My husband has never driven on the left before. Any tips for when he drives us around Ireland this June? — Anne Murphy via email
For most people, the first few hours of driving on the opposite side of the road provide a string of stressors… What side of the road am I supposed to be on? Where am I going? What does that road sign say? Is it safe to enter the roundabout now? What lane am I supposed to be in? Can I turn here?
Those who push through usually end up doing a pretty good job. Since your husband already knows he needs to drive on the left, I’ll offer these tips:
- Consider renting an automatic rather than a stick shift (manual transmission) — it’ll be one less thing to think about when driving.
- Get to know the car before getting on the road… especially the buttons for lights, wipers, the boot (the trunk), the bonnet (the hood), and how to reverse.
- Intersections can be tricky — in addition to remembering which lane you are to turn into, you need to pay close attention to which lane oncoming traffic will be traveling — always look right, then left, and right again to avoid pulling out in front of another vehicle.
- Driving in towns tends to be the most stressful — motorways and country roads tend to be a little easier on the nerves.
- Many Irish towns have very narrow streets — you may need to fold in your mirrors to get by vehicles or when you park your car.
- Under those lush green hedgerows are big, hard rocks — many mirrors, bumpers, and hubcaps have been sacrificed by those who get too close.
- On side roads, there are often spots that are too narrow for cars to pass without stopping — keep an eye out for “pullouts” in case you need to back up to them.
- In rural areas, you may be sharing the road with farm equipment or livestock — be patient, they usually are only going a short distance — if you see an orange cone on the road or a vehicle parked near a gate, it may be a clue that there may be something to watch out for ahead.
- Street names are usually on the corners of buildings or on roadsigns preceding an intersection. Street names on freestanding signs are more common in Northern Ireland.
- Many towns use “Pay and Display” parking — you pay at a kiosk and leave the receipt in the window of your car.
- Distances are measured in kilometers in the Republic and miles in Northern Ireland — petrol (gas) is measured in litres in both countries.
- It’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
- Seat belts are to be worn at all times.
- Don’t be “shocked” by how fast some Irish travel on narrow, curvy Irish roads — it’s best to let those drivers pass you and and stay out of their way.
- If you have a valid Canadian, US, or European Union drivers license, you don’t need an International Drivers License.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get from one place to another… rushing will only increase your chance of an accident and take away from your travel experience.
You asked for tips for your husband, but I’ve got some suggestions for you as the passenger as well:
- Try not to gasp and scream every time the car gets close to the hedgerow or when there’s an oncoming car present.
- Take on the role of navigator — reading signs and knowing the names of upcoming towns is the best way to keep going in the right direction.
- Give at least 30 minutes notice before needing to stop for a bathroom break.
- After a day of driving, you should always offer your driver a good shoulder or foot massage 😉
If you’re renting a car in Ireland, you might want to read our 5 Things You Should Know When Renting a Car in Ireland.
Hopefully, we’ll get even more tips in the comments section as well!
Jody over at Ireland With Kids also added her Tips for Driving in Ireland on her blog. Have a look!