The Isle of Man – What you Need to Know Before You Go

Thrift plants over Port St Mary

The Isle of Man is a magical island full of folklore and legend, where Vikings used to roam and fairies will look after you if you say hello when passing their bridge. Famed for the TT motorbike races, cats with no tails and four-horned Manx Loaghtan Sheep, the Isle of Man is full of things to do and places to see.

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If you are intrigued, here are some things you need to know before you go:

Where is the Isle of Man?

silhouette of a tower on at hill overlooking the sea with the setting sun and clouds in the sky
Milner tower on Bradda Head, Port Erin

The Isle of Man sits in the middle of the Irish sea, between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. On a clear day, you can see their coasts of depending on where you are on the island. At approximately 33 miles long and 14 miles wide, the Isle of Man is ideal for a long weekend, week or a longer trip.

How do I get to The Isle of Man?

By Sea

Ben My Chree Ferry at Douglas Sea Terminal
Ben-My-Chree Ferry at Douglas Sea Terminal

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company runs a boat service between Heysham, Liverpool and Birkenhead in England and Belfast in Northern Island and Dublin in Southern Ireland and Douglas in the Isle of Man. Two boats are used: the catamaran Manannan or the Ben-My-Chree. Crossings can take between 2hrs 45 minutes and 4hrs 15 minutes depending on port and on tidal and weather conditions.

There is plenty of seating whether you choose to sit in the restaurant area or reserve seating in the Niarbyl Lounge or the Premium lounge. En-suite 4-berth cabins are available to book with TV and complimentary tea and coffee making facilities. There are also Premium cabins with extras of DVD players, fridges, a selection of cold drinks, snacks and papers and magazines. Two cabins with wheelchair access are available.

For our four-legged friends, there are two pet-friendly cabins as well as a pet lounge (£10 each way bookable in advance) on the Ben-My-Chree. If you do not have a booking or are travelling on the Manannan, your pet will have to stay in your vehicle for the duration of the crossing. Do remember to keep it ventilated

By Air

The Isle of Man’s airport is Ronaldsway, just outside Ballasalla. There are flights from Gatwick, Luton, London City, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh or Dublin airports direct to the island. Check out Skyscanner for your nearest flight to the Isle of Man

Do you need a Visa for the Isle of Man

If you are coming from mainland UK, you do not need a visa to visit the Isle of Man. You also do not need a passport for entry if you have flown in from the UK, although you will need valid identification.

Getting about the Island

Driving on the Isle of Man

There are no motorways on the Isle of Man and most roads are ‘A’ roads and speed limits are clearly marked. The normal UK black and white circular road sign on the island means that you are in a ‘derestricted speed zone’ where there is no speed limit. Whilst you can drive at whatever speed you want, do remember that the roads can have other cars, motorcyclists, buses, cyclists, horses and the occasional wild animal if you are in more remote areas, and you should drive accordingly.

As you drive around you will see many barriers and padding on gates and walls, and you may get the impression that the Manx aren’t very careful drivers, but these are actually protection for the motorbike riders who take part in the TT and other bike races around the island.

Railway tracks crisscross the island, so you also may have to wait at level crossings to let the trains go by.

steam train crossing outside Port St Mary

Parking

The Isle of Man uses a system of parking discs in non-paying zones. You rotate the dials to display the time you arrived, but if you don’t display one, you risk getting a parking ticket. You can pick a parking disc up on the ferry, the Sea Terminal in Douglas or at any Post Office or Police Station. If you are hiring a car on the island, one should be in the car for your use.

If you are parking along the Promenade in Douglas, be careful as there is a two-hour restricted zone in place in certain areas (with no return within 4 hours). Also, you have to reverse into your parking space, you may get a parking ticket if you park the wrong way round!

