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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in 1reland, Q&A, Transportation | 9 comments

Q & A: Driving in Ireland

irish road sign

Photo courtesy of magic_bee

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:

  1. Consider renting an automatic rather than a stick shift (manual transmission) — it’ll be one less thing to think about when driving.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Driving in towns tends to be the most stressful — motorways and country roads tend to be a little easier on the nerves.
  5. 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.
  6. Under those lush green hedgerows are big, hard rocks — many mirrors, bumpers, and hubcaps have been sacrificed by those who get too close.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Many towns use “Pay and Display” parking — you pay at a kiosk and leave the receipt in the window of your car.
  11. Distances are measured in kilometers in the Republic and miles in Northern Ireland — petrol (gas) is measured in litres in both countries.
  12. It’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
  13. Seat belts are to be worn at all times.
  14. 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.
  15. If you have a valid Canadian, US, or European Union drivers license, you don’t need an International Drivers License.
  16. 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:

  1. Try not to gasp and scream every time the car gets close to the hedgerow or when there’s an oncoming car present.
  2. 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.
  3. Give at least 30 minutes notice before needing to stop for a bathroom break.
  4. 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!

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9 Comments

  1. If driving in western Ireland, keep in mind that many signs may be in Irish only, not English. Become familiar with the Irish names of towns you are traveling to, and through. Also, towns PAST the ones you are going to – it may be the only way a road is identified.

    If you do get a manual transmission, get used to grabbing for it with your left hand. I’ve hit my right hand against the car door plenty of times reaching for a nonexistant gear shift before my body re-trained itself. The pedals are still in the correct order.

    While you may get sticker shock from the gas prices, remember that most cars in Ireland (especially manual transmission) have much better gas mileage than US cars. It works out to about the same.

  2. This website from Driving school Ireland might also give some guidance.

    http://www.drivingschoolireland.com/roundabouts.html

    I have been fortunate enough never to have lost a wing mirror in all my time in Ireland but remember if you do pull a mirror in when parked do not drive with a mirror pulled in (contrary to what you might read in a certain guide book)it is Illegal. Also on county roads remember that those nice wide places to stop while you go for a walk might just be “Passing places”

    Don’t be scared take your time and you will be fine.

  3. The hardest thing for me seemed to be not turning on the windshield wiper rather than the turn signal — it’s such an unconscious and automatic response!

  4. Corey…did you have to use that particular photo at the head of the post? First time Ireland drivers are nervous enough, without seeing that sign…LOL!! ;-)

  5. I’d like to suggest that if it’s just the two of you on a trip that both people share the driving responsibility. Yes, you’ll have to pay for an additional driver, but it’s a minimal cost in the grand scheme of things, and I know that some car hire agencies cap this fee after so many days. One reason I feel the driving should be shared is it will give each person a chance to relax a little and enjoy the scenery. Another reason is it gives both people experience behind the wheel, so you’ll both gain some familiarity with driving on the left. This would come in handy should one of you get sick and the other person must drive.

  6. P/U your car in Shannon if you can. It’s much easier to get out of than Dublin especially for first timers. If staying in Dublin first for a few days, use ground transport initially and P/U your car at an off-airport location to avoid the congestion/confusion of central Dublin. Have a good navigator with you and do some homework with a good map.

  7. I just returned from my fourth trip to Ireland, and had a fantastic rental experience with Dan Dooley – no hidden charges, no fuss, no muss.

    However, make sure to pay attention to your gas gauge! We were trying to return the car empty, as we received it full. The car said it had 125 miles left in it, our GPS said it was 100 miles to the airport early Monday morning (5am). No problem. Oh, wait – that 125 is KM, not miles – problem!

    Gas stations are not automatic in Ireland – almost none that we saw in the west would take credit cards at the pump, so they needed to be manned. Most stations are NOT 24 hours. We were extremely lucky to coast into one town that had one on our way to the airport. Keep this in mind!

  8. I must say my husband did a great job driving in Ireland. We got in the car, made two trips around the airport (Shannon) parking lot to get used to driving on opposite side, then off we went. He even aced the roundabouts. :D

  9. Ha! Love that you included tips for the passenger. I’m usually the passenger when my husband is at the wheel. He’s used to the roads but I find it exhausting to even be the passenger. Most times I think I’m the one who needs a foot massage :)

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