Driving in Ireland

Nov 30th, 2005, 09:58 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2005
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Driving in Ireland

Can anyone give me info on driving in Ireland--types of roads, traffic, gas prices and availability, car rental (need for 4 people and luggage),driving on the right side, etc. Am a crazy Californian driver so figure I can handle this!!
bornintheusa is offline  
Nov 30th, 2005, 11:21 PM
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I can give you some very general impressions while we wait for some of the natives to weigh in:

Around Dublin, the roads look much like those around any middling-sized Eastern U.S. city (but are a far, far cry from LA-style freeways). You'll have the additional challenge of roundabouts, which aren't nearly as bad as their reputation.

In the countryside, the major highways look more like U.S. state highways than interstates.

In rural areas, especially in the north and west, you will commonly find very, very narrow roads bordered closely by stone walls - many of which are topped at intervals by side mirrors that have been found on the side of the road and, apparently, set on the walls to await their masters' return.

Plan for any trip to take much longer than you would estimate for a U.S. trip of similar mileage.

Driving on the "other" side of the road is a challenge my husband adapted to quickly, my father barely at all (after some initial hair-raising tries, we "volunteered" him as the navigator, not letting him drive again until we hit the wilds of Connemara), and I didn't even attempt it.

Traffic will depend entirely on your destinations and timing. Summer is much more crowded, popular destinations such as the Ring of Kerry and others are more likely to have traffic. But the trip to St. Johnstown, for instance, is the last thing from a traffic challenge.

Navigating in rural areas can be tough. Often roads are marked with signs that look like the one in M*A*S*H, some with directions to the same town pointing in opposite directions. Both are likely correct, and knowing which one is fastest or most scenic is a guessing game. Also, we found that our brand-new maps sometimes used different place names than the locals and their signs do. Call it an adventure - you'll eventually find your way.

We never had a problem finding gas. It's very expensive by U.S. standards.

Cars in general are smaller in Europe. Our "mid-size" rental was much like a "small" car here -- fine for three people, but four would have been a crunch for passengers and luggage. (For context, we are carry-on only travelers with no large luggage).

Yes, you can handle this. Have a good trip!
Worktowander is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 12:07 AM
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If nothing else get an automatic..It is horrible trying to shift left handed and the arm suffers. Try for a Ford Focus. We had a Ford Focus station wagon and that probably is the smallest that 4 can handle, even then it will be a squeeze. you will have no trouble with a larger car on the main roads but the lanes will be more than a challenge..... And carry ons only as the "boots" are pretty small. Gas is no problem but expensive. Stay out Dublin with a car..no city driving..The rest of the country is just fine. Roundabouts mean if you miss your turn, AND YOU WILL, you can go around again..Patience with a capital P is the key. You will love this gentle, green country.
amer_can is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 12:11 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Just came back in October from our first adventure driving in Ireland. Gas prices were about 1.17Euro per litre in the south and south-west and varied about .05Euro.

After much research here and Irelandexpert.com we decided on Dan Dooley and had no problems, liked them very much, great customer service and would definitely recommend them. DH did not have any issues driving on the left (he is a SoCal driver by trade). We found the city streets to be a little more confusing to navigate then the countryside. A really good navigator always on alert helps.

We also found that if we figured our distance by 30 miles per hour the time seemed to be on target. The confusion of roadsigns is true and sometimes the sign was too far back in the V of a cross road that we would go the wrong way, see it in passing and turn around.

Little towns will have signs posted and you know the route number you need and you see the sign but when you try to follow it a maze of little streets appear.

It was a tad frustrating to follow a curved road to the left around a bend (where the sign for what we needed was pointing) and as we came out of the curve see the road spout into 3 ways and not be able to find the sign until we passed it on the wrong one we were forced to chose. After the first 3 times we kind of treated it like a game and it actually got better.

