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20 Helpful Driving Tips to Have the Best Ireland Road Trip

We spent 7 amazing days on our Ireland road trip, which means we have several tips for driving in Ireland. Driving in an unfamiliar area is never easy – let alone driving in a foreign country. And for us Americans, let’s not forget about driving on the opposite road! There were SEVERAL differences that we had to adjust to, but with a good spirit and some road trip essentials, we managed to make it through our Ireland road trip (even with a car accident). With that being said, we learned a few things along the way that we think will help prepare for your Ireland road trip. So without further ado, here are our 20 helpful tips for driving in Ireland.

Loving the driving routes on our Ireland road trip

 

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

This is one of our biggest driving tips for Ireland. There is nothing easy about driving in Ireland. Losing your focus or driving recklessly can lead to huge mistakes. Not only are you driving on the opposite side of the road (with the exception of some countries), but you also have to share the most narrow and single lane roads.

 

1) Everything Is Opposite

There are only a handful of countries that drive on the left side of the road, Ireland being one of them. Almost everything is opposite – steering wheel is on the right, fast lane is on the right, street lights and more. Take your time getting acquainted with the adjustments.

 

2) Sharing the Road

There will come a time when you will have to get even more uncomfortable. Driving down the most narrow roads is never easy, but when you add oncoming traffic to the mix it becomes very stressful and unnerving. Driving through the country was always okay because we could pull off into the grass and the oncoming car would drive slowly by (or vice versa). It was while we were driving on the Ring of Dingle and around Kerry that became difficult. While driving on narrow roads on the cliffs, oncoming traffic would have nowhere to pull to the side of the road. So one car will have to make the decision or sacrifice to drive backwards until they come across an area to pull aside letting the oncoming traffic go through. Our best advice, follow the flow of the traffic and be patient.

 

Renting Your Vehicle

There are so many small details that can help make for a great Ireland road trip and they all start at the rental car.

 

3) Automatic vs. Manual

As previously stated, driving in Ireland is not easy. If you are not comfortable driving a manual vehicle, we HIGHLY recommend you rent an automatic vehicle. Yes, it is the more expensive option, but can you imagine driving on the opposite side of narrow unpaved roads with a manual vehicle? It is truly not worth the stress. Rent an automatic vehicle.

 

4) Get to Know Your Vehicle

Get familiarized with your vehicle before leaving the rental car grounds. Make sure everything in the car works before you leave i.e. air conditioner, radio, headlights and more. Not that we would have known before we drove off the lot, but when the rain started to come (inevitable in Ireland), we realized our rental car’s defroster was working poorly. It made an already uneasy driving situation even more stressful. At one point we could not see and had to pull over before we caused an accident. We also had a mishap with figuring out how to lock our car, luckily we fixed it without even trying to.

Beautiful views everywhere we look during our Ireland road trip.

5) Car Insurance

Prior to our Ireland road trip, we read that car rental companies REQUIRE car insurance. If you have a credit card that provides car insurance, like Chase Sapphire Reserve, you must ask your credit card company for a written document stating the car insurance agreement.

As I briefly mentioned, we got into a car accident and fortunately our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card covers up to $75,000 worth of damage to our car. However, we have now learned that they do not cover damage on the third party vehicle. So, play it safe and make sure you have rental car insurance for both you and the third party.

 

6) Must Have Car Features

We are firm believers on having three car features for road trips: GPS, cruise control and USB compatibility. Luckily our cell phones had access to international data (check with your cellphone provider), so we did not need GPS on our car. It almost goes without saying that GPS is a dire necessity for driving in a foreign country. Cruise control is also a helpful car feature because there are times when you will be driving over 30 miles on a straight highway. Lastly, in this day in age, a USB outlet is needed to recharge electronic devices and to connect to the car to listen to your GPS or playlist – very essential.

