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Ireland: Terrified of Driving: Suggestions?

Ireland: Terrified of Driving: Suggestions?

May 22nd, 2007, 01:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
In tourist areas, there are many firms offering tours in buses or minibuses. When I visited Dingle, I did a minibus tour in the morning, then a boat trip to see the dolphin, then a trip on the local Bus Eireann service - this was an interesting experience as the other passengers were mostly shoppers who knew one another and the bus driver, and treated the trip as a social event. Local buses give a chance to talk to local people whilst you travel around, so you will learn more about the country than a car driver.
Dingle, incidentally, is reached by bus from Tralee. You can get to Tralee by train via Killarney, or by bus from Limerick and other places.
GeoffHamer is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 04:38 AM
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Could I ask what was so difficult and frightening about driving in Ireland? Was it the other drivers? The single-track roads? Driving on the left? Shifting with your left hand? Have you driven in England or Scotland and did you find that equally difficult?

Planning a trip to Ireland myself and you've got me wondering.
May 22nd, 2007, 06:09 AM
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Again, thank you to nbujic and GeoffHamer for your encouragement. May I ask, did you plan your trip by starting first with "where" you wanted to visit and then figured out the way to get there? Or, did you begin by having the maps/routes schedules/availablility in front of you and decide accordingly?

GeoffHamer, have you posted a trip report on Fodors? I'd be very interested in reading it and learning just how you pieced your trip together.

Any help you're willing to give would be greatly appreciated.
mkdiebold is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 06:16 AM
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Well I'll ask again:

Could I ask what was so difficult and frightening about driving in Ireland? Was it the other drivers? The single-track roads? Driving on the left? Shifting with your left hand? Have you driven in England or Scotland and did you find that equally difficult?

Planning a trip to Ireland myself and you've got me wondering.

May 22nd, 2007, 06:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
I've been to Ireland several times over the last thirty years, but it's easy for me because I live in London. Each time, I have specific places I want to visit, then work out how to get there. The places I have visited most often are Galway and the Aran Islands.
You have to bear in mind that travel around Ireland is slow, and that is part of the pleasure, but you should not try to see too many places: don't plan to see Dublin on the first day, Galway and Aran the next, killarney the day after, etc.
GeoffHamer is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Pausanias, to answer your question: We flew into Dublin, rented a car and began the "adventure of a lifetime." All of the concerns you named were indeed, our concerns! Maybe we're really unusual, but we found the whole driving experience terrorifying! The "motorways" as I believe they call them are not too bad. They are what we would here in the States call a typical 4-lane highway, 2 going each direction. These type roads lead out of each airport and in and out of each major city.

The real fun begins as you enter a city. Traffic increases; streets narrow; round-abouts or circles are common place; street signs in Gaelic; etc. Looking back on our experience, I wish we had leased an automatic transmission, although both my husband and I are very experienced drivers of stick shift cars. I'm sure the automatic would have reduced the stress, perhaps terrifically. I don't really know and I'm not interested at this point in finding out. However, if you decide to drive, IMO you should get the smallest, automatic that will meet your passenger and luggage needs.

The roads are EXTREMELY narrow, both in the cities/towns AND in the countryside. Many rural roads are what we might describe as "farm roads" or gravel driveways. It's not at all unusual to encounter a HUGE tractor or tour bus coming straight at you and there being a stone wall covered in vines on the other side. Any number of times we experienced the passenger side mirror being flapped in towards the car because of folliage.

The city roads can be extremely tight. Large tour buses crowd the streets; cars park along retail areas; tight turns and curbs can and will take your hubcaps! Again, the automatic transmission would have made these driving demands easier but IMO not alleviated.

Much of the western coast of Ireland is absolutely gorgeous! However, much of it feels inaccessable. Of course, it isn't inaccessable...just feels that way when you find yourself driving along a very narrow, one-lane dirt road, climbing a cliff in the rain in a line of traffic AND you encounter a tour bus coming the other way and you are forced to back down the hill, perhaps into a driveway which goes uphill, while you wait for everyone else to find an escape route so the bus can pass. This maneuvering will repeat itself numerous times during your attempt to enjoy some of the most beautiful views in the world.

So, we won't be driving again. It just isn't worth the stress.

Also, another mistake we made in Ireland was to stay in B$B's too far away from the heart of the city or town. B&B's dot the countryside like dandolines in a summer lawn. They are everwhere! The problem is that they are not within walking distance to the nearest city or town. Looking for a specific one, the one you've reserved for the night, can be a real challenge. Picture traveling here in the states on a country road looking for a specific farmhouse that sits back a quarter mile from the road; no road signs, etc. Now, try finding that same place after you've gone to town for dinner, stayed and listened to some wonderful traditional Irish music, and had a couple of Guinness. I remember one night we passed up our B&B three times before we recognized it...and my husband, the driver hadn't even had a beer! So, the next time we go to Ireland, we'll stay in a hotel in the city we want to visit. I'll do a lot of research before making reservations, but one thing is for sure, we won't be frantically looking for a farmhouse in the middle of the night ever again.

