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FAQ

This IAESTE NI FAQ page is designed as a reference resource for prospective 

and resident trainees in Northern Ireland. We  suggest that all trainees read through this section to get a feel for what it is like to come to NI and as a first stop if you have any issues.

If you have an issue that is not addressed here or you feel should be addressed here please let us know by email or on the society googlegroups page (link on sidebar).



Where is Northern Ireland?

It's OK, our geography isn't great either. Northern Ireland is a devolved state governed by Britain which is a subset of the northern county of Ulster in Ireland. In other words the bit at the top of Ireland which is usually ruled by England. See the map below.

Northern Ireland


Is Belfast still a dangerous place to live?

In the past Belfast has been associated with the violence from The Troubles, a period of consistent conflict which stretched from the 1960s through to the early 90s. However Belfast today is a far sight from those days. By all accounts modern Belfast, and Northern Ireland in general, is no more dangerous that any other major city. There are some good areas and some bad areas. The university area, where most trainees will be based, is one of the safest in the city.

Which areas are the 'bad' areas?

It would be unfair for IAESTE NI to pick out no-go sections in the city, however there are areas that we do not recommend that trainees seek accommodation, since we have experienced some issues in the past. We stress that these areas are few and far between, but we also stress that, if searching for alternative digs, a trainee should consult a Local Committee member before making any decisions.

Trainees are unlikely to spend large amounts of time outside of the city centre or South Belfast on a day to day basis.

However we would like to reiterate that the majority of Belfast, as with any European city, is perfectly safe.


Where am I going to live?

IAESTE NI and the British Council in NI have organised trainees to stay in the local halls of residence for Queens University Belfast.

For more information on the halls themselves click here.


I want to move into my own Accommodation. Is this OK?

IAESTE NI and the British Council try to find affordable rates of accommodation within a central block of university halls on the Malone road that provides safety and for the trainees who arrive. However we realise that some students are more independent, some students find the cost too high and some students arrive within term time when halls are full. 

If you do wish to organise your own living arrangements then that is fine.

For information on the halls of residence that IAESTE NI will place all trainees originally please visit here.


Do you have any advice for finding accommodation?

We recommend that trainees spend some time in Elms Village halls to get used to the city first, and remember that you must give the university accommodation 2 weeks notice of your intention to leave. It would be best to avoid the areas where IAESTE NI have experienced some trouble in the past, namely: Tigers Bay, the lower section of Tates Avenue (The Village) or Donegal Pass in South Belfast.

It can be quite difficult to find short term (less than a year) lodging in the city, particularly outside of the normal university rotation, but it is possible. We would recommend that trainees notify someone from the LC and the reception officer (or someone else from the British Council) of your intention to leave and the area you wish to live, that way we can advise on the best options. 

We would counsel against calling landlords who advertise rooms in the windows of houses, as these are normally dubious. The best course of action for trainees would be estate agents, of which there are many in the university area, particularly Piney, UPS and GO'C. 

Most estate agents have their own websites. Other online resources include Gumtree, nistudentpad and Property News NI.

Will I be met upon arrival?

Yes.

The reception officer will contact you by email before you arrive and tell you where you will be met (usually the Europa bus depo) and they will take you to halls and introduce you to everyone. They will also give you a mobile number for you to call in case of emergency.

Will I be accompanied to my first day of work?

Yes.

When you arrive you will be given a pack with details of who is accompanying you, this will either be the reception officer or a member of IAESTE in the British Council. They will usually take you by public transport so you know how to get there yourself the following day.

Where can I go to get supplies when I arrive?

There are quite a few places where you can buy groceries on either the Lisburn Road, Ormeau Road, Malone road or City Centre.  Tesco's and Co-Op are two large grocery stores which have a presence in the city. Other convenience stores include Centra and Mace.  There is a convenience store with restricted opening hours within the grounds of the university halls of residence as well as a petrol station and shop within walking distance.

If you need clothes then the city centre is your best bet. For affordable clothing try Primark or Dunnes Stores, for fashion try River Island or New Look. A quick walk around the city centre will give you an idea of what is available, particularly the newly built "Victoria Square" - http://www.victoriasquare.com/

Searching on Google Maps will likely find you the exact directions to any of these places.


What are the regular shop opening hours?

Monday - Saturday your average shop will open at 9am and close at 5.30pm. In the city centre many shops open later on a Thursday, until 9pm. Convenience stores are usually open later though, often 10pm. There is one 24hr convenience store located on Botanic Avenue, beside Botanic train station.

On Sunday, shops do not usually open until around 12-1pm and close at 5.30pm. Some convenience stores will remain open until 10pm on a Sunday.


Will my mobile phone still work in NI?

