Written by Valerie Tkaczyk.
The thought of driving on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car than you’re used to in a foreign country can be daunting. For travelers, there are some countries in which the best method of transportation is via automobile. Unless you plan to take an escorted coach tour or hire a private car and driver (both great options for some), this may mean renting a vehicle and setting out on your own.
I didn’t know what to expect when driving in Ireland earlier this year. I had heard stories from people who had a difficult time and stories from people who had no problem at all. I arrived into Dublin prepared with some advice I received prior to my trip and left with some tips of my own, all of which I will share with you.
1. Start in Dublin
Every Ireland trip should include at least a day or two (or more) in Dublin. If possible, schedule your time in Dublin at the beginning of your trip to give yourself some time to recover from jet lag before getting behind the wheel. When you’re well-rested and ready to set off for the Irish countryside, head back to the Dublin airport to pick up your vehicle.
2. Pack Your Driver’s License
At the time of this writing, U.S. travelers do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Ireland. You will need to present your U.S. driver’s license to the car rental company and carry it with you at all times you are driving.
3. Decline a Vehicle Upgrade
I would recommend declining a vehicle upgrade in Ireland and learned the hard way. I was offered and accepted a free upgrade to a BMW, which was a bigger and more expensive car than what I paid for. Due to my difficulty with some of the smaller roads and parking spaces, I wish I would have had the compact I reserved. Having a BMW was also a bit nerve-wracking as any damage would have been a lot more expensive to fix than a normal car.
4. Purchase Rental Car Insurance
The insurance I purchased was a great piece of mind and included some damage to side view mirrors and hubcaps, which is where damage most commonly occurs to cars in Ireland driven by travelers. I did have some difficulty with curbs and scratching up the hubcaps. Thankfully, it was all covered by the insurance!
5. Use GPS
Whether you rent a GPS from the rental company or plan to use a maps app on your smartphone, having access to an electronic map is extremely helpful. I rented a GPS from the car rental company, but personally could have done without it as my cellular service provider allowed for unlimited data usage abroad. Also, I preferred Google Maps to the GPS that was provided. Be sure to check with your cellular service provider for their international usage policies.
Before departing the U.S., I downloaded Ireland in my Google Maps app as an “offline area”. Even without data, I would have been able to use Google maps for navigation, but it wouldn’t have worked as quickly or with as much detail. I liked how Google maps indicated which lane to be in and which exit to take on the many roundabouts I encountered.
6. Put the Phone Down
It is illegal to hold a mobile phone or support it with a part of your body, such as between your shoulder and head, while driving in Ireland unless you are calling emergency numbers 999 or 112.
7. Remember: “Sharp Left, Wide Right”
The shuttle driver from the airport to the car rental facility said to keep “sharp left, wide right” at the forefront of my mind. Remembering this helped a lot and I would even say it out loud while approaching a difficult-looking turn. Note that you cannot turn left on red in Ireland.
8. M50 Toll
The M50 motorway is a half-circle shaped motorway that borders Dublin to the north, west, and south. It has barrier-free tolls where vehicles pass beneath overhead cameras that record license plate numbers. The license plate numbers are used to assign toll charges that drivers can pay in a number of ways, including via the M50 Quick Pay app. Tolls must be paid before 8 PM the following day. Click here for more information about the M50: https://www.eflow.ie/help-guidance/faqs/the-m50-toll-road/
Despite some minor difficulty, it was wonderful to be able to explore Ireland freely and at my own pace!
Contact Classic Travel at 517-349-6200 to speak with a Travel Consultant about planning your trip to Ireland.