Driving in Ireland: Tips, Tricks, and Watch Outs

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I recently took a vacation with a few girlfriends to Ireland. We knew that there were a gazillion places we wanted to see, and renting a car and going on a road trip was the best way to do it. Picture rolling green hills, majestic castles, cliffs overseeing the ocean, herds of sheep and fun pubs and restaurants in every county. If you rent a car, you will be able to see everything you want and more. Here are a few of our recommendations if you decide to drive while you are in there.

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Recommendations for Driving in Ireland

Be prepare for tons of driving and plan on everything taking longer to get to than it looks on a map. Even though Ireland is not an enormous country and most sites are within an hour or two driving distance from where you would be staying, curvy roads, small towns, and things like sheep can make an otherwise short drive long.

Before you get to Ireland, rent the car and inquire about all extra fees. We learned once we got in the country that the insurance wasn't included in our car rental. Not only that, but it was expensive. Factoring in extra fees ahead of time can mean the difference between one car rental company and another, can help you prepare in advance budget wise, and can reduce stress when you arrive and are ready to get your car.

Splurge a little when renting a car and pay for an extra driver or two. You end up spending so much time in the car each day that switching up driving duties when you get tired is a luxury you'll appreciate.

If you are comfortable using a map or if you have wi-fi in your car or can stop and access it and have a map app on your phone, there is no need to spend extra for a GPS. If you feel more comfortable with a GPS, plan on a little extra in your budget for it.


Manual transmission costs far less than a car with automatic transmission. Brush up on your stick-shift driving skills before heading to the Emerald Isle and save money. However, if you are far more comfortable driving an automatic car, especially knowing you'll be doing so on the left-hand side of the road, then plan ahead budget wise and be clear when renting the car that you want an automatic.

Make sure to get coins or smaller bills for tolls. Keep this money right next to you in the car so you are prepared to pay upon arrival at toll booths.

road signs IrelandBrush up on main street signs and round about etiquette before heading over to Ireland.

When in doubt, drive slow. You aren't on the autobahn, where drivers expect you to be akin to a speed car racer. The Irish are extremely friendly and found them to also be understanding when we took it slow to figure out signs or to get in the right lane.

Don't wait for look-out point signs, although there will be some. If you see a scenic view you love, simply pull off to the side of the road, stop, and take pictures. Not doing so will cause you to miss some fabulous photo opps.

If you travel to Ireland in the winter months, keep in mind that the sun sets around 4:30 p.m. It gets pitch black shortly thereafter. If you are on a mountainous road or a small and winding stretch of road, make sure to leave enough time to get back to a main thoroughfare before the sun goes down.

While driving, watch out for people walking on the road, look right (instead of left) when going through a pedestrian crossing.

For long days in the car, mix up the routine by playing car games. Some we liked included: asking everyone to share their favorites (food, number, day of the week, country, memory, vacation spot, etc.); story telling (with each person sharing one sentence and the next person continuing the story by adding another sentence until the story was complete); sharing two truths and a lie and having everyone guess which one was the lie; sharing personal or family stories.

You can't always get music in the car. Consider bringing an adapter for the iPod if you'd like to ensure you have music every step of the way. Otherwise, check out a station like Southwest WLIM 101.4FM for alternative hits.

train to dublin

Consider mixing up your road trip to Ireland with some train trips. You do not need a car in big cities like Dublin or Belfast, so if possible, take the train to and from the cities and use mass transit and consider tours like Hop On, Hop Off to get around and see the sites. While on the train ride into town, play cards to pass the time and to create fun and memorable moments.

Have you road tripped in a foreign country? What tips or watch outs would you suggest?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 20 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. Jill is now working for the Mom It Forward team as Sales Associate. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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