Why Renting GPS in Ireland is a Waste of Money – Driving in Ireland Tips

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If you've ever looked at a road map of Ireland it's likely you've wondered just what you might be getting into by renting a car – the roads seem to twist and turn, with no direct route anywhere! You can't imagine navigating and driving in Ireland. Your first reaction is to call your car rental company back and add a GPS (or Sat Nav) to your vehicle!

Now, you may think I'm cracked for saying this- but don't rent a GPS unit. You won't use it as much as you think you will. Truly.

Driving in Ireland – A Bit About the Roads

Buses Meet near Cliffs of Moher. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
This National Secondary road to the Cliffs of Moher is just wide enough for tour buses to squeeze past each other.

In Ireland you'll find 5 main road designations.

Motorways Designated by a blue roadsign with the letter M followed by a one or two digit number. These are direct city-to-city routes on large highways, comparable to interstates in the US. Some motorways will have tolls; the M50 is a digital toll, so be sure to speak to your rental company about how to handle that (some will add it to your bill, others do expect you to log on to the website and pay it), while the M 6 & 7 are cash tolls (so be sure to have a few euros in your pocket).

National Primary Roads These roads are identified by a green sign with the letter N followed by a number between 1-33. These roads link larger towns together and while many are dual carriage (meaning 2 cars can pass side-by-side without incident) that definition can vary widely based on the size of the vehicle.

National Secondary Roads, which link smaller towns to each other (or to larger towns) are also designated by an N, but with numbers between 51-82. While this is till a National road the carriageway will be narrower, likely only wide enough for a single car to pass in certain places.

Regional Roads link small towns and can be quite narrow and winding. Regional roads are identified by a white sign with the letter R followed by 3 numbers.

Local roads are also identified by a white sign with an L followed by a 4 digit number. These are rarely marked on a map and can vary widely in condition – from blacktop road to rocky and grassy path.

Unclassified Roads These small roads may be marked with a letter A or completely unmarked. These roads may lead to beaches, piers, or private farms. Often this road finishes in a dead end of sorts- one way in and one way out.

Now that I have either completely confused or terrified you, let me tell you a little secret:

It is nearly impossible to become truly lost in Ireland.

Road signs are plentiful and there is always more than one way to reach your destination.

Tips for Navigating without GPS

Navigating in Ireland is actually pretty easy.  I use my favorite map, the Collins Handy Road Map, to pinpoint my destination. I'll note any larger towns that may be turning points, or “if I've reached this I've missed a turn” spots, then set off in the general direction I need to go. Rarely will I consult the map during my drive as road signs are usually sufficient to guide me.

Collins Handy : The Bst road map for your Ireland vacation

If I do lose my way it is relatively easy to figure out where I am using nearby road signs and get back on track easily.

Sure, it may not be the most direct route- but it's never boring!

Where You Might Need GPS in Ireland

If you plan to drive in Dublin (which I don't recommend. Ever.), Limerick, or Belfast, you may find that a map just won't help. There are just so many streets, and many street signs just aren't visible (many are nonexistent). But instead of renting a GPS unit that you have to figure out how to use- and which is only as good as its last update- rent a portable wifi unit instead. Not only will you be able to use the navigation software on your mobile device, but you will also be able to upload those drool-worthy photos you've been taking to your social accounts or send “Wish You Were Here” emails to friends and family back home!

Use a Travel Wifi unit in Ireland. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com

Do you have any ‘driving in Ireland' questions? Leave a comment below or email me (jody(at)irelandfamilyvacations(dot)com) and I'll answer it right away!


  1. […] GPS ins't necessary – but a good map is vital. […]

      Many cars actually have gps on the dashboard so you are paying for something extra already in there. I do not have worldwide data access so additionally we buy a ‘mobile wifi unit from car phone warehouse with sim card and use it on our trips but constant unnecessary use of gps sucks data . Roads are really well sign posted and I agree best to use your brain and look at map before getting on road if going anywhere unfamiliar.

        Some do have GPS, some don’t. It depends on the type and level of car you rent. But even those units can be inconsistent in accuracy.
        We rent a mobile wifi unit from Wifi Candy and use that when we need to reach somewhere quickly- or are trying to get around Dublin or Limerick city. It has unlimited wifi so we don’t have to worry about data charges.
        More tips: How to Use Your Mobile Phone in Ireland

    I am 76 years old, and have a valid Missouri, USA driver’s license, insurance and am considered a good driver. What companies will rent to me? How much more will I have to pay to rent with any company. How do I ensure that I can rent a small automatic transmission car, preferably diesel? I don’t want to get to Ireland thinking I’m going to rent the car of my choice and learn then that I can’t.


      Hi Ronald.
      Irish Car Rentals will rent to people over 75.
      They do have this requirement: Drivers aged 75 and over will need to provide a PRINTED medical certificate which states that they are fit to drive and a letter from their insurance company stating that they are currently driving and have not had an accident within the last 5 years. This information must be received at least 5 working days in advance of your rental.

      This is what I found regarding other agencies. I did not get all agencies, but most.
      Dollar- No
      Hertz- Yes
      Senior Driver Policy: Any renter aged75 -79 years require the following to be sent to opcalls within30 days of pick up, documents must also be dated within this same time frame. If documents are sent outside of that time they will not be accepted:-
      – Confirm that they driver on a regular basis.-
      – Provide a letter from their insurance company confirming that they have an up to date insurance policy, and have not had any accidents in the past5 years.
      – Provide a letter from their doctor confirming that you are in good health for one year and fit to drive.
      – The rental agent may ask to sit in the car and assess their driving.
      Sixt- Yes (though I don’t recommend Sixt. Ever)
      Senior Driver Policy: Drivers age 75 and over are required to provide a current note from their doctor (legible and in English) stating that they are in full health and a current note from their insurer stating that they have not been involved in any accidents in the past 5 year(s). A driving assessment with a supplier representative may be required.
      Avis- Yes
      Senior Driver Policy: Any renter aged 75 years and over require the following to be sent to us prior to pick up: – Confirm that they driver on a regular basis. – Provide a letter from their insurance company confirming that they have an up to date insurance policy, and have not had any accidents in the past 5 years. – Provide a letter from their doctor confirming that you are in good health and fit to drive. – The rental agent may ask to sit in the car and assess their driving.
      Alamo- no listed information (call or avoid)
      Enterprise- no listed information (call or avoid)

      When you rent the car you choose the size and transmission. Most rentals say a car brand + or similar. So you may not get the exact car on the image, but you will get a car that is of the same description, such as ‘compact automatic’.

      Most vehicles in Ireland are diesel.

      Hope that helps!

    can u pay tolls with American currency? Is American currency accepted everywhere? restaurants,etc/

      In Ireland you will be paying for everything in Euros.

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