For British drivers, driving in Ireland feels similar yet different to driving at home. The Irish drive on the left and cars use manual transmission, yet the speed limit is in kilometres per hour and most signs are written in both English and Irish. Our guide to driving in Ireland will get you prepared for your trip.
Ireland’s roads have improved dramatically in the last few decades and most major thoroughfares are of a modern European standard. That said, once you get off the main roads and away from urban centres, many roads in Ireland are narrow, winding, single-lane routes, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck behind a tractor or held up by a herd of sheep.
As in the UK, Irish motorways are prefixed by the letter ‘M.’ These are multi-lane highways, which have the highest speed limits. Many motorways in Ireland are toll roads.
National Roads are the equivalent of the UK’s A roads and are normally of a good standard. They can be dual carriageways with a dividing strip or single carriageways.
Regional Roads are the equivalent of the UK’s B roads. They are usually single carriageways and can vary in quality and width.
Local Roads are split into three types: local primary, secondary and tertiary roads. They are normally smaller rural lanes with only a single lane for traffic in both directions.
For British drivers, the roads in the Republic of Ireland will feel much like home, from the familiar weather conditions to the distances between towns and cities.
Ireland is more rural than much of the UK, so if you’re not used to driving on narrow country lanes, it’s worth paying extra attention at sharp bends in the road, and looking out for livestock blocking your route. Otherwise, you will mainly need to take the same precautions you’d take when driving in the UK.
As noted above, driving in Ireland is much like driving in the UK. All the same, it’s sensible to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road.
The Irish drive on the left, just like in the UK. Any rental car will have a right-hand steering wheel. If you bring your own car over, it won’t feel any different.
When you’re approaching a junction that is not controlled by traffic lights or by a member of the Garda (Ireland’s police force), the vehicle approaching along the principal road has the right of way. When the two roads are of the same standard, drivers must give right of way to the vehicle approaching from the right.
The speed limit in the Republic of Ireland is measured in kilometres per hour. Look out for circular signs with a white background and a red border – the speed limit will be displayed in black numerals.
With similar weather conditions to the UK, driving in Ireland shouldn’t present too many surprises. The biggest risks will be driving in remote rural areas and mountain passes, especially during winter when snow and ice can make roads treacherous. Like in the UK, the winter sun is low, so it’s worth bringing a pair of sunglasses when travelling during the colder months.
Use common sense during adverse conditions – drive slower than the speed limits, tell people where you’re going, bring a map and a fully-charged mobile phone. If things go wrong, call your rental firm or dial 999 for more serious incidents.
Check weather forecasts before you drive, and if the outlook isn’t looking good, check the Garda’s website for local travel advice. You can also visit Ireland’s Road Safety Authority for more tips and advice.
Ireland’s cities and principal roads will be easy to navigate all year round. However, more rural roads and country lanes present several driving hazards to watch out for, including:
Whether you’re visiting Ireland on holiday, seeing family or are on business, the following driving tips will help ensure your trip to Ireland is safe and without incident:
For general tips and advice, visit the FCO’s Ireland travel safety page. As noted above, the RSA is Ireland’s body for road safety, and the Garda’s website can provide you with latest advice for Ireland’s regions.
If you’re hiring a car in Ireland, it’s also recommended that you take out car hire excess insurance for peace of mind, especially if you plan to drive on Ireland’s more remote rural routes. Learn more about UK & Europe Car Hire Excess Insurance before hiring a car.