Driving in Ireland: 18 Must-Read Tips Before Renting a Car in Ireland

Are you planning on driving in Ireland? If you are, you have landed in the right place.

I went on a 3 week road trip on the Emerald Island and in this post, I will tell you all you need to know before renting a car.

If driving on the opposite hand side seems intimidating, worry not, I will tell you the trick I use not to get on the wrong side of the road as well.

The thing is, driving through the stunning Ireland landscape at your own pace is one of the best parts of an Ireland road trip.

Yes, you could visit Ireland by bus or take organized tours, but I prefer the freedom of traveling on my own and on my own terms, and if you are here, I guess you do too.

Colorful houses in Ireland with oarked cars in front - driving in Ireland.

Table of Contents

Driving in Ireland as a Tourist: An Overview

If you are wondering where to rent a car in Dublin, I have got you covered as well. The last time I went I booked with a local company, but their prices are all-inclusive with full insurance, which is what I was looking for. If you guys have a credit card that covers the excess, you may find cheaper options on DiscoverCars.

Best Car Rental Deals w/ Free Cancellation, Compare & Save! | Discover Cars

Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!

๐Ÿš™ Do You Need a Car in Ireland?

Whether you need a car in Ireland depends on your travel plans and itinerary. For instance, public transportation is reliable in most large cities like Dublin, Cork, and Galway.

Furthermore, when the weather allows it, all cities are very walkable, making them easy to explore on foot.

However, if you desire to visit other parts of Ireland, such as the more rural or remote areas, a car will give you flexibility and easier access.

๐Ÿš™ Is it Easy to Drive in Ireland?

Generally, driving in Ireland might seem a bit challenging because, Ireland is well-known for rural roads, which can be narrow and winding, meaning proper caution is required. 

Therefore, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws before your trip, and when driving in Ireland, be sure to pay attention to signage to avoid any issues. 

Sally's Gap Road
Sally’s Gap Road

๐Ÿš™ Can Americans Drive in Ireland?

Americans can drive in Ireland, but only if they hold a valid U.S. driver’s license, which allows them to drive within the country for up to 12 months.

However, generally, if anyone desires to rent a car in Ireland, they may be asked to provide an International Driving Permit, so it is better to obtain it to ensure compliance with local requirements. 

๐Ÿš™ Which Side of the Road Do You Drive in Ireland?

In Ireland, traffic flows on the left side of the road like in the United Kingdom.

Therefore, vehicles travel in the opposite direction compared to most countries where driving is on the right side of the road.

Since I am coming from one of those countries, I have my own strategy to avoid a car accident, which is making sure that every time I drive, I am in the middle of the road, a reference that for me is easier to notice than anything else.

If I find myself driving closer to the roadside, it means I am in the wrong lane. I hope it helps.

18 Things to Know Before Driving in Ireland

1. Driving Requirements in Ireland

๐Ÿ“„ International ID/Passport

A crucial requirement is a valid international identification document, such as a passport or ID.

It is especially important because it serves as proof of identity and nationality by authorities in case of any traffic-related incidents. 

View of Antrim Coast with colorful buildings.
Antrim Coast

๐Ÿ“„ Driverโ€™s License/International Driverโ€™s License

If you are a visitor from another country, you can drive in Ireland using a valid driver’s license from your home country for the lastย two years.

It is recommended to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) alongside your driver’s license, which serves as an official translation of your license.

However, it is not always required, especially if your driving license is from a country whose language is in Roman letters.

Some car rental companies are stricter than others, so please make sure you confirm this requirement with the company of your choice.

๐Ÿ“„ Age requirement

Generally, you must be at least 25 to rent a car, 27 to rent our people carriers, and 30 to rent our larger luxury cars and SUVs. But this may change with each company, so you many need to check with the car rental company you are booking with.

But if you are from an EU country and have an EU driver’s license, an IDP is not required for car rental agencies.

