Northern Ireland has, over the past couple of years, seen a real boost in tourism, mostly due to increased advertising and the peace process than relieved the fears head by many foreign tourists. Things now however have changed slightly, in that, Northern Ireland is once again in the news for the wrong reasons in terms of terrorist attacks. However, ask anyone living in Northern Ireland, and they will tell you that it is as safe as any other country, and life for its citizens has not changed.
Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, we don't always do things the same, and you will find it to be a place of uniqueness in many ways.
Here are a few tips for those visiting Northern Ireland for the first time:
1. Northern Ireland uses the British sterling as its currency, however most of the cash that you will see will have a Northern Ireland bank name on the note, rather than the Bank of England for example. All sterling cash are accepted in Northern Ireland, as is Euro in most places. However, if you go to the mainland UK after visiting Northern Ireland, you must change any Northern Irish notes into Bank of England notes, as the British will not accept our notes. Strange yes, and it is a grumble of most Northern Irish people, but it is something we have to live with.
2. Unlike much of the mainland UK, Northern Ireland is stil rather traditional in its approach to Sunday closing. Many shops do not open at all on a Sunday, although there are an increasing amount that open from 1pm., including supermarkets, although for reduced hours. Most attractions do open every day, however, you will definitely notice more closed shops here than across the water.
3. Don't be put off coming to Northern Ireland because of news stories about car bombs etc. It is the same as visiting any other country - you need to be sensible and safe. Do not venture into unknown areas that are off the tourist trail, without a guide or tour. You will be very vulnerable, as you would in any country where you go ito the wrong area. There are many bus tours, black taxis and guides, that will take you around some of the famous murials etc so do NOT venture off by yourself.
4. Pubs in Northern Ireland aren't the same as pubs in the Republic of Ireland or on the mainland. These pubs are very family friendly places - this is less so in Northern Ireland, and again you need to be careful where you go. Many many pubs are not family places or in fact places for a tourist to go, so check the place out with your host before you venture into some pubs.
5. Northern Ireland, alongside Scotland, is often considered to be one of the friendliest places to visit in the UK. Locals are always willing to help tourists and guide them in the right direction, and you will find, particularly the further north you go, the friendlier they get, with people often greeting each other when they are strangers, as they walk. If you visit the Giant's causeway you will probably recognise the locals because they will usually always say hello as they walk past.
6. Should you stay in one of the many wonderful B&B's you will probably not need any lunch that day. Cooked breakfasts are big and tasty. They may not be the healthiest way to start the day, but they are difficult to beat. Again, Northern Ireland differs in this cooked breakfast than the south of Ireland. Up in the north, an 'Ulster Fry' consists of sausages, beans, hash browns, potato bread, soda bread, pancakes, eggs, tomatoes and even a black pudding thrown in at times. You will not get the potato bread in the Republic of Ireland that you will taste in the north, and make sure you try some before you leave.
All in all, there is no reason to deter people from visitng Northern Ireland. If you are safe and sensible, and don't venture into unknown areas, you will be perfectly fine, and enjoy friendliness, delicious foods and beautiful scenery in return.