 

7) Finding the Best Deals

We book our rental car through two reliable companies, either Costco or AutoSlash. Both have saved us several hundred dollars. Recently, Costco has been saving us more, but in the past we always used Autoslash. Can you believe we got an automatic car for seven days during Easter for only $105 with Costco!

 

 

Basic Need to Know Driving Tips

These next few tips are all around helpful for your Ireland road trip. From road signs, to gas information and snacks, this category has it all.

 

8) Road Signs

We found that the northwest part of Ireland has limited signs of the road. We would drive for miles without a single speed limit sign. Ireland is well known for their unpaved, single lane and winding roads. While driving in those circumstances with oncoming traffic, we would just use our best judgement on speed. Of course, slow down and move to the side of the road as quicky as possible with oncoming traffic or on a sharp turn. Ireland really trusts drivers to drive carefully. When coming into small towns, we would notice SLOW painted white on the road, but other than that, no speed limits.

While we were driving in the southwest part of Ireland, we noticed they are more westernized with their road signs and have them more frequently. They are also more common when entering and leaving towns.

 

9) Wheels Go Around Roundabouts

We first drove through several roundabouts during our road trip through Italy, so this was one familiar territory for us. Even with our experience, we still found ourselves exiting the wrong turn a couple of times. If you are uncertain which exit your GPS is referring to, just go slow and go around the roundabout again. Also, always remember to yield to the oncoming traffic from the turns before you.

 

10) Avoid Tolls

Avoiding tolls is not only budget-friendly, but you will see more of the Ireland countryside, which is what an Ireland road trip is all about! If you do happen to drive through a toll, you can pay for them immediately at a grocery store. The only exception is driving in Dublin, you will have a bill from your rental car company when you return home.

 

11) Getting Gas

Gas is by the liter and much more expensive than United States. The average price of gas we saw (March-April 2018) was €1.35 a liter for unleaded and €1.25 for diesel. For our seven day Ireland road trip we spent between $200 to $250 with an economy sized car.

Like most things in Ireland, getting gas is also a little opposite than in the United States. Unleaded gas is the green pump, whereas diesel is the black pump. You will also have to pay for your fuel inside the gas station. The nicest gas station we came across was Applegreen. They donate a portion of their profits to charity and have freshly baked pastries, a Subway and plenty of road trip snacks.

Also different from the United States, is buying gas from the rental car company. Most times, filling up your gas tank on your own is cheaper than the gas rates at a rental car company. However, in Ireland it was cheaper to buy a full tank of gas with our rental car company. It was at least .15 cents cheaper.

 

12) Pack Snacks!

Snacks are essential for any road trip, so find a gas station or grocery store and stock up. You MUST buy yourself some Taytos, they are potato chips cooked in sunflower oil. They come in many decilcious flavors like smokey bacon, salt and vinegar or cheese and onion. We recommend buying them at SuperValu or Tesco for grocery stores (bring your own bag at grocery stores, you will have to pay for them) and AppleGreen for gas stations.

Tayto chips are an essential snack for an Ireland road trip!

 

13) Create an Awesome Playlist!

A great music playlist is essential for any road trip. Mix up your playlist with some traditional Irish music to go along with the Irish countryside and some pump up music for the mornings to get your day going.

 

 

Planning Your Ireland Road Trip

All epic road trips start with a lot of planning and a great packing list, but some things are just out of our control. So be prepared and consider these tips when planning your Ireland road trip.

 

14) Expect Things to go Wrong

When it is all said and done, no matter how much you plan to the “t”, things will go wrong. Some may be out of control like traffic or pouring down rain, other times it can be a wrong turn and your GPS will not reroute. The situations can be countless, so take a deep breathe and remember to enjoy the beauty of Ireland surrounding you.

 

15) Be Felxible

When you plan your trip, leave room for flexibility in your driving route. You will most likely come across unqiue places you never read about on the internet. You will want to stop and take photos or explore – we highly encourage you to do so! With that being said, we also encourage you to allocate for at least an hour of your driving route for this flexibility.

