๐Ÿš— Driving in Ireland as an American – Ultimate Survival Guide

For Americans looking to explore the incredible landscapes of Ireland, a road trip adventure behind the wheel is an exciting opportunity. After all, you can see so many more places on your list by driving and renting a car in Ireland! As charming as the prospect of driving through the Irish countryside sounds, the reality of driving in Ireland as an American and navigating foreign roads can seem daunting (take it from an American who’s done it!).

driving in Ireland as an American
Driving in Ireland on a misty morning in Co. Kerry.

Whether you’re craving the coastal scenery of the Wild Atlantic Way, worried about the traffic near the Dublin airport, or wanting to explore the stunning and mysterious landscapes around the Ring of Kerry – these tips will help you make the most of your experience driving in Ireland!

๐Ÿš— Driving and Renting a Car in Ireland as an American

When it comes to renting a car in Ireland, choose wisely:

  • I recommend renting from Discover Cars. Discover Cars makes it a seamless and simple experience to rent a car before your trip to Ireland, with fair pricing, free cancellation and no hidden fees.
  • Understand the various insurance options available. Be clear on everything the insurance covers; a small additional fee for complete peace of mind is well worth the expenditure.
  • Make sure you choose a car with an automatic transmission. As you look for rental cars in Ireland, you’ll notice there are more manual cars. Make sure you get an automatic car.
  • Choose a smaller vehicle and rent a compact car. The roads in Ireland can be narrow in places and most people in Ireland drive compact cars due to the roads. So while a fancy car might seem like a great Instagram moment, a compact car is a far better option. Most people drive compact cars in Ireland! You’ll fit right in.
Driving in Ireland as an American
Rental car in Killarney National Park.

๐Ÿš™ Check prices and rent a car before your trip!

Do you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) as an American?

The IDP isnโ€™t a must for American drivers in Ireland, but it’s a powerful travel document. You can get one before your trip to be extra prepared if you want, but you don’t need one. American tourists can drive in Ireland for up to 12 months using their regular drivers license and a rental car.

So, you can just pack your valid U.S. driverโ€™s license. If you’re renting a car, you can also double-check with the rental agency that your license is good to go. Make sure your driver’s license is IN DATE while you will be in Ireland!

๐Ÿ“Driving in Ireland vs. the US

driving in Ireland in Cahir
Photo of the streets of Cahir, Ireland.

There are distinct differences between driving in Ireland vs the US that you should be aware of:

  • The toll system – Ireland has its own system of road tolls, many of which are electronic. Be prepared by checking routes and payment methods ahead of time. Pro tip: Turn off toll roads on Google Maps settings. The only toll you should be worrying about is the M50 toll near the Dublin airport. You pay this toll online after you go through it and you have until 8 PM the next day to pay it.
  • Irish comes before English on signs – Just know that the road signs you see in Ireland will feature Irish Gaelic above English.
Driving in Ireland tips
Irish road sign in Cashel showing Irish above English.
  • Passing lanes – Irish people drive on the left side of the road and don’t use the right lane EXCEPT for passing a large vehicle going slower than the speed limit. Be courteous and follow this tip, the right lane is not to be used as a fast lane as many people do in the US.
  • Ireland uses kilometers per hour (KPH) instead of miles per hour (MPH). Follow the speed limits and pay attention to your rental car dashboard, and you will be fine!

โฌ…๏ธ Driving in Ireland – Left or Right? Tips for Survival

For an American, it might feel challenging to adapt to the left-side driving at first. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll really feel a confidence boost! In fact, after our trip to Ireland, we actually preferred driving on the left-hand side of the road!

Left-Side Driving: Tips for Success + Survival

  • Remind yourself constantly (at first) that you’re driving on the left. Saying “left” out loud or in your mind before pulling out at intersections or making turns will help you feel more confident in what you are doing.
  • When you make a left-hand TURN, pay special attention. When we turn left in America, we travel into the farthest lane. In Ireland, you are driving on the left, and need to travel into the NEAREST lane.
  • Learn to properly navigate roundabouts before you go! They’re just about as abundant as pubs in Ireland. Use your turn signal properly and be aware of the inner lane โ€“ just like you would do in America. When in doubt, keep turning left in a roundabout until you find your exit.
  • The real key to driving in Ireland is confidence. Stay calm, remember to breathe, trust in your ability, and keep your sense of adventure! As you gain experience, you will feel much better about driving in Ireland as an American.
Driving in Ireland - Left or Right?
Our rental driving to the Kerry Cliffs with a reminder on the dash – “Drive on the left!”

๐Ÿš— Is Driving in Ireland Difficult?

Look, before you belt out ‘Galway Girl‘ in your rental car as you drive down the rural roads, there are a few things more things you should know. Driving in Ireland doesn’t have to be difficult. Navigating the incredible landscapes from the driverโ€™s seat can be nerve-wracking, but knowing these things beforehand will help you feel more confident navigating the roads!

  • Irelandโ€™s country roads are often narrow with visible stone or hedge boundaries against the road. Take your time, and don’t underestimate the width of your car.
  • Do not drive too close to the stone walls. American tourists have knocked mirrors off of their cars by being afraid and pulling too close to the stone walls.
  • Some roads in more rural areas in Ireland have only one lane. Irish drivers know how to drive and understand when to yield and pull over. If you can pull to the side for another car to pass, you should. Just remember to take it slow and be courteous in these scenarios and you’ll be fine!
Ireland mainland

๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ Using A GPS in Ireland

Google Maps is your new best friend! I highly recommend using Google Maps. We used it for the entirety of our trip to Ireland and it worked for every route perfectly. Remember, some of the best parts of Ireland are slightly off the beaten path, so donโ€™t be afraid to venture.

What are M roads, N roads, R roads in Ireland?

On your Google Maps GPS, roads will be marked with an M, N, or R in Ireland. The things you need to know are:

  • M roads mean they are a Motorway. These roads are perfectly fine and maintained to drive on. They are wider and tend to have two or three lanes.
  • N roads are national highways and well maintained. Be mindful of the speed limits and changes in the speed limits, especially near towns. These roads tend to be wide.
  • R roads are in more rural areas. These roads can be twisty, and turn into one-lane roads.

Remember that twisting roads in the Irish countryside are part of its charm. By minding speed limits and driving safely, you can navigate the Irish roads.

Driving through the streets of Cashel in County Tipperary.

๐Ÿš— How long does it take to drive across Ireland?

It depends on various factors such as the route taken, traffic conditions, and weather. Generally, it takes around 9-10 hours to drive from one end of Ireland to the other. However, I highly recommend taking your time and making stops along the way to fully enjoy the beautiful scenery and charming towns in between.

Driving in Ireland as an American – You can do it!

The roads in Ireland are not without twists and turns, but by reminding yourself you’re driving on the left and obeying road laws and safety – renting a car and driving in Ireland can be a very fulfilling aspect of your trip. Remember, the drive in Ireland is an exciting chapter of your grand Irish adventure. Drive safe and be open to the adventures that await you while driving in Ireland!

โœˆ๏ธ Traveling to Ireland? Here’s my #1 travel resources!

Planning a trip can be SO overwhelmingโ€”here’s my favorite resources to help you save time:

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Viator is the best for researching and booking tours and experiences

Worrier like me? ๐Ÿค• Safety Wing is my recommended travel insurance

๐Ÿš— Discover Cars helps you get the cheapest rental cars while traveling

๐Ÿš‚ Taking trains abroad? I’ve found the best way to get train tickets!

Heading to Dublin? Here’s some tips for walking the city, and a two-day itinerary of the best things to do.

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