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Okie Dec 18th, 2014 07:47 PM

N Ireland / Ireland driving
What is driving in N Ireland and Ireland REALLY like for an American?? We have contemplated it for a family trip next summer, but wonder if it is really a good idea. We would have 8-9 people, so would probably have to have 2 vehicles.

bvlenci Dec 18th, 2014 08:37 PM

Apart from driving on the left, which keeps you on your toes, the roads are very narrow, and some people drive very fast on those narrow roads. Just drive at a speed that's safe, and keep your wits about you.

bilboburgler Dec 19th, 2014 02:06 AM

As bvlenci says but I would also add. When planning your drive add at least 30% to Google times as they tend to be wrong and add a bit extra as the while some locals may use the roads as a chance to prep of a race, others will just be poping to the shops, will not signal and will pull over to chat to friends, or the cow got out.

Road position takes a little time getting used to in a new car on the "wrong" side, so take damage insurance of some type and watch out for wing mirrors.

Get your best friend to remind you to drive on the left every time you get in. It helps

Tony2phones Dec 19th, 2014 02:26 AM

see If you are competent driving at home then driving in Ireland or anywhere else shouldn't be a problem.

bvlenci Dec 19th, 2014 02:59 AM

I would also suggest that your navigator remind you that you're driving on the left as you approach a roundabout or an intersection. We found that when driving on very narrow roads, you tend to forget you're driving on the left, as there is really no right or left. This never happened when we were driving on roads that had proper lanes.

nytraveler Dec 19th, 2014 04:22 AM

One major difference is the sheep.

Have never seen them on a road in the US - but often in Ireland - end even rural england. One of the things ou have to do is expect to run into them anyplace on except a town center on a local road (versus highways - of which they are few). And be aware that the sheep will move at their own pace and are not afraid of cars.

ESW Dec 19th, 2014 06:27 AM

"And be aware that the sheep will move at their own pace and are not afraid of cars."
In fact some of them take great fun in jumping out in front of you...

"some locals may use the roads as a chance to prep of a race, others will just be poping to the shops, will not signal and will pull over to chat to friends, or the cow got out."
We also found in country areas the little old ladies (that isn't a sexist or ageist remark) seemed to drive in the middle of the road. They freeze if they see a vehicle coming towards them and don't make any attempt to pull into the side. Pulling in yourself and waving them to come past you doesn't work either.

Driving is slow and country roads can be narrow and often with hedges or walls. Keep your wits about you and also a sense of humour. Remember in the countryside people have all the time in the world and don't hurry.

Ask for an automatic car so you don't have to contend with using a gear stick.

Driving on the left becomes second nature. Remind yourself each time you get in the car to keep to the left. AND keep to the left if trying to avoid oncoming traffic. The main problem is when turning right as you are crossing the line of oncoming traffic. Roundabouts can take a bit of getting used to if you are not familiar with them. Traffic from the right has priority.

NewbE Dec 19th, 2014 07:10 AM

All great advice. I would only add, as encouragement, that you are sitting on the right side of the car, so everything in the car reminds you that you are driving on the left. I agree that driving on the left becomes second nature; for me, it was actually confusing (only for a bit) to return to driving on the right!

I think bvlenci makes a good point about forgetting that you're driving on the left when you're on an essentially one lane road.

Lastly, resist the temptation to rent a large, American size vehicle. Those compound the narrow lanes and tight parking situations in small towns.

Songdoc Dec 19th, 2014 04:47 PM

Having a designated "navigator" really helps me. Things to remember:

-- The driver stays next to the "center" (dividing) line

-- Look to the right when entering a roundabout

For me, the only tough time is when I've just arrived and am navigating out of the airport area. After that I do fine.

You might want to check out my trip reports. I LOVE N. Ireland -- especially the Antrim Coast. Sooo beautiful: Ballintoy Harbour; the Giant's Causeway; Carrick-a-Rede, and the Glens of Antrim ...

azzure Dec 21st, 2014 02:02 PM

Absolutely agree that it's important to have a competent navigator. And get the Super CDW insurance; it really gives great peace of mind. And the tire and glass insurance as will likely hit a few curbs before you get used to it.

A GPS is nice to have but not strictly necessary; however it will likely decrease the number of arguments on board.

Hooameye Dec 21st, 2014 11:56 PM

There's a report that I saved that was posted on one of the travel forums that covers driving in the UK, Ireland will be similar:

The comments I would definitely disagree with are copied below, I think that he probably had a problem with "aggressive tailgaters" because he was driving too slow.