Yes, a European mobile phone will work fine in Belfast, although coverage in general can be poor outside of cities. Phones from non-EU countries will depend on the standards in use in the home country. Nonetheless we recommend that you purchase an NI mobile phone as soon as possible once you arrive. The reception officer will likely guide you through this process themselves and offer to take you to get a mobile SIM card in one of the many mobile vendors in the city.

If this is not the case for whatever reason then you can source your own mobile phone. The likes of Carphone Warehouse or Phones4U will sell mobile contracts or mobile handsets, although they are often more expensive than going to the carriers directly. Carriers in Northern Ireland include Vodaphone, 3G Hutchinson (3), O2 Telefonica (O2), T Mobile and Orange. You will find that these companies have their own stores in Belfast that you can call in and, likely, get a free SIM if you ask. Deals vary and should be researched by trainees.

There are two schemes that trainees should be aware of, Top-Up and single month contracts. Single month contracts should be obvious, although you will likely pay slightly more for the convenience. Top-Up requires that the user adds credit to their account, either online or using a Top-Up card, unique to the phone , which is accepted in most convenience stores.


How does public transport work?

In Belfast there are two public bus services as well as a few private companies. The two public services are Metro and Ulsterbus. Metro (red/pink and white buses) deals with travelling in and around Belfast city, while the Ulsterbus serves routes throughout NI.  Bus stops within Belfast city are normally only for Metro services.  To catch an Ulsterbus you normally have to go to the bus station at Great Victoria Street.

Bus prices are quite steep and you will find that most journeys will cost £1.80 for an adult on the Metro. When getting on a bus ask for a single journey to whatever bus stop on the route. The driver will not call the names of stops as he drives past them. You can also say the name of the nearest street or landmark that you wish to get off at, however usually just saying "a single" saves you the bother.

There are multi-journey Metro cards which you can buy on the Translink website, at a Kiosk in the city centre or in some convenience stores which will reduce the cost of an adult fair to £1.10 per journey. They can only be topped up at a convenience store and the minimum amount is £11.

You can buy "day tickets" for Metro services which cost £3.50 before 9.30am and £3.00 afterwards. They are only sold until 3pm. They can only be bought from a driver, just ask for a "day ticket". This allows free travel on Metro services for the remainder of the day, you only have to show the rest of the drivers the ticket and walk on to a bus.

Taxis in Belfast are a common way to get around. There are quite a few taxi services in Belfast, the main ones being Fonacab and Value Cabs. You can call them at the numbers on their websites or go to any depo. Prices begin at £3 and go up from there. You can catch a black taxi at various points in the city (e.g. at the front of city hall, at the front of Great Victoria Street station) and many wait outside nightclubs too.  Their prices can be sometimes cheaper, but the rate can vary wildly and they do not have phone numbers.


What is slainte?

Slainte (Pronounced Slan-tche) means "health" in Irish and is used as the native equivalent to the likes of Prost, Noroc, Živjeli, Felicidades, Na zdraví, Skål, Cheers, Chinchin, Alla salute, Santé, Εις υγεία or 干杯 (Gānbēi).  You will be hearing it many many times over your traineeship!

What is the weather like and will I need a coat?

The weather is quite mild during the summer months, ranging between about 12 and 20 degrees celcius (with the odd week or two where we get nearer the mid 20s) but the first thing most trainees do is buy a warmer coat so be sure to bring one with you!  Waterproof clothing may also be a good idea as it likes to rain here in NI, especially if you wish to go walking/hiking alot.  (It is often said there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing)

How much do essential things cost?

Milk: 1ltr £0.70 - 0.80

Bread: £0.80 - £1.20

Alcohol: In an off licence: Wine- £4-6,  Beer- 6bottles/cans are around £5,    Spirits- half bottles 35cl £4-6                                                                                      

In a bar: Wine- around £3.50 per glass, Beer- around £3.00, Vodka and mixer- around £3.50.

Different bars and shops will obviously have very different prices.  Some bars/clubs will have drinks offers on which bring down prices, such as Queens student union or the Botanic Inn (affectionately known to by locals as 'The Bot').  But don't worry, by the time you're leaving you'll know all the best places in town.  Most shops will also have offers on different food items which will change weekly.
 
Is there anything we recommend you bring to Northern Ireland?
The weather in Ireland can be quite rainy so we highly recommend that you bring a rain-coat with you. 
We also recommend that you bring a Sleeping bag, you may need to have one with you for some of the trips we take. 
You should also bring some Formal wear (Suits or Dresses.) We will attend some formal functions (such as Stormont) during the summer when you will be required to wear smart clothes. 
Finally, you should bring some samples of your own food and culture with you to Northern Ireland. We host an international evening where all the trainees shares some food so we would appreciate if you could bring some samples from your country.