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Driving in Ireland : The Complete Guide

Advice for tourists driving in Ireland, regardless of where you are from driving in a new place can be scary however with research and armed with the local road safety knowledge will support your driving experience in Ireland.

Speed limits and distances are posted in kilometres in the Republic of Ireland – 50km/h being just over 30mph and 100km/h being a little more than 60 mph – but signs change to miles when crossing into Northern Ireland.

Seat belts are to be worn in both the front and rear seats, and children under twelve years old are not allowed to sit in the front. The use of handheld phones while driving is also illegal, unless with a hands-free device. See information on children baby & booster seats in the rental guidelines.

What driving licence can I use in Ireland?

International drivers licence

Those from United Kingdom, United of States, Canada, Australia and EU member states will not need to provide an International Driving Permit. International Driving Permits where required, must be accompanied by the original domestic licence of the driver.

Drivers from other countries that are recognised by Ireland can drive on their current licence for 12 months after which they must get an Irish licence.

US Citizens can use their driving licence in Ireland. 

UK drivers licence

As of June 8th 2015, DVLA announced the UK paper counterpart of the driving licence is no longer valid. Irish car rental companies require all UK licence holders to present a ‘check code’ before the rental can be released; the ‘check code’ will be valid for 21 days. 

What side of the road to drive in Ireland?

In Ireland they drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s side is on the right hand drive of the car. While this is common knowledge, it’s easy to get confused, especially on strange roads in a new country.

Motorways & National Roads

In the Republic of Ireland, motorways are blue symbol with an “M” - i.e M50 and the national roads are green signs with an “N” - i.e N7).

Roads in Northern Ireland's motorways are also blue symbol with an "M". "A"are used for primary and non-primary roads with mileage shown instead of kilometres.

Irish motorways or highways should be familiar to visitors but once you get onto the local, more rural roads, you could find them somewhat narrower than expected. Standard, two-way and urban roads are often about two feet narrower than in larger countries, and often have no verge or shoulder for pulling over. It’s not uncommon to find a farmer driving cattle or sheep towards you as you round a bend.

The trick is to stay calm and proceed carefully. The locals do drive their roads very quickly, so if traffic starts to build up behind you do not feel pressured to speed up. Simply pull over safely and let them pass. Despite these roads’ smaller size, they are largely well taken care of, in good repair and subject to very light traffic.

Sat Nav can be invaluable in rural Ireland, as many remote parts of the countryside sometimes only have street signs in Gaelic. This is available to rent from car rental companies in Ireland.

Driving rules

Majority of driving rules applies to the same all over the world with common sense, following the speed limits advised by road signs and wearing seat belts.

  • *The traffic in Ireland drives on the left.
  • *Speed limits are in Kilometres per hour – km/h.
  • *Wearing seat belts at all times and you are responsible for passengers also.
  • *Do not hold a mobile phone while driving.
  • *The legal limit for fully licenced drivers is 50milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The Road Safety Authority provides information about the road rules of Ireland and it should be essential reading for all visitors who are planning to drive a hire car around Ireland.

Rental car transmission

In Ireland most cars are equipped with a manual transmission (Stick Shift). Automatic cars are available but are generally more expensive to rent. You can specify which transmission you would prefer when making a quotation. For more information on renting a car in Ireland, please read the rental guidelines.

Places to drive in Ireland


Image thanks to ©Lukasz Warzecha

The Wild Atlantic Way is a world class 2500km drive, recently won awards for the best drive enjoyed by thousands of visitors. Recognisable locations like the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle and the scenic Ring of Kerry, can really only be properly reached and appreciated by car and those that make it never regret it.

The route starts in South of Ireland - Kinsale, Co Cork which takes you along the Atlantic coast to the most northerly point of Ireland - Malin Head.

For more information on places to drive in Ireland and Itineraries, read this road trips in Ireland guide.

If you would like to book car rental for your trip, please click here.