Driving in Ireland - all you need to know about hiring a car and driving around Ireland

Here are some general guidelines to Driving in Ireland

  • 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).
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