What You Need To Know About Visiting And Driving In Ireland

The Emerald Isle is expected to play host to nearly 2 million visitors from America this year alone. One of the best ways to see Ireland is on the road, whether with a pre-planned trip or by simply exploring. Whilst Ireland shares a common language with America in English, there are many differences that visitors need to be aware of before embarking on their trip. What then, does the intrepid American visitor need to know before hitting the road?

One Island, Two Jurisdictions

The island of Ireland is made up of two key parts, the country of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom). Both countries drive on the left-hand side of the road and they use similar road signs but there are many differences. Ireland uses the metric system and all road distances are in kilometres (and speed limits in kilometres per hour) whereas the UK still uses miles (and miles per hour). When you come to pay for gas at the “petrol station” you have two currencies to deal with too. Ireland is a Eurozone country whereas the UK uses Pounds Sterling. At present the border is a soft one, no passport checks will be done and you won’t be stopped at all; it is possible that as Brexit progresses this may change. Whilst you won’t be stopped at the border if you have a crash after crossing you need to be insured for both countries and have a visa if one is required.

The Roads Are Safer compared to other countries

2016 saw nearly 40,000 people die on the roads in the US. By comparison, the Republic of Ireland saw only 175 people have fatal crashes. Even taking into account the vastly different sizes of the countries this is still an enormous difference. The speed limit on Irish roads is 100kph which goes up to 120kph on the highways (called motorways). In the UK the national speed limit is 60mph which increases to 70mph on the motorways. The drink drive limit in the Republic of Ireland is much lower than that of the US too and the Police (or Garda in the Republic) are less forgiving. The US and UK BAC level is 80mg per 100ml of blood but the Republic’s is just 50mg per 100ml of blood.

Everything Is Smaller

The Irish roads (regardless of whether you are in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland) are significantly narrower and more twisty than in the US. Whilst you can hire or buy large cars, even these are what we would consider as being medium sized. It is a common joke in US dramas that visiting Americans are always given Minis to drive badly but whilst the modern version of the car is available to hire, you don’t need to go that small. A modern family car may feel a little tight but it will still be large enough for your needs. As you get used to the tighter roads you may find it easier to hire an automatic car to have less to think about.

Ireland is a very different country to America. Not only is everything smaller but the road rules differ slightly and the weather is… interesting. Being an island sat between a large island and a continent on one side, and an ocean on the other means that the Irish climate is extremely variable. It would not be unusual to have a rainy morning that breaks into bright sunshine followed by snow and later more rain or sun. In fact, the only unusual weather for Ireland would be a dry spell. Your window wipers and demister will be your best friends during your visit. The Irish people, on both sides of the border, are extremely friendly and the isle is a true glory to visit but you need to do so with an awareness of the differences from home.

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