44 sq miles
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
104 miles north of Dublin
Average Temperatures (In Fahrenheit):
Greenwich Mean Time: 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in New York.(6 hours ahead of central time in Chicago, etc.)
|January - March
|April - June
|July - September
|October - December
Jan. 1 New Year's Day
Mar. 17 St. Patrick's Day
Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates vary each year - (Mar. or April)
1st Mon. of May May Day holiday
Whit Monday (late May or early June)
1st Mon. of August August Bank holiday
Last Mon. of Oct. Autumn Bank holiday
Dec. 25 Christmas day
Dec. 26 St. Stephen's day
When to Go:
The best time to visit the area is from May to September, when the weather is a little warmer. Book in advance, however, as this time of year tends to be quite busy.
The new area code for all of Northern Ireland is 028. Drop the "0" when dialing from within Northern Ireland.
Banks are generally open Monday to Friday 10am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 3 or 4pm; they're closed on bank holidays. In Belfast and Derry City, banks tend not to close for lunch. Most shops are open Monday to Saturday 9 or 9:30am to 5 or 5:30pm, with one early-closing day a week, usually Wednesday or Thursday. Shops in tourist areas are likely to be open Sunday and to have extended hours, especially in the summer months.
Banks & Offices:
Bank hours are weekdays 9:30-4:30. Post offices are open weekdays 9-5:30, Saturday 9-1. Some close for an hour at lunch.
Shops are open 9-5:30, Monday-Friday, with a late closing on Thursday, usually at 9. Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, shops close for the afternoon once a week, usually Wednesday or Thursday; check locally. In addition, most smaller shops close for an hour or so at lunch
Since Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it uses the pound sterling. Britain's decimal monetary system is based on the pound (¬£), which is made up of 100 pence (written as "p"). Pounds are also known as quid. There are ¬£1 and ¬£2 coins, as well as coins of 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p. Banknotes come in denominations of ¬£5, ¬£10, ¬£20, and ¬£50.
Irish punts, or pounds, are not accepted. Rates change rapidly, but the British pound is worth slightly more than the Irish. Bank notes, drawn on Ulster banks, that are valid only in Northern Ireland; should be exchanged there before leaving, as they will be difficult to change at banks elsewhere.
The electrical current (220vAC) and outlets (requiring three-pin flat, fused plugs) are the same in the North as in the Republic. Note that they are not the two-pin round plugs standard throughout Europe. If your US-purchased appliances are dual-voltage, you'll need only an adapter plug. (Most laptops operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts and so require only an adapter. Don't use 110-volt outlets marked "For Shavers Only" for high-wattage appliances such as blow dryers.)
The best time to apply for a passport or to renew is during the fall and winter. Before any trip, check your passport's expiration date, and, if necessary, renew it as soon as possible.
Embassies & Consulates:
The U.S. Consulate General is at Queen's House, 14 Queen's St., Belfast BT1 6EQ 028/9032-8239).
Dial tel. 999 for fire, police, and ambulance.
United Kingdom postal rates apply, and mailboxes are painted red. Most post offices are open weekdays 9am to 5pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm.
Newspapers & Magazines:
The morning national newspapers are the News Letter and the Irish News; the Belfast Telegraph is the only evening paper
Because of long-standing security concerns, parking regulations are more restrictive and more strictly enforced in the North than in the Republic.
The approximate price of 1 liter of unleaded gas is 71p . There are 4 liters to the U.S. gallon, which makes the price of a gallon of unleaded gas ¬£2.64 ($4.35)!
The Northern Ireland police are known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). In an emergency, dial tel. 999 for fire, police, and ambulance
You pay a VAT (value-added tax) of 17.5% on almost everything, The percentages vary with the category of the services and purchases. It is usually already included in the prices you're quoted by hotels and the prices you see marked on merchandise tags. Many shops offer tax-free shopping, and are pleased to explain the details. Vouchers from the North can be presented for refunds at the Dublin or Shannon airports before departure from Ireland. For further information, contact HM Customs and Excise, Belfast International Airport 028/9441-3439 or 028/9442-3439).
The U.S. consulate general:
Is at Queen's House, 14 Queen's St., Belfast BT1 028/9032-8239
You can log on at the Revelations Caf√©, 27 Shaftesbury Sq. 028/9032-0337; www.revelations.co.uk It is on Bradbury Place just south of Donegall Road.
