Driving in Ireland Guide
The easiest way to get around Ireland is to rent a
car and head out on the highway (and back roads).
Driving in Ireland can be an exhilarating experience
given the outstanding scenery on offer. It is fair
warning though of the sometimes tight and
occasionally bumpy country roads that may be
ahead of you. Here is our summary of driving
How to Book
To get the best rate we recommend checking out price comparison sites, here are a few, you can also check the individual sites themselves Hertz, Avis etc).
What is Needed
A valid American state license is all that is required for driving in Ireland. No international driving license is needed. If you’re under 25 your insurance rate will be much higher so inquire ahead. Also, if you’re over 75 do check ahead of time as there may be a maximum age limit. Everyone who wants to drive the car needs to show their license and be named on the rental agreement.
To rent a car in Ireland your best bet is to get it at Dublin, Shannon or Belfast airport. Off airport car rentals are possible, but not as common in Ireland as the USA. Booking through the internet is usually cheaper because they waive certain airport fees. If you show up at the rental car agency counter without reservation then don’t be afraid to shop around from counter to counter for the best deal. However, make sure to compare apples to apples. Some quotes include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance and some don’t. Check with your credit card company. They may have free coverage. Do not automatically assume your credit card provides coverage in Ireland. Many cards cover international car rental, but some such as American Express exclude Ireland and Australia. If this is an option for you, then don’t forget to pay with the correct credit card. Usually the rental agency will offer you a zero deductible buy down for an extra daily fee. This may be a good thing for peace of mind. However, getting too much extra insurance can be a waste of money for you and a cash cow for the rental agency. Most rental car companies have some sort of break-down and recovery plan. Inquire about the details before you leave the counter. Also pick up your free maps.
Cars in Ireland
Cars are generally smaller in Ireland. Even the terminology is different. What they call a mid-size in Ireland, would be called a compact car in the USA. If you want any trunk space for luggage or back seat leg room always go a size larger. Always look at the pictures and description of the cars on the webpage and decide if it’s going to be adequate. Also, a large percentage of cars in Ireland do not come with built in air conditioning. You probably won’t need it anyway even in the summer. Cruise control is another thing you may not have or actually need. Having a GPS (Sat Nav) with an Irish database is a valuable thing. Car rental agencies can charge up to €15 a day extra for one. Consider buying one with a European database before you leave the USA, especially if you’re going to need it for a long trip. There has been a lot of new road construction in Ireland in the past few years so have your database as up to date as possible. Most cars in Ireland are equipped with manual transmissions or stick shift as they call it stateside. Car rental agencies will have limited cars with automatic transmissions available. In my experience they usually charge much more to rent these. If you do not state that you want an automatic, by default you will be given a manual. Reserving an automatic car might be worth the extra money as it is one less thing to think about.
“They Drive on the Wrong Side”
Stepping into the Irish rental car for the first time is a very alien experience. The gear stick is now near your left hand, and your rearview mirror is now on the left side. The only thing that’s the same are the floor pedals, with the clutch being on the normal left foot, brake in the middle and accelerator on the right. It takes a bit of practice and muscle memory to get proficient at changing gears, but you’ll get the hang of it faster than you think. Your relative position on the road is different when sitting on the right side of the car. You’ll need to position yourself to the right of your lane to keep your car centered within the lane. Before you drive your car, sit in the right seat and visualize yourself driving on the left side. Remember the driver always sits near the center of the road. Getting out of the airport can be a challenge so have a plan, a good navigator and a lot of patience. A good website with additional information on driving in Ireland is http://www.infiniteireland.com/a-comprehensive-guide-to-renting-a-car-in-ireland/
Tips & Safety
- A quick check to see if you are driving on the correct side is to always make sure the driver side is in the middle of the road.
- Driving offences are strictly enforced in Ireland. You will often see police stops set up randomly at any time of day (morning included) checking for DUI. There are many mobile speed cameras (in the back of unmarked vans) set up throughout the country, usually at the entrance to a village, checking for speed. Anything 5mph/8km over the limit is usually caught. A fine is then sent to the rental car company who will charge it to your card. Click here for more information on driving rules in Ireland
- Distance is measured in kilometers and in speed in kilometers per hour. Click here for a conversion chart
- Ireland has many roundabouts with it’s rules strictly adhered to. When you get to the roundabout stop and look to your right, if it is clear then proceed.
- Ireland (especially out in the country) has many fuchsia hedge rows which make the roads even more narrow.
- If you can we would recommend you rent a GPS and an Automatic car. Stick shift makes everything more difficult. Using your phone as a GPS can result in very expensive data bills.
- For information on Children Car Seats in Ireland click here
- Be careful as a pedestrian when crossing a street as car come from the opposite direction
Drivetime to Dingle
Dublin 5 hrs (incl a break) Click here for map link
Shannon 2 hrs 30 mins Click here for map link
Cork City 3 hrs (incl a break) Click here for map link
Tralee 50 mins Click here for map link
Killarney 70 mins Click here for map link
Kerry Airport 75 mins Click here for map link
Limerick 2 hrs Click here for map link
Galway 3 hrs 15 mins (via Limerick) Click here for map link