Getting Around Ireland

We get a few different reactions when we talk about vacations to places where they drive on the left.  Some are like “No problem, I’ve got this.” Others are like “Nope not ever, I just don’t think I could.” The rest are on the fence.  I think the assumption is driving is the only way to get around.  That can’t be farther from the truth.  There are several options that don’t involve you driving at all.

  1.  Bus tour- You could choose to take a bus tour.  The pros are that everything is laid out in advance and there is a tour guide and bus driver that worry about getting you where you are supposed to be.  The downside is that if you want to do something not already in the schedule, it’s probably not going to happen.  That just means you have to plan everything in advance.
  2. Local host/train travel- Some travel providers have an option where you take the train from place to place and a local picks you up.  They’ll get you to your accommodation and make arrangements for you for your food, entertainment, and day trips.  You could also take advantage of rail transport completely on your own.  The disadvantage of not using a travel provider is that you’re doing it all yourself either as you go or before.

    Coleraine railway station - County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
    Coleraine railway station – County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
  3.  Rent a car- You make all your arrangements on your own or you can do a self drive tour.  A self drive tour is where a travel provider has a rough plan for your time and makes the rental car arrangements and accommodation arrangements.  You prepay which is nice because you don’t have to worry about paying once you get there.
  4. Local bus and train transport- No matter what sort of trip you’re on you may want to take advantage of local transport.  The bus and rail lines are pretty easy to navigate and you can generally get day passes.  These could save you time and a lot of walking. Dublin is a walkable city but we had limited time so we took advantage of the train quite a bit.
  5. Hop On Hop Off- This can be a good option for Dublin if you have some time.  The passes are good for an entire day and some travel providers will throw them in with your package.  You have a couple of companies: Dublin Bus Tours (Green Buses) and City Sightseeing (Red Buses).  We did City Sightseeing.  It seemed like the green buses came more frequently  but the stops are in about the same places.  City Sightseeing has two routes and they more than cover the entire city.
  6. Bike/walk- Yes seriously.  Rural Ireland in particular is beautiful and you will encounter bikers and hikers sightseeing at a slower pace.

Rental Car Tips

  1. Take the insurance.  Don’t ask me how I know.  You never know when you’ll end up too close to a hedgerow or a low wall.  Your normal insurance coverage will likely not cover you internationally.  You can purchase car insurance in addition to your travel insurance that will be just as good and likely cheaper than what you get at the counter.
  2. Decline the upgrade.  If you are new to driving in Ireland a larger car will not be your friend.  The roads are narrow and the car parks can be tight compared to what an American is used to.
  3. Familiarize yourself with traffic signs  and roundabouts ahead of time.  Most of the signs will be pictures or numbers and self explanatory.  Follow the signs in the roundabout and USE YOUR SIGNAL and you will be fine. Street signs will be in English and Gaelic which is just cool in my opinion.

    Connemara Loop road sign indication
    Connemara Loop road sign indication in Connemara National Park, Ireland
  4. Drive within your ability.  There will be roads that are 100 km roads that will feel like they should be driven slower.  It’s perfectly fine to drive slower than the posted speed. It is unlikely you’ll have issues on the motorways but the secondary roads could pose a bit of a challenge.

Roads

  • M roads are motorways and are most similar to interstates.
  • N roads are national roadways and are most similar to U.S. numbered highways.
  • R roads are regional roadways and can range all the way from state highways to one lane roads.

Just a heads up…two lane roads in Ireland can resemble a driveway or unmarked road in a neighborhood particularly if you find yourself in a rural area.  Don’t be alarmed if you encounter someone going the other direction.  Just pull over and make room or find a pull off.  Look for the nearest one and if it’s behind you then back up.  This of course means you have to pay attention to where they are.

With a little bit of planning you can easily get wherever you want to go and when you’re talking about Ireland it’s worth it.

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