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A Leap Card is a reusable plastic smart card that can be used to pay for most public transport in and around Dublin and Cork. If you are familiar with the Oyster Card in London, OV Chipkaart in The Netherlands or Octopus Card in Hong Kong, it operates on the same principle. There is lot of information on the official Leap card website but it can be a bit confusing for visitors. Hopefully this page should give you all the information you need!
Leap Cards may be used on the following services
Leap Cards can be used to store travel credit, to store travel passes or a combination of both.
For travel credit, you put credit onto the card and the cost of each journey is deducted from this
For a pass, you pre-pay for a pass and as long as your journey is covered by the travel pass, there will be no charge.
It is also possible to have a combined arrangement. For example, you could have a pass added to your card for journeys in Dublin, but also have some credit added. In this case, any journey in Dublin that is covered by the pass will not be charged. However, should you choose to make a journey that is not covered (e.g. a train journey on top of a bus-only pass or some bus journeys while on a day-trip to Cork), the cost of these will be deducted from the stored credit.
Travel Credit on your Leap card never expires – it stays there until you use it. Once you’ve used up your credit, simply top it up to use again. If you don’t use up all of your Travel Credit during your trip you can get a refund, see below.
Leap cards can also be used as a period pass, giving unlimited travel for a certain period on certain forms of transport. As explained below, capping means that using the Travel Credit option will generally cost no more than a daily or weekly pass. However the following passes may be useful for visitors:
- The three duration Leap Visitor Card (link) are available as follows;
Each offers unlimited travel on Dublin Bus (including the 747 Airlink), Luas (tram) and Dublin area rail services for their duration. They are especially good value if you use the Airlink. You can only buy a Leap Visitor card at a limited number of stockists - see list of stockists below.
- The 1 Day Family Rambler is €14.00 and valid for one-day travel on Dublin Bus (only) for a family of two adults and two children aged under 16. This is particularly good value if you use the Airlink, e.g. on the day of your arrival or departure. You don't need to have children, just 2 adults will do!
- The 5 Day Adult Rambler is €30.60 and valid for unlimited travel on Dublin Bus (only) for 5 non-consecutive days. Again this is good value if you use the Airlink and you do a lot of travel by bus on the other days.
- The 3 Day Freedom is €33.00 and is valid on all Dublin Bus services including Airlink. It is also valid on the Dublin Bus's Green Hop-on Hop-off open-top City Tour buses which have tour guides on board.
A large variety of other passes is available, though most are aimed at commuters rather than tourists.This page on boards.ie has a comprehensive list of all the time-based tickets available.
A €5 refundable deposit is charged for Adult Leap Cards. When buying your Leap Card you must also top it up with a minimum of €5 Travel Credit.
There are 2 versions of Leap card for children:
Both charge child fares which are generally less than half the adult rate; particularly useful for 16-18 year old who otherwise have to pay adult fares if paying cash.
Unfortunately the purchase process is not really designed to suit tourists; the card for 4-16 year olds can only be bought online and the card for 16-18 requires downloading a form, going in person to an office and then having the card posted out, Go to http://www.childleapcard.ie/ for full details.
Using stored value on your Leap card is normally 15-25% cheaper than paying in cash. Another advantage is that you don't have to bring a sack of coins to pay for buses; since bus fares depend on distance this can be quite a sack!
You can buy regular adult or child Leap cards
Leap Visitors Cards are only available to buy at the following locations;
There are currently no outlets at Cork Airport or at the ferryports.
Online orders can be posted worldwide so you can order one before you travel to Ireland - just make sure you allow enough time for the card to be mailed to you. Several people can share a single Leap card when using Dublin Bus but not any other companies' services, so it's best for everyone to get their own.
You can top-up your Leap Trravel Credit and purchase period passes cards
You can also pay online and collect the top-up, or set up a direct debit from your bank account; though obviously this is only useful for a long-term resident - see the Leap website for details.
The way you use your card depends on the mode of transport. Some Irish oddities are that even using Leap Travel Credit, fares vary according to the distance you travel and each company sets its own fares. Also, apart from journeys solely by tram or train, you will be charged for each leg of the journey.
Using travel credit, your remaining Leap card balance is displayed every time you use your card.
Using Leap on the bus is different to the way similar cards are used in other countries and can be a bit confusing.
On buses, you normally present your card to the LEAP card reader by the driver. If using a stored value card, tell the driver where you are going and the appropriate fare will be deducted. You don't need to do anything with your Leap card when you get off the bus.
On Dublin Bus you can buy additional tickets at the Leap rate from your Travel Credit for your traveling companions - just ask the driver.
Some buses have a 2nd validator on the opposite side from the driver. These should only be used if you have a Leap card with a travel pass or if the maximum fare applies for the distance you are travelling.
On trains, you touch on at the entry gate to the station where you are boarding. You touch off at the exit gate at the station where you are leaving. If either station does not have gates, there will be a validator that can be used for the same purpose. You do not need to re-validate your LEAP card when changing trains. Note: Leap is only valid for use on DART and commuter services in Dublin and Cork and not long distance trains (Link).
On the LUAS, there are validator at each end of the platforms. Use this to validate your card when you begin your journey and again when you finish it. Don't forget to touch off or you may end up paying too much!!!
Each time you make a journey on Leap with Travel Credit, you are charged a fare. However the Leap system uses Capping, so once the total amount of all your fares reaches a certain amount you won't have to pay any more for your journeys for the rest of the day or week.
Unlike similar cards in other places, the cap value depends on the modes of transport you use, not the distance you travel. Capping only applies to the 3 main operators in Dublin; it does not apply to Bus Éireann (and hence does not work in Cork) or the smaller bus companies. While you can use Leap with Travel Credit on the Airlink 747, the €6 fare is not counted towards the cap.
The main benefits of capping are that you won't spend more than €6.90 in a day if you just use regular Dublin Bus services, or €10.00 in a day if you use more than 1 mode of transport. Full details are on the Leap card website.
At the end of your trip, you can get a refund of the deposit and any unused Travel Credit. As the government agency which runs Leap does not have any public offices, the process is slightly involved and differs depending on whether you live in Europe or not.
If you have a bank account in the EU or EEA, then you can apply online for a refund by logging in to your Leap account and then selecting the "Report Lost/Faulty Card" option. (If you do not have an online account you will first have register the card on the website.) You will be asked for your bank account details such as IBAN.
If you do not have a bank account in Europe, you will need to download and complete a paper refund form and return it with your Leap card. A cheque in Euro will be issued. You might first want to check with your bank as to any charges they will apply to clear this.