10 Tips for renting a car in Ireland

10 Tips for renting a car in Ireland

Known for its endless green valleys, jagged Atlantic coastlines, and its warm, friendly locals, Ireland is a must-see for those seeking adventure! Renting a car and driving on your own is the hands-down best way to see it all. Roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road aren’t the only things to know about driving in Ireland.

Check out these 10 tips on renting a car in Ireland.

Make car reservations early

Ireland only has a few months on what’s considered “summer weather”, June July & August.  As a result, this is the busiest time of year to rent a car.  Reservations go quickly and can be very pricey.  Plan to rent your car months in advance (6-8 months prior) in order to get the best deals. 

Get on the road early

Getting an early start on the road will mean less traffic and less stress on the driving process overall. Compared to driving in other countries, like the USA, Thailand, and Germany, traffic in Ireland was relatively light, except in the larger cities at times.  Getting an early head start will let beat the morning traffic and the crowds at the sites!

Have a designated navigator

Giving directions is one thing, but when I say “navigator” I mean someone who is actively looking for the next thing to see, changing the music, finding a parking spot, or locating the nearest gas station.  Having someone focus on these things will allow you to focus on driving and probably cut down on the number of times you U-turn! 

Get the Rental Insurance for Peace of Mind

Getting car rental insurance is something I would strongly suggest to those who may be nervous about driving over there.  Frankly speaking, I hardly ever take the insurance when traveling, but the chances of hitting or denting your car seemed so much higher after driving in Ireland. 

You may be a very cautious driver, a safe driver, an alert driver, or however you want to view yourself, but when it comes down to either running your car slightly off the side of the road into the shrubbery vs. getting clipped by a passing truck, chances are you won’t be worrying about the possible scratch from the tree branch that just scraped the car.  Ireland’s country roads are so narrow at places that only one car can pass at a time.  This, plus the fact that you are driving on the left side of the road (opposite for me), can make for a stressful renting experience.  For total peace of mind consider adding taking the insurance.

Have change for tolls

Ireland's Tolls
Ireland’s Tolls

Here was my experience.  I went to Ireland with my whole family and we ended up renting 3 small cars while we were there.  I had mentioned to my Dad that he might need change for tolls, as I had read up about it online.  Being recently in Europe I still had Euros from a past trip, so I wasn’t as concerned, but he figured he would buy something shortly, and then he would have spare change for the tolls.  We flew into Shannon Airport, rented our cars, and not 30 minutes after leaving the airport, we hit our first toll; EXACT CHANGE ONLY! Luckily, I drove behind our other two cars, so my fiancé was able to get out and pay their tolls.  Alternatively, they could have run them, and the toll ticket would be sent to the car rental location, but be prepared just in case.     

Rent & Return to the same location

Picking up and dropping off at the same rental car location can save hundreds of dollars while in Ireland!  When booking your rental car, it can be very tempting to consider renting it from one city and leaving it in another on your way out.  People often consider this as they plan for Northern Ireland and quickly realize how long it takes to drive back down South after.  Though this is an option, it’s certainly not one I would recommend.  Structure your trip so that you’ll start and end at the same location and it will make your wallet much happier in the end.

Be prepared for animal crossings

Sheep, cows, horses…, honestly you never know what could be crossing the road when driving in Ireland.  Raising livestock accounts for about 40% of the country’s agriculture output, so there’s a good chance you may see a farmer moving his animals from one pasture to the next at some point on your trip here.  Seeing it happen in person was awesome, literally a hundred cows just walking in the street next to your car like its no big deal.

Ireland Cow Crossing

Unfortunately, there is no warning where and when it will happen.  Be cautious and alert while driving through the country roads and stay vigilant with your brakes.  We were driving back from lunch one day rounding a corner and luckily, we had enough time for all 3 of our cars to hit the brakes before we hit the cows walking down the middle of the road. 

Stop for the sights!

Ireland is stunning everywhere!  Driving through the country is really the only way to understand and appreciate this too.  Outside of seeing the usual attractions, Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, Ring of Kerry…etc., there are countless other spots you’ll find along the drive that are worth stopping for.  I can’t even count the number of times we stopped driving around the Dingle Peninsula, but it had to be about 20 in total.  We stopped at the beach, at cliff overlooks, to hold baby Lambs and another time at BeeHive Huts from 2000 B.C.!  If you see a spot to pull over, do it, the pictures and views will be worth it! 

Green for Gas, Black for Diesel

Ireland Gas Information
Ireland Gas Info

Make sure to fill up with the right pump!  The pump colors in Ireland may be a bit different than what you’re used to back home.  The green pump handle is used for gas and the black pump handle is for diesel.  Gas stations in Ireland are typically called petrol stations or garages.

As you explore the more remote parts of Ireland, remember to fill up on gas often!  Stations can be remote in certain regions and the last thing you want is to run out of gas on vacation. Generally, most stations will take credit cards, but it’s always a good idea to have cash as a backup (Euro). 

Drive the Wild Atlantic Way

If you only drive Ireland once, then make sure you drive the Wild Atlantic Way. Spanning 2500 KM, this road begins in the South (Cork), winding through the West Coast and ending in Northern Ireland (Derry). Some of the top landmarks are located along this drive, including The Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, and more. Renting a car will allow you to experience the full drive, as buses are too large to drive along the Dingle Peninsula. Consider flying into Shannon airport for ease with starting this drive!

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland