ireland car rental for american travelers

What you should know about driving in Ireland

  • Driving
  • Parking
  • Tolls
  • Illegal to use a handheld mobile phone when driving
  • Places to see
  • Events and things to do
  • Weather
  • Currency
  • Public Holidays
  • Time Zone
  • Smoking

  • Driving in Ireland

    Here are some general guidelines to driving in

    - Drive on the left (overtake on the right).
    - It is compulsory to wear seat belts in front and rear seats.
    - Children under 12 years age not permitted in front seats.
    - You must carry your driver’s licence with you at all times when driving.
    - Emergency services phone number for Police/Ambulance/Fire is 999.
    - Great caution should be exercised when thinking about driving under the influence of alcohol (it is better to allocate a non-drinking driver). The legal tolerance limit is 0.08% blood alcohol level and heavy penalties are imposed for exceeding that limit.
    - Avoid accidents at traffic signals by not braking suddenly when the lights turn to amber.
    - Traffic coming from the right-hand side has precedence on roundabouts (traffic rotaries).

    -  At the time of writing the following speed limits apply;
    Motorway: 112kph/70mph
    Towns: 48kph/30mph
    Major roads: 96kph/60mph  

    1 mile = 1.6 km
    1 km = 0.6 miles

    Speed limits are displayed within round signs with the limit amount circled by a red border. As speed cameras are installed on many major roads it is worth keeping within the limits (for safety and financial reasons).

     - Direction Sign Colo(u)rs and  Road Types
    Freeways/Motorways = Blue
    National Primary & Secondary routes = Green
    Regional and local routes = White

    In total there are approx. 87,400 km of highways which are classified as follows:

     M routes "Motorways" M1, M4, M7, M11 and M50 - ie divided highways with 4 or more lanes together, usually with an emergency lane in either direction.

    National Primary Routes (N1 to N49)
    National Secondary Routes (N50 to N99)
    Regional Roads (R001 to R999)
    Local roads (which have a four digit number which is a closely guarded state secret!)

    Most national primary routes have emergency lanes on either side.

    E Routes

    The N1,M1, M11 and N11 form part of the E1 Trans European route which runs from Larne in Northern Ireland via Dublin down the East coast of Ireland to the Iberian Peninsula via Lisbon and ending at Seville in Southern Spain. Total length 2509km of which 360km is in Ireland.

     - Automobile club breakdown services
    AIT Tel 1-800 66 77 88 (0800 88 77 66 in NI)
    FIA Tel 1-800 53 50 05 (0800 82 82 82 in NI)

    - Tips for North Americans driving in Ireland for the first time
    It usually takes between a few hours to a day to get used to a new driving environment, particularly if you have not driven in this country before.
    - If you are used to an automatic make sure you specify an automatic vehicle when making your booking.
    - When you drive the car for the first time, it’s a good idea to drive it around the block at the airport a few times to get used to the controls and driving on the left-hand side of the road.
    - Avoid the narrower R roads for the first few days until you are familiar with your car and the driving environment.
    - Get a good map at the airport, and have someone other than the driver to navigate.
    - Take your time - drive slowly at first until you gain confidence. Watch the signs carefully.
    - If you cross the road to park or to enter a gas station, be sure to return to a driving on the left-hand side after you exit the space.

    Dublin Traffic Control Centre
    Call 1-800 29 39 49 (free incl. from pay phones and mobiles) with signposting suggestions, traffic signal fault reports, information on parked vehicles causing congestion and traffic jams caused by road works.

     - Broadcast traffic reports on radio
    You can find the latest traffic information broadcast in English by RTE Radio 1 and 2 and most commercial radio stations. Call 1-850 542 542 to notify the traffic centre of any problems on the roads (calls are charged at 9.5p each (ex VAT) per call).


    Parking regulations are strictly enforced, particularly in Dublin city. If you are illegally parked your vehicle may be towed away or disabled (e.g. wheel clamps etc.).

