18 Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Dublin Ireland (2023)

Are you planning on renting a car in Dublin? You have landed in the right place. I have done it and traveled around Ireland for three weeks and I am about to do it again as I am updating this post.

I had a blast and, although you can travel by bus or train, driving a car is the best way to explore Ireland, in my opinion. And after you read this article it will be even easier.

I have included all the tips and recommendations you need before renting a car in Dublin, regarding how to choose the best car rental and driving in Ireland tips.

By the end of this article, you should be a pro at renting a car, not just in Dublin, but anywhere in Ireland… and beyond! 

wicklow park road
Wicklow Park Road

Table of Contents

18 Things to know before renting a Car in Dublin Ireland

Just like you need proper documentation to drive in your own country, you’ll need to bring some relevant documents to do so in Dublin as well.

Here are the three documents I recommend bringing with you:

✔️ Passport: Not only is your passport needed to travel internationally, but the rental companies in Ireland will also need this document to verify your identity.

For convenience purposes, bring a photocopy of your passport when visiting a rental company.

✔️ Driver’s license: For some of you, this one will mean getting an International Driving Permit (IDP).

But whether or not you need it depends on where you’re traveling from.

If you’re traveling from, and have a driving license from, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the EU, your driving license will still be valid in Ireland for up to 12 months, and if your driving license is more than 4 years old.

The renter and all approved drivers must be in possession of a full, valid driving licence for at least 4 years and present it together with an identity card or passport while receiving delivery of the vehicle. Furthermore, the following conditions apply depending on the issuing country of the driving licence.

EU Driving Licences
Valid driving licenses from all EU countries are accepted in Ireland without further preconditions.

All Other Licences
Driver’s license printed with non-Roman Alphabet (Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic etc) must be complemented by an international driver’s license.

Photocopies, digital licenses, Learner’s Permits, and driver’s licenses with driving restrictions will not be accepted.

✔️ A credit card: Your credit card is needed by rental providers to hold a security deposit.

Most providers won’t accept a debit card or cash.

How big of a deposit you need to make depends on the company’s policies and the type of car you’re renting (you’ll need to deposit more if you’re renting a luxury car).

Close up of street in Dublin City Centre with colourful buildings
City Centre of Dublin – Photo from Canva

2. Age eligibility

You’ll need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car anywhere in Ireland; that’s the law. However, things are a bit more complicated than that. 

Most rental companies in Ireland will either refuse to rent to people below 25 or include an extra charge that’s usually referred to as a “Young Drivers’ Surcharge”.

That’s because people between 21 and 25 are considered a higher risk by insurance providers, and that extra cost will fall on you.

There might also be a soft upper age limit. People over 75 years old will usually need to provide a medical certificate from their doctor proving that they’re fit to drive.

In addition, you might also be asked for documentation from your insurance provider stating that you haven’t been in any major car accidents in the last 5 years.

3. Understand the car rental insurance policies

Understanding insurance policies, even in one’s own country, can be a daunting task.

So I understand if you might be anxious about having to deal with rental insurance in Ireland. Don’t worry, I can greatly simplify that process for you.

You basically need to know about 3 different types of insurance.

Temple Bar – Photo from Canva

✔️ Collision Damage Waiver Insurance (CDW): CDW is the most basic tier of insurance, and will usually be bundled up with car rentals by default (since driving without insurance is illegal in Ireland).

While damage to your car will be covered under CDW, you have to keep in mind that there’s a deductible.

It’s also worth reading the fine print on your insurance policy, as CDW usually does not cover damage to some parts like windows, tired, and undercarriage.

✔️ Super CDW: Because of all the shortcomings of CDW I’ve mentioned above, I highly recommend going for this option if you’re renting a car in Ireland.

While SCDW might cost a bit extra (around €20-25/day), it’s more than worth it.

While it still doesn’t cover damage to the undercarriage and whatnot, SCDW will greatly reduce or outright eliminate the deductible for the parts it does provide coverage for.

✔️ Credit card insurance: As I mentioned in #1, the rental agencies put a hold on your credit card as a security deposit.

In case of damage to the car, especially damage that’s not covered by insurance, this deposit will be used.

You might also want to check with your credit card company and see if they provide rental car insurance.

While insurance by your card provider won’t replace CDW or SCDW, it’s still nice to have as that insurance coverage will kick in if your CDW/SCDW gets exhausted.