"Tailgating/Aggressive Driving. Listen, I’ve driven in and around cities all over the US—Boston; New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Dallas; San Francisco—and I thought I knew tailgating and aggressive driving. Nope. But here’s the weird thing: Every English person and Scot we had the opportunity to talk to—from London to Bath to Newcastle to Glasgow to Inverness—every single man and woman was friendly and welcoming to Alexas and me. However, put them in a car…and, well, something happens to them. Many of the English—and especially the Scots—are obnoxious tailgaters and aggressive drivers. I mean the worst. It’s so pervasive, it’s as though it’s the UK national pastime. Prepare yourself for it, because it’s going to happen, and you’ll be shocked every time it does. No matter what happens, drive at a speed you’re comfortable with, and if a long line of cars develops behind you, and there’s a “lay-by” or turn-out where you can safely pull over, do so and let the traffic pass. When you get fed-up and angry about how everyone in the UK drives this way (to varying degrees), stop and relax for a while. Have coffee or lunch, or just get out of the car and breathe."

Tony2phones Dec 22nd, 2014 01:21 AM

Sorry but it became apparent a couple of paragraphs into that blog we are reading the rantings of an insecure, almost paranoid driver. If he found driving in the sedate Cotswold's nerve racking then its little wonder the busier parts of the UK were near terrifying!! How this guy drives at home is beyond me?

Irish driving is a little like driving in the UK in that you drive on the Left, There are Roundabouts, if you drive 20 miles per hour under the speed limit then you might get tailgated but heck we are used to being stuck behind tractors and livestock (if you believe popular press)

I hate going back to the mainland UK from the driving perspective here in Ireland its like going back 30 years, roads are quieter drivers are more courteous its just a whole lot easier.

Bottom line if you are able and competent driving at home then Ireland is easy.

colduphere Dec 22nd, 2014 02:23 AM

One minor point. Many North Americans are used to driving on relatively flat straight highways. Depending on where you go you may be driving on twisty hilly roads with relatively short sight lines. Not a problem, in fact it is fun once you get used to it, but it is the kind of driving I would do it at home only a few times a year.

janisj Dec 22nd, 2014 07:26 AM

Re 'tailgaters'. They aren't (usually) being aggressive. UK/Irish drivers are competent and will overtake (pass) at the first opportunity. They will stick relatively close to your bumper so the first time there is an open/safe stretch of road they can scoot around you. They actually don't want you to speed up (unless you are diving REALLY slow). Drive your speed and they will get around you when they can . . . And just because a bit of road straightens out, don't immediately floor it -- let the poor guy overtake you first . . . .

Pegontheroad Dec 22nd, 2014 09:00 AM

We lost three of our four hubcaps while driving on narrow roads lined with shrubs. We went to a auto parts store and bought a new set, which was just fine with the rental company.

We did have to "field test" the hubcaps to make sure they fit. The first set we tried didn't fit.

I've found that though I drive the speed limit, I sometimes have several cars trailing behind me. I hate that, so I pull off to a wide spot and let them all pass.

jaja Dec 22nd, 2014 09:04 AM

Last trip I took a batch of oilfield ties with me to secure the hubcaps on the rental car and found that some other Fodorite had beat me to it!

NewbE Dec 22nd, 2014 10:30 AM

I think janisj is exactly right. Hoomaeye, the blog post you link to misinterprets the situation, probably out of insecurity, as Tony2phones says.

<Drive your speed and they will get around you when they can . . . And just because a bit of road straightens out, don't immediately floor it -- let the poor guy overtake you first . . . .>
Good advice!

Hooameye Dec 22nd, 2014 02:09 PM

" don't immediately floor it"

Which is (well the last time I looked at the Highway Code) illegal when you are being overtaken.

janisj Dec 22nd, 2014 09:43 PM

Hooameye : >>Which is illegal when you are being overtaken.<<

True -- but many folks who are nervous drivers don't even realize they are doing it. They crawl along because the road is narrow/curvy and when it opens out they get a kick of confidence and speed up . . . making it harder to overtake them.

There is the same phenomenon where I live. Lots of mountainous roads and there are signs like "Passing lane ahead". Well of course the passing lanes are where the terrain is just a bit gentler/open (thus making rooms for the extra lane). You can take it to the bank - it is guaranteed that the instant the roads widens for the passing lane the pokey driver who has been traveling a 35mph immediately hits 55 - which means you need to go 70+ to get around them in the short length of passing lane.

And if you don't get around the snail in the passing lane you'll be following at 35 mph again.

bigtyke Dec 23rd, 2014 05:17 AM

Have a navigator. He/she needs to remind at every intersection/roundabout which lane to be in. Navigator also has to be alert to the road signs which will be in two languages and hard to read on small country roads.

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