The Belfast GPO (General Post Office) is at Castle Place, at the intersection of Royal Avenue and Donegall Place. It's open Monday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm, Saturday 9am to 7pm.
Arriving & Departing:
Belfast International Airport at Aldergove (BFS)
19 mi from Belfast (028/9442-2888)
Belfast's principal air arrival point.
Belfast City Airport (BHD)
4 mi from Belfast
Receives flights from U.K. provincial airports, from London Gatwick and Heathrow, and from Stanstead and Luton (both near London). Flights take about 1 1/4 hours from London.
Transfers Between the Airports and Town:
Operates a shuttle bus every half hour between the International Airport and Belfast city center.
Belfast has two airports: Belfast International and Belfast City: it also gets considerable sea traffic at Belfast Harbour and at Larne (30 min. from Belfast by train, bus, or car)north of the city. From Belfast City Airport, you can travel into Belfast by train from Sydenham Halt to Central Station (E. Bridge St.) or catch a taxi from the airport to your hotel.
Airbus limousine is a popular choice from either airport into the city center. It operates daily, leaves approximately twice an hour, and costs about ¬£5 ($8.25) per person from BFS, less from BHD. A taxi costs considerably more
Northern Ireland's main bus company, runs direct service between Dublin and Belfast. Queries about Ulsterbus service, or any other bus service in Northern Ireland, can be dealt with by the central call-center of Translink ( 028/9033-3000).
The Republic's Bus √Čireann
Also runs direct services to and from Dublin. Buses arrive at and depart from Belfast's Europa Buscentre (Glengall St., 028/9033-3000) and the ride takes three hours.
Buses to Belfast also run from London and from Birmingham, making the Stranraer ferry (01/776/7022) crossing.
Many roads from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland were once closed for security reasons, but all are now reinstated, leaving drivers with a choice of legitimate crossing points. Army checkpoints at all approved frontier posts are rare, and few customs formalities are observed. The fast N1/A1 road connects Belfast to Dublin in 100 miles with an average driving time of just over two hours.
Norse Irish Ferries
Victoria Terminal 2, West Bank Rd.
Has 11-hour daytime or overnight car ferries that connect Belfast with the English west-coast port of Liverpool every other day.
P&O European Ferries
Has a one-hour sailing to Larne from Cairnryan, Scotland; infrequent trains take passengers on to Belfast.
Both fast catamarans that carry cars and passengers from Stranraer directly into Belfast in just 11/2 hours.
The Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company
A three-hour car-ferry service on the MV Claymore linking Campbeltown in Scotland with Ballycastle in County Antrim; it runs July-October.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company
Runs summer services between the Isle of Man and Belfast.
The Dublin-Belfast Express train
Operated by both Northern Ireland Railways (028/9089-9411) and Iarnr√≥d √Čireann (01/855-4477) Travels between the two cities in about two hours. Six trains run daily in both directions (three on Sunday) to and from Belfast's Central Station (E. Bridge St., 028/9089-9411). Also, a free shuttle bus service will drop you off at City Hall or Ulsterbus's city-center Europa Buscentre ( 028/9033-3000), or you can change trains for Great Victoria Street Station (Great Victoria St., 028/9043-4424), which is adjacent both to the Europa Buscentre and the Europa Hotel.
There are frequent and inexpensive Ulsterbus links between all Northern Ireland towns. The main bus stations in Belfast are the Europa Buscentre (Glengall St., 028/9033-3000), which is easiest to find using its Great Victoria Street entrance to the left of the Europa Hotel, and the Laganside Buscentre (Donegall Quay, 028/9033-3000), around the corner from the Albert Clock and about 1 km (1/2 mi) from Central Station.
Visitors have access to good city-bus service. All routes start from Donegall Square; you'll find a kiosk there where you can pick up a timetable. Citybus, Donegall Square West, Belfast (028/9024-6485), provides local bus service within the city. Departures are from Donegall Square East, West, and North, plus Upper Queen Street, Wellington Place, Chichester Street, and Castle Street. There is an information kiosk on Donegall Square West.
If you've brought a car into Belfast, it's best to leave it parked at your hotel and take public transportation or walk around the city. Taxis are available at all main rail stations, ports, and airports, and in front of City Hall. Most metered taxis are London-type black cabs with a yellow disc on the window. Other taxis may not have meters, so you should ask the fare to your destination in advance.