๐Ÿ“„ Vehicle Registration Document (V5)

If you are driving your own car in Ireland, another key requirement is the Vehicle Registration Document (V5), which provides proof of ownership and registration for your vehicle.

If you plan to rent a car, the rental agency typically provides the necessary documentation for the vehicle.

So, when driving in Ireland, ensure you have the V5 document readily available to comply with local regulations. 

๐Ÿ“„ Rental Car Company Contract

When renting a car in Ireland, it is essential to understand and fulfill the driving requirements set by the rental car company. 

Each rental company may have specific terms and conditions outlined in the contract that you need to adhere to.

But usually, these requirements include providing a valid driver’s license, being 25 years old or older, and presenting a credit card for payment and security deposit purposes.ย 

Additionally, it is crucial to carefully review and understand the terms of the rental car contract, including any additional fees, insurance coverage, mileage limits, and fuel policies. 

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

2. Car Insurance

Having appropriate car insurance is a legal requirement in Ireland. If you’re renting a car, typically, the rental car agency provides basic insurance coverage. 

However, it is advisable to review the policy details and consider additional coverage options, such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Excess Insurance, to protect yourself against potential liabilities and reduce financial risk in case of an accident or damage to the rental car. 

Some car rentals have it included, like NewWay Car Rental, my favorite company to rent the car in Ireland. Their prices have absolutely everything included (except for the keys) so you don’t have to worry about anything else.

However, if you are from the US and your credit card company provides car insurance, you may want to check out other options on Discover cars, where the insurance is optional. This way you may be able to find much better deals of course.

In case you’re planning to drive your own car, ensure your existing insurance policy provides sufficient coverage for driving in Ireland.ย 

3. Drive on the Left Side of the Road

As mentioned earlier, in Ireland, they drive on the left side of the road. So, if you’re accustomed to driving on the opposite side, it may take some time to adjust to driving on the left side. 

So, always take extra caution when making turns, crossing intersections, and entering roundabouts to ensure that you are following the correct traffic flow, and follow my advice.

4. Cars on the Right Will Have the Right of Way

For smooth driving, it’s important to understand the right way of driving.

For instance, when approaching an intersection or a junction, cars coming from the right side will have the right of way.

So, if you are driving on a road while another vehicle is approaching from the right side, you must yield and allow them to proceed first. 

Aerial view of M7 motorway in Ireland.
M7 motorway

5. Use of GPS for Navigation

GPS navigation has become an essential tool for drivers, especially when exploring unfamiliar territories.

So, the use of GPS devices or navigation apps can enhance your driving experience in Ireland. 

Irish roads can be winding, and GPS systems offer a reliable way to navigate its picturesque landscapes and charming towns.

Furthermore, with accurate and up-to-date maps, GPS devices provide turn-by-turn directions, voice guidance, and real-time traffic updates to help you reach your destination efficiently. 

They also assist in locating nearby points of interest, such as fuel stations, restaurants, and attractions, making it easier to plan stops along your route.ย 

6. Be Aware of Road Signage

When driving, it is generally crucial to be aware of signage and road markings, but it is even more important in new territories.

So, take your time to familiarize yourself with the various road signs and markings used in Ireland. 

For instance, road signs in Ireland come in different shapes and colors.

Specifically, triangular signs with red borders often indicate warning or caution, while circular signs with red borders indicate prohibitions. 

Other essential signs you should be aware of are speed limits, roundabouts, road markings such as solid white lines indicating overtaking, traffic signals, pedestrian crossings, and parking restrictions.

7. Be Mindful of the Roundabouts

Roundabouts are a common feature of Irish roads, and it is important to be mindful of their proper usage to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience. 

So, remember to approach roundabouts with caution and at an appropriate speed, yield to traffic on the right, use indicators when entering, exiting, or changing lanes, and be sure you choose the right lane to avoid any accidents. 

