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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in 1reland, Irish Travel Resources, Transportation | 5 comments

5 Tips for a Self-Drive Tour in Ireland

An Irish country road in County Tipperary.

The thought of driving on the left side of the road terrifies many potential visitors to Ireland. However, those who overcome that fear are treated to an itinerary that perfectly suits their interests and timetable.

That said, it is easy to overload an itinerary by zipping around Ireland on the “green blur tour.” Here are five tips to help coordinate your self-drive tour…

5 Tips

  1. Consider a 60 miles (95 km) per day maximum. Limiting how far you drive per day can drastically enhance your experience. Averaging less than 60 miles per day can be an excellent way to balance your desire to see as much as possible while avoiding a “green blur” tour. If you decide to travel more than 60 miles one day, reward yourself with a lighter day later in the trip (the route planning feature at www.aaroadwatch.ie can help).
  2. Stay close on the first day. Give yourself some time to adjust and avoid driving with jet lag by spending less than 60 minutes on the road on the first day. From Dublin, that could put you in some wonderful locations such as Drogheda, Kildare, Kilkenny, or Wicklow. From Shannon, you could enjoy Adare, Doolin, Ennis, Killaloe, Limerick, Doolin, and if you want to push it, even Galway.
  3. Get off the N and M roads. Ireland’s modern road system is great for getting between places, but finding an alternative to the N (National) and M (Motorways) roads are the best way to see the “real” Ireland. Even if it’s only for an hour of your journey, the minor roads will take you to unforgettable places.
  4. Know what towns are ahead. Roadsigns in Ireland might be different from what you’re used to, but if you know the names of a few towns in the direction you’re heading, it’ll be easier to follow the road signs.
  5. Understand Ireland’s car insurance policies. Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where most credit cards DO NOT cover car rental (car hire) insurance. Familiarize yourself with basic insurance coverage often called CDW (collision damage waiver) and full-coverage Super CDW – let me warn you, coverage can be pricy (here are tips from Ireland With Kids, IrelandYes, and the Irish Fireside).

Feel free to add your tips below…

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5 Comments

  1. Of everything, the car insurance thing is really what you have to watch out for… Thanks so much for linking to the article on IWK. It really has been helpful- even for me!

  2. We’ve gotten better over the years at driving in Ireland. I think I disagree with the advice to avoid the M and N roads, as far as covering any distance. Our pattern is to arrive in the morning, far too early to check in to a hotel, so we pick up our rental car at DUB and head west, using the dual carriageway, arriving (one time) in Sligo a few hours later, and (another time) in tiny Roundstone in Connemara a few hours later. That really saved a bunch of money because we avoided Dublin altogether.

    My problem with driving in Ireland is going through towns where people park halfway blocking the road. I don’t sense where the left side of the car is because I’m not used to sitting on the right. You need a good co-pilot telling you if you’re getting too close.

  3. Great tips! Also, keep in mind that speed limits are for the locals, and seem very high to us. Don’t be afraid to go slower, but also be prepared to pull off to one side to let a local pass, if you can. There are frequently laybys for you to do so on the smaller roads. DON’T try to keep up with the locals! THey know these roads, and probably know when the local farmer’s tractor or herd of sheep is going to be around the bend – you don’t.

    I love bringing my GPS, because it gives me leave to get ‘lost’ for the fun of it, knowing I can always get back. That’s one of the best parts of driving in Ireland. Keep in mind, though, that what GPS considers a road in Ireland isn’t necessarily what we would consider one in the US! A dirt track over the mountain in Inishowen comes to mind…

    Roundabouts – or traffic circles – are rather common in Ireland. The basic rule is to yield to those already in the traffic circle. If you have to go around once to figure out which exit you want, fine. It’s better than slamming the brakes and cutting someone off.

    Driving through villages – many cars come with sideview mirrors that fold in. Use this feature in tight village streets, it’s useful!

    If you are on a one-lane road on a hill or mountain, and you meet someone coming the other way, common courtesy dictates the one going uphill should back down to the last layby. It’s much easier to back down downhill (especially in a manual transmission) than uphill.

    Manual transmission cars are MUCH more common in Europe, and about half as expensive. If you are comfortable with manual, it’s a good bet. Keep in mind that you will be on the right side of the car, shifting with your left hand, but the pedals are in the same order for your feet. I’ve hit the window several times when I started, reaching for that right-hand shift, until I got used to it!

  4. When hiring a car get a automatic even if you know how to drive a standard – it makes it easier to get around and worth the little extra cost. We learned this from experience.

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