Once one of Europe's poorest nations, Ireland has flourished into a financial, social and cultural center with worldwide influence. Advances in technology and traditional industries have bouyed the economy and triggered strong investments in textiles, chemicals and electronics. Promising oil and gas deposits have been found on the southern coast. Foreign investment is high, aided by government incentives for outside investors.

This growth has not tainted Ireland's traditional attractions: verdant countryside, sandy beaches, sapphire bays, rugged cliffs and a lyrical culture. The historical cities of Cork, Galway and Dublin each carry unique charm, and boast strong Celtic influence.

The original Irish language, Gaelic, is of Celtic origin. English is more widely spoken, and is spoken as a first language by most of the population.

Ireland's weather is temperate, with warm summers and colder winters, especially in the northern regions. Rain is nearly constant in some regions, particularly in winter.

Dublin, Shannon and Cork hold international airports serviced by carriers such as: Aer Lingus, RyanAir, Aer Arann, Lufthansa, Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Air France and British Airways. Nationwide transportation is well developed (although many roads are narrow), with rail and bus services connecting most main cities (though bus service in remote areas is infrequent). Driving is on the left side of the road. Ferries are available to the United Kingdom and the west coast islands.

The cost of food and accommodation is reasonable, and can be inexpensive in the more remote towns. The communications infrastructure has evolved significantly in the past few years, with modern and efficient telephone, Internet and postal services.

The crime rate in Ireland is fairly low, though petty theft is common especially on trains, buses, and at train stations. The threat of terrorist activity, generally related to the conflict in Northern Ireland, rarely involves travelers.


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