Arriving into Cork usually means you are either in a plane, train, bus, or car, or ferry.
Plane via Cork (ORK) or Kerry (KIR)
If you are flying, you will be happy to know there are many airlines serving Cork International Airport (ORK). Cork (ORK) is a convenient spot for many flights within the European Union. Ryan Air, Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, Wizz Air, BMI Baby, Air Southwest, and Jet2 all serve ORK. ORK’s Scheduled Flight Destinations List includes the airlines serving each destination and the seasons when these flights are available. Each airline tends to have slightly different baggage and fare rules so be sure to read the fine print. One thing to be aware of when booking your itinerary is that ORK has —but does not use— jetways (the enclosed bridge-like walkway between the airport terminal gate and the plane). To board or exit an aircraft at ORK, passengers go down stairs to the tarmac then up the stairs into the plane. I know a few Americans with mobility issues who choose to fly into Shannon Airport because they cannot safely and comfortably navigate stairs. Evidently, it is a cost issue that keeps the jetways from being used since ORK charges airlines for use of the jetways (based on time used, according to a 2004 article in the Echo).
Once you get into the airport itself, it is easy to navigate to the taxis, buses, or rental car companies.
Taxis are queued up in front and rarely is there a wait to get one. It is handy to have your address written down because the Cork accent is known for its thick charm. Depending on the day/time (surcharges for taxis on Sundays, click here for a post about taxi/hackney fees in Ireland), your trip to Cork City Centre can run you €15 to €20.
Buses include SkyLink and Bus Eireann. SkyLink travels between Cork City Centre and Cork International Airport every day of the year, except Christmas Day and tickets are under €4 each way. There is usually one every 30 minutes and it is only about 15 minutes drive between the two. It has two routes so choose the one that brings you closer to where you want to end up and remember that all SkyLink coaches run on a constant loop from ORK so if you miss one, there will be another. Best part is that you can ask to be let on or off the bus at any City Centre SkyLink stop (noted on the route details online). Bus Eireann serves all of Ireland’s major airports with #226 and #249 between ORK and Cork City, #249 between ORK and Kinsale, #16 and #51 between Shannon Airport and Cork City, #40 between Kerry Airport and Cork City, and numerous buses serving Dublin Airport, Ireland West (Knock), and Kerry Airport.
Rental Car companies include some familiar names as well some regional ones. Keep in mind that there is a €25 charge per rental from the airport. Companies at ORK include:353, Argus, Avis, Budget, Dan Dooley, Dollar, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, Irish Car, National/Alamo, Sixt, and Thrifty. There is only one car rental company in Cork City Centre, Great Island Car Rental on McCurtain Street, even though several places list ‘Cork City’ as locations they are still located outside downtown, like Thrifty and Dollarwhich are located one mile away in Farmer’s Cross or Argus which is in Wilton.
ORK has a rather large duty-free shop for when you depart. If you are flying to another EU destination, duty-free prices do not apply, but if you are flying to the States or outside the EU it is worth picking up some Guinness (half-litre cans of the good stuff), Jameson, or Bailey’s. If you are making more than one transfer on your return trip, liquid restrictions will get in the way of your options, but most European airports have duty-free shops within the security area so you can pick up goodies when transferring flights.
Kerry Airport (KIR) is located about 100 kilometers northwest of Cork International Airport (ORK). If you are flying into Kerry Airport, but want to end up on a Brittany Ferry or wish to visit Fota or Cobh, you will want to take Bus Eireann #40 between Kerry Airport and Cork City. From there, for the ferries take Bus #223 or for the Irish Rail to Fota or Cobh take Bus #205 from Patrick Street to Kent Station.
The Cork City train station is near the heart of the city. Irish Rail serves passengers with routes to/from Dublin, Mallow, Cobh, Fota, Limerick, and beyond. Buses seem to be more popular, because of the cost of ticket prices perhaps. The train is ideal for going to Cobh or Fota. The #205 bus connects Kent Station with Patrick Street and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Bus Eireann and Iarnród Eireann team up to offer the Explorer Ticket for those wishing to wander the Republic by rail and road.
Cork City is served by Bus Eireann, SkyLink, and CityLink. Bus Eireann offers Tourist Travel Passes if you will be traveling the countryside. The main bus hub is at Parnell Street in the centre of Cork City. You are within walking distance of several of the city’s hotels or can easily take a bus to your final destination, such as Killarney, Ennis, Kinsale, and so on. City buses stop across the street next to Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre so you can hop a more local bus to Blarney or UCC. Timetables are available for all routes and there seems to be a discount for tickets purchased online. Expressway Services are those bringing you around the country, like to Dublin, Tralee, Killarney, Shannon (including #51 to/from Shannon Airport), Waterford, Limerick, Sligo, and more. Local/Rural/Commuter buses serve the suburbs and nearby towns. City/Town routes are those staying within city limits and tend to be the least expensive tickets (they also usually work with a day pass).
SkyLink travels between Cork City Centre and Cork International Airport every day of the year, except Christmas Day and tickets are under €4 each way. There is usually one every 30 minutes and it is only about 15 minutes drive between the two. It has two routes so choose the one that brings you closer to where you want to end up and remember that all SkyLink coaches run on a constant loop from ORK so if you miss one, there will be another. Best part is that you can ask to be let on or off the bus at any City Centre SkyLink stop (noted on the route details online). CityLink offers service between Galway-Dublin-Dublin Airport, Galway-Shannon Airport, Galway-Clifden, Galway-Limerick-Cork, Galway-Limerick, and Limerick-Cork.
Driving in Cork is not as intimidating as driving in Dublin (I’ve done both). Just remember to keep left, watch traffic patterns because one-way streets are popular, and be respectful in terms of yielding in traffic circles. Maps are readily available online and in the Cork Vision Centre, ORK, and other tourism offices. The city itself is very walkable so whenever possible, park your car and explore on foot.
Parking requires payment on streets except at night and on Sundays so watch for signs. There are several public parking garages in the city. The lowest public garage hourly rate is the garage on North Main, but with its early closing time rely on it only for daytime parking needs. For overnight parking, I’ve found Q-Park on Grand Parade to be the best bargain since it’s €5 for 5:00 p.m. to 9 a.m. (overnight) or €3 for 6:00 p.m. to midnight (evening out). Keep in mind, not all garages are open seven days a week or have exits that are open in the middle of the night so be sure your need to access your vehicle matches with the available hours of the garage you choose.
Cork Harbour is one of the four largest natural harbors in the world (along with Sydney, Halifax, and Poole). Brittany Ferries offers transport to/from Cork at the Ringaskiddy Terminal. Bus #223 travels between Cork Bus Station and Ringaskiddy.