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Driving in Ireland

Heard on 4/19 show. Man, wife, kids, mother-in-law,, going to Ireland; will rent a van. He was concerned about driving on left side of road. He should be. Been there; done that.

Suggestions: (1) RENT AN AUTOMATIC. There’s enough going on without having to concentrate on shifting. (2) HUG THE CENTER of the road. American drivers, like me, tend to hug the right side of the road when in a country like Ireland. WRONG. If there’s a yellow line, stay almost on the line itself (within inches). (3) WHENEVER POSSIBLE, have someone else with you. For some reason, driving on the left is easier if there’s someone in the passenger’s seat.

Comment: I didn’t make it out of the airport before I whacked a hubcap. When I looked there were several other dents as well. That turned out to be a good thing; like a motorcycle rider dumping his bike the first time (without getting hurt).

One other suggestion is to rent the smallest vehicle you can, unless you stick to the motorways you will be on some of the narrowest roads imaginable and trying to squeeze even a Nissan Micra (Versa Note would be the closest US model) past parked cars in the little towns. A GPS system would be a good idea since you can’t always find road signs pointing you in the right direction. If you’re going to Dublin just get a bus from the airport and pick up your rental later.

I never had any trouble with the straight stick but the round abouts going the wrong way were killers.

I decided the best way to avoid confusion was to make sure the centerline was on the driver’s side whenever I made a turn. Right turns required the most concentration, but I had very few problems with driving on the wrong side of the road.

I had a very difficult time the first couple of days on a trip to New Zealand. I actually considered hiring a driver to drive me around. After a tough couple of days I eventually got the hang of left side driving and after 3 or 4 weeks it became natural, didn’t require any add’l thinking on my part. Which is a good thing, as my addled-brain has little extra reserve capacity … lol … But when I returned to the USA I found I had the same problem in reverse, I now couldn’t drive on the right side of the road without extreme concentration and it took several days of driving here to become comfortable again doing it that way again.

I worked overseas for five months with returns home about every month. I had little problem driving on the correct side of the road. My biggest problem was that the turn signal stalk and the windshield wiper stalk are reversed. I turned the wipers on instead of the wipers many times on both sides of the ocean. Thank goodness the pedals are the same for right or left hand drive.

Even a mid size car in the US is HUGE in Ireland. Get the full insurance coverage. Have the passenger chant “stay to the left, stay to the left” especially when turning. It’s actually easier in cities because there are lots of cues as to where to be. Take turns driving. Don’t be macho and do it all. It’s stressful. Plus if someone else drives they are more aware of the difficulty and there are less arguments in the car. Last advice- stay calm. You’ll miss turns and go on the wrong road. Signage is poor. Chill out, re-calculate and chalk it all up to the experience of traveling in another country. A big car and an automatic are very expensive options.

When we arrived at the Budget office in Dublin we found out we had reserved a Ford Mondeo (Roughly the same size as the Fusion)and took one look at the car and went back in and asked for something smaller. Our rental had a reminder on the passenger side to stay on the left side. Expect to make close contact with cars parked on the curb. We went from Dublin to Shannon in just over a week and had more than enough room for the 3 of us in a subcompact car. We’d been in the UK for a week on similar roads so we wanted the smaller size.

@Olydoug I agree that the smallest car that will hold you and your luggage is the choice. We rented a small Vauxhall (really an Opel made in Germany) hatchback for touring England and Wales. Wales has very narrow roads without shoulders, and passing campers was a real challenge.

Of course we ordered automatic and a GPS (Tom Tom). We hardly used the air conditioning.

I second DQ Waterhouses second point!
I’m originally from MA, but I’ve lived in Japan for over 20 years and I found the answer to Dave, who is planning a trip to Ireland, lacking a very important point. (#1416)
In a big 5 woman and 1 man minivan, he is going to have to be aware of where he is in the lane that he is in, whether it be the left or right lane. With the steering wheel on the right (wrong) side of the car, and thus the driver sitting in what would be the passenger seat in America, the driver’s “sense of center” is just a little bit off. In other words, an American driving in a right (wrong) side steering wheel car will tend to drive a bit more toward the left side of whatever road he or she may be on.
ps: As click & clack mentioned, Dave’s not yet drive experienced daughter would not have the right / left problem as per lanes but also as per “sense of center” since she would not have an innate center of car sense yet. …Let her drive!

One thing that DQ should be aware of though is that the right side of the road IS the center in Ireland (and Japan.) So what he means ( I think) is that American drivers tend to hug the left side of the road.

I won’t mention the head-on collision (5 mph, no injuries) that was completely my fault in Jamaica many years ago. But I do have some tips for left side driving from 3 years of living in Namibia.

  1. Before you leave, get in the habit of driving with your window open and elbow sticking out the window. Get used the feel of the wind on your arm on the on-coming side of the road. When you switch driving sides in Ireland, open the window, arm out, and remember at feeling of your elbow pointing to the other side of the road.