     Parking meters operate in the downtown areas in most major towns and cities - be sure to look for signs that display days and hours of operation. A typical cost is  €1.30 to 1.90 per hour for parking. Many meters are of the "Pay and Display" variety, with a single solar powered meter serving about 20 spaces. As coins are inserted, the parking expiry time for the amount inserted is displayed on the meter screen. When sufficient coins have been deposited, pressing the green button causes a two part ticket to be printed. The larger part should be stuck to the windshield, and the counterfoil can be retained as a reminder of when the parking expires.

     Disk parking operates outside the central zone and in some suburbs and many cities outside Dublin. Multi-story car parks (typical cost €2.00 to 2.50/hr - some offering discounts for overnight use) are signpost along the parking routes with advance space availability indicators showing how many spaces are left in each park. Some of these car parks payment machines accept Visa, MasterCard and Eurocard payments.



    Tolls are payable at two points in the Dublin area - M50 Ring Road between the N4 and N3 interchanges only and on the R131 East Link Bridge. In each case the toll is approximately €1.00 for cars, with higher tolls for vans and trucks. 

    Tolls are being introduced on some new motorways, for example the E1 (M1) route which connects Dublin and Belfast. The toll charge for cars is €1.50. Make sure you have some loose change handy as the tolls are usually  cash only, no credit cards. Also, make sure you’re not in a hurry as some of the tolling booths can be quite slow to move through.

     Illegal to use a handheld mobile phone when driving

    It is now illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in Ireland, unless it is a loud speaking handsfree device. This is a serious law as drivers who use handheld mobile phones face an EUR 435 fine, a three month jail sentence and a six-month driving ban.

     Not permitted while driving
    - Portable hands free kits (i.e. earpiece connected by wire to handheld phone).
    - Having a phone switched on in your pocket.
    - Use of other radio devices - e.g. CB, other 2 way radio systems, etc.

    - Passenger use of phones.
    - Handheld phones switched on in the glove compartment or on a passenger seat - however if you use the phone before parking safely you are committing an offence.

    If you are driving alone, work out a call handling plan before setting off. Some options include;
    1. Diverting all calls to voicemail and dealing with them later when the car is parked.
    2. Put divert on no answer* to voicemail - allowing you around 30 seconds to pull over if possible and if necessary return the call using the missed caller CLI.
    3. Switch off divert on no answer and let the phone ring until you have time to park the car. If the caller hangs up before you get a chance to answer you can always call them back from their CLI.

    *Note that divert on no answer does not work if you are roaming AND your home network has not provided you with your own exclusive voicemail number. With some overseas networks all subscribers share the same voicemail box number which doesn’t work for the roamed in network for routing purposes. If you find yourself in this situation consider using option 1 or change your network.

     (Note the above is provided for general guideline purposes only and is not reliable as legal advice).


    Places to see

    Ireland (Irish: Éire) is the third-largest island in Europe. The island of Ireland lies in the Atlantic Ocean and it is made up of the Republic of Ireland, which covers five sixths of the island (south, east, west and north-west), and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom and covers the north-eastern final sixth of the island.

     You probably already know that the capital of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin and that English (official) is the main language (complete with the gorgeous Irish accent). Irish (official, Gaelic or Gaeilge) is spoken typically in areas located along the western seaboard.

     To find out more about everything from top places to see, information about fishing, golf, history, activities, facts about Ireland and even how to trace an Irish ancestry, take a look at the site.

    Events and things to do

    For the latest on events and cultural delights go to this site where you’ll find everything including architecture, festivals, gigs, heritage, music and opera, talk and literature, arts and much more. At the right-hand top of the home page you can select from the drop down menu of art form and county, you can even select by the dates you’ll be there - the site’s address is


    Ireland's weather can be very changeable. It can be sunny one moment, then stormy the next. The climate is temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters followed by cool, damp summers.     

    Weatherwise, the best months to visit Ireland are May through to September. The driest months are April, May and September. The warmest months are June to September and here’s an example of monthly averages in Dublin below. Then see below this table to find out where to get more information about weather in other Irish locations.



