Ireland is one of our favourite destinations, and we love booking people on trips to this gorgeous place. However, there is often a little confusion over the fact that, although it’s such a small place, this island in the North Atlantic is divided into two separate countries which use different currency and have different governance. It is also important to know the difference because there are different visa requirements for South African travellers going to Northern or Southern Ireland.
Provinces and counties in a nutshell
Ireland comprises 4 provinces – Connacht, Ulster, Munster, and Leinster.
These are divided up into 32 counties, of which 6 form Northern Ireland, and the rest the Republic of Ireland. (Note that, in Ireland, the word ‘county’ comes before the name, for example, County Antrim not Antrim County.)
The division of Ireland into counties is a process that took place over many years with the final county (Wicklow) being formed in 1605. Since then, the counties have remained largely unchanged.
North and South
- Part of: United Kingdom
- Currency: Great British Pound
- Capital: Belfast (mostly in County Antrim with some in County Down)
- 6 Counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone.
Republic of Ireland (aka Southern Ireland)
- Part of: European Union
- Currency: Euro
- Capital: Dublin (County Dublin)
- 26 Counties: Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
In 03 May 1921, the Partition of Ireland divided Ireland into Southern and Northern Ireland, each self-governing entities. To cut a long story short, the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed on 06 December 1921, came at the end of the Irish War of Independence and it is based on this that Northern Ireland is now part of the United Kingdom, and Southern Ireland is part of the European Union.
Crossing the border
The border between the Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom is around 499km long and runs from Carlingford Lough to Lough Foyle. There are no conspicuous border markers or border posts.
South Africans do need a valid visa for the United Kingdom, even if you’re only visiting Northern Ireland. Until recently, visa-free entry was permitted to the Republic of Ireland for South Africans but, since covid-19, there have been several rapid changes so always check before you plan! UK citizens currently don’t need a visa to enter the Republic of Ireland.
ALWAYS check what form of travel documents you need before going anywhere and ensure that you have everything with you in case you are asked to provide this while you’re travelling. This includes travel by air, ferry, train, etc.
Please note that British TIPS does not issue visas for any country, and we are unable to assist you with visa applications. The links provided above will get you to all the info you need.