Driving In Ireland

Posted by Neil Hand on the 19th of June 2014 at 12:42:00

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If you’re planning on taking one of our Self-Drive Tours of Ireland, this piece will provide you with handy tips and information on getting around by car. There is lots to see and do in Ireland, with stunning scenery, beautiful architecture and city-scapes, culture, tradition and heritage waiting for you around each bend. Self-Drive Tours allow you to take it all in at your own pace. Where to next? It’s in your hands.


Pick up your car

Welcome to Ireland! So you’ve finally arrived and picked up your bags at the Airport. No time to lose. Next on the agenda is to pick up your hire-car. You must be 21 years old to rent a car in Ireland, and have held a full driving license for 2 years. You must have your driving licence on you at all times, in addition to a number of other documents which your car-hire company will provide you with. Children must be secured in appropriate child-seats. Again, your car-hire company will help you with this.

Something you should have already considered at this point is the transmission of your vehicle. If you drive an automatic at home, make sure you specify that you require an automatic vehicle in Ireland. Our car rental firms will be happy to oblige you, whether you’re looking for an automatic or a manual (stick-shift).

Stay Left

If you are visiting us from a country that drives on the right-hand side of the road, please note that in Ireland (both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) we drive on the left-hand side. We are not trying to insult your intelligence by pointing this out. Driving is something that becomes second nature to us after a while, and you will be programmed to drive on the correct side of the road. Therefore, you will do so without thinking about it. So, some thought is required, particularly in the opening days of your trip to Ireland, to get your brain used to the idea of driving on the left-hand side. We would recommend spending 5 or 10 minutes doing a quick lap of the Airport to familiarize yourself with this.

Speed Limits

Speed limits are important in Ireland, and strongly enforced by our police forces (An Garda Siochana in Republic of Ireland & PSNI in Northern Ireland). This helps make Ireland one of the safest countries in the world to drive in. A massive point to note here is that in the Republic of Ireland, all speed limits are displayed in Kilometers Per Hour (KMPH), whilst in Northern Ireland, speed limits are displayed in Miles Per Hour (MPH). Depending on where you are visiting our beautiful country from, you will be extremely familiar with one or the other speed measurement units, and extremely unfamiliar with the other. Be safe on the road, know at all times whether you are in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, particularly when touring counties which touch the border of both states. Be sure to inform your car-hire company if you are planning on driving to Northern Ireland.


Certain roads in Ireland have tolls which need to be paid by law. All of these are within the Republic of Ireland. There are no toll roads in Northern Ireland. You can check with your car-rental firm for further information. Most toll-roads have toll-booths, which you may be familiar with. You can pay in cash (Euro) at most booths, but most are also either partly-automated electronic systems or fully-automated. Ask your car rental firm for further details if required.

Pedestrian Crossings

Pedestrian Crossings in Ireland may differ to systems in place where you’re from. The majority of traffic lights in Ireland will also have pedestrian lights. Green man means walk, an amber man means the light is about to turn so be extra-careful, and a red man means don’t walk. You may also encounter Pelican Crossings or Zebra Crossings. The general rule here is to slow to a stop on approaching these. Pedestrians have right-of-way to cross the road/street at a Pelican or Zebra Crossing, so be patient and allow them plenty of time to cross.


Cycling is extremely popular in Ireland, and with the general trend towards healthy living worldwide, is growing in popularity year on year. Extreme care needs to be taken when encountering cyclists on the road. It is recommended that you allow 1.5 metres (5 feet) space when overtaking. In Ireland, we have a philosophy of sharing the roads, which we hope to instil in all visitors to our shores.

Narrow Roads

Particularly in rural areas of Ireland, you will find yourself on roads that are perhaps much narrower than those you are used to. Roads are divided into three main categories in Ireland: Motorway (M50, for example), National Roads (N7, for example) Regional Roads (R677, for example) and Local Roads (L10212, for example). For the first few days, as you adjust to driving in Ireland, we would recommend you stick to the major roads (Motorways & Nationals). Certain Regional and Local Roads will not be wide enough for two cars to pass side-by-side, so you will need to cooperate with the other motorist(s) in order to pass. This often involves one car pulling-in off the road, or may involve one car needing to reverse back to a point on the road where there’s an opportunity to pull-in. As mentioned above, we share the roads in Ireland, so be safe and courteous when driving on narrow roads.


You might notice, when driving in Ireland, particularly in rural areas, that pedestrians and sometimes other motorists are waving at you. Do not be alarmed! There is most likely nothing wrong with your vehicle. They are just saying hello and displaying the kind of friendliness Ireland is known the world over for.


Ireland is a beautiful country. You probably know this much already if you are looking at driving tips for your vacation. One small tip would be to use your headlights at all times, even during the day. The weather can be quite dull at times in Ireland, so using your lights will make you more visible on the road and therefore safer.


We hope you will be using a lot of gas on your trip to Ireland, as you visit attractions and take in scenery the length and breadth of the country. Be careful that you use the right type of gas when you are filling up. In Ireland, it is generally referred to as Petrol or Diesel, depending on the fuel. Gas-Stations are known as Petrol-Stations or Garages. Check with your rental company before you leave their car-park which fuel you need for your vehicle.

Drive Safe

Most importantly, drive safe when in Ireland and at home. Enjoy the scenery you pass through, and all the stories you’ll become part of as you discover the beauty the country has to offer. But be careful not to let the scenery distract you. You will have plenty of opportunity when here to stop, breathe deep and drink in the splendour of the Emerald Isle.


Check out these Historic Sites of Ireland on your trip!

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