Cobh deck of cards
Cobh – Deck of Cards

8. Know When and Not to Overtake

Knowing when and when not to overtake is undoubtedly crucial for safe driving. And even though it sounds easy, it might be challenging if you’ve never driven on the left side of the road. 

Firstly, in rural areas and on single-lane roads, be sure to practice caution and overtake when there is sufficient visibility and a clear stretch of road ahead.ย 

When driving on multi-lane roads or highways, overtaking is generally permitted on the right-hand side. Still, ensure you have enough space and time to maneuver safely.

Generally, though, always be aware of oncoming traffic, and speed limits, and use common sense to judge whether to overtake or not. 

9. Excellent Road Conditions

Thankfully, roads in Ireland are in excellent condition, making driving and road trips easy for travelers.

From the major highways connecting cities to the scenic coastal routes, drivers can expect smooth surfaces and clear signage, ensuring a comfortable and safe journey. 

However, although all roads in Irelands are in excellent condition, remember that the countryside is famous for its narrow and winding roads, challenging those unfamiliar with rural roads.

Also, you will find a lot of cyclists along secondary roads, especially in the summer. So, make sure you

10. Driving at Night Can Be a Challenge

Driving at night in Ireland can be challenging, just like in any other country. At night, visibility is reduced, and encountering road difficulties is more probable. 

Furthermore, in rural areas, street lighting may be limited, making it harder to see the road ahead.

Also, if you’re not familiar with the area, navigating dark, winding roads can be challenging. 

Signpost in Cork,  Ireland.

11. Stick Shift vs. Automatic Gears

If you plan to rent a car in Ireland, you might worry about what cars they prefer and have available. 

Generally, in Ireland, the majority of vehicles traditionally have a stick shift.

However, the popularity of automatic gears has been increasing in recent years, and you can find a growing number of cars with automatic gearboxes in Ireland, too.

So, ultimately, the choice between stick shift and automatic comes down to personal preference and driving style.  

12. Bring Car Seats for Children

Something to consider before any road trip is the safety of your little ones. 

Ireland, like many countries, has regulations regarding child safety in vehicles. Specifically, Irish law mandates that children under 150 cm tall or 36 kg in weight must use an appropriate restraint system. 

Therefore, it’s necessary to have a correctly fitted car seat or booster seat to ensure their safety during the journey. 

13. Toll Roads

While Ireland’s road network is extensive and well-maintained, some highways and bridges require payment tolls.

To access these toll roads, you can either pay in cash or use an electronic tolling system known as eFlow. 

However, it’s advisable to carry some coins in case you encounter a booth that only accepts cash.

Or, if you plan on frequently using toll roads, consider purchasing an eFlow tag in advance for convenient and hassle-free payments.ย 

WARNING – If you areย using Dublins Ring Road, the M50 motorway, you should be aware that barrier-free tolling is in place betweenย Junction 6 (N3 Blanchardstown) and Junction 7 (N4 Lucan). You are responsible for paying the Toll. The easiest way to pay is on their site, before your journey, or before the 8 pm deadline.

Road Sign in Wicklow Park
Road Sign Wicklow Park

14. Gas in Ireland

โ›ฝ๏ธ Gas Stations in Ireland are Smaller Compared to Standard Gas Stations

Gas stations in Ireland tend to be smaller, meaning space limitations. Therefore, it’s best to plan your refueling stops accordingly, especially when traveling long distances between towns. 

Keeping an eye on your fuel gauge and locating gas stations along your route will ensure a smooth and uninterrupted journey across the country.

โ›ฝ๏ธ Few Gas Stations in Rural Areas

Traveling through rural areas in Ireland may present a challenge when trying to find gas stations.

The countryside is vast, but with scattered villages and towns and a small population, so there are fewer options for refueling. 

Therefore, be sure to plan your journey accordingly, ensuring you have enough fuel to reach the next available gas station.