View of the Beckett Bridge at night
Beckett Bridge – Photo from Canva

4. Rental cars in Dublin can be expensive 

Dublin is a very popular travel destination. As such, it’s worth keeping in mind that renting a car here can be quite expensive, especially in peak tourist season (from July to September). Even during the winter season.

However, there are still things you can do to rent a car at reasonable prices. My first recommendation is to rent a car as early as possible.

You don’t have to be present in person to make a booking, which brings me to my second point. 

Use an online service like Discover Cars (highly recommended), to make your bookings in advance.

The reason I’m recommending Discover Cars, in particular, is that they let you compare prices across a variety of different providers and make the most informed decision, which helps tremendously in terms of saving money.

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!

5. Choose your rental car strategically

It’s easy to get analysis paralysis when looking at hundreds of different cars to rent, so this section will help you pick the best car for you.

You should know that Dublin’s streets are quite narrow in general, so you might not want something like an SUV. Go for a smaller car if possible. 

Not only will you be able to navigate Dublin’s streets much more easily, but smaller cars are also much more fuel efficient, thus saving you money on fuel costs.

Parking space is another issue in Dublin, and a smaller car will also be a godsend there.

Another tip is to rent a diesel car.

While diesel cars cost a bit more to rent, you’ll more than makeup for that in fuel cost savings. 

If you’re going to be traveling to more than one city in Ireland, you might be tempted to just drive there.

However, I highly advise you to research online beforehand. You might find that it’s cheaper to just fly to your destination city and rent a car there

A woman is renting a car in Dublin
Photo from Canva

6. Check your car rental agreement (Avoid scams & hidden fees)

The last thing you want to do when planning a vacation or visiting a new country is to read the fine print on your car rental agreement.

But I’m telling you, doing so will pay dividends.

Rental companies (at least bad ones) will put a ton of stuff in there that you’ll be bound to pay for once you agree to it.

Here are the things that are worth taking a closer look at:

👉🏽 Payment terms: Take a look at the payment terms to understand exactly how and when you’ll be paying for your rental.

Some companies will charge you for the full rental term up front, while others will take a deposit.

There might also be cancellation or modification fees in the agreement that you should take into account.

👉🏽 Extra and unnecessary add-ons: In order to pad your bill, some rental companies will pile on extras like a GPS device or roadside assistance without your asking for those things.

Be on the lookout for extras like those, and if you find any, ask them to be removed.

👉🏽 Fuel management: Many rental companies require you to return your car with a full tank.

If you don’t do so, you’ll have to pay a fine. Your agreement will usually state if you have to do so. This isn’t a scam, just something you should be aware of.

👉🏽 Coverage for additional drivers: If you’re not traveling alone and plan to co-drive your rental with other family members or friends, you’ll want to check if your rental agreement covers that.

View of the Dublin Spire
Dublin Spire – Photo from Canva

7. Automatic cars are less common

Another thing to be aware of is that most cars in Ireland have manual transmissions.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find an automatic car, it just means that they’re much less common than, say, the US. 

If you want to get a rental that’s automatic, make sure to make your booking in advance (as soon as possible).

The earlier you book your car, the better your chances.

8. Inspect your vehicle’s condition before driving

Whenever you rent a car anywhere, not just in Ireland, it’s crucial that you inspect it thoroughly at the point where you rent it.

Take note of all existing damage, such as scratches, dents, etc. and make sure that all the car’s features are working as advertised; if you find an issue, report it on the spot.

Use your smartphone to make a video as well, and share it with your rental agency.

That way, you won’t be held accountable for any pre-existing damage when you return your car.

The videos and pictures will be extra helpful in case of any disputes.

It’s a semi-common scam that takes place. I didn’t mention it in the rental agreement section because it has nothing to do with the agreement itself. 

Handing over car keys
Photo from Canva

9. Drive on the left-hand side of the road

Irish people drive on the left side of the road, which can take some getting used to if you come from a country where they drive on the right side.

The good news is that it’ll take a week or two before you’re driving around like you’re a pro. 

However, in that adjustment period, it’s important for you to be extra cautious when taking to the road, especially around intersections, roundabouts, and merging onto other roads.

10. Use of your GPS navigation (Google Maps)

While you can rent a GPS system from rental companies for a daily fee, I don’t recommend doing so.

The reason is that Google Maps is free, and in most cases, it’s just as good as any GPS navigation system that you’ll have to pay daily for.

Not only that, you can also download maps on the app so you don’t have to rely on data in areas where internet connectivity might be spotty.

View of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity beside the busy street -ever wonder about renting a Car in Dublin?
Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity – Photo from Canva

11. Country roads are very narrow

Ireland’s country roads are simply beautiful, but a lot of them are also quite narrow and can present a challenge for drivers who are not used to driving in those conditions.

Luckily, I’ve got tips on how to navigate them.

👉🏽 Due to their narrow width, country roads often have limited visibility. That’s why you should always drive slowly and cautiously.

Keep in mind that cyclists and livestock are pretty common in the countryside as well.

👉🏽 If you encounter oncoming traffic, pull over to the left as far as possible and let the other car pass.

A lot of roads do have passing signs that indicate where you’re supposed to pull over to the side.

👉🏽 When approaching a blind corner, use your horn to alert potential drivers around the corner to your presence.

👉🏽 Be patient and cooperate with others on the road, as it can make a much better experience for everyone involved.

A man renting a car from an agent
Photo from Canva

12. Traffic can be congested during rush hours

Dublin has a population of around 550 thousand people, which soars in the tourist season.

Regardless of the tourism season, traffic congestion is a problem that you’ll face on a daily basis when you’re in the city.

During the weekdays, the busiest times are from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. 

You can avoid driving in Ireland during these hours, or, if you want to be out and about, you can use apps like Google Maps or Waze to see where the traffic is congested and use alternate suggested routes (these apps will often give you alternate suggestions).

13. Use of Toll Roads / Toll system

Ireland has toll roads all over the country, including within the city of Dublin.

Dealing with the toll system in another country can be rather confusing, but I’ll try to make the process as simple as possible for you.

Within Dublin, you’ll encounter a barrier-free toll system on the M50 highway.

For that one, your vehicle will need an eFlow tag on its windshield.

If your tag isn’t prepaid, you’ll have to pay the toll by 8PM next day in order to avoid any fines. 

Outside of Dublin, you will encounter physical toll booths in a lot of places where you can use cash and credit cards, but the electronic tag system is still much better.

All you need to do is have some balance in your electronic tag account, and it’ll be deducted when you pass the toll.

You also might want to ask your rental provider if your card will automatically be charged if you pass any toll roads.

Some providers have agreements in place that let you do that so you don’t have to worry about putting balance in your electronic tag account.

View of the O'Connell street filled with cars
O’Connell Street Dublin – Photo from Canva

14. Gas prices can be expensive

Another thing that surprises a lot of tourists is that gas prices in Ireland are a little bit higher.

That’s why you should always factor in fuel costs when renting a car.

Whenever possible, rent a smaller or diesel-powered car to save on fuel.

If public transport is an option where you’re going, use that instead of using your car, or, if you’re traveling with others, carpool in order to share the costs. 

A lot of times, your fuel will be wasted while being stuck in traffic or taking a long way around.

That’s why I recommend using Google Maps to always find the more efficient route from points A to B.

Switch to different modes of transportation in the app and see if using public transport or even walking is a viable option.

Lastly, you can ditch the need for fuel entirely and rent an electric vehicle.

However, charging stations are scarce in the countryside so you might want to keep that in mind.

15. Parking in Dublin

As Ireland’s bustling capital, Dublin has its fair share of challenges when it comes to the availability of parking space.

However, it’s nothing you can’t navigate with some knowledge and a little bit of patience.

Parking space in the city center can be scarce but with some searching, you’ll usually find a spot.

Parking meters usually operate until 7PM, after which parking is free.

However, that’s not always the case. Some meters operate 24/7, so it’s always good to inquire beforehand.

There are free parking zones, but they’re usually located in residential zones, a bit further from the city center.

Be prepared to walk around a bit if you plan on using those.

There are also multi-story car parks in the city that’ll charge you hourly, anywhere from €1.5 to €4 an hour.

Dublin river at sunset
Dublin River at sunset

16. Speed limits 

Speed limits are very strictly enforced in Ireland, so it’s very important to follow them in order to avoid any unpleasant incidents. 

In urban areas, the limit is typically 50 km/h (31 mph); but there might be zones that have lower limits, so always keep an eye out for signs.

For example, school zones have a limit of 30 km/h (18.6 mph).

On the highways, the speed limit is 120 km/h (74.5 mph), and national roads have a limit of 100 km/h (62 mph).

17. Follow Dublin traffic rules

As I’ve mentioned above, traffic rules are very strictly enforced in Ireland. Luckily, they’re not very hard to follow in Dublin, let’s cover the major ones.

