After driving thousands of miles in Ireland, I know the stress that comes from thinking about driving a car in a new country.
With over 9 million people each year visiting the country of Ireland, it is safe to say that many people will be experiencing the same types of fear that I had when it came to driving on the other side of the road.
Coming from Canada, driving on the right side of the road has been ingrained in me for my entire life, so going to Ireland was the first time I ever had to drive on the left side.
And to be honest with you it was a little scary at first.
But totally worth it!
Don’t let fear deter you away from experiencing Ireland’s beautiful landscapes! It will be an experience that you will not regret.
15 Best Ireland Driving Tips For Tourists
Unfamiliarity with Ireland’s roadways and local driving rules can sometimes lead to accidents.
That’s why I decided to write this guide to give you some insightful tips and tricks to keep you safe and on the right side of the law when driving around the Emerald Isle.
1. Always Look Right First
The country of Ireland, like England and many other countries, drive on the left side of the road. This will be unfamiliar to visitors from America and other nations that are typically used to driving on the right.
Driving on the left side of the road will initially feel weird and a little scary. But the key here is to concentrate on following the flow of traffic and to get comfortable.
Just remember that when turning, instead of looking left first, that you should always look right. This is because oncoming traffic will be coming from the right side first.
Take your time intersections, think about where you were going, and make sure you observe the other cars that are around you and the direction in which they are heading.
A good rule of thumb is to check and double-check before making any turns or maneuvers.
Driving on the left side of the road will feel strange at the beginning, but it will eventually feel second nature after a few days.
2. Take Your Time
Some local drivers could be Formula 1 drivers. I am not kidding.
The side roads in Ireland are quite tight, and there is not much room for error. But you will see some drivers speed around these tight corners like they are like Lewis Hamilton.
But you can’t worry about those drivers. Drive at a speed you are comfortable with, and if you feel like you are being tailgated, just pull over to the side and let the car behind you pass.
3. Learn How To Change a Tire
While you are traveling in Ireland, you are bound to end up in some pretty remote places.
That is why it’s important to know how to change a tire in case one of your tires pop.
On our drive, through the Gap of Dunloe we came across another driver who’s tire was popped after he had a run-in with some sharp rocks.
Unfortunately, he did not know how to change his own tire, and was a few hours away from an expensive tow truck.
Luckily for him, another local and myself helped him out – but don’t let the same thing happen to you!
Here is a good video to watch before you go:
You just might thank me later!
4. Bring a Cell Phone
This tip goes hand in hand with the last tip – be prepared! Having a cell phone handy will help you not only with giving you GPS and map directions, but it will also give you a life line in case of an emergency
The best way to get a cell phone is to simply buy a sim card from a cell phone company and swap it into your cell phone. It is usually cheaper than using your own phone company and not too expensive
Just make sure that your phone is unlocked before you leave by calling your cell phone provider.
5. Fasten your seat belt
In Ireland, as well as the majority of other European countries, the wearing of seat belts is compulsory for drivers and passengers of vehicles. Including people that are seated in the rear of the vehicle.
Children that are smaller than 4 foot 11 inches or weigh under 36 pounds should use a booster cushion or be secured in a child car seat for their safety. The driver is responsible for ensuring that all passengers seat belts are securely fastened at all times.
The wearing of seat belts helps to prevent serious injury and death in the event of an accident.
Not only that, but the Irish police (aka Garda) was cracking down on people not wearing their seat belts. So don’t be a dummy and buckle up!
6. Don’t Be a Hero, Get an Automatic
This may seem like a weird suggestion because America cars typically come with a standard transmission, but most Irish vehicles tend to come with a manual transmission as standard.
If you have not driven a manual transmission vehicle before, don’t try to learn in an unfamiliar country!
Spend the extra money and save yourself the headache and upgrade to an automatic car.
7. Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
Even though Ireland is a country that is renowned for its drinking and pub culture the use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle is illegal.
While the Irish people have a reputation for enjoying their drinks, the legal alcohol limits for a motor vehicle operation is actually lower in Ireland than many other countries in the world!
The legal allowed driving limit in Ireland is 0.5 mg of alcohol per milliliter of blood. Driving over these limits can result in stiff penalties including fines, licence points, and even imprisonment. Most people that live in the Emerald Isle will not even risk getting behind the wheel after just one drink!
Given the strict limits it is better to err on the side of caution and not attempt to drive at all if you are indulging in a drink. Try and arrange a taxi or alternative methods of transportation.
8. Ignore (Sometimes) Crazy Speed Limits
The speed limits in southern Ireland are displayed in kilometers per hour not miles per hour. So make sure you are looking at the right gauge or dial on your dashboard to avoid going to fast if you are used to seeing speed signs in MPH
The speed limits for Ireland are very unusual thing for people unfamiliar with the country.
Some speed limits in Ireland seem fair and reasonable, whereas other times, you will see speed limits that seem more like a dare!
On some rural roads, you will see a speed limit of 100 km/hr or 80 km/hr on tiny windy roads where the max you feel comfortable going is 50 km/hr!
Some locals will surely be attempting to go that fast, but as mentioned in tip #2 just go the speed you feel comfortable with.
9. Watch out for Speed Cameras
Ireland’s police take speeding very seriously.
After you spend some times on the roads in Ireland, you will realize why.
In places like America and Canada, unmanned speed cameras are very controversial.
But in Ireland, they are very common.
So if you see a van like the one in this picture, be sure to slow down or you might be getting a nasty surprise when your rental company sends you an extra bill in the mail!
Fortunately, the Garda don’t try to hide these vans from you, and they stick out so you should be able to see them.
They also post their locations on their website which you can check out here
10. Don’t Touch That Cell Phone
The use of cell phones is not permitted while driving in Ireland due to the obvious dangers of not concentrating on the road while you are operating a motor vehicle.
The rule in Ireland is that the driver must never touch the phone at all while the vehicle is an operation.
So if you’re planning to use your mobile device for GPS purposes you may need a plan your route beforehand. If you are driving hand your phone to a passenger to assist you with navigation.
Bluetooth devices are technically allowed but the police in Ireland are quite strict and if they determine that you are driving unsafely due to being distracted then fines will be imposed.
11. Get Around Slow Movers
Many of Ireland’s beautiful areas are located in more rural and remote parts of the country. Many of these can be situated around open fields and or farm land.
There is a good chance that during your travels you will come across slow moving and heavy farm equipment, and industrial machinery.
The proper way to get around these slow-moving vehicles is to first signal right and let the vehicle ahead you are planning to overtake them. Then look for oncoming traffic, and then overpass when it is safe to do so.
But there will be times when you just get caught behind a slow moving vehicle and can’t get around it because of the tight bends.
In that case, it is good to take a few breaths and just wait until one of you makes a turn.
12. Signal For Roundabouts
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the number of roundabouts being built in North America. However, they are still not common in most regions, and can be tricky if you’re not used to navigating around them.
Roundabouts are prolific in Ireland and are used in many locations instead of the more familiar traffic lights. When approaching a roundabout make sure you take time to check oncoming traffic before pulling out.
The rule is that you give way to traffic coming from the right. Once you have pulled on to the roundabout you travel around it in a clockwise direction.
Make sure that you signal and check your mirrors before making your exit!
13. Don’t Go Low on Fuel
Gas stations or ‘petrol stations’ as they are known in Ireland are not operational for 24 hours a day as they are in other countries. Some of them may not even open after evening hours!
Ireland is a little different from places like America where you can find a petrol station almost every few blocks. Some areas of Ireland you may be able to travel for miles or hours before happening across a petrol station.
A good rule of thumb is to not let your tank get down past a quarter tank.
14. Bring The Right Documents
Like most of the other countries in the world, you will require a license to operate a motor vehicle in the country of Ireland. the good news is that if you come from Canada or the USA your license is automatically valid in Ireland.
If you’re coming from any country other than the US, Canada or Europe you will require an International Driver’s Licence. You will also require a passport for identification purposes, and third party insurance to cover you in the event of any incidents or accidents.
Make sure that you have all the necessary documents from the rental car company and keep it in your vehicle. You will need to produce it should you be pulled over by the police.
15. Get Insurance
When your driving on some rural roads where you are passing an oncoming car on a road that looks like it was made for one car – you’re going to thank yourself that you have car insurance!
Some credit cards come with collision insurance coverage for your rental vehicle, but many do not.
So double-check with your credit card company to make sure your vehicle is insured. Also make sure to know what you are covered for exactly, some only cover damage to your vehicle, but do not cover for personal injury.
If that is the case you may want to get additional coverage just in case.
Ireland Driving Tips Conclusion
Hopefully this list of tips and advice will give you a few good pointers and help you prepare for your trip to Ireland.
If you have already driven in Ireland, what do you think? Is there anything I am missing that should be added?