If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times- don't drive in Dublin.
Dublin is a compact and walkable city with terrific public transportation options.
It is also an old city, filled with one way streets, drivable lanes that look more like alley ways, and so many trucks, buses, and bikes that share the same road.
Trust me, driving a rental car in Dublin city centre is a white-knuckle adventure.
Tips You Need to Safely Collect Your Rental Car in Dublin City
After arriving at Dublin Airport many visitors to Ireland pick up a rental car and begin their explorations. But if Dublin city is your first stop this is an unnecessary expense.
You won't need the car in the city centre. Your hotel may not have a car park, and city parking is expensive.
If your first stop is Dublin city don't pick up your rental car until you are ready to explore the rest of the countryside.
3 Options for Collecting a Rental Car when Leaving Dublin
Return to Dublin Airport To truly avoid driving in Dublin city pick up your car rental at Dublin Airport.
Benefit: You won't have to navigate Dublin roads and traffic.
Drawback: It's time consuming and a hassle, especially if you are traveling with a family or group.
Take the train to your next destination This is a terrific option if you have a city destination on your itinerary and planned to drive direct.
Benefit: Irish Rail offers a relaxing ride across the country for a very affordable price. Do be sure to book at least a day in advance for best rates.
Drawbacks: Not every city offers car rental, so do your homework. You may also need to take a cab from the train station to car rental collection.
Collect your rental car in Dublin City centre Pick up the car and leave the city directly.
Benefit: No returning to the airport and waiting in busy airport car rental lines.
Drawback: You will have to navigate Dublin city streets.
How to Safely Collect a Rental Car in Dublin
If you have decided to pick up your rental car in Dublin I recommend following this advice, based on my own experience and mistakes.
Book in advance Dublin city rental locations may have limited vehicle availability due to space restrictions. Book your Dublin car rental in advance to be sure they have the type of vehicle you need.
My preferred Ireland car rental company, Irish Car Rentals,
has 2 Dublin city locations.
Use code IFV to save 10%
Take a taxi Unless the car rental location is near enough to walk to- with luggage- take a taxi to collect your vehicle. Do not plan to return to your hotel to pick up your family/ group/ luggage. Between Dublin's one way streets, narrow lanes, and busy roads you will miss turns, circle endlessly for a parking spot, and possibly end up lost, even when using navigation. (All personal experiences, by the way.)
Plan your route out of the city Do take the time to pull up navigation on your mobile device (see How to Use a Mobile Phone in Ireland) and study your route. Try to stay out of the heart of the city centre and use the most direct route possible.
Ask for tips when you pick up the car The friendly people at the car rental agency know about driving in Dublin. Show them your route out of the city and ask if they have a better suggestion or know of any spots that could cause issues as you leave the city.
Have a navigator You'll need to keep your eyes on the road, the other vehicles, and the pedestrians as you drive in Dublin city centre. Having someone to tell you when your turns are coming up, what lane you need to be in, as well as an extra set of eyes on the road, is essential.
Stay left I know you've read it elsewhere and the knowledge is firmly in your head: in Ireland you drive on the left. But if driving in Dublin is your first Irish driving experience it can be difficult to remember and your instincts will tell you to stay right. Remember that the left lane is the slow lane, and also the turning lane.
More Tips for Driving in Ireland
Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland
Understanding Car Rental Insurance in Ireland
Driving in Ireland- Tips for Tourists (podcast & video)
Why You Don't Need GPS in Ireland + Irish Road Designations
Best Road map for Your Ireland Vacation
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Hi Angie – and thanks for your question!
You could, of course, use your arrival & departure days to explore Dublin – but you may not have as much time to do so as you think you will.
While you arrive early in Dublin it will take a while to get through immigration, any COVID checkpoints, and then to pick up your car. At a minimum this could take 2 hours- and can often take longer.
Then you have a 40-60 minute ride into Dublin city centre via bus or taxi. So, that’s at least 3 hours gone; 4 if you count the ride back out to the airport.
You would also have the exorbitant cost of parking at the airport.
On your return you would have the 2 hour round trip to & from the city and you need to be at the airport for flight check in, security, customs, etc at least 3 hours prior to departure. So, that’s 5 hours gone.
For more information about arrival & departure at DUB read this article: https://irelandfamilyvacations.com/dublin-airport-tips-arrival-departure/planning-your-irish-vacation/
If you want to spend time in Dublin I would plan it for either your arrival day, or your last full day in Ireland. One day will give you plenty of time to hit the highlights – and if you made it your final day you would have almost a day and a half.
I hope that helps!