Driving in Ireland

Having a car will mean a great amount of freedom during your trip. Since driving is done on the left-hand side of the street (with the driver driving on the right side), it can be tricky to get used to for people from other countries. Following the guidelines and advice here will help you feel prepared and therefore more confident on the road.

Renting

During the higher travel seasons, it is best to book your rental car before you arrive in Ireland. Try to not rent a car during your time in Dublin until you are ready to set out from the city.

Fact

Your U.S. driver's license is valid in Ireland and Northern Ireland. If you plan on driving in other European countries, it is recommended you obtain an international driver's permit from an AAA (www.aaa.com) office in your area. You will need to have two passport-size photos and a current U.S. driver's license to apply.

When searching online for a rental car, read the fine print. You will want unlimited mileage, and renting for seven or more consecutive days will save you a significant amount of money. To rent in Ireland, the person signing for the car will have to be at least twenty-one years old and under the age of seventy-five. Some rental agencies will not rent to drivers under twenty-five or over seventy, or will augment the price with high “under age” or “over age” fees. The cheapest rentals are smaller, manual cars. The lowest weekly rental will cost between 250 and 500. Add a minimum 150 to this amount for an automatic car. Add 75+ if you want to return the car to a different location (more if in another country, such as Northern Ireland or mainland Britain). Gas in Ireland is two to three times more expensive than in the United States.

Most rentals require some sort of deposit blocked (but not charged) on your credit card. Often, you can purchase a collision damage waiver (CDW) at the time of rental. Don't assume that insurance provided through your credit card carrier will cover you in Ireland. Call before your trip to check on the details.

Tips for Driving

Ireland competes with only a couple of other countries in having the highest accident rates in western Europe. If you are cautious and follow the rules, your trip will go without incident.

Here are some important steps to fully prepare for driving in Ireland:

  • Learn some of the road signs. One good resource for this is Irish Car Rental (www.irish-car-rental.com), which also provides other information to aid your journey.

  • Practice driving a manual car if possible. In Ireland, the pedals and steering wheel are on the right-hand side of the car, and you will need to shift with your left hand.

  • Remember to stay on the left-hand side of the road at all times. Most rental cars have signs on the dashboard indicating that you should remain on the left-hand side.

  • Buy a good driving map of Ireland. The Michelin Ireland map is superb.

  • Try not to overcompensate by staying too close to the right or to the middle of the road. Most Irish roads are narrow.

  • Give yourself an average travel speed of 60 km/hour (40 miles/hour).

  • Don't be afraid to ask for directions.

  • Each person in the car must wear a safety belt, and children under age twelve are not allowed to sit in the front seat. The use of mobile phones while driving is against the law.

  • The Republic of Ireland now has all of its signs in kilometers per hour. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, has its signs posted in miles per hour. Most cars label both speeds, so heed the limits accordingly. When you enter into Northern Ireland, you probably will not be aware of it as there are no border markers. The same rules and regulations apply for driving in Northern Ireland as in the Republic.

    Roundabouts and Intersections

    You will find roundabouts at most intersections. Traffic inside the roundabout has the right-of-way. As you merge into the roundabout, look right to ensure no one is coming, then continue in a clockwise pattern. If there are two lanes merging side-by-side into the roundabout, the outer lane tends to be for those taking the first left exit, while the inner lane is reserved for those taking the second, third, or even fourth exit. If you are taking the first left exit at a two-lane entrance, use your left turn signal to show your intention. If you are on the inner lane of this two-lane entrance, signal right to show your intention to enter the roundabout completely. Before you turn out of the roundabout, signal left.

    Speed Limits

    When driving, you might wonder where all the speed-limit signs have gone. Speed limits are “understood” in Ireland.

    SPEED LIMITS IN IRELAND

    Parking

    Parking in Ireland can be a little confusing. One yellow line on the road means no parking during weekly business hours (Monday–Saturday). Double yellow lines signify no parking. And, broken yellow lines means that you can park for a short amount of time. For ease, it is best to find “Pay and Display” parking lots. Parking ticket machines do not give change. Getting clamped or towed will run 85–175 or more for the car to be released. You can purchase “parking disks” in local stores that you can use in specified parking areas all over the country.

    Essential

    Parking in Dublin can be expensive, especially if you want to leave your vehicle overnight or for a twenty-four-hour period. Bigger hotels provide parking, but smaller ones or hostels will not. Ask if your hotel has any deals with local lots. In major cities, search for Q-Park (www.q-park.ie) deals, which can save you 50 percent or more off regular parking fares.

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