Ireland is full of historic cities, beautiful countryside and a rugged coastline. In my opinion driving is the best way to see this country. You can detour when you want, stop when you want, and spend as long as you want in each place. Despite all of these perks; renting a car in Ireland can be intimidating . You have to figure out insurance, navigate through new places and even get use to driving on the other side of the road! Here are our top tips to ensure your rental goes smoothly.
Before You Book
There are so many options when booking a rental car online it can be completely overwhelming! Follow these steps before renting a car in Ireland:
Plan which city you will arrive to: If you fly in and out of the same city you will have numerous rental options that will be fairly straight forward. It is possible to pick up a vehicle in one city and drop it off in another; but be prepared for extra fees. For budget and simplicity; try to use the same city for departure and arrival.
Decide which kind of vehicle you want to rent: Due to the size of many roads in the country, I would highly recommend getting the smallest car possible. A standard car will be cheaper to rent than an automatic, but if you are more comfortable in an automatic go with that. To put things in perspective; we rented an automatic car for €34/day including no deductible insurance and all fees included.
Compare rental companies: Obviously price is the first deciding factor. Make sure to confirm that all taxes, fees, and insurance are included in the quote you get. Pick a company that allows you to get no deductible insurance. This will keep your mind at ease while driving the narrow roads and busy cities. You also want to confirm that you will have unlimited kilometers. Some rental companies will advertise a cheap price with restricted km`s and a high fee for any overages. Another great thing to look for is a company with locations in different cities. This way if anything happens you can go to the closest location instead of being hours away.
Book in advance: This is recommended in order to get the best price. Before you depart for Ireland, try loosely planning out your route and plotting it in on a map. We used the app maps.me which is an offline map to put all of our stops into. A GPS would also work and you can rent one with the car if needed.
At the Rental Lot
Most rental companies will book you onto a shuttle from the airport upon reserving the vehicle. Here are a few things to do once you arrive at the rental company`s lot:
Ensure the price you are paying matches up with your quote: I like to keep a printed out copy of the quote just in case of any discrepancies.
Reconfirm that you have zero deductible insurance: It never hurts to be extra diligent on this one! Confirm exactly what your insurance will cover and if there is anything exempt from coverage.
Find out how tolls are paid: This will vary between companies while renting a car in Ireland. Some cars will have a box on the windshield charging the tolls directly to the rental company. This allows you to pay for everything at the end. If this is the case do not stop and pay any tolls or you will end up paying twice.
Inquire about a cross boarder fee: In most cases, you will have to pay a fee in order to cross the boarder into Northern Ireland. Make sure to discuss the price prior to leaving the lot.
Check the car for scratches, damage, and a full tank of gas: This sounds like common sense but when you’ve been traveling for hours its easy to just hop in without really looking at the car. They should go over a checklist with you and don`t be afraid to point out any dents or scratches unmentioned. We had a situation where the gas tank was empty when we picked up the car; so make sure to double check gas levels!
On the Roads
You’ve got your car and you`re ready to go! Here are a few final tips on manning the roads while renting a car in Ireland:
Drive on the left side of the road: This takes some getting use to. Right hand turns are the most tricky, just go slow and be very mindful for the first few days. If you are starting in Dublin we would recommend taking the buses or walking around just to decrease your stress levels in the big city!
The streets are NARROW: Expect to be driving on old narrow roads in most cities. It is not uncommon to find yourself sandwiched between a stone wall and oncoming traffic feeling like you won`t have enough room. Drive slow down these narrow roads and tuck your mirrors in when you park.
You will encounter HUGE tour buses: Especially on some of the more famous drives in Ireland, you can expect to encounter lots of tour buses. We recommend driving the same direction as the tour buses so you`re not coming face to face with them on narrow roads. For the Slea Head Drive, drive clockwise. For the Ring of Kerry, drive counter clockwise.
Take the toll roads: In some countries the toll roads can be expensive and not worth taking. In Ireland they are usually around €2 euros, well maintained and much quicker!
Have coins for parking: Street parking is usually cash only, so make sure you have coins on you. Keep in mind that if you cross the boarder into Northern Ireland you will need British Pounds instead of Euros.