There are many car hire companies in Ireland and you can pick up in the cities or at the airports, though it may cost more to pick up at an airport. Note that most Irish car hire agencies will not accept third party collision damage insurance coverage (for example with credit card) when you rent a car.
Irish Car Rentals, Thrifty, Europcar and more
Conventional wisdom suggests renting (hiring) a car that is an automatic transmission model. This is because many roads in Ireland are narrow, requiring the driver's full attention, so an automatic transmission allows the driver to focus on the road instead of the machine. However, selecting a manual transmission (stickshift) model will allow the driver to select a smaller vehicle which better fits the small roads and saves gas (petrol) without a noticeable loss of power. In addition, roundabouts are more common in Ireland than in many other countries. Navigating roundabouts is easier with a stickshift because you downshift for extra power to speed up coming out of the turn. It should be noted that traffic already on the roundabout has right of way over traffic entering it, in contrast to 'traffic circles' sometimes employed in the US. If you are coming to Ireland for a holiday, there is always the option of hiring a chauffeur driven vehicle for the duration with a number of companies offering chauffeur tours including Kennedy & Carr Custom Travel, TSI, CIE Tours and Lynott Tours.
Holidaying using your own wheels is a popular and very enjoyable experience in Ireland. As the weather can change very rapidly, having the benefit of shelter whilst you drive caught on quickly in this corner of Europe. Unlike most of the rest of Europe, numerous free sites are available throughout the country for those on campervan style excursions across Ireland. However, finding these sites is not always easy- they are not documented on the web yet, although if you arrive in an area early, a simple query at the local council office will usually suffice. If you arrive into a town outside of office hours, normally the local person you ask will display typical Irish hospitality and point you in the right direction. Facilities vary, but fresh water and waste disposal are usually the required minimum. If facilities are poor, inform the local council, they will usually help.
It is highly recommended that you call ahead to book a taxi. The hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast you are staying in will usually call the cab company they work closely with for your convenience. Taxis should be reasonably easy to pick up on the streets in Dublin, Belfast and Cork but may be harder to find cruising the streets in smaller cities and towns so it is often best to telephone for one. It is recommended to call the cab company in advance if possible and give them a time to be picked up, no matter if it's 4 hours in advance or 30 minutes in advance. Work with the same cab company your hotel does and let them know your final destination if there is more than one stop. You will also need to give them a contact phone number over the phone, so if calling from a pay phone, be prepared for them to deny your claim for a taxi cab. The average waiting time may be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on demand and time of day. All Taxis in Republic of Ireland operate on a National Fare basis, so the price should be relatively easy to calculate. For more information, see the Commission of Taxi Regulation website. Always ensure that the taxi you use has a meter, and that it is used for the duration of your journey.
Driving and road rules in Ireland are similar to those of the United Kingdom - e.g. drive on the left and yield to the right on roundabout. The most noticeable difference is the fact that distances are displayed in kilometres and speed limits in kilometres per hour (km/h) in the Republic of Ireland. This can be confusing to anyone travelling across the border from Northern Ireland, which, like Britain, uses miles and miles per hour. The legal blood-alcohol limit is low, so it may be best to abstain. It is perfectly legal to temporarily use the hard shoulder to allow a faster moving vehicle overtake you, but remember that this maneouver is not allowed on a motorway. Drivers often 'thank' each other by flashing their hazard lights or waving - this is purely a convention. Road signs in the Republic are nominally bilingual, with place names displayed in Irish in italic font, with the corresponding English name in capitals immediately below. In the "Gaeltacht" areas (Irish-Speaking districts in the south-west (Kerry), west (Galway, Mayo), and north-west (Donegal), as well as other smaller gaeltacht areas in Meath and Waterford), road signs are written in Irish only. In Northern Ireland road signs are in English only and all distances are given in miles. There are five types of road classification:
Speed limits are defaults for the road classification only - if a lower speed limit is signed, it must be obeyed. Urban areas generally have a 50km/h speed limit.
Ireland has an extensive motorway network which centers around Dublin. The main motorways are:
Note that most motorways in the Republic have some tolled sections. Tolls are low by French or Italian standards, and vary from €1.90 upwards, depending on which motorway you are traveling on. Tolls are displayed a few kilometers from the plaza. For the visitor, it's important to note that the only tolled road that accepts credit cards is the M4 between Kilcock and Kinnegad. All others (except the M50) are Euro cash only, so take care if you're arriving from the North via the M1. The M50 is barrier free and accepts no cash. Cameras are located on overhead gantries between J6 & J7 which read your number plate. If you have registered before online or by phone €2.50 will be taken from your credit card. If you have not registered, you must go to a Payzone branded outlet and pay the toll there. This option costs €3.
For 2010, the tolled sections and their charges (for private cars) are as follows:
There are numerous routes of high quality dual carriageway, which are very near motorway standard; Dublin-Wicklow, Sligo-Collooney (Sligo), Mullingar-Athlone, and Cork-Middleton (Waterford).
Lesser roads, are, in many parts, poorly signposted, the only indication of what route to take often being a finger-sign at the junction itself. The road surfaces can be very poor on the lesser used R- & L- numbered routes.