Bringing your Motorhome or Caravan to the Isle of Man

If you are considering bringing a campervan or motorhome over to the Isle of Man it is safe to go ahead and book. However, towed caravans are a different matter. The roads on the island are often narrow and windy, so in order to minimise the impact on the roads, you will need to apply for a permit by emailing caravan@gov.im BEFORE you make your ferry booking. For more information see the Visit Isle of Man website.

View of Bradden from the Steam Train

What is Public Transport like?

The bus system is quite extensive and regular, you also have a choice of travelling by train on the heritage railways, electric or steam. You can even have a relaxing jaunt along Douglas Promenade in the horse-drawn tram.

You can buy a Go saver (buses only) or a Go Explore (for bus and rail) card for 1 to 7 days at the Ferry Terminal, Airport, main stations or the House of Mannan in Peel. Alternatively, you can buy bus and train cards for the Isle of Man online. Well-behaved dogs can travel on the bus with you at a special dog fare.

When is the best time to go?

This really depends on what you are going for. There is something going on most months and plenty to see and do whatever the weather. If you are not into motorbikes or motor racing, it is best to avoid the times when the races are on, particularly June when the TT is taking place and prices for the ferry and accommodation go up.

As Spring comes in, the hills are awash with yellow gorse and purple heather and if you are a walker, there are walks you can do whether it is raining, cloudy or the sun has come out.

What is the weather like?

A beautiful day in Port Erin, Isle of Man with the blue sea and great hill in the background
A beautiful day in Port Erin

The Isle of Man has quite a temperate climate and rarely has extremes in weather, but like the rest of Britain, you can get all four seasons in one day, throughout the year, so you will need to pack for all eventualities. It is quite normal to start the day in jeans and end it in shorts, or vice versa, with an anorak and a swimming costume in the mix too.

June, July and August are normally the hottest months and January and February are the coldest. Being very coastal, a sea mist or haar can roll in at any time, and temperatures drop. But the Isle of Man on a clear sunny day, whatever the season, is glorious!

What is the currency on the Isle of Man?

You can use normal British currency on the Isle of Man, but you may get Manx coins and notes in your change. These are okay to you use when you are on the island, but you will have to exchange them at a British bank if you bring any back to the UK.

Be careful to use all your £1 coins while you are still on the island. The Manx £1 coins are still the smooth round coins that are no longer legal tender in the UK.

ATMs are plentiful and banks are in the main towns.

Castletown in the Isle of Man
The harbour in Castletown

What plugs do I need?

The Isle of Man uses normal UK plugs. If you are visiting from abroad, your usual UK adaptors will be fine.

Can I drink the water?

Rue Point you can just see the English coast line on the horizon
Rue Point – you can just see the English coast line on the horizon

Yes, the tap water on the island is safe to drink. If you are out and about and want to use water from a stream, you can use a water bottle with a filter like the Water-to-Go which filters out over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants including viruses, bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals from any non-salt water source.

Will I get a phone and Internet signal?

Generally the phone and internet signals – 3G and 4G – are pretty good around the island. It is worth checking with your service provider if they class the Isle of Man as in Europe and calls to Manx numbers are included in your allowance.

Thrift plants over Port St Mary
Thrift flowers on the coastal cliffs

What language do they speak on the island?

While English is the main language, you will find signs in Manx and occasionally you will hear some Manx being spoken, but I have to admit it is getting rarer.

The Coastal Code

The Sound and Calf of Man
The Sound and the Calf at the south of the Isle of Man

To protect the coast path, marine wildlife, flora and fauna, read the Isle of Man Coastal Code and respect the coastline for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike.

Can I use my Drone?

Douglas Head Lighthouse Isle of Man The Silver Nomad

You can use a drone on the Isle of Man but obviously, follow the Drone Code, and keep to safe distances from people and properties. As the island is not that big, you have to be very careful with the flight paths into Ronaldsway airport. It is advisable to apply for permission to fly from the Isle of Man CAA and then get approval to fly from Air Traffic Control if you will be flying within 5km of the airport. Use apps like AirMap or Drone Assist to check but err on the side of caution.

