There are 15 countries on Ireland’s “green list”, destinations to which the Government says it is now safe to travel – and no longer necessary to quarantine after being there. “Safe”, mind you, is not the same as “advised”. The safest thing to do “is not to travel at all”, the Government says. “The pandemic is not over.”
The key message seems to be to ask yourself whether you really, really have to go now. So why do people usually travel to the green list countries? Does it typically involve family reasons or business, or is it all about leisure? How easy is it to get there?
The majority of people travelling to Malta over the next two weeks are unlikely to be travelling to see immediate family, since just 177 people of Maltese nationality lived in Ireland at the time of the 2016 census, and 300 or so Irish people were living in Malta, according to UN statistics collated in 2013.
There are some business links between Ireland and Malta: the value of Irish exports of services to Malta in 2018 was €148 million; we imported €80 million worth of services from there.
Let's face it, though, the most likely – if entirely non-essential – reason for anyone to travel to the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are their beautiful beaches, historic hilltop towns, temples and caves. Ryanair flies direct to Malta from Dublin. The outbound leg costs from €41 in August, but if you want to come back, expect to spend up to €366 on the return journey.
The most significant Finnish import here – other than Dr Eva Orsmond or Angry Birds – is paper, a trade worth just under €1 million in May. Ireland sends more goods Finland's way than we import, including metals, perfumes and flavourings and electrical parts.
People are the other main link between Ireland and Finland: the Finnish expat population living here numbered about 1,000 at the time of the 2016 census, while about half that number of Irish people lived in Finland in 2013.
Going to see Helsinki's architecture, enjoy its long summer days or bask in a sauna might be good for your soul, but it doesn't constitute essential travel. A return flight to Helsinki with Finnair leaving Dublin next Sunday costs from €219.
Other than three of our major cities (Dublin, Cork and Waterford), several of our most important historic sites and quite a few phrases in our native language, we have Norway to thank for 100 white-tailed sea eagle chicks reintroduced here over the past four years.
These days, most of the links between the two countries involve the export of services – worth €2 billion in 2018, while we imported €193 million from Norway – and base metal exports, nitrogen compounds and crude animal materials. Five hundred Norwegians were living in Ireland at the time of the 2016 census, and about 1,000 Irish people were living in Norway.
Non-essential reasons to go there might include sparkling fjords, Instagram-friendly coastal towns and villages, whale-watching opportunities and a railway route voted the world’s most scenic. Return flights direct to Oslo next Sunday start from €238 with SAS.
Assessing the quality of the local Chianti or spaghetti alle vongole does not constitute essential travel. But there are lots of legitimate, non-leisure reasons for travel between Ireland and Italy. The number of Italians living in Ireland is 11,732, up just over 4,000 on the previous census, while there are about 4,000 Irish people in Italy.
In 2018, we exported €6 billion worth of services to Italy, and imported about half that. Our chief exports of goods were veterinary and human drugs. Among our top imports from Italy are jewellery and precious stones – in May alone, we imported €7.6 million worth of sparkly things.
There are regular direct flight connections between Ireland and all the major Italian airports.
In 2016, there were 9,286 Hungarian people in Ireland. The UN estimates that 874 Irish people were living in Hungary in 2013. There are key supply chain links between Ireland and Hungary too: in May this year, we imported €33 million worth of its data processors and €808,000 worth of parts. Our main exports in May were flavourings and chemicals.
There are direct flights to Budapest, a city whose main – admittedly non-essential – attractions include spectacular architecture, thermal spas and a vibrant after-hours scene. A return flight departing next weekend starts from €205 with Ryanair.
In a nod to our newfound interest in "dickying up" our gardens, one of the primary exports from Estonia to Ireland during May was railway sleepers. We're also fond of Estonian fertilisers, while Estonia imports Irish-manufactured drugs. Beyond the trade links, there were 2,169 Estonians in Ireland in 2016, slightly fewer than were living here in 2011. You can fly direct to Tallinn in August for prices starting from €144 return.
A total of €2,288,174 worth of Irish booze was exported into Latvia, weighing a whopping 416,000kg, in May alone. After alcohol, our chief exports to the country are flavourings and drugs. Aside from that, it's all about people. There were almost 20,000 Latvians living in Ireland in 2016, a small drop on the previous census, while Latvia was home to about 800 Irish people in 2013.
Return flights direct to Riga from Dublin next weekend cost €243 with Ryanair.
CSO data hints at a major reason for travel between the two countries: the more than 36,000 Lithuanian nationals living in Ireland at the time of the 2016 census, and the 984 Irish in Lithuania in 2013. Ireland's primary links with the country involve the import of agricultural and construction goods and furniture, and the export of chemicals and machinery. With direct flights between Dublin and Vilnius, it's relatively easy to get there.
A return trip departing next weekend starts at €275 with Air Baltic.
If the planes to Cyprus are full in the coming weeks, it's not going to be with native Cypriots travelling home to see family. Just 104 people born in Cyprus were living here in 2016, although the number of Irish people living in Cyprus increased 374 per cent between 1990 and 2013 to over 900. Trade links include include alcohol – we exported and imported almost the same amount of alcohol to Cyprus in May.
A direct flight with Ryanair to Paphos departing on August 3rd and returning a week later was about €500 at the time of writing.
The links between Ireland and Slovakia go back to the ninth century, when Irish missionaries were active there. These days, most of the movement is in the other direction. The number of Slovak people living in Ireland was 9,717 in 2016, while 691 Irish people were living in Slovakia in 2013.
Ireland’s main exports there in May were €1.5 million worth of tools and €1.3 million worth of pharmaceutical and veterinary products, while we imported engineering equipment and monitors.
It’s not one of the most obvious destinations for tourism on the list – the opening gambit on the visitbratislava.eu website is the eyebrow-raising boast that “Slovakia is known for having some of the most beautiful girls in the world.” Ryanair flies direct to Bratislava, with return flights in August starting from €93.
Greece is famous for the rich variety of non-essential reasons to visit it offers: its history, islands, beaches, food and laid-back lifestyle. But there are other reasons too: the number of native Greeks in Ireland doubled to 1,000 between 2011 and 2016. Trade between the two countries chiefly involves chemicals, veterinary medicine and other drugs.
There are return flights from Dublin to Athens and Thessaloniki, with prices starting from €233 in August.
The number of native Greenlanders living in Ireland is so small, it doesn't appear in the CS0's records. And since getting to Greenland is tricky and expensive, involving at least one stopover and flights costing upwards of €800, the numbers doing so for any other reason are probably not going to be significant.
Still, there are lots of reasons why you might want to travel to Greenland: its wildlife, its magnificent, frozen landscape, even the clarity of its light. Add to it the fact that it has remained virtually free of Covid-19, with just 13 total cases and no deaths.
In 2018, Ireland exported €103 million worth of services to Gibraltar. No figure is available for the value of services – which include insurance, offshore banking, and online gambling – imported into Ireland from Gibraltar.
Getting there involves flying via Spain, which is not on the green list of countries. This is fine, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, as long as you don't leave the airport.
Monaco and San Marino
To get to Monaco, you have to fly to Nice and travel onwards by regional train, a journey that takes about 18 minutes. Unless, as Ryanair was quick to point out on social media, you’re planning to cruise in on your yacht. So it’s a bit of a mystery how you’re supposed to get there safely.
At 8.9 cases per 100,000 population, the microstate of San Marino actually performed worse than any other country on the green list. But as the links between San Marino and Ireland are mainly about soccer memories we'd prefer to forget and skiing, it's unlikely to prove a major draw for Irish tourists before next winter.