If visiting Ireland, whether you’ve got business, friends, of family – we’re all imports, anyway – you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get around. For some people, getting around is by bus and taxi, or simply by foot in metropolitan areas. For many others, though, a car rental is the way to go, and you can get just about anywhere in less than a day, maybe longer if you spend time sightseeing. Renting a car in Ireland is just like renting a car in the States, but driving in Ireland is another matter, altogether.
When heading to the Emerald Isle for whatever you have planned, plan to drive safely and responsibly with these Ireland Driving Tips:
- Driver’s License – The only thing you need to drive in Ireland is your State Driver’s License, which should be at least two years old, and your United States Passport – you do not need an International Driver’s Permit. Keep your license and passport on you at all times, as well as your car rental agreement and proof of insurance, in case Gardaí (police) request identification.
- 2 Pedals or 3 – In the United States, barely 4% of cars are equipped with a manual transmission. In Ireland, more than 80% of cars come with a manual transmission. If you’re accustomed to driving a stick, you might find the transition a little challenging, since the shift lever will be on the left, instead of the right. If you don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, or don’t want to risk damaging a left-hand stick, you can request an automatic-transmission rental car, but you’ll also pay a bit more for it.
- Drive Left – This is the biggest challenge for North Americans, who drive on the “right” – right-hand, not “correct” – side of the road, almost by instinct. Mentally, we accept the Irish drive on the left-hand side of the road, but instinctually, it can feel very wrong. Just keep repeating to yourself, “drive left,” “hard left-turn,” “wide right-turn.” Double-check yourself every time you enter or exit a rotary, road, or highway – “motorway” in Ireland – and especially if you’ve been driving without traffic for a few minutes. Old habits are hard to break, but they can cause car crashes, too!
- Roundabouts – We don’t see too many of these in the United States, because we’re so used to STOP signs and traffic lights. Still, roundabouts, rotaries, or traffic circles, are a cheaper traffic-flow control option, which you’ll find nearly everywhere in the Land of Saints and Scholars. Just like driving on the left, remember the rotary goes clockwise – enter left and exit left – and always yield the right-of-way to those already in it.
- Alcohol – Despite Ireland’s image – The Irish are only #4 in world alcohol consumption – they have stricter DUI (driving under influence) laws than we do. If you drink, don’t drive. Period. Random Gardaí blood-alcohol content (BAC) testing by breathalyzer is common and completely legal, and anything over 0.05 % BAC will get you banned from driving and up to €1,500 in fines.
- Emergencies – Finally, in case of an emergency, such as a car crash, even if no one is injured, your first call is to Emergency Services. Call 999 and explain the situation, and dispatchers will get the appropriate services, such as ambulance or police, on their way. Stay calm, take pictures of the scene of the crash, and get names and numbers of those involved. Do not argue.
As you can see, driving in Ireland isn’t much different than driving in the United States, but it’s good to remember we’re outsiders there. Ireland sees a lot of rain, so be wary of that! Going “full American” is going to get you into trouble, but handle yourself responsibly and you can enjoy everything the country has to offer.