Northern Ireland is both British and Irish and at the same time different. It's is part of the United Kingdom. The currency is the pound. Road signs are in miles. Weight is measured in stone. Northern Ireland shares an island and cultural heritage with the Republic of Ireland. It's steeped in tradition. It was mired in religious conflict for 35 years to 1998. Northern Ireland is packed with surprises. It's a land of dramatic landscapes - blue mountains, windswept moors and rugged coastline. It's home to the walled city of Derry and bustling capital of Belfast. It's a place of leprechauns, giants, clans and St. Patrick.
The simplest way to reach Northern Ireland is to transit through Dublin or London or ferry from England or Scotland. Northern Ireland has three airports - Belfast International, Belfast City and City of Derry - yet finding a direct flight is no simple matter. Continental Airlines offers the only direct flight from the United States. Low cost carriers, including EasyJet, BMI Baby, Ryanair and Flybe, connect Northern Ireland with several destinations in the UK but only a few select cities in continental Europe. Ferries depart the Northern Ireland ports of Belfast and Larne and cross the Irish Sea to Liverpool, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Belfast, Northern Ireland's largest city and capital, is just 100 miles (160 km) north of Dublin, its better served southern cousin.
Northern Ireland is just 5,450 square miles in size and boast miles of divided highways and good country roads. Its extensive bus network makes bus travel a good budget option. Northern Ireland has five railway lines yet the rail system is limited. Northern Ireland has walking trails for casual walkers and serious ramblers. While only a small portion of the country's cycling routes are traffic-free, much are on low traffic roads. Family Travel Tip: Driving is on the left; cars are right hand drive. Distance and drive times don't naturally follow. Northern Ireland is largely rural and many roads are single carriageway. What's more, North Coast roads follow the twists and turns of the seaboard.
A valid national identity card is required for citizens of EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland and Norway. A passport, valid for the length of stay, is required for all other travelers. A visa is not required for tourist stays of up to 90 days. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland share an open border.
The climate of Northern Ireland is temperate marine and the one certainty about the weather is variability. The average annual temperature range is 16° C or 28° F. It rains, on average, more than 200 days a year. It's possible to experience a multitude of seasons in single day. The warmest months are June through August with an average high temperature of 18° C or 64 ° F. The coldest months are January and February with an average low of 2° C or 36° F. The driest months are April and May, the wettest December and January. Pack for all seasons in summer and plan to dress in layers whether traveling in June or January.
The political situation in Northern Ireland has improved significantly since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 yet sporadic violence continues to happen. Check government sources for updated travel advisories before booking a trip. There no specific health risks or vaccinations required for a family holiday in Northern. Children should be up-to-date on routine childhood immunizations prior to traveling abroad.