The Republic of Ireland uses Irish Standard Time (IST, UTC+01:00) in the summer months and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT, UTC+0) in the winter period from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday of March.
Ireland has a temperate ‘maritime’ climate due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It doesn’t tend to suffer extremes in weather or temperature. It does, however, experience a lot of rainfall, which helps to keep the island so green – this is why it is known as ‘The Emerald Isle’.
The two official languages are Irish and English. In predominantly Irish-speaking areas (Gaeltacht areas) place names on road signs will only appear in Irish.
General Travel Information
Road Safety Statistics
In 2012 there were 161 road deaths in Ireland. This equates to a rate of 4.7 per 100,000 population. For comparison, in 2012 the rate was 4.9 per 100,000 in France, 5.6 in Australia and 11.6 in the USA.
What Side of the Road to Drive On
In Ireland you should drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Types of Road
Ireland has a good network of tens of thousands of miles of roads, including motorways, A-roads (primary and non-primary), B-roads and other roads.
There are a number of narrow, winding roads, where caution must be applied when driving.
Most roads are well maintained and of a high standard.
There are a number of toll roads in the Republic of Ireland. Generally, toll charges are paid on entry or exit. You can pay either in cash, or by using an eToll tag. For the West Link Bridge, if you do not have an account you must pay online, by phoning Locall 1890 501 050 or through Payzone outlets.
Types of Fuel
Unleaded petrol, diesel, LPG and lead replacement petrol (LRP) are readily available.
Where to Find Fuel
Fuel stations are widely available throughout Ireland. Until recently no service stations could be found on Irish motorways – this was to encourage drivers to use local services instead. However, in there are now are now several motorway service stations. It is advisable, however, to fill up with sufficient fuel before joining the motorway.
Note that fuel stations in smaller towns may be closed on Sundays and may close early on weekdays.
Fuel is self-serve and all stations accept cash and major credit / debit cards.
License and Documentation
Visitors to Ireland may drive on a valid national driving license from their own country or an International Driving Permit for up to 12 months. If you have a driving licence issued by an EU member state you can drive in Ireland as long as your existing licence is valid. The minimum driving age is 17.
You need to carry your driving license / International Driving Permit and proof of insurance as well as the vehicle registration documents or vehicle rental agreement.
What to Expect
In rural areas it is common to encounter farm traffic and animals on the road. Drive slowly in such areas and stop if necessary. Wait for animals to pass / cross before proceeding.
Unless otherwise posted the maximum speed limits in Ireland are:
• 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour – motorways
• 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour – national roads
• 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour – regional roads
• 50 kilometres (32 miles) per hour – urban areas
• 30 kilometres (19 miles) per hour – in certain built up areas such as close to schools
Ireland doesn’t have fixed speed cameras but mobile camera vans are used to detect speeding motorists.
Drivers caught speeding will be sent a fixed charge fine through the post.
Ireland has a penalty point system, which drivers with foreign driving licenses are also subject to. If someone is caught speeding in Ireland the details will be held on a database for the purpose of recording penalty points. If this driver later applies for an Irish driving license the penalty points will be activated on the license once it is issued.
Alcohol and Drugs
The legal alcohol limit for fully licensed drivers is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.05). The legal limit for learner or professional drivers is 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.02). The police often set up random breath-test checkpoints.
Drinking and driving is regarded as a very serious offence in Ireland and severe penalties are awarded including fines, disqualification and imprisonment.
You must never drive if you have consumed alcohol or taken illegal drugs. Check the label of prescription drugs for fatigue related side-effects.
Signs to Expect
In Northern Ireland distance signposts are shown in miles and signs are written in English. Warning signs are triangle shaped and have a white background with a red border.
In the Republic of Ireland distances are normally shown in kilometers and are written in both Irish and English, with the Irish words in lower case italic. Warning signs are diamond shaped with a yellow background.
Other Country Specific Information / Requirements
Must be used in poor daytime visibility.
Riders must wear helmets at all times. Dipped headlights are compulsory during the day.
Handheld mobile phones must not be used while driving.
All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.
Children must be seated in an appropriate child restraint.
Overtaking is only permitted on the left.
Must not be used between 23.30 and 07.00 hours.
The use of radar detectors is prohibited.
Some level crossings have manual gates that need to be opened and closed by motorists.
Barrier Free Tolls
Barrier free tolling operates on the M50 Dublin. As you pass through your number plate is recorded and you have until 8pm the following day to pay the fee at a ‘payzone’ outlet. Motorcycles are exempt.
You are advised to carry a breakdown warning triangle, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and spare bulbs with you. If you wear glasses or contact lenses carry spares in your vehicle.
Most vehicle rental companies will require drivers to be in possession of a full unendorsed driver’s license (some minor endorsements may be acceptable but check before booking) and to have held a license for at least 12 months (24 months if under 25). An International Driving License is required if your license is not in Roman script. Drivers under 25 or over 70 may be subject to additional charges.
When renting a vehicle you will be required to provide a credit card for payment.
In addition to the charges for renting the vehicle you will probably be required to submit a security deposit in the form of a ‘hold’ on an amount of money on your credit card. The amount of the deposit depends on the type of car and usually includes a deposit for a full tank of fuel and other facilities.
