So you’ve made the BRILLIANT choice to go on a road trip of Ireland? As a friend from afar, I cannot support this decision enough. Ireland is insanely gorgeous. I went with two of my best friends and we had the time of our lives. I am not a picky traveler, and they had really wanted to visit Ireland while I had no really strong feelings either way, so to Ireland we went! And let me tell you what, I have strong feelings now about Ireland. And those feelings are love, adoration, and a desire to go back.
So now you’re likely in the trip planning process and wondering what can you learn from people who have been there before? Well, I’m here to help. This blog is going to be all about my top 10 tips for your road trip of Ireland and how to make it the best damn time of your life. Or at least pretty far up there!
And before you get started putting these Ireland road trip tips to good use, you’ll need to secure a rental car first. I highly recommend booking your rental car ahead of time, picking it up at the Dublin airport, and dropping it back off there before your flight leaves.
Now, let’s get on to these Ireland road trip tips.
1 – Don’t Only Stick to Dublin
Ireland is amazing. Dublin is amazing. But Dublin is not all of Ireland. And my 10 day road trip of Ireland was SO much better because I listened to all my friends who told me to get out of Dublin for most of my trip. And they were insanely right.
The Irish countryside, villages, and other cities are absolutely incredible and were without a doubt my favorite parts of my trip. If you want to learn about the exact trip I took, where I’d recommend going vs. skipping, and where I wish we’d gone instead, check out my 10 day road trip of Ireland itinerary. You’ll see that there’s really only 2.5 days spent in Dublin and we really spent our time exploring the rest of that gorgeous island.
2 – Rent a Small Car
This should seem straightforward given this is a “road trip of Ireland tips” blog post but I’m here to reiterate, rent a car. More specifically, rent a small car. I’m sure there are ways tour buses and connecting public transit that can get you from point A to point B if you need, but honestly having a car is truly the best way to get around. Whether you’re driving the Ring of Kerry or simply going from Dublin to Galway, you’ll find major benefit in having a car to drive yourself. And for some of the small Irish roads, you’ll appreciate having a small car even more.
3 – Do Not Buy Rental Insurance Before You Arrive
Ireland requires rental insurance. However, it has to be through their providers. Lots of people learn this the hard way, but Ireland doesn’t really respect car insurance that isn’t bought through them. Basically if you’re renting your car through Expedia, do not add insurance on the rental. When you get there, you can add it. But third-party insurance not bought when you pick the car up will not work for you.
4 – If You’re American, Practice Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road
If you’re picking your rental car up at the airport, the toughest drive is going to be from the airport to wherever you’re likely staying in Dublin. That’s because it’s when you first adjust to driving on the left side of the road vs. what you’re used to at home in the US. Dublin has the most traffic so this is the hardest area to get used to.
If you can, either practice doing some left-side driving at home in an empty parking lot or find some roads slightly outside of Dublin center to practice driving in. But also, be kind to yourself. It’s a hard adjustment to make so quickly, but you get used to it very fast. I actually found it harder assimilate back to American driving once I returned to the US than I did adjusting to driving in Ireland.
5 – Prepare for Some Extremely Narrow Roads
Remember how I recommended above to rent a small car? This is why. If you’re doing your road trip of Ireland right, you’ll be doing some serious exploring. That means heading to see epic coastal views or amazing old castles and anything in between. What that also means is you might be driving on some seriously narrow one-lane country roads. All you need to do is be patient and considerate when driving on these if another person joins the road with you. This happened multiple times to us, and you just have to get over as far as you can to let them through. Most of the time that works and both cars continue driving as they were.
However, if two cars truly cannot make it through the road at the same time, one of you will have to back up so the other may pass. Prepare yourself for that person to be you, and try not to let it annoy you. Things happen and it’s important to go with the flow.
And lastly on this tip, if you’re driving any of the popular scenic drives (Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, etc.) I recommend going in the direction the tour buses go. That way you don’t have to drive against them on any of these tiny roads.
5 – Master the Roundabout
I made a joke that I was now the Khaleesi of Roundabouts after driving through so many of them, and I was not wrong. I am now queen of roundabouts.
But in all seriousness, you’ll see probably 10x more roundabouts than stop signs, so just be prepared and understand the rules of them prior to arrival.
6 – Prepare for Rain
This probably isn’t much of a shock to you, but it’s rainy in Ireland. So make sure your road trip of Ireland packing list includes rain boots and a rain jacket. This Marmot rain jacket is my favorite that’s been with me around the world, and any waterproof shoes will work!
7 – Don’t Skip Over Northern Ireland
A lot of Ireland road trip itineraries skip over Northern Ireland and that, to me, is a travesty. Northern Ireland is STUNNING and I am so glad we made it work during our road trip of Ireland. We only spent one day there, but it was honestly so memorable and one of the favorites of my trip. Check out how we spent a day in Northern Ireland and see why you should add it to your Ireland road trip itinerary.
8 – Hit the More Popular Stops Early in the Day
Thinking of heading to the impressive Cliffs of Moher? Of course you are, they’re gorgeous. What you need to do though is to get there as early as possible in the day. That way you can explore the area without having to compete for space with all of the other visitors.
This is just one example of some of the more popular tourist destinations, but the rule applies to all of them. The earlier in the day you get somewhere, the less competition you’ll have with other tourists to see it. And that is always more enjoyable in my book.
9 – Have Cash on You at All Times
You never know what little pub you’re going to eat lunch in or what UNESCO spot’s card reader will be broken. You are absolutely not guaranteed to have anywhere that takes credit cards really outside of Dublin, so always have cash handy.
10 – Be Prepared to Stop Because These Drives Are Gorgeous
Like I mentioned at the very beginning of this lovely post. Ireland is beautiful. And that beauty isn’t just contained to the famous landmarks. Simply driving around for a day, your jaw will probably get tired from hanging on the floor so much. It’s just a stunning country, period. So be prepared to pull over and stop at all of the beauty along the way.
So there you have it, my 10 trips for your road trip of Ireland. If there’s anything else you’re curious about, definitely shoot me a message. You can also check out my story highlights on Instagram for some more behind the scenes stuff. You’re going to have the time of your life, and I’m so excited for you!