Driving in Ireland can be a bit of the challenge for those not accustom to driving on the left. Not to mention, narrow winding roads, rain, mist and fog, sheep and cows, roundabouts, and the dreaded loose chippings. However, if you take it easy you should do fine.
If you plan to rent a car in Ireland, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the operation of the manual transmission. The vast majority of rental cars have manual transmissions. If you reserve a car with an automatic transmission you could end up with a manual. There are only a limited number of automatics available. Hopefully, if you reserve an automatic, one will be available. However, it would be wise to be prepared just in case.
Maps are available at car rental agencies or gas stations. If you would like to plan your route before you go, you can usually purchase a road map of Ireland at most large bookstores.
When driving in Ireland all passengers should wear seatbelts. Children under 12 years old should be seated in the rear. Young children should be properly placed in child seats.
The national speed limit in Ireland is 55 MPH. It is 70 MPH on Motorways and generally 30 MPH in towns and developed areas. Drivers should observe all posted speed limit and road signs. Weather conditions and the size and condition of the roads can vary widely. Therefore, common sense should be used while traveling.
In Ireland, they do have routine traffic stops and checkpoints. You should make sure that you have appropriate identification and vehicle documents with you. Drink driving (driving under the influence) is a serious offense in Ireland. The legal blood alcohol limit is .08.
Gasoline is readily available throughout Ireland. It would be a good idea to not let your tank drop below 1/3. Gas stations in smaller towns may be closed on Sunday and close early during the week. If you’re traveling in the remote country it could be a long way to the next station.
You should yield and/or observe traffic signals when approaching roundabouts. Once you enter a roundabout you should keep moving. If you miss the exit you wanted keep moving until you come back to it again. You should use your direction signal when exiting in a roundabout.
Many country roads are not well marked. Therefore, it is most helpful to know the name of the next town or village on your route. Directional road signs are usually a single post with a number of arrows pointing in different directions. In some instances it is difficult to determine which way the arrows are pointing. Some signs are broken and the arrows are pointing in the wrong direction. If you come to a crossroad and you are not sure how to proceed the best advice is to go straight. If you plan on traveling at night it would be a good idea to carry a flashlight so that you may read the signs and arrows at the crossroads. Distances can be expressed in Irish miles (1.3 miles), or kilometers. Have fun trying to figure things out and making your way. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions. The locals are usually very helpful and more than willing to offer assistance.
On two lane highways, the Irish do something which some drivers may find unusual. Often, Irish drivers will go right down the middle of the road to pass another car in spite of the fact that there is oncoming traffic in the other lane. The oncoming traffic; as well as those being over taken, are expected to drop to their left while the passing car goes right down the middle. If you are driving slower than others, it is best to keep your car to the left side of the road and use the paved berm. If your traveling considerably slower than the flow of traffic keep as far left as possible with the left hand directional turn signal or hazard signals on.
In Ireland people seem to park wherever they can. In some areas parking discs are used instead of meters. Parking discs can be purchased at local shops. If you get a parking ticket in Ireland you should pay it even if you are driving a rental car. If a ticket is unpaid the rental car company will be charged, and they in turn will bill your credit card.