Mobile communications in Ireland are of good quality. It is possible that some countryside areas have no signal, but the cities are perfectly covered.
To get connected to one of the Irish mobile networks, you can either purchase only a SIM or a SIM and phone together. You will also have to choose between Pay As You Go (prepaid system) or contracts.
Where to get a mobile phone
Mobiles from all operators can be purchased directly from their stores. Most should also publish small magazines with explanations of their different offers, which you can take to compare. You can also visit their online shops.
The Carphone Warehouse provides mobiles from all networks and comparison charts for everything you could possibly want. In general, it is better to read their magazine as it groups all necessary information. They are especially useful if you wish to purchase an actual phone with your new line.
You can also use www.callcosts.ie to compare the price of mobile phones and roaming charges.
If you already own a phone, you can buy just the new SIM card. Remember that your phone might need to be unlocked first – even if you've used the same mobile provider in your home country as in Ireland. For example, if you have an O2 phone from another country, it will not work with an Irish O2 phone.
If your phone is old, your operator can unlock it for you for free. Otherwise, small electronic shops offer this service.
To buy a SIM card, just step into any network shop (not Carphone Warehouse), or order it online. You will be given the choice between contract and pay as you go. If you go to a shop, you can have your SIM card immediately, but they might ask for some ID.
SIM cards are very cheap, and can sometimes even be free if you ask for pay as you go (with O2, 3 and Meteor).
Pay As You Go (PAYG)
Pay as you go is the simplest way of using a mobile, and is often the preferred method for expatriates staying for a short period of time. With PAYG, you only pay for what you use, although you should look at the actual connection costs.
Some companies require a minimum top-up every month. You can recharge at some ATMs, directly with your operator or by purchasing top-up cards in most stores (FNAC, tobacco stands, supermarkets, etc.).
Prepay phones are usually available from 40 Euros upwards, and you may not even need ID to purchase one.
If you opt for a mobile contract, you will not only have lower calling rates (quite significantly) but you will also benefit from reduced prices for phones.
The disadvantage of a contract is that you have a set period of time during which you must pay. If you wish to end your contract before that date, you will have to pay more (for the cost of the phone and for ending it prematurely).
The duration of the contract depends on which network you sign up with. Vodafone provides 12-month contracts, O2 and Meteor 12-month and 18-month contracts, and Three 18-month contracts only. Usually, the longer the contract is, the more attractive the rates (and phone prices).
Contract offers vary significantly from operator to operator. Look at their websites to compare.
Signing up for a contract plan requires some form of identification, an address and a bank account from which the money will be withdrawn automatically every month.