Types of Rental Vehicle Available
The majority of vehicles available for rental will have manual transmission although automatics are usually available on request. If you do not have experience of driving a manual transmission vehicle it is advisable to request an automatic, even if it costs a little more.
Driving in Ireland should be pleasurable, provided you accustom yourself to the environment. Roads are often narrow and winding, sometimes with loose chippings. The best advice is to use common sense and keep your speed low, especially if it is raining, misty or foggy (as it often is in Ireland).
Many country roads are poorly signposted. Often directional signs are a single post with several arrows pointing in different directions – and it can be difficult to determine which way the arrows are pointing. It is advisable to use a sat-nav or purchase a map (these are readily available at car rental offices or fuel stations) to find your way around.
Drivers from the US must remember there are no turns on red in Ireland!
Irish drivers are generally considered to be pleasant. Locals often drive faster than visitors on winding roads, so be prepared to pull over to let them pass when it is safe to do so.
On two lane highways you may notice Irish drivers going down the middle of the road to pass another vehicle – even when there is oncoming traffic. The oncoming traffic and those being overtaken are expected to drop to the side to let the vehicle pass.
Levels of violent crime are relatively low but petty crime and residential crime is more common. Thieves often target rental vehicles and tourists, particularly close to tourist attractions.
Tourists should remain alert and aware of their surroundings, avoiding unlit non-tourist areas. Do not visit parks after dark and keep valuables out of sight.
When leaving your vehicle make sure it is securely parked and try to use secure parking areas only.
Driving at Night
To maximise your safety you should avoid driving at night, particularly outside of major cities.
Always lock your car, even when leaving your vehicle unattended for a few seconds.
Remove the key from the ignition when paying for fuel at a garage.
Never leave anything to do with work in an unattended vehicle. Never place items of value in your car and then leave it unattended. You never know who is watching. If you have to leave something of value in your vehicle make sure it is out of sight.
Windows and Doors
Always drive with your doors locked and windows shut.
Always try to park away from places that could hide potential attackers. If possible, avoid unattended car parks and those situated away from main roads where the streets are likely to be quieter.
When parking at night choose a well-lit area. You will be able to see your vehicle clearly and have a better chance of seeing anyone who is hanging around.
Keeping Others Informed
When traveling in a foreign country you should provide someone in your native office with an itinerary for your day so that they know where you plan to be at all times. You should also furnish them with your mobile telephone number and the number of each of your planned destinations.
You must take a break every two hours or sooner if you feel sleepy. Stop for at least 15 minutes and take a 10 minute snooze. Having a cup of tea or coffee before your sleep can help you be more alert when you wake up (this is NOT a substitute for a good night’s sleep). Only continue your journey if you feel alert after your sleep.
Ensure that you get a good night’s sleep before making any long journey. If you are tired, do not drive.
You must always abide by the speed limit.
Slow right down when driving through residential areas or close to schools
On rural roads, slow down for bends and avoid overtaking.
Ensure that you maintain at least a two-second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. This is your braking distance in a crisis.
You should not eat or drink on the move, reaching over for a sandwich or opening a drink will distract your attention from the road.
Avoid in depth conversations with passengers, it is vital that you maintain your concentration on the road ahead.
Alcohol and Drug Use
You must never drive if you have consumed alcohol or taken illegal drugs. Always check the label of prescription drugs for fatigue related side-effects.
The evening before you drive you MUST NOT consume more than the legal limit of alcohol.
Never drive if you are highly stressed. This can affect your ability to concentrate.
In The Event of a Breakdown
If you break down in a rental vehicle you should follow the instructions given to you by your employer, vehicle leasing or rental supplier. The agreement should include a recovery service.
If possible you should get out of the way of traffic. Get your vehicle off the road and into a safe position so it doesn’t cause an obstruction. Use the hazard warning lights on your vehicle and put on your reflective jacket. Put out a warning triangle if you have one. Make sure yourself and any passengers wait away from your vehicle if there is a chance it could be hit by passing traffic. Call for help and await assistance.
If you experience problems on a motorway get off at the next exit if possible. If this is not possible pull onto the hard shoulder, as far to the left as you can and as close to an emergency phone as possible (they are located at regular intervals). Use your hazard warning lights and turn your headlights on to make your vehicle as visible as can be. NEVER STAY IN YOUR VEHICLE! Put on your reflective jacket and exit your vehicle (together with any passengers) on the left-side. Use a mobile phone or emergency phone to call for assistance and wait for help as far away from the roadside as you can.
In The Event of a Collision
In the event of a minor collision you should stop as soon as possible in a safe place and warn other road users by activating your hazard lights and placing a warning triangle about 45 metres (147 feet) behind the car nearest to oncoming traffic. Always take great care when placing or retrieving warning triangles, and never use them on motorways.
Keep well away from other traffic. Exchange details with other parties and witnesses including names, addresses and phone numbers, insurance details, driving license details, the vehicles’ registration numbers, make, model and color. Photograph the scene if possible, including damage to vehicles or property. If a camera is not available it is good idea to sketch a picture of the scene. Never admit liability at the scene.
In a more serious collision in which any persons are injured you should call the emergency services immediately. Do not move any injured persons unless they are in immediate danger.
Contacting The Emergency Services
In Ireland the emergency number is 999. The number 112 can also be used. This is used throughout the EU and is accessible from any phone, free of charge.