Orla Keaveney tells us how to get the best out of your commute in Dublin.
When students from across the country first move to Dublin for university, the freedom of public transport is one of the most appealing features of urban life. Gone are the days of relying on lifts from mam and dad: now you can hop onto any bus, tram and train to whizz across the capital at your leisure.
Unfortunately, a few days in, you begin to realise that all is not as idyllic as it seems at first. Making your way from A to B can be as complex as planning an Arctic expedition, and the constant delays, re-routes and cancellations can make it feel as gruelling. Having learned to navigate the city the hard way myself, I have a few tips for making the most of Dublin’s heartbreaking system, without losing your sanity:
· If you’ll be using public transport at all, get a Student Leap Card as soon as possible – there’ll be a stand selling them on your campus for the first few weeks of the semester. I know a tenner seems steep, but trust me, you’ll make that back in no time. Plus it saves you carrying around €2.70 in coins everywhere you go (Dublin Bus, much like a dodgy vending machine, doesn’t take notes or give change).
· Unless you’re a born-and-bred Dub, there are two apps you’ll need to find your way around: Google Maps, and the Dublin Bus app. Use these to double-check every journey, or else you could end up taking the extremely scenic route. These apps both need internet, but if you have no mobile data, there’s a Starbucks on practically every corner in the city centre where you can steal Wifi on the sly
· When boarding a bus, don’t swipe your Leap card on the reader to the right. It will charge you the maximum fare of €2.60, which is for 13 or more stops, and to be honest nobody ever checks how far you go. Instead, go to the driver’s window, place your card on the reader and say “two-oh-five please” with an innocent smile.
· On that point, make sure you’re always very polite to bus drivers, with a cheerful “thanks” as you hop off, no matter how grumpy or late they are.
· Remember that bus drivers aren’t mind-readers, so you’ll need to wave down buses to get on, and ring the little red bells before your stop so they’ll let you off. Since there’ll usually be at least one seasoned traveller who’ll do this for you, it’s very tempting to get lazy and leave them to it. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry: there are few worse feelings than watching your stop fly past in the window, and then having to trudge back by foot from the next one.
· Real Time Information displays may seem like a handy feature, but are actually psychological torture devices, designed to string you along on false hope. You’ll just have to come to terms with the broken promises of punctual transport, and try not to lose the head when the 39a jumps from 2 to 14 minutes away.
· Thankfully, the Luas and Dart are a lot more straightforward than the bus, though you need to remember to touch on and off for every journey if you use your Leap card. But don’t panic if you forget to touch off, your credit won’t be maxed out – you’ll simply be charged as if you had taken the longest journey possible, which could cost up to €3 more. A bit annoying, but definitely not the end of the world.
· The last buses leave the city at 11.30 each night, with the last Luas at 0.30 in the morning. Later in the night, taxis can be very pricy, so it’s worth checking if you’re on a Nitelink route – these are special bus services that run from D’Olier and Westmoreland Streets every hour on Friday and Saturday nights. At €5.20 with a Leap Card, this option can be significantly cheaper than a taxi, though it’s still advisable to travel with a friend (especially since the bus won’t drop you to your doorstep like a taxi would).
· If your route to college is very circuitous, look into ride-sharing options on campus, such as the “UCD Carpool” Facebook page. If you’re lucky, someone with a car might be passing where you live, and could give you a lift in exchange for splitting fuel costs.
And remember, if you’re still unsure of how to get where you want to go, you can always ask your friendly neighbourhood local. Sure, they might slag off your “culchie” ways, which can be extra frustrating given that most Dubs don’t know half the street names themselves. But if it saves you getting from Heuston to Trinity via Malahide, it’s worth enduring the eye-rolls!
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