Rita and Simon, May 28th 2011


Tips on Driving in Ireland

This page is aimed at those of you coming from North America who have not driven in Ireland before. 

First, the good news.  Ireland has spent huge sums of money in the last decade on its road system, so it now has good highways between Dublin and the other main cities, and other roads have been improved considerably.  Most large cities and towns are now bypassed.  Road signs have been reorganised and now make much more sense.  OK, enough of the good news.  The bad news is that all of these improvements were from a very low start!  Roads are generally narrower than in North America, both in cities and the countryside.  In spite of this, drivers tend to drive quickly, seemingly in the hope that no one else will be coming the other way.  Also, many junctions are not organised well. Wonderful concepts like the 4-way stop do not exist and it is left to the initiative of individual drivers to figure out who has right of way!

Nevertheless, we do not want to discourage you from renting a car.  It is often the best and only way to see many parts of Ireland. Remember that many people have come before you and driven around Ireland without any problem at all!

Automatic vs Manual

Most cars in Ireland are manual (stick) shift.  Because the driver seat is on the right side of the car, the gear stick on a manual car is on your left, rather than your right.  Funnily enough, the pedals from left to right are clutch, brake and accelerator, the same order as in a right-drive car. Anyway, we recommend that you hire an automatic car in Ireland so that you can focus on things other than changing gear. Most rental cars are also manual so be sure to specify that you need an automatic when renting.  If you don't specify then you'll certainly end up with a manual.

Car Rental
All the large car rental firms have offices in Irish airports and cities.  Apart from specifying that you want an automatic car, the other thing to be careful about is if you plan to travel to Northern Ireland. Be sure that your rental car company allows this as many of them do not.

Driving on the left
This is not as bad as people make out, especially if you have an automatic car. For one, most Irish roads are quite busy so there's no chance that you'll drive on the wrong (or right, if you see what we mean) side - you simply follow the car in front of you!  In our experience there are 2 things to be careful about:
  1. Road position.  When first driving on the other side of the road, many people tend to drive too close to the kerb.
  2. Making a turn into an empty road.  This is the time when you are most likely to make the mistake of going on to the right side of the road, as there are no other cars on the road to tell you that it's wrong.

Roundabouts (Rotaries)
These are unusual in North America.  You will quickly realise that they are everywhere in Ireland!  There's no getting away from it - at first sight they seem illogical and chaotic.  But the principal is easy - when approaching a roundabout you yield to anyone who is already on it, and once you are on the roundabout you have the right of way.