The Emerald Isle may be the most scenic place in the world for a drive. Breathtaking landscapes, quiet roads, blue seas in the distance ... what could be better?
But before you make a trip across the Atlantic, there are things you need to know about driving in Ireland. That’s why, this St. Patrick’s Day, we’re sharing these helpful tips.
Driving in Ireland Means Driving on the Opposite Side of the Road
The biggest difference when it comes to driving across the pond is the side of the road you travel on. In the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, drivers sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the road.
Unlike in the U.S., where motorists can turn right at most red lights, you can never turn left on red in Ireland. Most road rules carry over, otherwise.
Like on American roads, all passengers are required to wear seat belts and like in some states, it’s illegal to use your phone while driving.
In Ireland, speed limits are displayed in kilometers per hour. Most drivers should catch on quickly, as speedometers are in kilometers as well.
In addition, town and country roads are often much narrower than American roads, and sometimes curvy to boot. Slow down and be prepared to yield to drivers on the other side of the road in particularly narrow spots.
How to Rent a Car in Ireland
The best way to experience the beauty of the Emerald Isle is by renting a car. In Ireland, drivers must be at least 21 to rent a car and there may be extra requirements or fees for drivers under 25. An international driver’s permit is not required for Americans in Ireland. A U.S. license will suffice.
Most major American rental car brands are available in Ireland, which is fortunate for loyalty program members, but be sure to compare quotes from Irish brands to find the best price. When making your reservation online, pay close attention to the type of car you choose. While automatic transmission vehicles are standard in the U.S., manual transmission is common in the U.K.
Other tips for driving in Ireland
Driving in Ireland isn’t all too different from driving in the United States … there are a few changes that can take some getting used to but being prepared is half the battle. Be sure to:
- Carry cash for parking and tolls. There are no toll roads in Northern Ireland, but some of the main thoroughfares in the Republic of Ireland charge small fees. It’s handy to have euros on hand.
- Get ready for roundabouts. Traffic circles are more common in some American communities than others. In Ireland, they’re ubiquitous, so make sure you know how to navigate them.
- Fuel up. Most Irish towns and villages have a gas station, or petrol station as they’re known outside of the U.S. There aren’t as many gas stations as there are on American highways, however, so don’t cut it too close between fill-ups. Also, it’s important to check what type of gas your rental car needs. Many Irish cars use diesel fuel.
Can’t-miss sites in the Emerald Isle
There are plenty of beautiful sites that make Ireland well worth the trip. If you’re driving around the country, consider visiting:
- Giant’s Causeway. At the very top of Northern Ireland, this is one of the most unique geological features in the world. It’s hard to believe the interlocking stone columns that make up this bit of shoreline weren’t man-made.
- Dingle Peninsula. On the island’s southwest coast is this beautiful bit of untouched coastline.
- Cliffs of Moher. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place than these gorgeous cliffs, that rise hundreds of feet above the Atlantic.
- Scenes from Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the celebrated television series, you can see sites from the show throughout Northern Ireland.