Renting a car in Ireland gives you the ultimate freedom to cruise stunning coastal routes and explore off-the-beaten-path gems. But for many, the idea of driving in Ireland and on the left side of the road sounds a little scary. As somewhat experienced “wrong side” drivers, we’re here to tell you it’s less intimidating than it seems!
While Ireland drives on the left, thorough preparation and extra attentiveness behind the wheel help ensure a smooth journey. We’ve discovered key tips through our trips that build confidence for driving in Ireland. With scenic vistas ahead, you’ll quickly relax into the flow of driving on the left. Follow our road-tested guidance to take on Ireland’s winding lanes like a pro. Driving yourself allows you total control over your epic Irish road trip!
Take your time Driving in Ireland!
It’s better to drive slowly than to make a hasty mistake. Give yourself time to get used to driving on the left.
Familiarize yourself with your vehicle.
When you first get in the car it will probably feel pretty strange. For me, it was disorienting to sit in the “driver seat” and have no wheel! Familiarize yourself with your rental car, including where the signals and wipers are placed. Pretend it’s your first time driving to get reacclimated.
Fun fact. While the gas, brake, and many other parts of the car remain in the same place no matter what side of the car the wheel is on, this is not the case for the indicator and wipers. We had two cars during our New Zealand trip, the first car was European, and the wipers and indicators were in reverse. Our second car was American and they were the same as they are in the States. So when we got in our Irish rental this was the first thing we checked!
The weather is unpredictable, be prepared for anything!
The weather in Ireland lives up to its reputation of being unpredictable. Even during summer, brisk winds and misty rain can roll in unexpectedly. Be prepared for Ireland’s changeable weather, I would recommend you rent a small SUV able to handle various conditions.
When Driving in Ireland Stay aware of your surroundings at all times!
It’s never a good idea to text/eat/whatever and drive but this is even more important when you are driving on the other side of the road. Be sure to read all signs and keep your eyes on the road. The Irish know there are a lot of tourists so larger cities are very clearly marked with arrows and large text. If you stay aware of the signs and these markings, should you find yourself on the wrong side you should be able to quickly correct it.
Also note that unlike here in America where we spell things out, literally, in English on a majority of the signs. Most other countries use symbols and numbers only. They are basically the same shape and colors as the signs here though so its easy to quickly ascertain what they mean.
Most of the Lanes are Very Narrow
Many Irish roads are barely wider than a car. Yield carefully when passing. Heed the warnings, they are not exaggerating, the roads are very narrow. They are about exactly the width of a midsize car if you are lucky. Tour buses are known for losing mirrors on these things! Take your time and be aware of the oncoming lanes. You may need to yield or take turns are parts.
The left lane is for passing.
Ya, I know some of you are saying DUH! Well as a SoCal native, this was news to me, here every lane is for driving, not in Ireland, or many parts of the world for that matter. The left lane is for passing only. Drive in the right late, only use the left lane to safely pass slowpokes ahead, and then safely return to the right lane.
Here in San Diego, we think we are so cool and European with our little tiny round-a-bouts that are really just a step up from a stop sign. You yield and then enter, which if you are familiar with the “California stop” then you know we basically do that anyway, the round-a-bouts just make it safer and legal.
They sure don’t prepare you for the ones in Ireland though. The roundabouts in Ireland often replace full intersections and are even controlled by traffic lights. They can have as many as 6 exits off of it also. At first, I’ll admit, I was not a fan, they seemed confusing and weird but after like 20 of them I came around (get it?).
In smaller rural areas, these are used instead of stop signs. It is so nice to not have to stop when there is NO ONE around. It keeps things moving really nicely. In the bigger cities, the larger ones actually keep traffic moving really well. Though the first time entering and exiting a two-laner on the 3rd exit will leave your knuckles white!
If you aren’t familiar with round-a-bouts I suggest looking them up and getting the basics down. Approach cautiously until you get the hang of them.
I’ll admit, I was sad when we returned home to standard ol’ stop lights everywhere.
Don’t leave it up to the driver.
This one is to the copilots. Yes, the driver is, well, the one driving. That doesn’t leave you off the hook! An extra set of eyes is invaluable. Driving on the other side of the road the first time is not unlike the first time driving at all there is so much to remember. So even though you are not the one behind the wheel it’s important you stay alert and awake and help the driver in any way you can, especially at first.
Remember this mantra!
This is my favorite tip! We came up with this little mantra: “Short left, long right”. It’s to remind you to turn closest to the left curb and farthest from the right. Which is the opposite of the states, where we have short rights and long lefts. Anytime we approached an intersection we would say this together right before we made a turn. It helped so so much.
Ready to Drive in Ireland?
Even after years of experience driving on the left, we still review these safety tips to get reacclimated. Within a short time, driving in Ireland will feel natural with the right preparation.
Renting a car really deepens your ability to explore the Emerald Isle at your own pace. Using these simple tricks of the Irish road trade, you’ll feel right at home behind the wheel. Now hit the open road to create unforgettable memories!