Whichever car you choose, I would be very conservative on the number of people and luggage. If it says 4 ppl and 4 bags figure on 3 and 3 unless the bags are under 19" and the people are too! We were 2 people with a Nissan Micra and were suprised at the head and foot room BUT for sure the 4 door would have only fit a 3rd person and one bag each with a small carry-on.

Good Luck, we loved it!
12perfectdays is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 08:58 AM
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It's doable. Don't be put off by stories of hay-laden tractors hogging the road, etc. We only came up behind 2 tractors in 3 weeks and they both pulled over for us.
My recollection is that the roads were not as narrow as some in Cornwall and Scotland. However, our trip was in September after their summer of hoof and mouth so maybe not much traffic either. Anyway, going by car is absolutely the most beautiful way to explore. You may get lost some, but that is part of the adventure.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 10:36 AM
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The key differences are:

Driving on the wrong side of the road - not really an issue with an automatic (which you MUST reserve well in advance - since most cars are standard)

Very few highways of any type - and those only around dublin - the rest is all local roads - most only one lane in each direction if that

Much slower speeds - due to the roads being shared with cyclists, wandering sheep and almost anything else you can think of (30 miles an hour sounds about right as max travel speed)

Gas is $5-$6 per gallon

Do not get the tiniest car - you - and your luggage will never fit - we always get midsize (American midsize - not european) and have never had trouble hitting anything

Just recognize that you will need to drive through spaces very little bigger (a few inches) than the car (get used to folding your mirrors in) and parking in tiny spaces as well
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 10:36 AM
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When I was there last May, I believe gas (petrol) was about E1.00/litre. You'll need a pretty good size car for 4 people and luggage. The rental sites all show this. Popular choices for car rental include Dan Dooley (they've always been more expensive when I've checked them), Oscannlain travel (they use Hertz and offer a pretty big discout for pre pay), Auto Europe, and Irish Car Rentals which is a consolidator. The best deal depends on the car you are renting. It will take some work to figure out which is best.

Roads and signage: It's getting better and there are some bypasses around the larger towns especially north of Dublin. There are still lots of small roads and small towns to drive through and I still predict 35MPH as an average taking into account smaller roads, driving through towns, sheep and stopping and figuring out which way to go. If you use the 35MPH figure, you probably won't be late to anywhere you are headed. The signage is usually based a town along the road in question, not the road number, though it appears that this is slowly changing also.

Stick shift or no stick shift is a matter of personal preference. It doesn't really bother me and my brother-in-law and a friend of mine both did it on their first try. One thing the stick does is provide a constant reminder that your not in Kansas anymore Dorothy and you need to pay attention to what side of the road you are on. If you don't normally drive a stick, get ready to spend the big bucks on an automatic.

Hope this helps.

wojazz3 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 11:02 AM
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The maximum speed limit is 100 kph and the locals ignore it. It is reassuring that when you enter a different county there is a bill board giving the current body count.Try not to add to it as that may upset your vacation.
The sheep have the right of way and you don't.
When on a one laner the speed limit is reduced to 80 kph. This is also ignored by the locals.Keep an eye out for a "lay by "in case there is any on coming traffic.Ceding to the other car will prolong your health.
xxx30 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 02:17 PM
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We had four people in a Ford Focus sedan, and it was OK. We each carry a 22" rolling bag and a medium size backpack. We mailed purchases home whenever possible. Our two teenage daughters rode in the back. We rented through Dan Dooley, and got a good deal through Irelandexpert.com, as has been mentioned. I chose a stick, which we've done before, and got used to it pretty well, but I'm comfortable driving a stick shift here. The biggest thing is the narrowness of the rural roads, and the tendency to pull left, away from oncoming cars, which will make your front passenger crazy. The hedgerows and parked cars looked very close to my poor wife. Once I clipped mirrors with a parked car, resulting in a broken mirror for us. Many of the cars you rent will have broken or poorly repaired passenger-side mirrors, so look them over carefully.

