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Driving in Ireland

Mokena, Illinois
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Driving in Ireland

Just returned from a 2 week first time driving vacation in Ireland. Some points:

1. The Garmin GPS saved our sanity as signage is not the best in Irish towns. The Garmin lady with the nice Irish accent guided us from Dublin to Galway to Dingle to Killarney to Limerick and back to Dublin with 100% accuracy. For a first time driver it was a great travel tool.

2. Hug the center line while driving. I got used to it and driving in general quickly got to feel natural. But, it is easy to drift over to your left and start rubbing your tires on curbs. I learned and kept forcing myself near the center line. It might feel intimidating at first. In towns you need to do this so you don't scrape parked cars on your left.

3. While driving you must concentrate heavily on the road. No day dreaming or talking on a phone. Keep your attention on the road and you'll not have a problem.

4. The roundabouts- thanks again to GPS. She tells you what to do and it shows on the screen. Just remember to yield to cars coming on your right.

5. With a GPS and keeping towards the center line it is, as I often heard the Irish end conversations, "...no worries then."

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1. Re: Driving in Ireland

My wife and I also just returned from my first trip and I made a few notes along the way to share. I'm comparing Ireland to my experience in the USA since this is what I know but I'm sure these observations will apply to many of you from various countries. Some of these are light-hearted but there is an element of truth in all of the points I list. By no means should you take any of this as negative criticism. Driving in Ireland is not wrong, it is just different. It is a challenge and rely's on you using a lot of common sense which is the way more countries should be. I viewed driving on the left and on these roads as an adventure and as part of the experience and I was not disappointed - what an adventure it is to drive in Ireland. I should also mention that the Irish are as gracious and courteous on the roads as they are everywhere else. In ten days I only heard a horn beep twice and neither time was it at the driver-in-training from the USA (me)

1. Definitely have a GPS, good maps, and watch the signs. You are still going to get lost but it will be less frequently :)

2. Driving on the left (for those of us raised on right-hand side driving) - This is a piece of cake. After an hour or two it feels fine. After a day or two you actually don't walk to the wrong side of the car when you get in.

3.. I have developed great respect for the skill of the Irish driver - seriously. The hard part of driving in Ireland is the narrow roads usually with no shoulder, and the Irish seem not to realize that it is a difficult task.

4. Speed limits: I'm only guessing but this is what I saw as a major difference - Speed limits are a goal, not something you actually can always attain. In the USA speed limits are more like the speed minimums. In Ireland, not even the native drivers can reach the limit on many stretches of the road. It is not unusual to have an 80 km/hour speed limit sign followed by 'slow' and then 'slower' painted on the road just ahead of a hairpin turn. There is no reduced speed signs before these turns, you are just warned to go slow - you are not told how slow so be ready to sit on the brakes.

5. Tour buses. When on a narrow road with a tour bus bearing down on you it is perfectly acceptable to pull as far to the left as possible and stop until he goes by. I've squeezed by tour buses on roads that are so narrow that in the USA they would be clearly marked as "Autos only, no buses, no trucks allowed" and it would also say "one-way only" :)

6. Blind corners, no place to turn around, no shoulder, and hedges blocking your view is a normal road. Then there are also the small roads.

7. Parking - Evidently parking in one lane of a two lane road, parking on sidewalks, or anywhere else is fine. I couldn't see any pattern or rules governing parking. You'll remember this the first time you pull into a small village and sit for 10 minutes behind the guy in front of you in your lane only to realize no one is in the car. It is parked.

8. White lines - A solid white line does not mean you cannot pass but also a dotted white line doesn't indicate that you can pass - as far as I can tell. Come to think of it, I haven't figured out what the lines mean.

9. GPS - My Garmin GPS with UK maps was not at all good at finding points of interest. Fortunately, before going I located all my Bed & Breakfast Inns in Google maps and entered the coordinates of each B&B and saved them in favorites. Then it was a simple matter to just select the B&B I wanted to go to from my favorites. If I had known, I would have done this for every point I planned to visit. Another suggestion is to use something like street view to see where you are staying. When I got in the vicinity of my B&Bs it was familiar due to cruising the area in street view before going.

It was a great adventure and I cannot wait to do it again.

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2. Re: Driving in Ireland

Excellent posts.

Waterford, Ireland
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3. Re: Driving in Ireland

Using street view is so obvious I am surprised more people don't do it. If I am going somewhere and have to find a particular address I routinely have a look at street view and know what I am looking for.

I was recently told the place I was going to was 'opposite the AIB' in a particular town. No indication of where on the long main street the AIB was, so I found it on street view and saved myself a lot a driving up and down and searching.

You can also figure out how easy it will be to turn in, or park or anything else you might want to know!

Youngstown, Ohio
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4. Re: Driving in Ireland

Helpful hints, both of you.

