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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

When in Doubt, Stick Your Arm Out

  • Dublin public buses
    Dublin public buses

Author Name

Charlotte Brownstone

Author Program

Ireland: Social Sciences

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2019

Student Major


Growing up in San Francisco, I learned how to take public transportation from a young age and generally consider myself pretty savvy at navigating the various systems in different cities throughout the United States. Since arriving in Dublin, I have taken various forms of transportation, including the Luas and the DART. Both were similar experiences to subways/streetcars/trains in the U.S. You simply pay, hop on the train, and get off at your stop. The only noticeable difference is that all of the stop names are in both Irish and English, as are all of the signs in Ireland.

Walking to and from school from my apartment for the first time, one of the first things I noticed (besides the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road here) was the huge yellow and blue double-decker buses. These are, in fact, the normal public buses here in Dublin. I found them slightly intimidating, but I have to take the bus to my internship at Special Olympics, so I had to get over my intimidation and try it out.

Of course, the day I decided to try out the route to my internship, it was about 35 degrees outside, the coldest it had been since arriving in Dublin. I woke up to darkness at 7:00 am, as the sun rises quite late here, and headed to my bus stop. I had an idea of what buses to take from my trusty Google Maps, although each time I put my destination in, it seemed to instruct me to take different buses and get off at different stops to transfer.

Now, as I learned, in Dublin, you need to put your arm out in order to let your bus know to stop and pick you up. Luckily, on the way to my internship, I always had someone else at my stop to hail the bus down. After boarding each bus, you have to let the driver know the area you’re going to, so they know how much to charge you. This is not something I had experienced before, and I had already been warned by a friend that the bus drivers often did not know the bus stop by the name Google Maps used. Instead, I said the town I was going to, which I determined by zooming in on my map. The bus drivers nicely corrected my incorrect pronunciation of the towns and charged me my fair.

The stops are announced quite quickly in English, immediately followed by Irish, so to make sure not to miss my stop, I made sure to check the little blue dot on Google Maps, until it was lined up with my correct stop. I successfully made it to my internship stop and walked for about 20 minutes to the Special Olympics building through the National Sports Campus. I was the only person walking, so the drivers in passing cars kept peering at me curiously as they drove by. Once I got there, I turned around and headed back, ready to try the route home.

On the way back, I started to feel much more confident. I successfully hailed my first Dublin bus, and placed my Leap Card (the bus cards with money loaded on them) on the machine, rattling out my stop to the bus driver. On the way there, I noticed some Dubliners stating the numerical value of their trip, rather than their stops, so I inspected the “fare sign” on the bus, which detailed how the fares work. Of course, it was the first sign in Dublin I encountered that was exclusively in Irish. My next goal will be to figure that method out in the future. I also decided to sit on the second level of the bus on the way back. Now, I would not suggest this if you get carsick easily, as it was a bit nauseating, and I had the distinct feeling that we were going to hit everything we passed too closely. However, the entire public transportation experience was quite the adventure. I will be taking the buses twice a week from now on, so I will hopefully be quite used to them after my time here, and if I ever need to show someone around the Dublin bus system, I’ll be quite the pro.