In fact, it’s recommended to fill up your tank each time you find a gas station to avoid any inconveniences or running out of fuel in remote areas. 

Irland secondary road gas station
Gas stations in remote areas

15. Ireland’s Driving Laws

๐Ÿ“Œ Traffic Lights

Traffic lights in Ireland play a vital role in ensuring road safety. Understanding their meanings is crucial for drivers. Red means stop, green means go, and yellow signals caution, like everywhere in the world.ย 

๐Ÿ“Œ Seat Belts

Wearing seat belts is a legal requirement, besides a safety tool, for all occupants in the vehicle. Failure to comply can result in penalties. So make sure to buckle up and prioritize safety on Irish roads.ย 

๐Ÿ“Œ Use of Mobile Phones

Mobile phone usage while driving is illegal, including texting or making calls. If necessary, you must utilize hands-free devices to stay focused, keep your hands on the wheel, and avoid distractions for a safer driving experience. 

๐Ÿ“Œ Drunk Driving

Ireland has stringent laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol. The legal blood alcohol limit for most drivers is 50 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. 

Violators can face severe penalties, including fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. So, always designate a sober driver and prioritize responsible choices.

A beautiful road in Ireland Wicklow Park
Road in Wicklow Park

16. Speed Limits in Ireland

Ireland has various speed limits depending on the type of road. Here is the official speed limit rule from the Road Safety Authority site.

Ireland Speed Limits
Photo ยฉย RSA

The default speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h unless otherwise signposted. 

On national roads, the limit is generally 80 km/h, while on motorways, it is 120 km/h.

Pay special caution in areas with reduced limits, such as school zones or roadworks, which usually have a speed limit between 30 to 60 km/h. 

One thing that you should keep in mind is that Ireland and Northern Ireland use different speedometers. Specifically, Northern Ireland uses miles, while Ireland uses kilometers.

You don’t need to learn these speed limits by heart, but you need to stay focused on the road and read the speed limit signs ๐Ÿ™‚

17. Watch Out for Cars with Special Plates

In Ireland, cars with special plates indicate specific categories, such as learner drivers, newly licensed drivers, or vehicles for people with disabilities.

These plates warn other drivers to be cautious as well as exercise patience. 

Learner drivers are denoted by “L,” while “N” plates indicate a novice driver with a license of less than two years, and an “R” plate indicates that the car is registered with the Irish authorities. 

18. Emergency Hotlines in Ireland 

In case of emergencies on the road, it’s important to have the hotline numbers 999 or 112 for immediate assistance, including accidents, medical emergencies, or hazardous situations. 

Road in Ireland countryside
A road in Ireland’s countryside

Renting a Car in Ireland

๐Ÿš˜ Is Renting a Car in Ireland Worth it?

Renting a car in Ireland can be worth it for many travelers. It offers the flexibility to explore the country at your own pace, access remote areas, and discover hidden gems.

Furthermore, Ireland’s scenic landscapes and countryside are best experienced with the freedom of a car. 

However, consider factors such as driving on the left side of the road, narrow rural roads, and parking challenges in cities.

But even though public transportation options are available, they may limit your Ireland itinerary.

So, assess your travel preferences, driving experience, and comfort level before deciding if renting a car in Ireland is the right choice for you.

๐Ÿš˜ How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Ireland?

The cost of renting a car can vary depending on several factors, including the rental company, car type, rental duration, and the time of the year.

On average, you can expect to pay around โ‚ฌ25 to โ‚ฌ50 per day for a basic economy car.

However, there might be other additional costs, such as insurance, fuel, and toll fees.

Cork - Ireland

The Best Areas For a Road Trip in Ireland

โœ”๏ธ The Copper Coast

The Copper Coast is a scenic gem, perfect for a memorable road trip.

Located in County Waterford, this stunning coastal stretch boasts rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque villages. 

Explore the vibrant geology, visit historic sites like the Metal Man, and immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of this UNESCO Global Geopark. 