The Garmin we got with our rental needed to be updated - it didn't recognize a few of the M roads we were taking, including right when we were fresh on the road from picking up the car at Dublin airport. We were very glad to have the Ordnance Survey Ireland book , and relied on it probably more than the GPS. We debated buying the Ireland map for our own Garmin and ruled it out because it cost the same as the weekly rental fee and we worried we might lose/forget our GPS. We wish now that we'd gone ahead and done that.

NET traveler, your hint about using Google street view was spot on. I had to hold back from using it too much to avoid spoiling the surprise of what we were going to see, but I was glad in one or two cases that I recognized where we were so knew we were on the right track.

Saint Cloud, Florida
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5. Re: Driving in Ireland

Thanks to both Tom61753 and NETraveler. I enjoyed your posts and the information. I will definitely be bring my GPS, with Ireland maps uploaded, to Ireland along with my OSI atlas. And hopefully my common sense;-P

Waterford, Ireland
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6. Re: Driving in Ireland

I must take you up on one point OP, if there is a solid white line down the middle of the road you are not supposed to pass, and you would be foolish to pass there. It might mean that there is a hidden dip in the road where oncoming vehicles cannot be seen, it may be that there is a junction of some sort along the way - there is usually some reason for it.

A dotted line does mean that you may pass, but not necessarily that you should.

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: Driving in Ireland

My husband and I also just returned from a wonderful Ireland vacation. We used the GPS on his cell phone to help us navigate through the country and also a good map.

The GPS on his phone helped us a great deal while walking in Dublin. One day, for instance, we inadvertantly ended up on the last HOHO bus coming back from the Giunness Storehouse. We were dropped off near the Ha'penny bridge and our hotel was near Trinity College. We hadn't a clue where we were or how to get back, but thank goodness we had the phone! The GPS on it guided us back and all was well. (Quite a trek though after a long day of touring).

As a passenger in the car for five days in rural areas of the country I have my own take on how driving is on those roads. Scary as hell!! We paid 8 euro a day to add me as a driver at the start of our trip. I only drove once, for like 5 minutes, safely on the grounds of Adare Manor, just for the experience. I am not an anxious person and my husband is a good driver, but every time we got in that car my heart was in my mouth.

Husband, too, figured out that he could ride the middle on roads where it was clear there was no oncoming traffic. We let other cars pass several times by putting our flashers on (tip from agent at the Dan Dooley counter) and moving to the side of the road when possible. Twice, we got honked at and both were at traffic lights. Once, in Spiddal, when we were first in line and waited and waited at the red until we realized it was a pedestrian stop light. The other was when we didn't turn right on red in Dublin near the airport. Or maybe we had an arrow and didn't see it?? But both times the drivers waved in good nature. The honk was more of a gentle push.

Three times during his five days of driving (we returned the car in Dublin and spent the last two days on foot) he pulled out of a drive and realized that we were in the wrong lane. Luckily, there was no traffic, so we quickly righted our wrong.

By far the scariest part of being the passenger was when we were pulling out of our B&B in Spiddal and could not see traffic coming in either direction. The speed limit was 60km's and we were on a curve. We just inched out, held our breath and prayed!! We did see lots of mirrors on the ends of driveways in the towns we visited and I fully understand the need for one there.

Once, at the beginning of our trip I mistakenly said, "Look!" And pointed to the right, and husband looked and then we heard the tires screech against the wall and he turned hard and we both said "Oh my God, and realized there would be no more of that . Adding later: did you see that, deep inhale or grabbing my seat.

He said the way to drive is to just follow the car ahead of you and/or keep your eyes on the road at all times. I felt sorry for him that he missed so many scenic views. There was one around every corner in the coastal towns, it seems, and there wasn't always a place to pull over so that he could enjoy the view.

We don't regret doing the self drive tour, but I can say that it is the only thing that gives me pause when it comes to saying what a great time I had in Ireland.

Again, just my opinion.

Edited: 30 June 2012, 23:23
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8. Re: Driving in Ireland

A clarification on something Lady Di mentions - I'm not sure why anybody honked her as turning into a side road on red is not permitted nor can you go through a red at a pedestrian crossing in Ireland. Some traffic signals will show red with a green arrow or filter light in which case, you are permitted to follow the direction indicated by the green arrow.

That said, don't assume that the locals always know what they are doing - I have noticed that some drivers struggle to understand what they are being allowed to do when following filter lights.

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9. Re: Driving in Ireland

To be honest, I find some of this "driving in Ireland" stuff a bit tiresome. Driving in Ireland, in my opinion and experience, is no different than driving in Italy, France, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, the UK - and (guess what!) also in the US and Canada. I have driven roads in the US that were no more than a gravel path.

Motorways are motorways, secondary roads are secondary roads, and I often think that these posts from people mentioning damaging wing mirrors/tyres, scraping cars etc must only be used to driving their own particular comutes - probably driving the same roads day in/day out with little or no experience of driving "outside their box" so-to-speak - or else, quite frankly can't drive!. Here in Ireland, our road system may not have the number of highways as in The States, however our infrastructure has improved over the years with a good road network to/from the major cities in each region.

Driving in Ireland, or anywhere should never be taken light-heartedly, nor considered a piece-of-cake.

Here's my suggestion if driving abroad:

I always familarise myself with the Rules of The Road of the country I'm driving in before I leave. That way, I'm familar with the speed limits, road signages etc.

Have an idea of your route. I usually use mapquest http://www.mapquest.com/ or viamichelin http://www.viamichelin.com/ to plot my route. These, coupled with a good roadmap of wherever I am and usually GPS has never seen me stuck. However, never totally reliant on GPS. Common sense as to the route they suggest should be taken. If you find it is taking you down a road that seems a bit odd, then it probably is - I'm talking here about narrow, grass up the middle type of route. Just because GPS says so, doesnt necessarily mean it's right!

I spend a good 20/30 minutes familarising myself with the rental car when we pick up, adjusting mirrors/seats, finding the necessary light switches/windscreen wipers/indicators etc etc. Usually have a spin around the carpark too just to get the "feel" for the car.

(I probably should write "we" as these points apply to my hubbie too)

A certain amount of caution is required when driving in another country, however, a certain amount of confidence along with a certain amount of humility is required too. Just because it is different that what's at home, doesnt make it wrong - just different.

Be respectful to other drivers - probably local.

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about this, as living beside Newgrange, I come across drivers who quite frankly either shouldn't be given the keys or a car, or, are so arrogant/self centered/careless that they have no interest as to what's behind them when they break sharply to stop and check their maps or what ever makes a driver stop in the middle of the road without a care!

If there is a string of cars behind you, find a place to pull over safely and let the other vehicles pass. I certainly wouldnt recommend hogging the white/centre line as you may be obstructing the view of the vehicles behind and/or making it difficult for them to pass you.

I have experienced rental car drivers here in Ireland, who quite frankly shouldnt be let out on the roads and have mentioned it previously. Experienced one last weekend at Dublin airport who crossed two lanes of traffic and right in front of a Dublin Bus because of being in the "wrong lane" to get to the car drop off area. By the looks of things, he didnt even consider using his mirrors or else he would have seen the bus, using his indicators or a scrap of common sense. Only for the expertise of the busdriver who swerved, there may have been fatalities.

Bottom line is - whether driving in Ireland, Europe, US or wherever - be careful and only drive if confident enough to do so.

Driving in Ireland is not as bad as some posts make out. There are very few fatalities of tourists on our roads.

Here's a link to our Rules of the Road. I'd recommend that everyone reads them carefully, and if you don't feel comfortable in adhering to them, driving on the "wrong side" of the road, or on our roads, than frankly dont do it. Same applies if driving in Europe, The US, or elsewhere in the world.


oh, and if you want narrow roads - go to Cornwall!

Edited: 01 July 2012, 11:06
Waterford, Ireland
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10. Re: Driving in Ireland

I actually agree with a lot of what you say LP, but you have to look at this from another point of view too. Visitors writing on here (mostly US visitors) are not really interacting with the locals, they are interacting with each other, ie other visitors. So our view doesn't really matter.

From my limited experience I could make comments about driving (well being a passenger) on US roads, especially the dirt ones and the one somewhere in New England where a huge rock stuck halfway out across the (otherwise good, tarred) road on a bend. It wasn't clear how you were supposed to get round it, short of getting out and looking around it! The Ring of Kerry had nothing on it! But it was a tourist area, a busy one but still, not a road you were going to be travelling to work on or at night.

And all those identical square blocks in towns, how do you remember where you are? And the multi-lane, high speed freeways terrify me.

I'm joking really, different places have different experiences, that's why you go. I do think a few visitors can overdo the alarm and dismay bit, it has more to do with the fact that these roads are in fact the way to somewhere, rather than being able to opt for the 'straight there, no messing' highway. That's why so many posts say, slow down, there's no rush, take it easy, its not the 'getting there' that is important.

I really do get what you are saying, though tbh on most of the narrower roads around here I would hug the centre line so long as it was safe, because the edges of some roads are too rough to want to drive on them. Is that a puddle or a pothole? You really wouldn't want to do it on bends though, and if there is anything behind you then certainly move over and let them pass if that's what they want to do.

Just occasionally someone comes on and says the equivalent of 'Ireland is terrible, its different from where I live, I'll never go again'. Fair enough, there are those sorts in every society. The vast majority are people who come because it is different, they do not get alarmed by the difference, and enjoy the experience. Keep coming folks, we love to see you! (and I am quietly entertained by the driving threads :))