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12 Things To Know When Renting a Car in Ireland

The best way to experience Ireland is by renting a car. There are several things you should know before renting a car in Ireland. I know first hand, because I rented a car for my trip to Ireland and I have 12 tips to make your rental car experience in Ireland perfect! 

While a good percentage of Europe is easy to explore by train, Ireland is a country that begs for a road trip. Ireland lacks an extensive rail network, so your choices are to travel by bus, on an organized tour or by rental car.

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Irish Car rentals

If you want to truly experience Ireland you must visit a variety of towns, cities, the countryside, and the coastline. There are so many gorgeous castles, stone circles, megaliths, gardens, coastline, and ruins and there is no way you’d make it easy to most of them without a rental car.

Many people who visit Europe and do a multi-city trip only see the major cities. Many people travel to Ireland and only see Dublin. As I mentioned above, when planning a trip, make it a road trip through many towns in the country. Ireland is a beautiful country, the people are extremely kind and friendly and you’d be cheating yourself out of the experience to get to know this wonderful country.

Choosing to travel by rental car in Ireland allows you to take unexpected detours and side trips on your own schedule. If you are looking for the best rental car experience for your Ireland vacation keep reading for my favorite tips. 

Ireland Rental Car Tips & How to Rent a Car in Ireland

car with wheel on right side

When renting a car there are a few things you should know in advance.

1. You’ll Be Driving On The Left in Ireland

In Ireland, the driver’s seat is on the right-hand side of the car and you’ll be driving on the left side of the road. If you get a manual (stick shift) you’ll be changing gears with your left hand. If you’re coming from the USA or any other country that doesn’t drive on the left side of the road, this sounds much worse than it is.

After a day it will feel totally normal. The trickiest thing about driving on “the other side of the road” are right-hand turns and roundabouts. A general rule of thumb is to always look both ways before turning onto a road.

Why do they drive on the left? In the past, almost everybody traveled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent.

2. Where To Rent Your Car In Ireland

Some common car rental companies in Ireland include Europecar, Irish Rental Cars, Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz and many more.

But the best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Ireland.

DiscoverCars.com is a World Travel Awards, Financial Times 1000, and Inc. 5000 award-winning car rental comparison website.  You can easily find, compare, and book a car in Ireland as well as locations across the world. I also like that they have a very high customer rating on TrustPilot. They are the best site I have found to find cheap car rental options in Ireland. 

We rented our car in Dublin from a car rental place after spending a few days in the city. I found this much easier than heading back to the airport for the rental. This way I didn’t have to pay for parking or the car rental during our time in Dublin. We were able to return the car to the Dublin airport at the end of the trip. 

Car Rental Dublin: Plan to pick up your car about 60 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 3 1/2 hours before your flight leaves. Returning your rental car and catching a shuttle to the airport terminal can take up to 30 minutes.

Shannon Airport Car Rental: Plan to pick up your car about 30 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 3 hours before your flight leaves. Again, because of the shuttle.

Car Rental Galway: There are a lot of searches for car rental in Galway. The closest airports to Galway is Shannon Airport. It’s a 1 hour drive to Galway. If for some reason you want to start your driving adventure in Galway, there several to choose from including;Budget Car Rental Galway, Europcar Galway City and Enterprise Car Hire Galway.

3. Ask for a car with GPS

This was extremely helpful. Our car came with a built in GPS and it made life so much easier! We could pre-program locations for the day and then simply go to the history and set the driving directions. Check to see if your car comes with a GPS and if not, bring yours from home. Don’t count on using your SmartPhone, as you may not have coverage and you’d be roaming unless you change your plan in advance.

4. Automatic or Manual?

Keep this in mind, when doing your research, rental prices for a stick (manual transmission) is quite a bit cheaper. If you prefer an automatic transmission, make sure to reserve this in advance. 

5. Put your co-pilot to work

One of the most helpful things while driving in Ireland was my co-pilot. I visited Ireland with my son and it was his job to tell me how close I was to the left side of the road. It takes some time behind the wheel to know where you are in the lane and especially how close you are to the left side. It is deceiving at first. Per my co-pilot, I was always closer to the left side of the road than I thought. He was also responsible for programming the GPS and helping to look for signs and directions.

