How to Rent a Car in Ireland

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jun 27, 2017 / 0 comments

You've heard the stories - narrow roads, driving on the left, cows and sheep, cliffs of insanity, busted hubcaps, and the ever-present tour buses. Yet driving in Ireland can be done - and can infinitely improve your travel experience, as you can see things that most travelers aren't able to. So you've planned your itinerary, perhaps along the Wild Atlantic Way. You've done your research on markets and restaurants, stores and events, places to stay and pubs to visit.

Driving the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

But the question remains: how do you rent a car in Ireland? What should you look for? Ireland seems to be different than any other country we've rented a car in, and it can be confusing.

Moll's Gap, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Here are some things to know...

How to Rent a Car in Ireland

How to Rent a Car in Ireland

Book your car early. You can rent a car in either manual (shift stick) or automatic. If you're used to automatic, and aren't comfortable driving a shift stick, then booking early is a great idea, as there are more manual cars in Ireland. Automatics are more expensive, but if it is a concern, go with safety! It's not a good idea to learn a new way of driving when you're also learning to drive on the opposite side of the road.

Irish Traffic Jam

Look right, turn left. That's the motto of driving in Ireland, since driving is on the opposite side of the road from the US and many other countries. Keep saying it to yourself. Have your passengers repeat it with you.

Driving in Ireland - look right, turn left

Go small. Take the smallest car you and your luggage will fit into. Trust me on this - you'll be so grateful you did, when you're driving the Ring of Kerry (or the Skellig Ring) and the road gets narrower and narrower. Get a big enough car to be comfortable, but small enough to fit everywhere.

Get a small rental car in Ireland to fit on the roads

See how small the cars are?

See how small the cars (and roads) are?

Know the insurance options. When you reserve your car, please know that Ireland is a bit different for many credit card companies, and they do not cover car rental insurance in Ireland. Phone ahead and ascertain if yours does. Meanwhile, I highly suggest you get the Super CDW (super collision damage waiver) insurance. Why? Well, this covers you if the car is damaged or stolen (whether it is your fault or not). It's much cheaper to buy the Super CDW than to pay for damages, let me tell you. And if you decline to take Super CDW (and go with only CDW), you will probably have to put down a deposit of several thousands euros on your card, until the car is returned unscathed.

When driving in Ireland, get the Super CDW Insurance

Heading to Northern Ireland? You must tell your car rental company when booking. Some have an extra fee, and some don't allow it.

Do you need an international driver's license? If you're from the US, Canada, or Europe, you don't need an international driver's license. Still, read up on signs and traffic rules - they might be different than what you're used to.

Crazy road signs in Ireland

Does the driver's age matter? Sometimes, especially for under 21 and over 75. Do your research!

Adding drivers? Say so up front - each driver will have an additional fee.

Need a car seat? No problems. Reserve ahead of time.

As with any legal document, read the fine print on all forms.

Tips for picking up your car. It is easiest to pick up the car at the airport, to be honest. And then, you will be in a slightly more rural area than in a city, so your driving skills will be gained gradually and not all at once, in traffic! We love flying into Shannon airport. It's small, easy to get around, and the roads away from the airport are easy to navigate. If you are picking up your car in Dublin, wait a few days until you're done with jet lag, and can navigate the city more easily.

The roads around Shannon Airport

The roads around Shannon Airport

Paying for your rental car. All car rentals in Ireland must be by a credit card in the name of the person who is the main driver.

Extras. You probably won't need air conditioning or cruise control. You should always be aware of your surroundings in case of an errant cow or tour bus, and it's usually not very hot in Ireland.

Another Irish traffic jam

Road signs in Ireland

Additional taxes and fees. There will be some, and each company will differ. These may include VAT, road taxes, airport taxes, a credit card charge, a licensing fee, and even a toll fee if you're driving from Dublin on the M50.

Scope out your car before you hop in. Note any damages on the form, and take photos with a date stamp if your camera has it. Keep the document in the glove box so you don't lose it!

The gas! Know what kind of fuel your car takes BEFORE You fill up. Be sure to use the right kind. Also know the policy of your rental car company - are you supposed to bring the car back empty, or full? You can avoid charges by knowing this and acting accordingly. At the filling station, the green handled pumps are unleaded, and the black handled pumps are diesel. While fuel may cost more than at home, the cars are generally smaller and more efficient. No worries!

Sheep in the road on the Ring of Kerry


Speeding tickets from cameras?! Always follow posted signs for speed and conditions. Not worth a ticket!

Road signs, Ireland

Speed limits are posted on signs that are a white circle with a red outline, and are in kilometers.

Speed limit sign, Ireland

Pull over if you are uncomfortable with fast cars behind you, so that they can pass and you can get back on your merry way.

Do not turn on red. Ever.

Watch for the one way streets!

Driving in Ireland

Signs will be both in English and Irish Gaelic.

Use a GPS or get a sim card for your phone, so you can easily get directions. The roads aren't always clearly marked.

Watch for walkers and hikers, whether you are in town or out in the country! Many people travel to Ireland to hike. Most people aren't used to the driving on the opposite side of the road, and don't look correctly before crossing the street.

Watch for walkers and hikers while driving in Ireland

While driving in Ireland, watch for hikers (especially on the Kerry Way)


Are you headed to Ireland? Tell us about your journeys!







Photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts