First time visitors sometimes underestimate the time it takes to travel between two points. Distance is not the only issue when it comes to driving in unknown territory. Driving on motorways and dualled roads aside, prudent route planners reckon to cover an average 30 miles / 50 kilometers in an hour.
In the Republic of Ireland, signposts and place-names are displayed in both Irish (Gaelic) and English. Distances and speed limits are posted in kilometers. If you are travelling through the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking areas,) many signs are in Irish only...as it is their first language. Most of these areas are found on the west coast in areas like Connemara.
Drive On The Left!
Always drive on the left and steer to the center line. It is difficult to judge your distance from the left-hand side. At roundabouts, go clockwise and give way to traffic on the roundabout (coming from the right.) Stay in the right-hand lane until turning off.
Things to Remember:
- It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving.
- It recently became illegal to smoke with children in the car.
- There are very strict laws on drinking and driving and the best advice is simply; Don't Drink and Drive.
- In both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the speed limit is 30mph/50kph in built-up areas, 60mph/100kph on the open road and 75mph/120kph on motorways unless shown otherwise.
Advice for those unfamiliar with Irish roads:
- When you drive the car for the first time, take it around the block at the airport a few times to get used to the controls and driving on the left-hand side of the road.
- Irish drivers can be prone to driving fast; it doesn't mean you have to keep up with them.
- Try to avoid the narrower roads for the first day until you are familiar with your car and the environment.
- Get a good map, and 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 after you exit the space.
- Remember you are driving with everything reversed but the driver is still by the centre line and the passenger by the roadside/footpath.
- In some areas, gas stations are infrequent. When you are about half full, always re-fill to be on the safe side.
- Don't be afraid to stop and ask for directions from the locals. This is a good way to meet and interact with people.
When you leave the airport, some sections of the M-50 ring road charge a toll. For unregistered customers, your vehicle number plate is recorded each time you pass the toll point. YOU MUST PAY FOR THE JOURNEY BEFORE 8PM THE FOLLOWING DAY. You can pay online at www.eflow.ie or use the call centre (LoCall 1890 50 10 50) or through Payzone branded outlets nationwide (pink payment machines at the counter in the likes of Centra or Spar shops.)
Road surveillance cameras strictly enforce speed limits. Any driver (including foreigners renting cars) photographed speeding will receive a bill in the mail. (Cameras flash on your rear license plate.)
- Parking can be confusing. Always check the signs and don't be afraid to ask a passerby.
- Double yellow lines mean no parking at any time.
- You will often see pay & display car parks, or disk parking. Disks can be purchased at nearby shops.
- It's a good idea to keep some coins in the ashtray for metered machines as many are no change given. These machines are placed regularly along the street (look for blue circles with the white letter P.)
One final note:
Road numbers can be inconsistent and roads are always being upgraded and bypasses to small towns becoming more frequent. A good option is the Complete Road Atlas of Ireland by Ordnance Survey in a handy ring binder. It’s one of the best Irish road maps. It also prevents wrestling with the larger map which can tear easily after so many different folds. You can purchase it in the airport Tourist Office on arrival, or in a gas station or book store.