Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice and Information
As government restrictions slowly start to lift, some of Belfast’s outdoor spaces, shops, facilities and visitor attractions are beginning to open their doors again with new measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Some key updates include:
- Shops and non-essential retailers reopened on 12 June
- Visit Belfast Welcome Centre reopened on 16 June
- Caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering tourist accommodation can reopen on 26 June
- Hotels, tourist accommodation, public houses and bars will reopen on 3 July
- Face coverings are compulsory on public transport from 10 July
Visit Belfast Welcome Centre
The Visit Belfast Welcome Centre has reopened for essential tourist information and advice; Ticketmaster outlet; Translink rail and bus ticket sales; tickets for tours and events; accommodation bookings; gift shop (with tax free shopping for visitors from outside the European Union); free Wi-Fi and bureau de change. Throughout June and July we will be open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 5pm.
What to See and Where to Stay
Internet and WiFi
Internet and WiFi access is widely available throughout the city, including in the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre.
If you require PC and printing facilities, your hotel may provide this service for free or for a small charge. Belfast Central Library can also provide PC and printing facilities for a small charge.
The international dialling code for Northern Ireland is 00 44 28. The local code for Belfast is 90.
Directory enquiries can be contacted on 118 500 or dial 0 from a public telephone for operator assistance.
Most post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm and some are also open on Saturday mornings. The main post office is located on Bridge Street in Belfast City Centre and is open 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday.
In Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, the currency is pound sterling (£). One pound is equal to 100 pence. Notes are available as £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. Coins are available as 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2.
Some shops and visitor attractions may also accept Euro – which is the official currency used in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere in Europe – but this is not guaranteed.
Banks and Bureau de Change
Most banks are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and some are also open on Saturdays.
There are foreign money exchange facilities in the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre and various retail outlets across the city.
Credit Cards and Payment Options
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted throughout Northern Ireland; American Express is accepted in some places but not all. Alipay is accepted in the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre.
Northern Ireland’s 2019 public and bank holidays are below:
- New Year’s Day – 1 January
- St Patrick’s Day – 17 March
- Good Friday – 10 April
- Easter Monday – 13 April
- Early May Bank Holiday – 8 May
- Spring Bank Holiday – 25 May
- Battle of the Boyne / Orangemen’s Day – 13 July
- Summer Bank Holiday – 31 August
- Christmas Day – 25 December
- Boxing Day – 26 December.
Many shops in Belfast City Centre are open:
- Monday: 9am – 6pm
- Tuesday: 9am – 6pm
- Wednesday: 9am – 6pm (Victoria Square shopping centre is open to 9pm)
- Thursday: 9am – 9pm
- Friday: 9am – 6pm (Victoria Square shopping centre is open to 9pm)
- Saturday: 9am – 6pm
- Sunday: 1pm – 6pm
Opening hours for smaller shops may vary. Opening hours are subject to change on Bank Holidays. Shops usually extend their opening hours in the run-up to Christmas.
The award-winning St George’s Market is open Friday (6am – 3pm), Saturday (9am – 3pm) and Sunday (10am – 4pm).
Carrier Bag Levy
Northern Ireland retailers must charge at least 5p for new carrier bags. The main aim is to protect the environment by greatly cutting the number of carrier bags used. Reusing carrier bags saves natural resources and reduces the need for landfill. Find out more about the Carrier Bag Levy.
Tax Free Shopping
All visitors from outside the European Union are able to avail of tax free shopping in the UK when they purchase eligible goods from participating retailers. The scheme is entirely voluntary so look out for the Tax Free Shopping logo before you purchase. Tax free shopping is available in the gift shop in the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre.
Driving in Northern Ireland
Driving Laws and Road Safety
Driving in Northern Ireland is on the left-hand side of the road and all passengers are required to wear seat belts at all times. For those riding motorcycles, both motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets. Northern Ireland’s laws on drink driving are strict. Those drivers found to be contravening the laws will be heavily penalised. Use of mobile/cell phones while driving is strictly prohibited.
Roads in Northern Ireland are prefixed with an M for motorway, and an A and a B for primary and non-primary roads.
Signposts and speeds are in miles and miles per hour, as in the rest of the UK.
For more information on driving laws, road safety, insurance and licences, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Weather in Northern Ireland
The weather in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable, and we talk about it quite a lot! We don’t have the extreme temperatures of other countries, with relatively mild winters and cool summers.
Below are the average maximum temperatures during the seasons:
- February – April: 8 – 12°C
- May – July: 18 – 20°C
- August – November: 14 – 18°C
- December – January: 8°C
As our weather can be changeable, we suggest wearing layers of clothing that you can then put on or take off as the temperature changes. Pack a rain coat and umbrella for those rainy days, and don’t forget the sun cream during the warmer summer days.
And if it does rain, there are plenty of indoor attractions, cosy pubs and tasty restaurants to enjoy!
Belfast has been a smoke free city since 2006. It is against the law to smoke in bars, restaurants, cafés, hotels, offices, factories and other places of work.
The majority of hotels in Belfast no longer offer smoking rooms – please check this when booking your accommodation.
Many bars and restaurants have installed outdoor smoking areas for those who choose to smoke.
Most restaurants add a discretionary service charge to the bill for groups of six people or more.
If this charge is added to your bill, tipping is not necessary.
If a service charge is not included, a discretionary tip of 10-15% is customary.
Belfast is one of the safest cities in Europe, and Northern Ireland has the second lowest crime rate in Europe.
However, it is always wise to be sensible and follow good advice when exploring a new destination. As with all travel, follow general safety tips such as leave money and valuables in a safe place and lock valuables out of sight.
The number for emergency services is 999.
This will connect you to the fire brigade, police, ambulance, lifeboat and mountain rescue services.
For non-urgent crimes, contact the police by calling 101.
The UK’s visa requirements vary depending on your citizenship. Check whether you need a visa to visit Northern Ireland
Citizens of the EEA member states (the 27 countries of the European Union EU, together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and many other countries including USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand do not require visas to gain entry to Northern Ireland.
Citizens of all other countries should contact their local British Embassy/High Commission or Consular Office prior to traveling to Northern Ireland.
Left Luggage Facilities
The Visit Belfast Welcome Centre, located opposite Belfast City Hall in Belfast City Centre, has a luggage storage facility so visitors can securely store their luggage while exploring the city.
This is charged at £4 for a half day or £6 for a full day (per bag).
Belfast city centre is well serviced with clean, accessible public toilets which are managed by Belfast City Council.
Plugs in Northern Ireland are three-pronged and the electricity supply is 240v.
Drinking Tap Water
Tap water in Northern Ireland is safe to drink.