Taking a road trip in Ireland is pretty straight forward, but there are some things you should keep in mind if you want to make your trip easier.
Car Rental / Hire
Beware of the Cost
When I looked into booking a car in February, the costs were reasonable and I saw no red flags so I booked with Europcar. No car rental site in Ireland will tell you this (we checked), but Ireland, Jamaica, and Israel are NOT COVERED by Visa credit cards. Mastercard and AmEx have an even longer list of excluded countries. In Ireland, without a written letter from your credit card company stating you will be insured, you’ll have to pay for the rental company’s insurance. Why? No idea. Ireland is safe with decent roads. Our total cost nearly doubled to over $700 and we had no choice but to pay.
No, we don’t regret paying the inflated cost and taking the road trip, but we split the cost among 4 people so it was much easier to digest.
Go For a Diesel
At the time of writing this, diesel is cheaper than petrol in Ireland and you get better mileage.
Driving in Ireland is simple. Drive on the left, obey traffic laws, and you should have no problems. For more information on the rules of road go here.
Signage is straightforward and clear. If you are tech-averse, navigation with a paper map is easy too.
Prior to our trip we were led to believe that the roads of Ireland were terrible, pot hole ridden death traps, like this one. This is not the case. Major motorways and rural single-track roads, at least those we were on, were in decent condition and posed no problems.
While the roads are safe and well maintained for the most part, there’s really no shoulder or pullouts unless you are driving along a scenic coastal route. This was frustrating when we wanted to stop and take a second look at something or take pictures of the landscape. Basically one of us would keep an eye out for traffic while the other snapped a few shots.
There are few toll roads in Ireland (mostly on the main motorways). Tolls can be paid in cash (usually 1.90 Euros, but read the signs). If you have exact change you can throw it into the basket and be on your way. If you need change, you can pay a toll taker and get a receipt.
The only exception to paying cash for tolls is the section of the M50 that connects Dublin to the airport which is inconvenient, but avoidable. When going through the barrier-free toll plaza, your vehicle is recorded. You have 24 hours to pay the toll with most gas stations and grocery stores accepting payment (no idea how to find out where). Simply reference your vehicles registration number and pay the amount.
Itineraries & Accommodations
It isn’t necessary to book accommodations and activities in advance. It wasn’t quite the high season when we were there, but we had no problems booking at the last minute. Mostly we booked accommodations a couple of hours in advance via Booking.com or Hotels.com.
Mo Countries Mo Problems
If you go to Northern Ireland there are some additional things to be aware of…
No Border Control (not a problem)
It was nice to not have to deal with any border control when crossing in and out of Northern Ireland.
Most rental car companies will charge a fee of around 40 Euro to drive their car into Northern Ireland. Not sure why, but this is a common requirement.
Different Speed Measurements
In Ireland speed is measured in kilometers per hour, while in Northern Ireland (part of the UK) speeds are posted in miles per hour. Not all cars display both miles and kilometers (ours didn’t).
Different Cellular Networks
If you are SIM swapping as you travel, you will need 2 SIMs; one for Ireland and one for Northern Ireland (UK). When I purchased my SIM in Dublin from Three, I was told it would work in Northern Ireland. NOT TRUE. Once we entered Northern Ireland, it stopped working. Thankfully, we still had a UK SIM that we were able to use.
You will need British Pounds for Northern Ireland and Euros in Ireland. Many places will accept credit cards, but having some cash is wise, especially if you don’t have a chip & PIN credit card.
Although these issues can seem to over complicate things, a road trip through Ireland is easy and a great way to spend your holiday. Check out our posts on our trip for ideas on how to spend your Ireland vacation.