As you read the numerous posts here and on other travel sites, you'll get a variety of opinions about driving in Ireland. Only you know your situation and your comfort level. My husband ended up doing most of the driving, because we figured that he'd get better with each try...and, I guess he did, but you know I really felt sorry for him. He ended up a nervous wreck. It just wasn't an ideal situation at all. Granted, we aren't young anymore. He was 63 at the time; I was 56. But even our 26 year old son, who had been living in Germany for 3 years and was filled with that "fearlessness" of youth was really uncomfortable behind the wheel. Now, that speaks clearly of the level of difficulty.

As some of the citizens of Ireland have commented on this particular post and on other Fodor's posts, they would rather we "foreigners" not drive if we're really not experienced or comfortable doing so. They don't want us having wrecks and causing more traffic jams than their own people do. Ask yourself just why it is that auto insurance is so high there? When you're there, look around at all the cars. Everyone of them is damaged in some minor way. If it concerns you that you'll return the car with scratches, possible dents, and missing body parts, then don't drive!

Of course, this is my personal opinion and I'm liable to hear all kinds of grief for sharing it with you. As the saying goes, "Take what you like and leave the rest."

mkdiebold is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 07:35 AM
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HI mkdiebold,

In 2005 I and a friend toured Ireland on public transportation--trains and buses, becuase neither of us wanted to attempt to drive there. We chose our itinerary based on where we could get to easily, which maybe isn't the way to decide on a place, but I feel like we got a good introductory sense of the country. Here's an abbreviated version of where we went:

--Flew into Shannon, took the train to Dublin. Took several day tours from here (Newgrange, Glendalough, Wicklow mountains)
--Took the bus from Dublin to Cahir--visited Cahir Castle, Swiss Cottage; took the local bus to the Rock of Cashel
--Took the bus to Galway; day tours to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher, the Connemara; bus transport to ferry terminal for day trip to the Aran Islands
--Bus to Ennis for overnight, flew out of Shannon

Yes, we spent a lot of time on buses. It was probably more expensive than renting a car and the planning did require careful study of the bus and train schedules. And there were places I would have liked to visit longer, but all and all I was satisfied with my trip.

You should do what YOU feel comfortable doing!

Patti is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 07:59 AM
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Patti: Thanks so much for your encouraging words and for your itinerary. I've copied it off into a notebook started for the purpose of planning. I'm also going to check the local bookstores and maybe online to see if there are any books out there that offer the "How To's" of Ireland via Public Transportation.

I'll check too, the Ireland With Pat Preston website. If anyone would know about printed material available, I think she would.

Thanks again!
mkdiebold is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:00 AM
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<<It's not at all unusual to encounter a HUGE tractor or tour bus coming straight at you and there being a stone wall covered in vines on the other side. Any number of times we experienced the passenger side mirror being flapped in towards the car because of folliage."

I rented an automatic and the first time I stopped I drove right over the curb onto the sidewalk and missed a tree by inches. Fortunately, there were no pedestrians. I was in the Southwest had the same experience of backing down hills or finding a spot to pull over on one lane roads. Just when I'd get comfortable driving through a narrow city street I'd see a huge bus or truck coming at me. I pulled over one time to let a truck pass and bumped a car. I got out to check it but there were so many dents in it I couldn't tell if I'd added any damage.

I don't remember the side view mirror flipping, but I had vines and mud splattered all over the side of the car and swear I bumped one of those walls.

I was greatly relieved to return the car without damage and to escape without personal injury, and more importantly, not injuring someone else.

I have many years of driving experience with one minor accident because of a skid on an icy road, so I'm not a nervous or novice driver but I do not want to drive in Ireland again. I'll return, but either do what you're planning or have a competent, fearless driver with me.

Good luck with your plans. Hope you have a wonderful, and safe trip.
Luisah is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:03 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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We have plenty of bad drivers here but at least everyone learns to drive on a stick, and is used to the roads, weather conditions, roundabouts, driving on the left side of the road etc. When you consider an American tourist who may be used to automatics, big wide roads, combined with possibly being tired and jetlagged, and looking for signs to B&Bs and turn offs and being otherwise distracted, driving doesn't seem a good idea to me, especially if the driver isn't confident to start with. The Matthew Broderick incident happened near where I'm from and there was bad feeling about it for quite a while. Ireland isn't the easiest place to visit without a car but we are very grateful for one less possible danger on the road and also worrying about driving would ruin the trip for you anyway. Take the trains and relax and look out of the window and you'll enjoy it much more IMO. I prefer public transport and I'm from here!
IrishGrl is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:05 AM
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HI Kathy,

You're welcome. Please let me know if you want any details--the Newgrange tour in particular was the best day tour I've ever taken!

