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It is widely known that Ireland, and, less famously, Northern Ireland, are, compared to Canada, high-cost countries. It is equally important to note that among the many attractive aspects of living in those jurisdictions are things with favorable cost implications. For example, they are terrific bases for cost-efficient travel throughout Europe and beyond. (Interestingly, ex-pats who've been away from Canada for a time are often heard complaining after visiting there about how much Canadian prices have gone up since the last time they were there!)

One can be sure that the Irish are always on the lookout for bargains. There are frequent sales in the retail sector and in Ireland historical barriers to competition (such as a cap on the size of retail stores, including food outlets) are under pressure both through legislative changes and new suppliers who are being attracted to its booming economy. In fact, with the first phase already open, Ireland is adding the largest shopping center in Europe (Dundrum in Dublin), which includes a number of first-time in Ireland stores, to its already plentiful supply of both fully modern, large facilities and charmingly traditional small shops. And the Irish counterparts to Canadian 'dollar stores' offer very good value.

Canadian ex-pats and visitors comparing costs of like items in Canada, Ireland and Northern Ireland must keep both sales tax differences and the foreign exchange factor in mind. The price of Irish goods includes sales tax (VAT) while sales taxes have to be added to get full Canadian prices when making comparisons.

It is the exchange factor, however, that makes the biggest difference in most price comparisons. In Ireland, one adds about 60% to the euro price of Irish goods and services to get the equivalent price in Canadian dollars. In Northern Ireland one multiplies by roughly 2.2 and rounds up. Canadians are accustomed to adding a premium to get the Canadian dollar equivalent of purchases made in the US. These euro and sterling adjustments are the same things.

The foreign exchange factor is, of course, a very significant consideration for Canadian ex-pats and visitors whose source of funds is from Canada. But it is a reality that has to be accepted. For ex-pats, it is a major aspect of the adjustment to change that has to be made to be happy. It is something to know about in advance of moving; something to be taken into account along with other major considerations like tax advantages (see TAXES). It is also important to note, that a very different line of thought applies to foreign exchange in the purchase of a house or apartment than to the purchase of goods and services that won't be sold later (see ACCOMMODATION). Once it's decided that the strength of the euro or the pound relative to the Canadian dollar won't prevent the move, the exchange factor becomes something to be dealt with through smart shopping and smart financial management. It must not be allowed to be a constant source of complaint.

One other major purchase item is discussed here: buying a car. While top model Mercedes, BMWs, Jaguars, Audis and Volvos abound in Ireland Irish car prices are about 30% higher than average western European car prices. New cars are taxed at a Vat rate of 21% and a VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax, which is opposed by the European Union!) adds a further cost of between 22% and 30% of the retail price of a new car depending on engine size. Put another way, combined VAT and VRT in Ireland amounts to 56%, 61% or 73% of the pre-tax price (depending on engine size).

In Northern Ireland, the average tax on new cars is 17.5%!

Anyone from outside the EU who is planning to move to Ireland or Northern Ireland -- driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road country jurisdictions -- should note that, in addition to certain disabled drivers, the following groups are exempt from paying Vehicle Registration Tax:

• Visitors to Ireland who have owned their vehicles abroad for more than 6 months and who will be resident in Ireland temporarily;
• People who have owned their vehicles abroad for more than 6 months and who are moving permanently to Ireland;
• People posted to Ireland as part of the diplomatic corps.

Note that even if you are not required to pay VRT, you must still register your vehicle. Registration must be made the day it arrives in Ireland. Note also that you cannot sell a VAT/VRT-exempt vehicle for more than 12 months after it is registered. For more information about documentation, timing and other requirements, including purchasing your first European vehicle free of VAT and VRT, check out and

Car insurance is also very expensive and shopping around is essential. Of particular note is that a clean driving record in Canada will not make for savings of any note. The key thing is to get an Irish driver's licence. (See DRIVING IN IRELAND)

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