From breath-taking coastal routes to remote mountains passes and rural lanes, driving in Ireland is an unforgettable experience. Besides the awe-inspiring scenery, driving is also one of the best ways to visit the Emerald Isle’s ancient historic sites, thriving cities and charming country pubs.
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.
Roads in Ireland
Ireland’s roads have improved dramatically in the last few decades and most major thoroughfares are of a modern European standard. That said, in the countryside, many roads in Ireland are narrow, winding, single-lane routes.
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.
How to drive in Ireland
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.
Ireland driving rules
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.
What side of the road does Ireland drive on?
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.
Who has the right of way in Ireland?
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.
What is the speed limit in Ireland?
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.
- Towns and cities: 50km/h
- National roads: 100km/h
- Regional and local roads: 80 km/h
- Motorways: 120 km/h
Driving in adverse conditions in Ireland
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.
Driving hazards in Ireland
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:
- Sheep and cattle: these may wander into the road unexpectedly, so stay vigilant
- Sharp bends in the road: watch out for oncoming traffic and approach these corners with caution
- Roads repaired with tar and loose chippings: a common occurrence in summer, loose chippings can cause cracked headlamps and damage to your bodywork, so stick to temporary speed limits when driving on roads that are being repaired.
Ireland driving tips
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:
- Ireland’s toll roads accept cash (remember to get your Euros), credit or debit cards – most toll roads cost no more than €2 euros
- Ireland’s roads are busiest around Christmas, so if you want to avoid traffic jams on your holiday, you should avoid the festive period
- Many tourists avoid driving in Dublin. The city’s roads can be confusing, and parking expensive – it’s usually better to use the extensive public transport network instead.
More information about driving in Ireland
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 Europe Car Hire Excess Insurance before hiring a car.
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