 

16) Book Refundable Hotel Rates

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous ones. Anything can happen during your Ireland road trip that will make you miss your final destination. So book hotel rooms with a refundable rate in case you have to cancel. We were lucky to always make it to our final destinations, but there were some close calls.

 

17) Never Expect Your Driving Route to be Perfect

We used Furkot and absolutely loved it! It is a website that plans every minute of your road trip, but when you make plans, you never REALLY know how long you will spend at a castle or Giant’s Causeway. Or as we said above, you never know what things could go wrong or extra sights you may stop at. From our experience, we NEVER made it to our final destination on time.

 

18) Create Routes for Breaks

Ireland is a small country, you can get from Dublin to Cork in around three hours. However, three hours is still a long drive and when you have a 7 day Ireland road trip – you will get tired of driving. So create a driving route that will allow for some sightseeing breaks. There are SO MANY beautiful castles, ruins, abbeys and more to explore. From Galway to the Cliffs of Moher alone there are at least three stops you can take.

 

Driving to Northern Ireland

If you plan to drive into Northern Ireland, (which we highly recommend for your Ireland road trip), here are some more helpful driving tips.

 

19) Northern Ireland Fee

Prior to our Ireland road trip, we were told that we would incur a fee to drive into Northern Ireland. Renting with Alamo, our fee was €30, but when we looked at Enterprise we saw their fee was €150! So it appears that each rental car company has their own rules for their clients driving into Northern Ireland. When you are at the rental car desk, you must tell them that you plan to drive to Northern Ireland (don’t try to lie because if anything were to happen outside of Ireland the price can be worse). However, when we told Alamo we were driving to Northern Ireland, they just gave us advice about driving there. We asked about the fee and they said that they do not charge extra for their clients to drive into Northern Ireland. We have heard different stories, so all we can recommend is you prepare for the chance to pay extra to drive into Northern Ireland.

Crossing the Irish border into Northern Ireland is easy. There is a small fee for a toll, but when you have your GPS avoid tolls, you will pass the border with no problem. We actually almost missed the Northern Ireland Welcome sign because it happened so fast.

 

20) KPH to MPH

I recommend doing some preimlinary research on KPH to MPH or vice versa. We had friends driving throughout Ireland the same time as us, and both of our cars did not have a speedodometer that featured both KPH and MPH. When  driving in Ireland the speed is in KPH, but when you cross the border into Northern Ireland, the speed changes to MPH. With our car not being able to tell us the MPH, we had to look up and convert it ourselves with slow cell data.

 

I hope these tips are helpful for your Ireland road trip. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

 

We love a good Ireland road trip!

 

Looking for hotel options or more info on Ireland? Try these!

Cliff Townhouse – The Perfect Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa – Spa Hotel in Donegal, Ireland

A Luxurious Afternoon Tea Experience at Ashford Castle

20 Helpful Driving Tips to have the Best Ireland Road Trip

 

 

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35 COMMENTS

  • Brittany

    Taytos are great!! I wish I’d read your post before going to Ireland– such great information!!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      Thanks! We heard about Taytos from a colleague and we are glad we got them too!

  • Maggie

    I just got back from a road trip in Italy, and wrote a similar blog post for driving in Italy! International driving is quite exciting, isn’t it? Haha. Great guide, saving it for the next road trip – in Ireland!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      We drove in Italy as well for almost 2 months. It was definitely interesting as well.

  • Gabbski

    This is such a useful guide! Makes me want to plan a road trip in Ireland 🙂

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      We wish we had this guide before our trip haha

  • Marcella

    Nice article! You must have had a blast! Just back from South Africa and after driving on the left side of the road for 3 months I now really have to refrain myself from not overtaking slow people on the right side of their cars while driving the French highway. (and still occasionally I get the windscreen wipers into motion when I want to put my blinker on….)

