So you’ve booked your Ireland self-drive tour. Since you’re planning on driving when you get there, you’re probably wondering how in the world you’re going to do it. Despite what you may have heard, driving on the left side of the road in Ireland isn’t as hard as it seems. The roads, intersections and traffic circles in Ireland and the UK are designed for left-side-of-the road driving, so there’s little chance that you’ll mindlessly veer over to the wrong side. And if you pay attention and start out slowly you’ll have the hang of it no time. Here are a few time-tested tips sure to keep you on the road:
Get an Automatic
Although it costs a bit extra to rent one, getting a car with an automatic transmission your first time driving in Ireland or the UK is a good idea, especially if you’re used to driving one at home. Driving a car with a standard transmission in Ireland will force you to quickly learn to shift with your left hand, possibly distracting you from the road. Getting an automatic will give you one less thing to think about, which will be incredibly helpful as you get used to left-side driving and narrow roads.
Pay Attention to Your Vantage Point
Remember that you’ll be sitting on the opposite side of the car than you’re used to. What you’ll be able to see from the driver’s seat will be a bit different. Before driving off sit in the car for a while and get used to the mirrors and controls. While driving, be sure to ask your passengers for their assistance if you need help seeing what’s coming.
Use a GPS
Knowing you’re not going to get lost can take an enormous load off of your mind when learning how to drive in Ireland. Tenon Tours offers GPS rentals and mobile phone rentals that you can add to your package. Most car rental agencies in Ireland and the UK offer GPS rentals as well.
Roundabouts, or traffic circles, are unfamiliar and sometimes frightening to American drivers. But the truth is that they’re really quite efficient at controlling traffic flow. The most important thing to remember when you’re driving on the left in Ireland and merging into a traffic circle is that the cars already in the circle have the right of way. If you miss your turnoff, don’t worry. Just go around the circle again until you come back to it.
Seatbelts are required by law in Ireland and the UK. Make sure that everyone in your car is wearing one. Children up to age three must ride in a car seat. Older children, from age three to 12, will need to use a booster seat unless they exceed the minimum height requirement of 1.35 meters, or about 4’5”. All car rental companies offer car and booster seat rentals.
Take Your Time
Car travel in Ireland and many parts of the UK tends to be slower than what most people are used to in North America. Many of the roads are narrow, only allowing for one car to pass at a time, and some are unpaved. Remember that you’re on vacation! Give yourself ample time to get where you need to go, allowing for unscheduled stops along the way.