6. Don’t Drive in Dublin

Whenever possible, avoid driving in cities until you have some behind-the-wheel practice. Cities such as Dublin are very easy to navigate on foot, by bus or by taxi. I suggest you rent a car at the end of your stay in Dublin. That is exactly what I did. I picked up our rental car on our last day in Dublin and headed straight out of town and to the motorway. The few minutes I drove in Dublin were stressful and it was so great to get on the M4 motorway.

7. Plan a Route in Advance

As I mentioned, Ireland is fairly small. You can get to almost anywhere in Ireland within 3-4 hours. Day one of our Ireland road trip, we drove from Dubin to the West Coast of Ireland and the town of Westport. This was only a 3-hour drive. It was also great practice to drive on the main highway for a few hours and get used to driving on the ‘other side’ of the car and road.

Do some research in advance and plan a route. The hardest thing about a trip to Ireland is choosing where to go. I had to narrow down my list of the many places to I wanted to visit by about half. I spent almost two weeks in Ireland and it wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to go back and see more. Above is the route we took on our trip.

Note: We started and ended our trip in Dublin.

A lot of people wonder if you can take a rental car from Ireland to Northern Ireland. There is no problem to drive a rental car to Northern Ireland. There are no borders between the two countries.

8. Ireland is Easy to Navigate

The roads in Ireland are really well marked. We got turned around only once and that was because of road work being done in a city and we had to take a detour and our GPS kept taking us back into the city. This was the one and only time we used our IPhone to jump on Google directions.

The other thing about navigating Ireland is you will most likely end up on a variety of roads; major highways, narrow roads through smaller towns and even narrower country roads.

driving in ireland

The roads, especially in the country and small towns can be extremely narrow. This is a great time to put your co-pilot to work again. Knowing how close you are to the left side of the narrow roads is a great help in staying centered in your left side lane. Above is an example of a two-lane country road. As you can see, some roads don’t have a centerline.

9. Plan Time for Unexpected Stops

As you head from one location to another, you will come across lot’s of signs for castles, viewpoints, and landmarks. Plan extra time to take a few unplanned stops to discover some hidden treasures.

10. Watch Out for Roundabouts 

There are way more roundabouts than I’d like. Roundabouts will have several exits. Listen to the GPS or keep your eyes open for signs to know which exit you need to take in a traffic circle. The circles are really well marked, and if you miss your exit you can do an extra loop around the circle. Once you get comfortable with the circles, they are a lot of fun.

11. Watch Out For Sheep

sheep crossing road in Ireland

The only traffic jam on the island will be caused by sheep.  Not joking! Just stop and let these little guys cross the road safely. You might even have time to snap a few pictures of them as they make their way off the road.

12. Car Rental Insurance in Ireland

After I rented my car for Ireland, I called my insurance company. I thought that I was going to be covered by my car insurance plan (which is the case in a lot of other countries). Turns out, my insurance company didn’t cover me in Ireland because of the “driving on the other side of the road” thing.

There are many insurance options in Ireland, and many of them are mandatory such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Many savvy travelers simply waive the CDW coverage from the rental agency because they can often use their credit card. Unfortunately, Ireland is one of the few places where most credit cards exclude CDW rental car insurance coverage. So, make sure to read the fine print, because many people wrongly assume their card covers them in Ireland.

With many car rental companies in Ireland, they charge a pretty hefty deposit (a hold on your card of a set sum) at the time you pick up your car. Make sure to check in advance so you have the money available on your credit card. Overall, this is the only downside I found to renting a car in Ireland. But, I’ll tell you that it sure made me extra careful about driving.

Travel Insurance

If you purchase travel insurance it may include rental car coverage. We use World Nomads travel insurance which provides us with car rental coverage as well as tons of other coverage medical, theft, delayed baggage, etc. World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover trip essentials and is very reasonable.

In today’s today’s world, travel insurance is my top suggestion to everyone currently traveling.

It’s never fun to think about what could go wrong on a trip. A good plan can ensure that emergencies that may come up – medical trouble, stolen items, damage to your belongings, etc. – are easier to handle, and at little to no extra expense to you.