โœ”๏ธ Wild Atlantic Way

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is an epic coastal route stretching over 2,500 kilometers showcasing the untamed beauty of the Atlantic coast.

From breathtaking cliffs like the Cliffs of Moher to charming villages and pristine beaches, every twist and turn reveals a new captivating landscape. 

Driving on and off the Irlenad Coast on the Atlantic side was the best part of my Journey.

The Beacon Baltimore the Atlantic way
The Beacon – Baltimore

โœ”๏ธ The Ring of Kerry

Journey through the enchanting Ring of Kerry, a 179-kilometer circuit, to experience some of Ireland’s most breathtaking landscapes, like the hidden gem of Ballaghbeama Gap, the Gap of Dunloe, the charming city of Killarney and all the other incredible sites.

From majestic mountains and sparkling lakes to charming towns and ancient ruins, every corner of this route is a new postcard-perfect spot. 

Immerse yourself in Irish folklore, witness the beauty of Killarney National Park, and experience the magic of this iconic route. 

โœ”๏ธ The Old Military Road

Embark on a historic road trip on the winding route of the 18th-century Old Military Road and wind through the picturesque Wicklow Mountains. 

Marvel at the rugged beauty of the landscape, pass by ancient ruins and stone bridges, and immerse yourself in the rich history of this scenic drive.

Prepare to be transported to a bygone era as you traverse this fascinating road. 

Sally's Gap road by the lake
Sally’s Gap

โœ”๏ธ Sky Road Loop

Discover the breathtaking beauty of Ireland’s Sky Road Loop in Connemara for panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, rugged coastlines, and rolling hills. 

Wind your way along the narrow coastal roads, soak in the stunning vistas, explore the charming village of Clifden, and prepare for a journey that will take your breath away at every turn.

Ireland Atlantic Way Coasts near Baltimore
Baltimore – Coastline around the Beacon

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Drive with a US License in Ireland?

Yes, you can drive in Ireland with a valid US driver’s license for a maximum period of 12 months.

However, it is always recommended to obtain an International Driving Permit.ย 

Is Dublin Left or Right-hand driving?

In Ireland, including Dublin, they drive on the left-hand side of the road, meaning the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle.ย 

Mini van on the countryside road

Can I Visit Ireland Without Renting a Car?

Absolutely! Ireland has an extensive public transportation network that includes buses, trains, trams, and taxis, making it possible to explore the country without a car.ย 

What is the Best Way to Get Around Ireland?

The best way to get around Ireland depends on your preferences and the locations you plan to visit.

Some popular options are public transportation, car rental, guided tours, and cycling.ย 

Barley Cove Beach Waves
Barley Cove Beach

Which Side is the Gas Pedal in Ireland?

In Ireland, the gas pedal is on the right side of the car, just like in the US and many other countries.ย 

What Does R Mean on Cars in Ireland?

The letter “R” indicates that the driver is in his first year of driving license. In fact, after successfully completing your motor car or motorcycle driving test, it is mandatory to affix amber R plates to your vehicle for a duration of one year starting from the date of the test accomplishment.

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

Can You Turn Left on Red in Ireland?

No, you can’t turn left at a red traffic light since, in Ireland, vehicles are required to come to a complete stop at a red traffic light, regardless of where they are going to turn.

What is the Famous Road in Ireland?

One of the most famous roads in Ireland is The Ring of Kerry, a scenic route in County Kerry with breathtaking views of coastal landscapes, mountains, lakes, and picturesque villages.ย 

Beautiful sunset at Cliffs Moher in Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher

Wrapping Up: Driving in Ireland

As you prepare for your road trip to Ireland, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself and understand the local driving rules and customs. 

So, take note of these 18 essential tips you need to know about driving in Ireland, plan your routes through your favorite destinations, and prepare yourself for a mesmerizing road trip across the enchanting Emerald Isle! 

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