Like so many other travelers, we were excited for our first trip to Ireland. While we were looking forward to many things during our trip, one aspect we were really pumped about was renting a car and driving in Ireland. Knowing that there would be some good and bad surprises coming our way, we did a lot of research before our trip about tips for driving in Ireland. Now that we’ve been there and done that, we wanted to share some of our driving in Ireland tips that we learned if you are planning a trip to Ireland too.
Driving in Ireland Tip 1 – Take Time to Plan Your Route
With so many things to see an do, it can really be difficult to nail down a route map for an Ireland road trip. Our advice is to search as much as possible, and decide what your must see places are. Then, work your driving route around those things.
Unless you have a month for your visit, there is no way you will get to see everything. Sadly, some compromises must be made. We can assure you though that with good planning, you won’t be disappointed with your experience.
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Lastly, having a good driving route for Ireland planned out will help you to stay on track as well as keep you from getting lost. Doing some advanced planning for your trip will give you time to carefully take notes about your route, so you won’t get lost…especially on some of those confusing back country roads!
Driving in Ireland Tip 2 – Get Off the Highway!
Speaking of back country roads, when driving in Ireland you must venture off the main highways into the quintessential Irish countryside. The views are incredible, and it is so much fun going up and down and all around on the winding roads. We also loved driving the Dingle Peninsula, a much more quiet option than the famous Ring of Kerry – and so much more enjoyable!
We truly loved every moment driving on the back roads in Ireland. The quaint little towns were so charming, and the people so friendly. It really made us feel like we were transported into a different era, where life is much slower and calm.
Driving in Ireland Tip 3 – Allow Plenty of Time!
One thing to keep in mind when driving in Ireland is to build in plenty of time into your Ireland self-drive travel itinerary, especially when driving the backroads. While mapping apps will give you an estimate, we recommend that you add nearly double that time to your plan…just to be safe. You never know when you might get stuck behind a slow car, or when sheep might decide to block the road.
Plus, you want to have time to enjoy your trip! Rushing from place to place is not going to make you feel like you experienced Ireland…it’s just going to make you feel like you drove a lot! Don’t spend all your time in the car – get out and explore!
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We recommend staying 2-3 nights in a town and exploring the nearby area, as opposed to spending 1 night in 2 or 3 towns. You will have a much better experience and feel more relaxed.
Driving in Ireland Tip 4 – Take Extra Care in the Countryside
While the views driving in the Irish countryside are gorgeous, you do need to take extra care. The roads are quite narrow, and traffic can get heavy. It’s a little alarming when you have tractors coming at you, as well as a stone wall along one side of the road!
As if that isn’t enough, coming from the States we were still getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road…and the car! Honestly, it’s not as hard as you might fear. But you do need to pay extra attention. And it’s helpful if you have a passenger that can shout “wall, wall” when you start to drift too far to one side.
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Driving in Ireland Tip 5 – The Scariest Thing (for US visitors)…
For most visitors from the States, the scariest thing about driving in Ireland is that they drive on the opposite side of the road…and the car! While this will require some adjustments on your part, it is by no means a reason to freak out.
Honestly, it’s amazing how easy it is to get accustomed to driving on the opposite side of the road. You will have to pay a bit more attention, and it is easier if you have a passenger in the car who can help remind you on occasion.
The same is true for driving on the opposite side of the car. It feels completely weird at first! But after a few days, you really won’t think much of it anymore. The hardest part is using your left hand to shift gears, if you have a manual transmission.
Driving in Ireland Tip 6 – a Manual Transmission is the Norm (and default rental car option)
Speaking of which, you might be surprised to learn that manual transmissions are the norm for cars in much of the world…including Ireland. Stick shifts are the standard rental car in Ireland, and they are cheaper to rent. But if you cannot drive one, or don’t feel comfortable with using it during your trip (driving on the opposite side of the road & car), then you must be sure to specify when you make your car rental reservation!
One of Our Final & Biggest Tips for Driving in Ireland…
We did a lot of research before our trip to Ireland, especially when it came to renting a car and driving in Ireland. Still, even after all that research even we had a few surprises and had to make some adjustments. Just remember to stay alert — that’s probably one of our biggest tips for driving in Ireland.
Even as you start to get comfortable with driving on the opposite side of the road, or shifting a manual transmission with your left hand — surprises will come at you. Whether it’s a suddenly narrow or rocky road, sheep in the road, tractors…or a wall seemingly touching the side of your car! Just keep your wits about you and stay alert when you are driving in Ireland and you will be just fine.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2016, but has been revamped and updated in 2019.
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Photo Credits: Photos under CC 2.0 – tpsdave, mwitt1337, Christian_Birkholz, caisabelle, Sean McEntee
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