However, if you want to fly near or over any of the Manx National Heritage sites, such as Peel Castle, the Laxey Wheel or near the Calf, you will have to apply at least 14 days in advance for permission, which is not guaranteed. For more information contact Manx National Heritage.

Also, the Isle of Man has a large number of seabirds, including the Manx Shearwater, as well as migrating birds, seals and other animals, so please remember to avoid flying your drone during the breeding season.

Accommodation on the Isle of Man

If you are looking for a place to stay on the Isle of Man, check out these hotels and Airbnbs.

I hope this article helps you decide to make a trip to the Isle of Man. It truly is a beautiful island.

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Isle of Man things you need to know before you go
The Isle of Man things you need to know before you go
The Isle of Man things you need to know before you go 1

24 thoughts on “The Isle of Man – What you Need to Know Before You Go

  1. Avatar of Lesley Hutton
    Lesley Hutton says:

    Hello-honest blog and appreciated.I’m considering moving from the UK to the IOM and currently work as a nurse In NHS. Children are grown up and it’s me and the dog. Some things for me to consider as I continue to research is the employments, housing and sense of community. What’s your views?

    • Avatar of Larch Gauld
      Larch Gauld says:

      Hi Lesley, thank you for your message. I can’t really comment about employment or housing, but I have to say that the sense of community is very strong. I have been welcomed in by the people of the island without any qualms, invited to go places, see and do things. I highly recommend a move to the IOM!

    • Avatar of Sue Allen
      Sue Allen says:

      There is currently a shortage of houses to buy and rent as a lot of people are looking to buy here. There is also a work permit system which you need to look at carefully before thinking about moving. I think it might not apply to medical workers. It is a great place to live

  2. Avatar of Lynn Smith
    Lynn Smith says:

    Thank you Larch for all the excellent information. My son has said he would like to spend his 18th birthday on the Isle of Man, so all being well we will visit in August.

  3. Avatar of Linda (LD Holland)
    Linda (LD Holland) says:

    The Isle of Man certainly does sound mystical. I would certainly want to visit by ferry. Exploring the island by train would be fun and I would love to try the horse drawn tram. A good review of the essential information needed to visit.

  4. Avatar of Renata - byemyself
    Renata - byemyself says:

    It’s funny how we always associate certain things with certain countries. Just like people don’t think beaches’n’islands in Germany, I don’t think immediately of islands when talking ’bout England. Despite the fact that my first trip to the UK was to the Isle of Wight…
    Now, the Isle of Man looks so beautiful and rough. I like these places that just scream untouched nature…

  5. Avatar of Sue
    Sue says:

    I would never have considered visiting the isle of Man but from your photos, it looks lovely & you may have converted me! I didn’t realise it took so long to get there by ferry either. Really useful info for when I take the trip.

  6. Avatar of Ann
    Ann says:

    We have been planning to go traintrotting though UK, when the world is opening up and it’s safe to travel ofcourse, so Isle of Man could be a cool place to go to by bus. We were thinking of going during the summer, so the beach would be great to visit 🙂

  7. Avatar of Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Great detailed overview of visiting the Isle of Man. We get to Ireland quite frequently and the Isle of Man has been on my short list of weekend trips for a while. It’s good to know that there is a boat from Dublin to the Isle of Man. I didn’t realize that people on the Isle of Man were called Manx, or that they have their own currency-great information!

  8. Avatar of Jay Artale
    Jay Artale says:

    My brother nearly accepted a job on the IoM and I was really looking forward to visiting him and exploring the island. It’s got such a rich history, especially the era surrounding the 2nd World War, and as my husband is a bit of a history buff, he would have loved exploring that aspect.

  9. Avatar of Karen
    Karen says:

    We lived on the island for 18 years, it’s a wonderful place. It’s worth mentioning that the last week in August for 2 weeks also needs caution as it’s the Manx Grand Prix motorcycle festival and whilst not as busy as TT, it is an expensive and congested period to travel, especially by ferry. kx

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