In the Republic of Ireland, long-distance bus service is operated by Bus Éireann, which also provides local service in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford. There's only one class, and prices are similar for all seats. Note, though, that outside of the peak season, service is limited; some routes (for example, to the Ring of Kerry) disappear altogether.
Bus Éireann's Expressway buses go directly, in the straightest available line, from one biggish town to another, stopping at a limited number of designated places. There's sometimes only one trip a day on express routes.
A round-trip from Dublin to Cork costs €22, and a Dublin to Galway City round-trip is €19.
Prepaid tickets don’t apply to a particular bus time, just a route, so show up at least 30 minutes early to get a seat.
Rural bus service, which rambles around the countryside passing through as many villages as possible, shuts down at around 7 or 8 pm. To ensure that a bus journey is feasible, check online or ask at the nearest bus station. Many of the destination indicators are in Irish (Gaelic), so make sure you get on the right bus.
Citylink, a Galway-based company, has service between Galway, Limerick, Cork, and Dublin, as well as Cork and Dublin airports. Prices are competitive, with the 2-hour, 45-minute journey from Dublin Airport to Galway costing no more than €16.50 one-way. This can be cut to 2 hours, 30 minutes by using the Citylink’s Eireagle service which travels direct to the airport, bypassing the city center. All buses have complimentary Wi-Fi.
Aircoach operates a similar service, with Wi-Fi on most buses, between Dublin, Cork, and Belfast and their respective airports. The three-hour journey from Cork to Dublin costs €16 one-way. Online fares can be cheaper, and booking online guarantees you a seat and priority boarding, ahead of those paying in cash.
In Northern Ireland
All buses in Northern Ireland are operated by the state-owned Translink. Goldline is the long distance bus division, while Ulsterbus runs local services. Service is generally good, with particularly useful links to towns not served by train. Ulsterbus also runs tours. Eurolines buses run from London and from Birmingham, making the Stranraer–Port of Belfast crossing.
Fares and Passes
You can buy tickets online, at tourist offices, at bus stations, or on buses (though it's cash only for the latter option).
You can save money with multiday passes, some of which can be combined with rail service. Consider the Irish Explorer Rail and Bus Pass, which gives you five days out of 15 of bus and rail travel for €160. An iLink Card costs £60 for seven days of unlimited bus and rail travel in Northern Ireland—a great deal when you consider that a one-day ticket costs £16.50.
Some cost-cutting passes include both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. An Irish Rover bus ticket for travel on Ulsterbus and Bus Éireann covers Ireland, north and south. It also includes city-center bus travel in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, and on the Metro services in Belfast—but not Dublin.
Aircoach. 01/844–7118; www.aircoach.ie.
Bus Éireann. 01/836–6111; www.buseireann.ie.
Citylink. 091/564–164; www.citylink.ie.
Eurolines. 08717/818–178; www.eurolines.co.uk.
Ulsterbus. 028/9066–6630; www.translink.co.uk.
Translink Goldline. 028/9033–7002; www.translink.co.uk.