First things first, always be safe and wear your seatbelts.

Secondly, never drive under the influence of alcohol. Driving while using a phone is also illegal; if you have to take a call, make sure to use the speakerphone or Bluetooth.

Then there’s the usual: remember to drive on the left side and follow the accompanying rules for right of way and merging.

Secondly, keep an eye out for road signs as they’ll often indicate speed limits and other rules you have to follow.

In some areas, signs might be in Irish, so you might want to learn the basics.

As you can see, there’s nothing markedly different about the traffic rules in Ireland and it’s quite easy to follow them.

The hardest thing for most tourists will be to get used to driving on the left side of the road.

18. Plan your itinerary ahead

When renting a car, it’ll pay to plan your itinerary.

Ideally, you want to rent a car on days when your favorite attractions and areas you want to visit will be open and accessible.

You’ll also want to group nearby locations together to see as much as possible in one visit and save on fuel and time.

Planning your itinerary will also have the side benefit of making the most of your rental.

You’ll know exactly which dates to rent on and it’ll even let you estimate the fuel costs based on the distance you’re supposed to cover.

Dublin Airport Car rentals desks
Dublin Airport Car Rental Desks

Should you rent a car in Dublin Ireland?

📌 Where should I rent a car in Dublin?

There’s no shortage of rental providers in Dublin, but my personal recommendation is Discover Cars.

They’re not technically a rental provider, they’ll just let you see different offerings by a whole range of rental providers and make your reservation through their website.

The biggest advantage of using their website is that there are no hidden fees, what you see is what you have to pay for.

In addition, they also offer 24/7 customer support and free cancellations.

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!

📌 Is it safe to rent a car in Dublin?

Yes! As long as you follow the tips I’ve mentioned above, you should have no problems renting a car in Dublin.

📌 How much does it cost to rent a car in Dublin?

Rental costs can vary largely depending on the car you’re renting. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere around €30 to €50 for a rental.

But if you rent a luxury car, expect that figure to be much higher. 

View of the Dublin Airport on a sunset
Dublin Airport

Best car rental companies in Dublin, Ireland

There are countless rental providers in Ireland, and at a glance, it can be hard to pick between them.

Companies like Sixt, Europcar, and Hertz are all very popular options among tourists.

My recommendation is to make your booking online through DiscoverCars.com.

The website lets you compare offerings from the providers I’ve mentioned above and more, and, best of all, there are absolutely no hidden fees or charges.

All rental terms are clearly stated upfront and, if you have any issues, you can always get in touch with their 24/7 customer support.

Road in Ireland countryside
Wicklow Mountains

Day trips from Dublin by car

🚙 Wicklow Mountains

The Wicklow Mountains are a stunning destination at just an hour’s drive from Dublin.

If you want to experience the beauty of the Emerald Isle at its best, this destination is a must-visit.

Home to one of the largest national parks in Ireland, the area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

You’ll find excellent opportunities for hiking, biking, wildlife spotting, and camping (follow the Wild Camping code though).

The park provides the largest area of continuous ground in Ireland, offering stunning landscapes.

Highlights of the area include the picturesque Glendalough Valley, home to a 6th-century monastic site, and the scenic Sally Gap, which offers breathtaking panoramic views. 

🚙 Howth

Howth is a charming coastal village located just 16 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Dublin.

Here, you can walk among ancient ruins, learn about the history of the area (including the Vikings), and visit the boyhood home of the Irish poet and playwright W.B. Yeats.

The Howth Castle is a treat for history buffs. It’s one of the oldest inhabited sites in Ireland, and has the history to go with it.

Howth Head is a peninsula that offers breathtaking views, with panoramic views of the Bay.

The area is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to a variety of species of seabirds.

View of Howth
Howth, Dublin – Photo from Canva

🚙 Boyne Valley Tombs

Want to visit an archaeological site that predates the pyramids? Meet the Boyne Valley Tombs, also known as Brú na Bóinne. 

Just a short 45-minute drive from Dublin, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the ancient passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. 

These tombs, built around 3200 BCE, predate the Egyptian pyramids and showcase the incredible engineering and artistic capabilities of the Neolithic people. 

A visit to the Boyne Valley Tombs provides an insightful glimpse into Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, making it a must-see destination for history buffs and anyone interested in the mysteries of the ancient world.