All that said, we really enjoyed getting around the countryside in a car, and had the freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted. You get used to it after a while. I think we drove close to 1,500 miles last time, and it got easier as we went. We spent about $250-300 for gas for 3 weeks driving.
mexicobeachbum is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 02:52 PM
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There was a comment above about the death rates on Irish roads. This comment is wrong. Irelands death rate is well below the european average. Some countries that seem low have a strange way of calculating death - for example in Belgium, a death may not be counted as a road death if someone dies some days afterwards in a hospital. Ireland has about half the death rate per population of Belgium for example.
Dec 1st, 2005, 03:38 PM
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My wife, adult daughter, and I were in Ireland in May. We rented a Ford Focus hatchback. While the car would have held a fourth passenger comfortably, the boot area was just wide enough to hold our three carry-on-sized roller bags put in standing up and side by side. The area was not very deep so laying the bags down would not have worked.

For me, driving a stick shift was not a problem; but I've owned cars with standard transmissions most of my adult life.

Be sure you delegate someone to be the navigator and get detailed maps. We found the Michelin Ireland map to be detailed enough. The Ordnance Survey maps are published for smaller sections, but they're not that much more detailed than Michelin's map for the entire country. The map is available from amazon.com.

We booked through the consolidator Auto Europe and our car turned out to be provided by Budget. We got a great price and excellent service. We did our driving mostly in the southwest and found the drivers to be courteous and to obey the speed limit for the most part. It's the prudent thing to do on narrow two-lane roads with virtually no shoulders where meeting a lorry (truck) means hugging the side of the road and brushing the vegetation that grows right to the edge of the road.

As others have said, road sign often are too few and too late. However, that's what roundabouts are for!

We found driving to be the ideal way to see the marvelous Irish countryside and coastline. I truly enjoyed driving in Ireland. The only drawback was that I didn't get as good a look at all the beauty around me as my wife and daughter did.
TimS is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 03:49 PM
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I have a tip for hiring cars in Ireland. I always hire through Hertz when going to Ireland - but through the www.ryanair.com website link. I find that the prices there are on average 20% less than hiring through the normal Hertz portal.

Another quite good car hire company is http://www.argusrentals.com/. It's an Irish company, but I did not find them very good in Ireland! But I use them in other parts of Europe.
Dec 1st, 2005, 04:46 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,467
We have driven around Ireland 4 times so far. My husband is comfortable with a stick so that's what we usually get. We have rented from Budget, Hertz, and O'Scainnlan (Hertz) for a terrific pre-paid price, as Wojazz mentioned.

We have found great dual carriageways outside Dublin, Cork and Galway. We try not to drive in the cities because it is a major headache trying not to hit crowds of people in the crosswalks when you forget that you are in the wrong lane. (That was in Dublin!) In Galway we stay in Salthill and have no problem driving in, although it is an easy bus ride to the Spanish Arch area, and we can walk everywhere from there.

We have gone 'round the roundabouts many times, and have backtracked many times because the signs are not what or where we expected. I am the navigator and say many times "oops, we should have turned back there" or "omg, watch out for that bus" and other things that do not bear repeating.

On the way from Cork to Dublin you can be making excellent time and all of a sudden you are on a much more narrow roadway driving through the center of a town where the buildings border on a narrow sidewalk or the curb and you are instantly driving 15 mph (can't translate to kilometers, sorry)instead of zipping along.

We traveled across the middle of the country one July - Dublin to Galway - and followed a pig truck for miles and miles, so it does happen.

You need patience and a sense of humor and you will be fine.
allisonm is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 09:50 PM
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Thanks so much for all of your great advice on driving. I have been given the task of driving my 3 friends around Ireland and you have helped so much!!
bornintheusa is offline  
Dec 8th, 2005, 05:47 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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TimS gave you good advice about getting a decent map. You can also use this website for reliable directions and estimated driving times (I found the estimates to be very close to my actual times; some folks here would say to add a little more time in--perhaps an extra 10 minutes for each hour).

beach_dweller is offline  
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