Patti is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:18 AM
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Another place you might seek itinerary tips is the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum. LP skews toward younger, backpacker types (this is a broad generalization) who often rely on public transportation but who are just as eager to have amazing experiences. Place a post there that shows you are well-informed and you are likely to get really helpful replies.
yorkshire is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:47 AM
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Hi, mkdiebold,
We're planning a trip to Ireland, and even though it might be easier with a car, we're not planning to drive. My husband does the driving -- I have lens damage due to diabetes -- and has no wish to drive in Ireland. We are, as someone suggested, staying in the cities and will take tours from there. We'll stay 2 days in Dublin, taking a hop on/hop off tour, and using Dublin Pass. We'll then take the train to Cork, and from there we're undecided as to whether we'll take the train to Killarney or the bus. A friend from Cork has suggested the bus, as the views are beautiful. In Killarney, we'll use Duro Tours for the Ring of Kerry, and take taxis and walk for the rest. We plan to spend at least one morning in Kenmare, and we'll take the bus there from Killarney. We're looking forward to the adventure

sandypaws3 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Kathy --

Thanks for that detailed and colorful report. I think I'll still give it a shot, but I completely understand your concerns now. Hope you enjoy your visit.

May 23rd, 2007, 04:49 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11

All that aside, when I lived in Venice, Italy, I was alone, and I took trains and buses everywhere, and saw everything, with no problem. You could do that.

Or, as someone else here suggested, you could plan to hire a driver, ONE WHO IS INSURED PROPERLY TO CARRY PASSENGERS. You could contact your hotel ahead of time and aske if they know anyone they would recommend.

OR, there are tour companies that will provide a group of 4 people with a driver who is a guide, and you can have your own private tour, wherever you want to go. As the other person here said, it isn't expensive if you are splitting it four ways.
rooster123 is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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Hi mkdiebold,
There are many Tour Companies that cater to very active travelers. I also thought an organized tour was AWFUL, until I traveled with tour companies that specialized in small active groups. The tours that have small groups, travel and visit places that large tours are unable to navigate---and everything is taken care of--DRIVING, hotels, food etc. They also offer a lot of free time to explore on your own if you wish. The peace of mind is GREAT. I found my tour companies at the Tour-Talk.com Tour Directory. Check out this website. One of the small group tours I recommend is Overseas Adventure Travel--they are top notch at small group travel. You can find them on the Tour-Talk Directory.
TourTalk is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:24 AM
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"don't plan to see Dublin on the first day, Galway and Aran the next, killarney the day after, etc.:
I agree. We went to Dublin and planned trips from there once we had checked the schedules . If we had to stay 1-2 nights ( Galway) some places, we did .
One needs a break from being on the bus for a few hours.
May 30th, 2007, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 111
Hi, Two summers ago a friend and I took a 10 day trip to Ireland, took buses and day trips and did just fine. By choice, we picked Galway over the Ring of Kerry as we only had 10 days. I suppose we didn't have the flexibility of the car, but on the other hand, it could be very relaxing at the end of a long day of sightseeing to just climb back on the bus rather than drive thru strange streets etc.

Here is our rough itinerary:
Day #1:
Fly into Shannon, take a cab to the train station and train to Dublin. We stayed in Dun Laoghaire, just outside of Dublin, and easily accessible by train. Cheaper, quieter and on the water. Had dinner in another small town nearby-Dalkey-very cute
Day #2: toured Dublin on our own; be sure to see the Book of Kells
Day#3: Day trip to Glendalough via Wild Wicklow tours: Small van, beautiful scenery.
Day #4: Bus to Cahir . Toured the town and saw the "castle"--small but pretty
Day #5: Local bus to see Rock of Cashel--really raining today; so did some afternoon shopping
Day #6: Bus to Glasgow; actually staying in Salthill--a seaside suburb of Glasgow--as you can see we like the seaside. Walked along beachfront, saw local traditional Irish music show that night
Day #7: Local day tour to Burren and Cliffs of Moher (sorry, not sure of the name; perhaps 0'Neachain....)
Day #8: Same company--day tour to Kylemore Abbey
Day #9: Local bus to ferry to Aran Island- a wild ride!! But, my favorite day.
Day #10: Toured Galway; took local bus to Ennis--pretty little town with abbey ruins
Day #11: Cab to Shannon, flight home

Hope this helps
Libby123 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I am very interested in this thread as I would like to go with my daughter and, after watching my husband about 1/2 hr on the road in Ireland, I knew I would never touch the steering wheel.
My hope is that someone will answer who has had first-hand experience hiring a driver. I would love some info on a reputable company or driver.
wondering is offline  

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