ExpressWay route 51). It takes about 2 hours to Galway and costs 10€ one way.
There are two ways to get from Shannon Airport to Galway. The scenic route by the Cliffs of Moher (follow Ennis – Cliffs – Ballyvaughan – Galway). It takes about 2.5 hours but I would highly recommend it if you have time. You get to stop at the Cliffs of Moher and go through the Burren! The more direct route is the motorway (M18) to Galway, which is a bit over an hour. There are no petrol stations unless you exit the motorway.
Google maps proposes three different routes (N roads until you reach the M6). Driving to Galway from there will take about 4 hours. If you want to stop on the way, Kilkenny is a lovely medieval town. Another option not proposed on Google Maps is to go through Limerick (N roads to Limerick and take the M18 to Galway). If you have a creeker with you and the Clare Glens is up, it is definitely an option to consider!
To drive to Galway, Google Maps sends you onto the M50 to go around Dublin. Bare in mind you’ll have to pay a tunnel toll (usually 3€, but 10€ between 4-7 pm Monday to Friday, going out of Dublin) and another toll online (3.10€). You can go through town instead, go along the Liffey and pass in front of the Guinness Storehouse if you want to avoid the tolls. It is not necessary longer; when traffic is bad, it’s bad on both routes. See Dublin Airport – rent a car for more info on the motorways.
Best way to get to Galway is to take the M1 to Dublin and then join the M4 (then onto the M6). Dublin should be avoided at peak times though. Google Maps proposes to take the N52 to join the M6 which is not a bad option. The total journey takes more than 4 hours. You’ll find an Applegreen petrol station on the M1 and another one on the M6, but no other handy places to stop after that until you get to Galway.

Where to sleep

Galway is pretty popular and can be quite expensive. There are a multitude of options. It is definitely worth checking Airbnb. Avoiding the city centre is probably the best way to keep it cheap. You can try the areas called Salthill, Ballybane, Newcastle and Roscam. There are further away from the city centre but you can easily get buses during the day, and taxis would not be too expensive at night (about 15€).

A hostel would probably be the best option if you want to stay in the city centre, although parking can become an issue if you are driving. You can check out the following hostels:

  • Galway city Hostel (Eyre Square, city centre).
  • Kinlay Hostel (Eyre square)
  • Snoozle Quay (city centre)
  • The Nest Boutique Hostel (Salthill, pretty new and looks relatively cheap)

Where to eat

Just to give a couple of easy and fast options for food if you want to avoid McDonalds.

  • Boojum (Spanish Arch): pretty big Mexican bowls and burritos (≈8€).
  • McDonagh’s (Shop street): fish & chips (≈10€).
  • Pizza Napoli (Shop street): simple pizzas (3.50€ for a large slice), open all night.
  • The Dough Bro’s (Middle street, parallel to shop street): quality pizzas (≈10€).
  • The Chili Shack (Opposite Electric Nightclub): amazing burgers (≈8€).

What else should you know?

Alcohol limit: Maximum tolerance of 50 mg per 100 ml for experienced drivers. Learner drivers cannot go above 20 mg. If you get caught drink-driving, you will be disqualified from holding a driving licence for a period of three months and receive a fine of 200€. For all the international drivers, yes, you’ll have to surrender your driving license too. Anyway, don’t drink and drive.

Buckfast: you’ll soon hear people shouting this word here and there. Compulsory if it is your first time in Ireland, Buckfast is a tonic, caffeinated, delicious wine made by monks.

Guinness: just get one, or two …

“What’s the craic?”: after talking about the local drinks, one could think I’m going to follow with the Irish drugs, but no, that’s just a way to ask how you’re doing …

Blackrock: Salthill is a lovely part of Galway city. Going for a swim in the ocean at Blackrock is a perfect way to cure your hungover. If you’re up for it, just fire me a message!

Please don’t be like Podge