Tips for Driving in Ireland

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Driving in Ireland seems to be one of the things travelers worry most about during their Ireland vacation.

Stay Left When Driving in Ireland
Remember to Stay Left When Driving in Ireland; Taken in Rural Killarney, March 2008

I've written about driving in Ireland a few times at my Family Rambling site, so when my friends at Irish Fireside published a Q&A about driving in Ireland (linked below), I thought I'd share a few of my own tidbits… For most people, the first few hours of driving on the opposite side of the road provide a string of stressors… What side of the road am I supposed to be on? Where am I going? What does that road sign say? Is it safe to enter the roundabout now? What lane am I supposed to be in? Can I turn here? via Q&A: Driving in Ireland | Irish Fireside.

From my first post titled Tips for Getting Around in Ireland:

In Ireland and the UK you drive on the left. The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car and you shift with your left hand. This actually sounds more difficult than it is. This is your smallest worry. More importantly you need to remember to look right, then left, then right again. This is very easy to forget when you are walking in a city. I have found that the best advice I can give is to just pause before you turn or cross a street. Look everywhere. Look again. Then proceed.

Be prepared to abandon your itinerary and follow interesting signs you see along the road. Some of the best memories are unplanned.

From the second post I wrote titled More Getting Around Ireland:

I believe you don’t drive through Ireland so much as you hurtle. Merriam-Webster defines hurtle as : to move rapidly or forcefully. And, quite honestly, when you are driving down roads like this you don’t have to be going very fast to feel like you are going way too fast.

Driving along the more scenic -and smaller- roads will definately take you longer in terms of time but it will also provide you many more memories than the fast paced highways.

A few very helpful tips from my Car Rentals in Europe post:

…we found that mini van translates to “7 passenger vehicle” in Ireland. Which is not the same as a mini van.

…be sure to pay in US dollars if at all possible.  (With the exchange rate this will keep your costs down.  Way down.)

I highly recommend calling the rental company a couple of days before you leave, just to confirm your reservation. At that time ask what kind of car you can expect- there are many European cars that we just don’t have here in the US. Go online and research that car. If it just won’t do for your family and plans call back and see what is available for an upgrade. And make your change online if possible. Or through your travel agent if you have used one.

And a fun post I wrote for Tenon Tours:

I’ve been driving in Ireland for over a decade. It was only during my last trip to Ireland that I was told, “Americans don’t drive in Ireland, I think they are terrified.”

From  Keep Left, Right? And Other Fun Experiences

Do you have any worries or fears about driving in Ireland? I'm here to help you through them! Just leave a comment or email me!


  1. I would also add book your car rental months in advance of your trip. If you wait until you get off the plane there may be no cars to rent. Also it is possible to get an automatic but they are scarce although if you follow my advice and book it far in advance it’s very possible. The prices are higher for automatics too but again, book it in advance and shop around and you will find a good deal. An other tip is for people over 75 yrs. of age, people looking for car rentals will need a doctors note to possibly show at the airport indicating the driver is indeed in good health and ok to drive. I have to say that if you are interested in all the wonderful historical sites of Ireland, definitely rent a car and bypass all those bus tours. For more info on Irish history before you travel check out this blog.

      Great advice, Brighid! You definitely take a chance by not booking a car in advance. In summer high demand limits walk-up availability. And in the off season not as many cars are kept on lots.
      I advise my clients to have cars and first nights lodging booked – at the very least – before arriving in Ireland. If you have specifics – for example, a castle stay is a MUST – you should also have that arranged.

        You just brought something else to my mind. That first night stay!! Accommodations, like here in the U.S will only let you get into your room around 2 or 3 o’clock and most first time American travelers do not realize how much jet-lag they will have. They will not have slept the night before because the night actually didn’t exist. They’ll just want to have a quick nap at least before going out exploring so here’s my advice. Check with the place you are going to stay that first night and see if they will let you into room early, if not book an extra night, the night before actually. The problem is most flights from U.S get into Ireland in the morning and nothing is open. You can get a quick bite at the airport but you need a room after that. I was so tired my first trip to Ireland I slept in a chair seated upright in my [email protected] The proprietor insisted he would let us in room early but what he thought was early was 5 hours later!!

          Definitely good advice! Near Dublin you’ll find hotels are often prepared for early arrivals and will let you into your room if available. B&Bs don’t have the staff to do that, so contacting them before arrival is always advised.

          After multiple trips to Ireland I can usually power through my first day. I find it best to be active- a body in motion stays in motion and all that…

    I’m going to Scotland this summer and this is one of my top concerns about the trip. Thanks for the tips! Do you recommend renting an automatic transmission? Does that make it easier to drive on the left?

      Hi Vero – and thanks for the great question!
      If you can drive a manual transmission, it’s not that difficult to adjust to shifting with your left hand. If you can’t drive a stick-shift, I would highly recommend paying extra for the automatic. You don’t need to learn to drive a manual while getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road!

      I definitely think that makes it easier to drive when you don’t know where you are going. Also you can bring your own GPS or rent one. Automatics are scarce so be sure to book it far in advance.

    […] 10) Drive yourself. This is truly the best way to tour practically anyplace. You set the pace, stop and go as you please. Getting lost is half the fun. Truly. The only time we avoid driving is when we are in a large city with great public transportation.  Get tips for driving in Ireland. […]

    […] I answer many questions about travel in Ireland, but the most popular topic- by far- concerns driving in Ireland.  A couple weeks ago I received a question about CDW- collision damage waiver.  While you can opt […]

    […] Another interesting aspect of this tour is that it is semi-escorted.  The way I understand it is that you are escorted from town to town, but while in that town you go your own way.  It gives you quite a bit of freedom while handling what can be most nerve wracking for people who have never visited Ireland before- driving on the left. […]

    […] Eoin was kind enough to write a guest post for Ireland with Kids just a couple of weeks ago about the Irish Gaelic You See on Roadsigns. It’s a great post and very helpful to those visiting Ireland and planning a self-drive trip. […]

    […] get even more tips in the comments section as well! Jody over at Ireland With Kids also added her Tips for Driving in Ireland on her blog. Have a look! […]

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