  2. Draw a big arrow pointing left on a sheet of paper. Tape the arrow on top of the dashboard under your windshield right where you see it. Also write “Keep Left” on the same sheet of paper.

Drive safely, have a great trip and enjoy the Irish part of your heritage.

I had to do something similar to that for the manual gear shift lever. i.e. tape the gear shift pattern drawn on some paper to the dash. While the driver sits on the right side of the car in Ireland, the gear shift lever isn’t a mirror image. It is the same pattern no matter which side the driver sits. So if you put the car in reverse in America by pushing the gear shift lever away from you, in Ireland you’d pull the lever towards you.

@Docnick mostly because of the expected gas prices the idea was to get the most mpg while being able to haul everyone in one vehicle so we only needed one driver. For the UK leg with 5 of us we had a Toyota Auris (Similar category to the Astra/Focus/Golf) with some of the luggage on our laps in the backseat. The Auto was to help with my dad’s recently healed knee as well as reducing the things he had to worry about while driving. Still got over 40mpg doing laps around those narrow back roads. The Nissan Micra in Ireland was roomier than it looked more so since It was only the 3 of us for that part of the trip, actually had lots of legroom in the back for my 6’ tall frame. No A/C on the Micra but the weather was on the cool side in September anyways.

I’m British and living in England so naturally I’m used to driving on the left! However I find that when I travel to countries such as the USA and need to drive on the right it only takes a few minutes to get used to it, particularly as you’re surrounded by traffic doing likewise! In a country like Ireland it could be a little more problematic if on rural roads with hardly any traffic. I would definitely specify an auto transmission rental car otherwise you’ll keep hitting your elbow on the door when trying to shift gears!

This is a very familiar situation for me and perhaps I can help . . . I was born in and learned to drive on a Caribbean Island where I drove stick-shift and on the left side of the road, on some pretty narrow winding streets. As life would have it, I started a travel company that produced all kinds of fun events for corporate groups to participate in on the island, one of which was a “road rally” (read navigated scavenger hunt). I also traveled frequently to the USA, (several times a month) and eventually became a US citizen. So my drill was . . . drive to the Caribbean airport on the left, fly to the USA, take airport shuttle to rental car lot, drive out on the right side of the road in the US and in reverse on the way back to the Caribbean. So to the dilemma. The majority of our road rally clients were American. To overcome this, we began every road rally with a briefing to teach people how to drive stick-shift on the opposite side. We’ve never had an accident in the 30 years we’ve done and still do this event. I called this "The Middle of the Road Theory (that always got a nervous giggle because the drivers thought I was kidding). I asked the soon to be drivers to picture themselves driving in the USA on a rural 2-lane road, traffic in each lane going in opposite directions. See that the DRIVER in his or her position in the car is in the MIDDLE of the road . . . the front-seat passenger is sitting curbside in the vehicle. The same principle will apply in Ireland. Also - when turning on to a main road from a side road or vice versa, driver immediately orients him/herself to the middle of the road. If the driver looks out his window and sees the curb, or the passenger looks out and sees a yellow line, make some immediate corrections (or scream bloody murder at the driver!) There is also a thing called a circle, or rotary, or round about. There’s another catch phrase for this . . . “the guy on the right is always right!” In other words, as you approach the round about in Ireland (the road always bleeds you into the round about from the left, and there is a car coming at you from the right - it has the right of way. So, Middle of the Road, and the guy on the right is always right. It’s what I’ve used for 40 plus years, and it’s never failed (except once with me - in St. Thomas, USVI, where they drive left hand drive (American) cars on the LEFT. That defeats everything said above. Other tips - when you, the driver, gets into the van in Ireland for the first time and find that someone has moved the steering wheel and pedals, don’t panic - the van is not on a GM recall list! Try the other side. When on that other side, you may find there’s a stick in between the two front seats . . . it is not a comforter to be stroked in times of stress . . . just as the third pedal on the floor is NOT the parking brake, but when used in concert with the stick, will preserve the life of the transmission. Finally, if still concerned, before starting out, place 2 ladies in the back seat . . . if you the driver so much as steps over the line, their screams . . . Have fun . . . Ireland’s a beautiful country.

I am from the US but have lived in Ireland for twenty years. There are few easy things to do that will help immensely.

Drive slowly on the back roads - you may frustrate folks, but we are used to slow visitors
Try to stay on ‘N’ roads as much as possible. the ‘L’ roads can be no more than lanes sometimes.
The speed limits are crazy. You may turn from a nice, clear, broad road where the speed limit is 60k to a tiny road where the speed limit is 80k.
When on the tiny roads keep your eyes open for any stretch of road you can pull over onto - you may have to reverse into it if you meet an oncoming vehicle
The driver focuses on the centre line. If you are driving next to the shoulder you are in the wrong lane :slight_smile:
Specify an automatic when you hire a car. It cost a little extra, but saves the extra burden of shifting with your left hand
Always give way to vehicles on the roundabout
Be very careful on turns - think before you turn ‘centre line, centre line, centre line.’