🚙 Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel, perched on a limestone outcrop in County Tipperary, is a spectacular historical site steeped in Irish legends and folklore.

Approximately 164 kilometers (101 miles) from Dublin, it takes around 2 hours to reach this iconic destination. But the drive is worth it and more.

The Rock of Cashel features impressive structures, including the 12th-century Cormac’s Chapel, the 13th-century Gothic cathedral, and the beautifully decorated 15th-century Hall of the Vicars Choral.

This ancient site was once the seat of the High Kings of Munster and boasts a rich history dating back to the 4th century.

A day trip to the Rock of Cashel provides a fascinating journey through Ireland’s past, making it an unmissable stop for any visitor to the Emerald Isle.

View of the Rock of Cashel under the blue sky
Rock of Cashel – Photo from Canva

🚙 Kilkenny

The medieval city of Kilkenny is located approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Dublin and takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive there.

Steeped in history, Kilkenny boasts well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets, and a vibrant arts scene.

Key attractions include the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle, the beautiful St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the intriguing Medieval Mile Museum.

Kilkenny also offers an array of lively pubs and restaurants, where you can sample local brews and enjoy traditional Irish music.

A visit to Kilkenny provides a delightful mix of history, culture, and entertainment, making it an ideal day trip from Dublin.

Frequently Asked Questions About Renting a Car in Dublin

Is it worth hiring a car in Dublin?

Renting a car in Dublin can be worth it if you plan to explore beyond the city and visit the beautiful Irish countryside or other cities. 

However, if you intend to spend most of your time in Dublin, public transportation and walking may be more convenient and cost-effective, as parking and traffic can be challenging in the city.

Why is it so expensive to rent a car in Dublin?

There are several factors that contribute to the high cost of renting a car in Dublin. Some are high demand, insurance, taxes and fees, and higher fuel prices.

To find the best deal, I highly recommend you book your car rental
well in advance and use Discovercars.com which offers you the opportunity to compare prices and choose the best choice.

They also offer very affordable full insurance.

Boyne Valley field under the blue sky
Boyne Valley Tombs – Photo from Canva

Can I rent a car for a month in Dublin?

Yes, you can rent a car for a month in Dublin. Many car rental
companies offer long-term rentals at discounted rates.

Before committing to a long-term rental, though, make sure to inquire about any additional charges, such as insurance policy or mileage limits.

Can you get around Dublin without a car?

Absolutely! Dublin has an extensive public transportation network that includes buses, trams (LUAS), and trains (DART).

Walking and cycling are also popular ways to explore the city, as many attractions are within close proximity.

Taxis and ridesharing services are readily available for added convenience.

View of the Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny – Photo from Canva

What is the cheapest way to get around Dublin?

The cheapest way to get around Dublin is by using public transportation, such as buses and trams.

Purchasing a Leap Card, a prepaid smart card, can save you money on fares and make traveling more convenient.

Walking and cycling are also cost-effective and environmentally friendly options.

Is Ireland good for a road trip?

Ireland is an excellent destination for a road trip, with stunning landscapes, charming villages, and historic sites waiting to be explored.

The diverse scenery, ranging from rugged coastlines to rolling green hills, provides a picturesque backdrop for an unforgettable journey. Also very popular for camping. If you are planning to do so as well, make sure you read this guide to car camping essential tips.

Overview of the River Nore in Kilkenny
River Nore, Kilkenny – Photo from Canva

How long would a road trip around Ireland take?

The duration of a road trip around Ireland depends on your desired route and the time you have available. 

A trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s famous coastal route, takes around 7-10 days to complete at a leisurely pace. 

If you’re looking to explore the entire island, including both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, plan for at least two weeks to fully appreciate the rich culture, history, and scenery that the Emerald Isle has to offer.

View of the Rock of Cashel
Rock of Cashel – Photo from Canva

Final Thoughts: Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Dublin

Renting a car in Ireland can open up a world of opportunities for exploration and adventure. 

In this article, I’ve provided you with essential tips to ensure a smooth and hassle-free car rental experience, covering aspects such as preparing the necessary legal documents, understanding age requirements, and navigating the complexities of car rental insurance policies. 

I also covered the importance of being strategic when choosing a rental car, staying vigilant with rental agreements to avoid scams and hidden fees, and adapting to local driving conditions.

Following these tips, you can make the most of your car rental experience and embark on a memorable journey through the enchanting landscapes and rich history of the Emerald Isle.

Happy driving!