       Monthly Normals High Temp. ( F / C ) Low Temp. ( F / C )
    January     46 / 8  36 / 2
    February   46 / 8 36 / 2
    March 49 / 10 38 / 3
    April 53 / 11 40 / 4
    May  58 / 14 44 / 7
    June   63 / 17   49 / 10
    July 66 / 19 53 / 11
    August    65 / 19 52 / 11
    September 62 / 17 49 / 10
    October  57 / 14  46 / 8
    November  50 / 10 40 / 4
    December 47 / 8 38 / 3

    Source: (09.02.06)

    To find weather information on other Irish towns and cities go to:

    then click on the city, scroll down to “History & Almanac” then within that box click on “Seasonal Weather Averages”.

    The Republic of Ireland’s currency is the Euro, symbolised by the €.  One Euro is made up of 100 euro cents and the coins are divided into 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins.  There are also 1€ and 2€ coins.  The Issued notes are as follows: 5€, 10€, 20€, 50€, 100€, 200€, and 500€.

    Northern Ireland holds a different currency, the British pound sterling, which uses the symbol, £. The Euro can not be used in Northern Ireland just as the British Pound sterling can not be used in The Republic of Ireland.  The pound sterling coins are divided up as follows: 1 penny (£0.01), 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound and 2 pounds. The notes in circulation are: £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

    Travellers should try and bring more than just cash and consider traveller's checks, credit cards or an ATM card.  The best option would be to bring some Irish currency with you so you are prepared for anything unexpected. But banks will exchange money for you and the airport will too (however, probably at a higher rate).

    A good idea is to tell your bank you are traveling, as they may become suspicious of where it's being used and shut down your credit card or ATM card. If you’re going to use an ATM card be sure to have a four digit pin on it.

    Most places in Ireland will accept credit cards, with the exception perhaps of smaller shops and Bed and Breakfasts.  Be sure to check out how much the foreign exchange fee is on your credit card so you aren’t charged exorbitant amounts every time you use your card.  Be prepared and bring a copy of any credit card phone numbers you may need in case of an emergency.


    Public Holidays

    Most shops, banks and offices are closed on public holidays, particularly around Christmas and the New Year. On Good Friday almost everything (including pubs & restaurants) is closed. For dinner on this day you should reserve ahead at a hotel. If you’re using public transport at any point, check the schedules for these dates as they may operate on a different basis to normal.

    Holidays in the Republic of Ireland

    New Year's Day January 1
    St. Patrick's Day:      March 17th
    Good Friday:     Friday before Easter
    Easter Monday: Monday after Easter
    May Bank Holiday:   First Monday in May
    June Bank Holiday: First Monday in June
    August Bank Holiday: First Monday in August
    October Bank Holiday: Last Monday in October
    Christmas Day:     December 25th
    St. Stephen's Day: December 26th

    Holidays in Northern Ireland

    New Year's Day January 1
    St. Patrick's Day: March 17th
    Good Friday:  Friday before Easter
    Easter Monday:  Monday after Easter
    May Bank Holiday:  First Monday in May
    May Bank Holiday:  Last Monday in May
    July Holiday:  July 12
    August Bank Holiday:  Last Monday in August
    Christmas Day: December 25th
    Boxing Day:  December 26th

    Time Zone

    Standard Time
    Ireland Time is in the Western European Time Zone. Western European Standard Time (WET) is the same time as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). 

    Summer Time
    Like most states in Europe, Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time is observed where the time is shifted forward by 1 hour; 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1). Summer time runs from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October changing at
    1.00am (01:00) GMT. 

    After the Summer months the time is shifted back by 1 hour to Western European Time (WET) or (GMT). 

    To see what the time is in Ireland right now, go to:


    With effect from 29 March 2004 there is a complete ban on smoking in Ireland wherever people are employed. Make sure you request a room for smoking or non-smoking, to your preference, when you book your accommodation. The following are exceptions (hopefully you will only end up in the first list of these!): 

        * Hotel, guest house and B&B bedrooms
        * Prisons / Garda (police) station detention areas
        * Nursing homes / Hospices / Psychiatric hospitals
        * Religious order homes

        * Residential areas within third level education institutions

    All of the information above is subject to change without notice and is intended as a guide only.

    Last updated 23.02.06


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