Public transport in a pandemic – keeping payments contactless

Updated October 2021

Public transport has faced 18 months of restrictions, but now the buses, trams and trains can use 100% of their capacity again. You are still required to wear a face covering (see details here), and it’s still a good idea to use contactless payment methods. This minimises interactions and handling coins, but, also –  let’s face it – many of us just don’t have coins to hand anymore after a year of contactless payments.

While the Leap Card is the most obvious choice, many operators have online purchase options too, allowing you to order your ticket in advance.

Transport For Ireland (TFI) Leap Cards

The TFI Leap Card is probably the most convenient method of contactless payment for public transport. It’s accepted by a number of public transport providers and can be used for selected travel in Dublin and the surrounding counties, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo, Athlone, Kilkenny and Wexford. Bus Éireann, Irish Rail, Go Ahead, Dublin Bus and Luas all accept Leap Cards on some or all of their services. They can also be used on commuter and rural bus services within the TFI public transport network.

The contactless element is not the only advantage as Leap Card fares can be up to 31% cheaper than cash tickets. Prices vary depending on the different type of card you have (eg. Adult, Student, Child, Visitor). You can buy a Leap Card at selected DART ticket machines in Dublin or at one of the 650+ authorised vendors around the country, as mapped out here. Simply top it up, tap and go.

Check out the TFI Leap website for full details on the use of TFI Leap Cards.

BUS ÉIREANN

You may have always paid your Bus Éireann fare with cash, but you can also order your ticket online. Simply choose your origin and destination and pick the time you’d like to travel. You can show the ticket to the driver, who’ll then type in the reference number.

Leap Cards can also be used on Bus Éireann’s services in the Greater Dublin area, and some routes in counties Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Westmeath, Sligo and Galway.

More information is available on Bus Éireann’s website.

IRISH RAIL

Irish Rail connects Ireland with its Intercity services. It also runs Commuter trains connecting Dublin and Cork to surrounding areas, and the DART line, which runs through Dublin into Wicklow.

Leap Cards can only be used on DART services and on trains in what’s known as the ‘Short-Hop Zone’, which takes in most of Dublin and some stations in Kildare and Wicklow. For all other journeys, you can buy a ticket online, which you can then collect at one of the ticket machines inside the station.

The online fares are usually cheaper than the normal booking office fare and tickets can be purchased online up to 90 days in advance. See the Irish Rail website for more information.

LUAS

Face-to-face action is never an issue buying Luas tickets as you purchase them at each stop, using the ticket machine provided, and pay via cash or card. If you want to avoid all contact however, the Leap Card is the way to go. Simply tap on before you get on – and don’t forget to tap again when you get off! You can also top-up your Leap Card at Luas ticket machines, by placing it against the orange card-reader. See here for more.

DUBLIN BUS

Dublin Bus provides bus services within Dublin, as well as to and from some towns in the Dublin commuter belt.

Leap Cards can be used on all Dublin Bus services, including Airlink, Xpresso and Nitelink. For most of these services, you can be guaranteed a saving of at least 20% when you pay by Leap Card. You can also purchase prepaid ‘Rambler’ tickets to add to your Leap Card, with a flat-rate for unlimited journeys over a certain period of time (excluding Airlink). Using a Leap Card also means you avoid needing correct change, as no change is given for cash fares.

More information can be found on the Dublin Bus website here.

GO AHEAD IRELAND

Leap Cards are the safest bet to guarantee a contactless exchange on both Go Ahead Dublin City routes and Go Ahead Dublin Commuter routes. Full details are here. Like with Dublin Bus, Leap Cards also save you from needing correct change on the Dublin City routes, where no change is given for cash fares.

CITY DIRECT

Leap Cards can be used instead of cash on all of City Direct’s 4 Galway City routes and 2 Kilkenny City routes.

PRIVATE BUS OPERATORS

TFI Leap Cards are accepted on some private bus routes, including Swords Express, Matthews.ie, Wexford Bus, Ashbourne Connect,  Collins Coaches and J.J. Kavanagh and Sons. In some cases, only certain routes are included, so check here to see if yours is.

Most private bus operators have an online booking service too, allowing you to pre-order your ticket in advance. This is quite convenient, as it also saves you searching for that loose change in your pocket!

As well as online booking services, some operators have their own weekly tickets, or Smartcards, like J.J. Kavanagh and Sons. Their Smartcard can be used to pay for travel or hold weekly bus passes.