Ireland and Northern Ireland are so close to each other, it’s a shame to visit one and not the other. If you happen to be in Dublin, you’re separated by just 160 km from Belfast, which makes visiting for a couple of days relatively simple and hassle-free. So which is the best way to get from Dublin to Belfast?
The Irish Rail line connects the Connolly station in Dublin to Belfast in just over two hours. There are around eight trains a day, with 1-2 hours between each train. Tickets range from €19 for a one-way fare to €39 for a ticket with an open return. This is convenient because it allows you to have flexibility. Even the cheapest ticket will allow you to travel on the train before or after your scheduled train for free. The first train of the day departs around 7 am and the last around 8 pm or 9 pm.
The bus between the two cities can take anywhere from 1:55 to 2:30, so the time difference between the train and bus is negligible. However, the bus is much cheaper, costing just €10 if you book online in advance. If you book in person, you’ll pay only a couple of euro more but you gain the flexibility of getting a bus ticket whenever you want to leave instead of having to leave when your bus is scheduled. The bus also departs every hour, 24 hours a day, so it allows you to travel even when the train has already stopped running. With more timetable options, the bus is slightly more flexible.
Where to take the train or bus
In Belfast, the buses arrive and depart from the Belfast Europa Bus Centre at Glengall Street. However, the trains arrive and depart from Lanyon Place Train Station, closer to the waterfront. Belfast is small and both locations are fairly central, so you won’t have to go far out of your way for either option.
In Dublin, the buses arrive and depart from the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street. These routes also stop at both terminals of the Dublin airport, so you can go directly from Belfast to the airport or from the airport to Belfast without having to make a stop in the center of Dublin. The trains in Dublin run from Connolly Station. Though this isn’t far from the center of town, you couldn’t be more central than O’Connell Street, so it’s definitely a bit more convenient to take the bus.
With distances so close, it’s faster to get to Belfast from Dublin than it is to get to the Cliffs of Moher. Driving is certainly an option if you have a car rental. However, you should make sure to understand the terms of driving a rental across the border. Some companies don’t permit it; some charge you extra, especially if you will be returning the rental in another country.
Just remember that if something were to happen across the border on a rental you weren’t supposed to take into another country, you could face some issues. So just ask to be sure. It’s perfectly common so there will always be some kind of policy in place for it.
There are no direct flights from Dublin to Belfast. Why would there be? It takes less time to travel by land than it would to get to the airport, do the whole security song and dance, and get on a flight. So even if this is your preferred mode of travel, it’s a bad one in this particular case.
Crossing the border
At least while Brexit remains unresolved, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is an open one. So whether you take the train, bus, or drive across yourself, there is no passport check. This could change if the UK ever finalizes negotiations to withdraw from the EU.
Which is the best?
The choice is yours. Some people strongly prefer train travel to buses. However, the bus is comfortable, convenient, and cheaper. I would recommend that over the other options.