Ireland Country Side

15 Tips for Driving in Ireland: Perfect Ireland Road Trip

Ireland is a great destination for any type of vacation – renting a house, doing a guided tour, solo or group travel, or a road trip! Renting a car and driving in Ireland is a great way to get off the beaten path and see more of the breathtaking country.  Driving gives you more independence and freedom in your itinerary. 

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Tips for Driving in Ireland: Before you go

  1. Get an international drivers’ permit. While it’s not required by law, many rental companies do.  Save yourself the headache and get one. You can get one for about $25 at your local AAA office.  There is no test required, it’s just a translation of your valid driver’s license. Make sure that your license is valid for at least six months after your trip. 
  2. Be sure about the transmission you choose. In Europe, a manual transmission is very common. If you can’t drive a manual, be sure to rent an automatic. 
Tip for driving in Ireland, rent a smaller vehicle. Even the roads in the cities are narrow!
Even the cities in Ireland have narrow roads so be sure to rent a smaller car.

Travel Tip: Even if you can drive stick shift, can you drive it with both hands? Since you drive on the left side of the road, you’ll have to use your other hand! 

  1. Get mentally prepared to drive on the left side. It’s a change – trust me.  Even once you think you have the hang of it, you may find yourself drifting to the other side (I cannot confirm or deny that I did this…) Starting out, there’s no shame in putting on your flashers and taking it slow.  
  2. Learn about roundabouts and how to navigate them BEFORE your trip. Instead of traffic lights or entrance/exits on highways, Ireland has roundabouts. Even if you’re familiar with them (Jersey girl here), in Ireland you go to the left (counterclockwise) instead of to the right (clockwise). One of the best things about roundabouts is if you miss your turn, you just keep going around until you see it again!  Also – people IN the roundabout have the right of way. 

Tips for Driving in Ireland: Getting Ready to Hit the Road

  • 5. Be prepared for motion sickness (or car sickness). Once you’re out of the cities, the roads are narrow, curvy, and hilly! So if you’re prone to motion sickness, take your Dramamine or other medication before you start on a long road trip. This is probably the most important tip for driving in Ireland. If you’re not prone to it, but feel it anyway, try to look at the horizon or even take a break at a pub or go for a walk. Here are some tips for avoiding motion sickness while traveling!
Ruins in Ireland. One of the best things about driving in Ireland is stopping at ruins like this. Photo by Bob linsdell on Flickr.
Driving in Ireland means you can stop at ruins like this along the road whenever you want!

Travel Tip: When renting a car anywhere – take a video of the car when you pick it up. Get the entire car in the video to show what it looks like and document any damage or scratches. Do this again when you drop it off. This way you’ll have evidence to dispute any damage charges. This could save you a lot of money. 

  • 6. Don’t freak out about the road signs. The road signs are bilingual! This is one of the reasons why driving in Ireland is easy for Americans. Gaelic is at the top, English is on the bottom. 
  • 7. Don’t rent a huge vehicle. While having the extra room in your car is nice, you don’t want a very large car. When I say the roads are narrow, I mean it. Many country roads (read: the majority) are one lane meaning you have a small pull-off to let other drivers through. Avoid the headache of navigating these in a large SUV. 
  • 8. Be sure to have rental insurance for the car.  Even if you’re the safest driver in the world, other drivers aren’t. Having travel insurance will give you peace of mind in case something happens. 

Travel Tip: Check your credit card to see if it covers rental cars. Many of them include this if you rent the car with the card. 

Tips for Driving in Ireland: On the Road

Sheep can be spotted everywhere while driving in Ireland.
Sheep are everywhere in Ireland – sometimes even on the road!
  • 9. Fill up often! A lot of Ireland is rural countryside – add in potential sheep herds and the occasional wrong turn – you could run out of gas easily. Running out of gas on the side of the road is bad enough – but add a few hours of waiting for another car to pass is just miserable.  If you’re coming from America, it’s important to note that the green pumps are gasoline and the black are diesel (which is opposite from our pumps).  Also, not all gas pumps stop automatically when the tank is full so don’t leave it on its own and expect it to stop! 
  • 10. Leave the navigation to the passengers. Unless you’re a solo traveler, be sure to hand over the navigation to someone else. While there are plenty of signs, they are often right in front of the turn – meaning you won’t have a safe distance to read, think, then turn if necessary.  Smaller roads won’t even have signs and the road numbers are tiny – so take the pressure off and let someone else do the navigator.
Goats can also be seen on the roads while driving in Ireland.
While there are plenty of sheep, sometimes you’ll even see some goats on the side of the road while driving in Ireland.

Travel Tip: Laugh at your mistakes.  Trust me. Driving is stressful, navigating is stressful. There will be mistakes. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to go slow. Look, it’s a new country, new roads, driving on a different side of the road, a new car, just take your time. The Irish are some of the friendliest people in the world, I don’t think I ever heard a honk or saw a dirty look. If you’re nervous about that, just put your flashers on and pull over. (Though chances are they’ll pull over and see if you need help – they’re THAT nice!)
  2. Be aware of drivers with L or N on their back window.  This is something I wish we had in America. The L sticker shows that this person does not have a license, but is learning to drive. The N means newly licensed driver.  The indicators are for other drivers to give them additional space (and patience!)
Admire the rolling hills of green while driving in Ireland.
Driving in Ireland allows you to embrace the many shades of green along the hills!
  • 13. Speaking of letters, there are five different “types” of roads in Ireland – M, M with tolls, N, R, and L.
    • M are multi-lane freeways that can handle a LOT of traffic.  Some of those will be toll roads – mostly in the area around Dublin. They take a picture of your car license as you pass through the purple toll gate. You either pay when you return your car rental or on the app. Sometimes, a little further out of the city there are cash only tolls – they cost around 2 euro.
    • N is for National roads that aren’t as large as the motorways but connect bigger towns (such as Doolin and Dingle).
    • Regional roads (R ) are a bit smaller and have more trucks and tractors on them (the Dingle Peninsula is filled with regional roads.)
    • Finally, the local roads (L) are dotted with tractors, farms, and sheep. Don’t skip them just because they’re not highways – they’re worth the time! 
  • 14. Be prepared for anything on the road. I mean anything. Sure, there’s other drivers and bikes, but there could also be sheep and cows walking along as well.  Sometimes there’s a farmer, sometimes there’s not. There may even be a farmer controlling them or a guy getting out of his truck to try to get the cows back in the fence for his neighbor (true story).
Explore hidden gems by driving in Ireland.

Image from Flickr @mmmacovado
Another beautiful church in Ireland.

Travel Tip: If you need emergency services in Ireland, the number is 999!  

  1. Don’t be afraid to pull over for sights.  There are plenty of sights to see around the countryside including castle ruins – so feel free to pull over and park for a break!

Have you driven in Ireland? What are your tips? If not, do you have any concerns? Let me know!

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15 Essential Tips for Driving in Ireland

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