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      It is very different driving on the opposite side of the road. It takes a lot of getting used to that is for sure. Then when you come back home it is weird to drive again haha

  • Followingtherivera

    I live in London, so the Ireland way of driving is very comfortable for me! It’s a beautiful country to drive around, and with such amazing sights to see along the way. I always forget that many drivers outside Europe aren’t used to roundabouts; they’re a pain, but you get used to them after a while!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      The country is so beautiful. We could have driven around for weeks taking in the beauty. The roundabouts can be very confusing at times.

  • Kristie

    This is super practical info! Wish we’d had it when my husband was driving in Australia many years ago! 🙂 I am glad to hear you’ve had good luck with Furkot. We just tried it for our first time a few weeks ago. It worked really well overall, but I will say it steered us wrong to a couple hotels. It’s worth double-checking the directions it gives you or having a backup like Google Maps. 🙂

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      We used Furkot for planning our road trip to get specific times and ETA. We used our maps on iPhone for directions.

  • Adventuregirleliana

    Thankfully, I don’t drive! Just reading such cautions was too stressful for me 😉 I am sure ppl who are planning a road trip there will find this info invaluable! Driving there sounds like quite an adventure!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      Driving in Ireland was a bit of a challenge with the small roads but it was worth it to see the amazing beauty of the country.

  • Alexander

    Hehhehe! Expect things to go wrong. That is the main rule. (sometimes not only applicable to Ireland).
    Well, driving Ireland doesn’t seem more difficult than driving Russia (where I am from)

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      Ya I guess murphys law could apply on almost any vacation haha.

  • Lana

    Your road trip around Ireland seemed like a great adventure! A sat nav is so important when hiring a car – always useful when trying to find your hotels and down those narrow roads. Also very useful to avoid the tolls! The narrow roads in Ireland are similar to our countryside roads in the UK. Thanks for the tip with the Northern Ireland fee. I had no idea that different rental companies charge a different fee. The landscape in Ireland is beautiful … I’m tempted to plan a road trip around Ireland now! : )

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      We have never rented a navigation before since we have phones. Hopefully we never get put into a situation where we have no service and can’t use our phones. Luckily google maps also has an avoid tolls option which saved us a lot of money.

  • Epepa Travel Blog

    Very nice tips for travelers. For a long time I have dreamed of traveling by car, without any plans and just like that, I simply drive forward and stop in places that I like. I would also like to visit Ireland, I have never been there and I heard that it is beautiful.

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      That is something I think a lot of people want to do but rarely do. That is a great way to travel. No itinerary but stopping wherever and whenever you please.

  • Nives

    Great tips! And yes – you should be prepared on everything. When I read post about Ireland it quite popular in recent time to rent a car and travel around. The only thing why I’m scared is exactly that – everything is opposite.

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      That made us nervous at first but you do get used to it quickly. But you have to remember every time you get back in the car to drive again that you are driving on the correct side of the road haha

  • poorna banerjee

    Totally loved all the tips. Road tripping hasn’t happened in a while, so a plan is on!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      It is such a beautiful country and you will enjoy every minute of it.

  • brittnie

    Driving in other countries scares me to death! These are great tips!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      It worried us at first but you get used to it. Just stay calm and remember to stay on the correct side of the road haha

  • rachelle

    These are awesome tips! I remember the first time I had to drive on the opposite side of the road and it freaked me out! Fortunately there was a sticker next to the sun visor that said “STAY TO THE LEFT” in block letters! haha

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      The first few hours we had to remind ourselves of that several times. Each time we would turn at an intersection we would remind ourselves which lane we were going to.

  • Jenny

    This is exactly what we did! So fun!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      Great minds think alike 😉

  • Jude Boudreaux

    Great trip! Hope to do this with our kids when they get older. Also see that you found Furkot – my favorite road trip planning tool!

    • oursweetadventures
      AUTHOR

      Thank you. I am sure they will love doing this trip when they get older. And Yes, we LOVE Furkot!

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