Ireland Bed and Breakfast Etiquette

What to Expect at Irish B&Bs and How to be a Considerate Guest

What is an Irish B&B? A bed-and-breakfast is someone's home. Many of them have a separate wing for their guests. They all have private quarters for themselves. You will have your own private room usually with an en suite bathroom (attached to your room). Upon checking in you will get a key to your room and one for the front door of the B&B so you can come and go as you please. An Irish B&B will most likely have a lounge or sitting room as well as a dining room for the exclusive use of their guests. Outdoor smoking areas are common. On-site parking is available at most B&Bs, however those in a city center location may have limited parking spaces or require that you park in a public lot. As it says on the tin, a B&B provides their guests with bed and breakfast. Some farmhouse B&Bs in rural areas also provide packed lunches and/or dinner, which cost extra and should be ordered in advance. 

How to Find a B&B: Most B&Bs have their name and a shamrock sign out front. The shamrock sign means they have been inspected and approved by a tourism organization. If they are full or not open for business you will generally see a "No Vacancy" sign. Pull into the driveway and ring the bell. Ask if they have a room available. The question back to you from the host is "what type of room?" You need to know if you want a twin, double, family, king or super king. Or just tell them you want a room with two beds or a room with a six-foot bed. Be sure to specify en suite. They will show you a room and tell you the rates. If you like it say something like, "Thanks. This will suit us fine." If you don't like it and don't want to stay say, "This is not quite what I'm looking for. But thank you for showing me the room." Then be on your way. There are various guidebooks available for B&B. See my Links Page. I have some outstanding Irish B&Bs listed on my Lodgings Page. All of my approved B&Bs are listed in my book Ireland Dream Trip. Often the B&Bs listed in my book give discounts to my readers.

Making Reservations: When making reservations via email be patient waiting for a reply. If you contact B&Bs off-season they may be closed or away on their own vacation. Do not assume a B&B is ignoring your email message. They may not have received it. It happens more often than you think. Re-send the message saying it is your second or third attempt. If you still do not hear back pick up the phone and call. Phoning is the easiest and quickest method of getting an instant answer. Remember it is 5 hours later in Ireland than Eastern Standard Time.

Re-confirm Reservations:
Shortly before your departure confirm your reservations again. This will give both you and your host peace of mind.

No-Show Guests: B&Bs are small Mom & Pop establishments with 6 rooms or less for guests. Many do not have additional staff like big hotels do. Since they have so few rooms they cannot absorb the costs of no-show guests. Guests who make reservations and do not show up really hurt the pocketbook. Hosts may have turned away many people from a room that will then go unoccupied and not paid for. They may have waited up to all hours of the night for guests who don't have the common courtesy to make a quick phone call. They may have skipped important family events to wait for no-shows. Don't be a deadbeat.

Your Hosts Are People Too: B&B owners have a life of their own. If you are kind to them, generally you will be treated the same. They are in the hospitality business and are used to meeting the needs of their guests, but try not to be too demanding. Everyone has an off day and at times a host may not be as cheery as you expect. And they all have different personalities. Hosts are also dealing with other guests, their children, elderly parents, their own ailments and perhaps other jobs - in other words everything that you are and then some. Think of having continual house guests 24/7 for 9 months a year. A smile goes a long way!

Check-in Time is usually between 4 - 6 pm, unless agreed on otherwise. If you have a early flight arrival you cannot count on getting into your room early (maybe in off-season). If the B&B was full the night before your arrival the present guests must have breakfast, check out and then the rooms must be cleaned before you can occupy it. All that takes time. If you absolutely must have a room on arrival for your early check-in, reserve the night before. It will mean paying for two nights but if it is that important it is a small price to pay. When doing that, you can check-in early, freshen up and have breakfast before napping or relaxing. When checking in you will get a key for your room and the front door.

Reservations Expire at 6 pm! If you will be later, call your hosts and let them know when your estimated arrival time is. They are flexible if they know your plans. But they are not mind-readers. If you arrive at 10 pm in August and have not called, don't be surprised to find no room at the inn.