I recommend Travelex for family travel insurance. Not only does this company offer ‘cancel for any reason’ policies as well as very clear COVID-19 coverage, Travelex also includes coverage for children under 17 when traveling with an adult at no additional cost. (Be sure to read all terms and conditions.)

Squaremouth is a 3rd travel insurance I highly recommend. It allows travelers to quickly get a quote, compare, and buy travel insurance. Squaremouth will find the best policy for your trip for the lowest possible price. Be sure to look for ‘cancel for any reason coverage‘.

I can’t imagine traveling in Ireland without renting a car. Without question, it’s the best way to explore this beautiful country. But, do yourself a favor and pre-book full coverage online. It’s cheaper than at the counter — and then you won’t have to worry about accidents or insurance at all!

So what are you waiting for? Check out Discover Car Rentals and plan your trip to Ireland.

A Bit About Ireland

The island of Ireland is located in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George’s Channel. It’s about the size of the U.S. state of Indiana. Like many European countries, Ireland is small; 84,421 square km or 52,456 square miles. There are currently 48 countries in Europe and Wikipedia lists Ireland as the 23rd largest. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Traveling To Ireland Soon?


5 Indispensable Items to Pack for Ireland

  1. Get the Lonely Planet guide to Ireland.
  2. Get a good-quality mirrorless camera for capturing your trip. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
  3. Weather is unpredictable, so bring a lightweight travel umbrella and rain jacket (even in summer you may find areas chilly and rainy)
  4. Waterproof hiking boots. I love Keen because they are lightweight and super comfortable.
  5. A great cross-body travel bag. Crossbody bags prevent theft.

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Tips for driving in Ireland. I wanted to share what I learned about renting a car in Ireland and what it's like to drive in Ireland. Ireland is a country that is perfect for a road trip. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, this information is for you! I have 12 Things To Know Before Traveling To Ireland. If you are dreaming of visiting Ireland Here are 12 things to know before renting a car Ireland | ireland travel | ireland travel guide | #europe #ireland #travel

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22 Comments

  1. It’s great to have a copilot isn’t it! My grandson is 12 now and he takes his copiloting duties seriously as well. Thanks for the tip on World Nomads travel insurance – I too didn’t know about restriction regarding driving on the left with other plans.

  2. I always wondered why they drive on the left in some countries (especially spending the summer in the UK – I’m from the US) – now I know! Great tips – I’d love to road trip Ireland someday. I was too scared about renting a car in Scotland because of the whole “other side of the road” thing, but it’s good to hear that it’s not that bad!

  3. Very informative article and it will be very useful for our next trip to Ireland. The first time we visited Ireland, we traveled by train and we liked it very much. You are right that the Irish are very kind and friendly with a great sense of humor. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Natalia, I’m curious how you found travel by train. Were you able to get everywhere you wanted to visit easily?

  4. I spent a summer in Ireland and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t do the driving but as the passenger I certainly was vocal…too close on the left ..too close on the right. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the other side of the road thing, thank goodness.

  5. Good to know not to drive in Dublin. RE: GPS – have you ever just downloaded maps to your tablet and used it as GPS. We do that instead of paying more for a GPS unit – big savings and just as good.

    1. I haven’t downloaded maps and done it that way. My issue would be that we liked to take unexpected excursions and having the GPS was so helpful. Our GPS unit was built into the car, so there was no extra charge.

  6. As far as insurance, there are a few credit cards that will cover the insurance for a rental car in Ireland. We have the Chase Sapphire Reserve which covered it and saved us a lot of money. They did require proof from Chase it was covered at the rental place.

  7. I use Allianz. Your route would be all new to me with the exception of Dublin. I traveled along the east coast back in 2011 but got around by train. I wouldn’t want to drive in Dublin. With the DART, it seemed unnecessary.

  8. Watch out for sheep hahaha! Funny but true, I was just in Ireland last week and it was amazing! I agree with the tip about not driving in Dublin.

  9. I have never been to Ireland but I can imagine that a roatrip would be the best idea ever. I could discover the green island on my own! 😀

  10. Great article well done Another good car hire company especially if you are under 25 years of age is Ireland Car Hire .com They will go through the best options for you.

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