A tour by car is the best way to see Ireland and it is worth being aware that all Irish vehicles are right hand drive.
The quality of the national highway network has improved greatly in recent years but is still inferior to that of the US and many European countries. A major road building program is in progress which will link all major urban centres with high quality international standard highways.
Many secondary roads in Ireland tend to be narrow, bumpy and winding!! While the major highways are of a very high quality, the "real" Ireland is one of twisting country lanes. Driving on these lanes can be a pleasure with scenic treasures around every corner, but do not expect to get to your destination in record time!! You could very well find yourself stuck behind a herd of cows or sheep or a slow moving farm tractor, but your best option is to adopt the Irish "sure there's plenty of time" attitude.
In the last 3 years 500,000 new cars were purchased in the Republic of Ireland (population ~4 million) which has added to general traffic congestion and an increase in traffic accidents around the country, so drive carefully.
Traffic congestion is only a significant problem in Dublin.
In recent times there has been a concerted effort to control parking in the city. Vehicles which are illegally parked stand a good chance of being clamped or impounded so be careful where you decide to park your car. A single yellow line by the sidewalk signifies parking at certain times only. Nearby signs should inform you of the restrictions. A double yellow line by the sidewalk signifies no parking at any time.
- Seat Belts
The wearing of seat belts, both front and rear, is compulsory both in the Republic or Ireland and in Northern Ireland.
- Speed limits in Ireland
In the Republic, the standard speed limit is 100 km/hr (~62.5 miles/hr) on national roads (roads on the map with an "N" number and signs coloured green) and 120 km/hr on the motorways (roads which bear an "M" number and have signs coloured blue). The speed limit on regional roads is normally 80km/hr (~50 miles/hr)
The speed limit in built up areas both North and South is 50 km/hr (~30 miles/hr).
If you rent a car in the Republic of Ireland, the instruments will display your speed in km per hour.
In Northern Ireland speeds are still measured in miles per hour with the standard speed limit set at 60 miles/hr.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol is taken very seriously in Ireland and heavy penalties will be imposed on those found to be above the legal blood/alcohol limit. Random breath alcohol testing by the Gardai(Police) can take place at any time.
Roundabouts (rotaries) are very uncommon in the US but are a standard feature of Irish road networks. The rules for using roundabouts are simple:
Yield to all vehicles coming from your right and always turn left on entering the roundabout.
In the case of an accident you will need to call the police (in Ireland they are called Garda) and if anyone is injured an Ambulance, telephone number is 999 for both. If there is any damage to the car or injury to a passenger then calling the police is essential. You will need to take contact details of all witnesses to the accident. If you have a camera make sure you take photographs from all angles before any vehicle is moved. Always take the name and address or telephone number of any potential witnesses to the accident in case of disputes arising later. Never engage in an argument about the cause an accident. If you have hired a car you must contact your rental company immediately.
Driving styles and regulations differ in every country and Ireland is quite different to North America. It usually takes between a few hours and a day to get used to a new driving environment, particularly if you have not driven in the country before.
The following are some tips to help you adjust:
* If you normally drive an automatic, ensure that you specify automatic when making your reservation
* When you drive the car for the first time, drive around at the airport a few times to get familiar with the controls and driving on the left-hand side of the road
* Try to stay on M & N rated roads (avoiding R roads) for the first day or so until you are familiar with your car and the driving environment
* Ensure you have a good map or GPS and ideally have someone other than the driver to navigate
* Take your time - drive slowly at first until you gain confidence. Watch the signs carefully!
* If you cross the road to park or to visit a gas station, be sure to return to a driving position on the left-hand side when you return to road!