Parking: Ask your hosts if they want you to park in a certain area. Don't hog the spaces - leave room for other guests to park their cars too.

Coffee or Tea on Arrival: Don't feel slighted if you are not offered tea and snacks on arrival. Now that many B&Bs have tea and coffee facilities in their bedrooms it is becoming less common to be offered it on arrival. If you do receive the offer, consider it an extra.

Directions: Get detailed directions to your B&Bs, since many are difficult to find. Print them from the website or ask your hosts. Before going out for the evening take a couple of cards from your B&B. They usually have a map on the back. This will help you find your way home after dinner or a pub crawl.

Breakfast: Meal times vary from place to place, but generally breakfast runs from 8 or 8:30 to 9:30 or 10. Some B&Bs will do early breakfast but others cannot for various scheduling reasons. If you have an early departure most B&Bs will leave you cereal, bread, jam, etc. to have in the dining room or your room. Some B&Bs will ask you to fill out your breakfast request the night before and ask you what time you would like breakfast. Try to be in the dining room at the time you specify. Other B&Bs are more casual and you can eat when you want and order your breakfast in the morning. If you have special dietary needs let your hosts know in advance (at least the night before). Many B&Bs have a buffet table where you can serve yourself cereal, fruit, juice, etc. It would be impolite to raid the buffet and take food away for a picnic lunch or to have in the car. There are other guests who must eat too. Most B&B have individual tables. If there are just two of you sit at a table set for two, not four or six. If in doubt, ask.

Attire: When in the public areas of the B&B it is best not to wear your negligee or only your underwear, go barefooted, etc. If your room is not ensuite and you have to cross the hall to a bathroom, cover up.

Late Night Arrivals: If you check-in very late or come in after the pubs have closed, remember that other guests may already be asleep. Loud talking, laughter, door slamming and walking up the wooden stairs like elephants is not kind. The TV volume in your room should be kept low too. Just use common courtesy.

A B&B is Someone's Home: If you break something, spill something, etc. let your hosts know right away. They have the supplies to deal with it and would rather clean up right away so that you are safe or so stains don't set in. It is not a Holiday Inn. Individual bottles of shampoo, bottled water, individual soaps are there for you to use. But don't take the towels, toilet paper, box of tissues, flowers or the full bottle of liquid hand soap. If something is not in your room that you need, let your hosts know. Don't use the towels to clean your shoes or the car windows. Instead ask your hosts and they will supply rags or paper towels. Washing out a few undergarments and letting them dry in the bathroom is fine. However, don't wash your whole wardrobe and hang your clothes all over the room dripping on the furniture and carpeting. That is what a launderette is for. Ask your hosts and they will tell you where you can get your clothes washed. Virtually all B&Bs in Ireland are non-smoking. Don't smoke in the room, the bathroom or out the window. Use the designated area outside.

Paying: Many B&Bs will take your credit card number to make a reservation. However, most want payment in cash. It would be wise to inquire in advance. At most B&Bs you pay in the morning after breakfast when you are checking out. Some B&Bs have been stung by guests skipping out without paying. If they ask for payment on arrival don't be insulted. Unfortunately, this is becoming much more common as a result of unscrupulous people's actions.

Tipping: It is not customary to tip at B&Bs. However, if you had exceptional service or your hosts made phone calls for you, made you reservations, did your laundry, or generally went out of their way to help make your stay special a tip is not out of line. At B&Bs and guesthouses with staff it is appropriate to leave something for good service.

Host Gifts: For some reason people equate staying in a B&B with staying at a relative's house. They think they should take a gift as thanks. Gifts for B&B owners are really not necessary. You are paying to stay at the B&B. If you absolutely must give the host a gift make it something small and evocative of the area you live. Flowers or chocolates are also appropriate. Sending a thank you card is the proper way to thank your hosts. Also consider writing a brief review of their B&B and post it on online review websites.

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