Irish Rail's fare structure is unnecessarily complex, it is extremely hard to even determine the correct fare in advance as few of the details are available in public, and even then there is a good chance that Irish Rail don't know themselves what the fare is. The scale of the inconsistencies is shocking.
Rail Users Ireland has prepared a list of tips to help you get the best value.
Monthly and annual tickets are available through the taxsaver scheme where you do not pay PAYE or PRSI on the value of the ticket. Savings of over 40% are possible depending on your income and tax status. Monthly and annual tickets are available between any two named intercity stations. Zonal tickets are available in Dublin. The price of an annual ticket is set at 10 times the price of monthly ticket. Further details www.taxsaver.ie. Holders of TaxSaver tickets are entitled to avail of 16-25 Railcard fares when booking online.
Travelling outside peak hours outside the Dublin suburban area may lead to a discounted fare. Discounted day return tickets are available from most intercity stations to Dublin and from most stations in Munster to Cork and Limerick. Special discounted fares apply after 9:30am at most stations in the extended Dublin Commuter belt Monday-Friday.
For weekly and monthly tickets within Dublin short hop zone and the Cork Suburban area and for all single/return/weekly/monthly tickets elsewhere. You must have a valid student travelcard. Discounts vary but can be very significant depending on the journey. The cost of the student travel card can normally be recovered in savings within two intercity journeys.
16-25 Travel Card
Valid for all single and return tickets beyond the Dublin short hop zone and the Cork Suburban area. Must be under 26 years old. Costs 10 euro and must be applied for in advance, download application form. Offers a level of discount similar to student fares but weekly and monthly ticket options are not available.
For long distance intercity journeys buying online guarantees the cheapest price while offering the additional value of a reserved seat. Fares start from 9.99 euro on some intercity routes. For more details see here.
As online tickets are also a reservation, you are entitled to additional rights under the Irish Rail passenger charter. If you book first class and no first class is available or you end up standing, or you are transferred onto a different service you are entitled to a full refund
Avoid the credit card fee by paying with Laser / Visa Debit
If you are delayed or services or facilities on the train don't match with what you have paid for, you may be entitled to a refund. Cross border tickets must be refunded in cash if so requested under EU law.
Further details on claiming refunds here.
Luas / 90 Add On
If you are arriving into Dublin Heuston or Dublin Connolly and wish to travel on the 90/145 bus or the central zone of the Red Luas line, ask for a ticket to 'Dublin City Centre'. This option is also available online.