Driving on regional and local roads in Ireland requires etiquette, courtesy and nerves of steel. Roads are generally narrow with little to no shoulder or room for error. Sight lines can be limited or non-existent until you are partway into the road. Caution should be taken when entering onto the roadway as well as when driving along it, with the understanding that around the next turn may be another motorist partway into the road. This is especially true in rural areas. Parking along the road, farm animals, as well as large lorries or machinery may also appear around the bend and be the cause for quick thinking or braking. It is not unusual for oncoming cars to navigate to a wide spot in the road to pass each other. On the other hand, when driving slower than following cars, it is common for drivers to allow others to pass or signal if the way is clear. Calculating driving time can be slower than expectations, due to the large increase in motorists and road conditions/hazards.
As mentioned above, speed limits in the Republic of Ireland (but not in Northern Ireland) are in kilometres per hour. The general maximum speed limits are as follows:
Local Councils may apply other limits in specific areas as required. Also when roads are being maintained or worked upon in some way, the limit may be temporarily changed.
There is no shortage of car rental companies in Ireland with all of the major airports and cities throughout Ireland being well catered for, while the ports of Rosslare and Dún Laoghaire are served by Hertz and Dan Dooley respectively. Renting a car in Ireland is very similar to the processes elsewhere in that you need a credit card in your own name and a full driver's license for a minimum of two years without endorsement. Most car rental companies in Ireland apply a minimum age of 25 in order to rent a car, but in many cases you will need to be 28 in order to rent a full-size car. Car rentals in Ireland comes with the minimum insurance which will cover the car, but leave you with an excess deductible in the case of an accident. Additional insurance, known as Collision Damage Waiver, can be purchased to protect yourself against this excess when picking up the car.
It is also possible to rent a campervan, and there are quite a number of companies offering campervans for hire.
With improvements to the Motorway network, Domestic flights in Ireland have been reduced drastically, and are now only available between Dublin and Kerry and Donegal.
Most trains in Ireland (all operated by the state-run Irish Rail also known by their Irish name, Iarnród Éireann) operate to and from Dublin. Enormous expenditure on modernising the state-owned Irish Rail system is ongoing, including the introduction of many new trains. The frequency and speed of services is being considerably increased, especially on the Dublin-Cork line. If you book on-line for Intercity travel, be aware that there may be a cheaper fare option available to you at the office in the station itself. Not all special rates, e.g., for families, are available on line.
Advance booking can result in big savings and booking can be made a month in advance, e.g. an adult return between Kerry and Dublin can cost €75 if booked for the next day but can cost as little as €20 - €30 if booked well in advance. Trains nearly always book out for major sporting events in Dublin such the GAA Semi-Finals and Finals and Major Rugby and Soccer Internationals. Pay notice to this if planning to travel on weekends during August and September. The 1st and 3rd Sunday of September see both All-Ireland finals held and buses and trains see a massive upsurge in Travel as well the main roads to the counties participating.
Note that there are two main stations in Dublin - Connolly Station (for trains to Belfast, Sligo and Rosslare) and Heuston Station (for trains to Cork, Limerick, Ennis, Tralee, Killarney, Galway, Westport, Kilkenny and Waterford.)
In the Northern Ireland , almost all services are operated by NIR (Northern Ireland Railways).
In the Dublin city area the electrified DART (acronym for Dublin Area Rapid transit) coastal railway travels from Malahide and the Howth peninsula in the North to Bray and Greystones in Co. Wicklow via Dún Laoghaire and Dublin city center. An interchange with main line services and the Luas Red line is available at Dublin Connolly.
Dublin has a tram system, known as Luas (the Irish word for 'speed'). There are two lines. One (the red-line) operates from Dublin's Docklands starting at The Point (beside the O2 Arena) and the city centre (Connolly Station) to a large suburb south-west of the City (Tallaght) and the other (the green line) runs south-east (to Bride's Glen) from St Stephen's Green. Tickets must be puchased from machines before boarding the tram. Tickets are checked in the Luas at random by guards but generally ticketing works on a trust system. Thus free rides are possible, although not advisable, as the fines for fare-dodging can be quite high. The Luas tram provides a very useful link between Dublin's Connolly and Heuston railway stations.
A number of privately-owned companies also provide intercity services. These include:
Ireland is beautiful for biking, but have a good touring bike with solid tires as road conditions are not always excellent. Biking along the south and west coasts you can be prepared for variable terrain, lots of hills and often into the wind. There are plenty of campgrounds along the way for long distance cyclists.
The planned Eurovelo cycle route in Ireland will connect Belfast to Dublin via Galway, and Dublin to Rosslare via Galway and Cork. Visit their website for updates on the status of the path.
Dublin has some marked bicycle lanes and a few non-road cycle tracks. Traffic is fairly busy, but a cyclist confident with road cycling in other countries should have no special difficulties (except maybe for getting used to riding on the left). Note that, in Ireland, left turning cars have right of way over cyclists to their left. Cyclists have no special right of way over cars, particularly when using shared use paths by the side of a road, but share and get equal priority when in the traffic lane. Helmets are not legally required, but widely available for those who wish to use them. On the 13th of September 2009, Dublin Bikes was officially opened, making 400 bikes available to the public in around 40 stations across the city centre. The bikes are free to take for the first half hour, although a payment of €150 is required in case of the bike being stolen or damaged. When finished riding simply bring the bike back to any station and get your payment back.
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