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A tourists guide to driving in Ireland

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Author: © Revision date: 01/Feb/2009

Road Quality in Ireland
While the road network has improved in recent years, in general, road quality still lags behind the USA and many European countries. There are still many routes that are winding, narrow and extra care should be taken driving on these roads.
However, motorways and national roads are generally of high quality. It is when you leave these national routes that the road quality is significantly lower.
But the secondary roads allow you to pass through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world – but please take extra care!

Beware drive on the left hand side in Ireland!
Irish motorists drive on the left hand side of the road and cars are right hand drive.


There can be significant traffic congestion in the main urban centres, such as Dublin, Cork and Galway, particularly around rush hour periods. There has been an enormous increase in car ownership within Ireland in the past 10 years.

Parking in Ireland - tips for tourists

Most Irish urban centres require you to buy and display a valid parking permit on your dashboard when you park and leave your car. These parking permits can usually be purchased from near by automated on-street vending machines.
Vehicles which do not display these parking permits are very likely to be clamped – and a significant fee must be paid to remove the clamp. Illegally parked cars can be towed away and impounded. A single yellow indicates that parking is allowed at certain times only - Pathway signs usually tell you the restrictions. A double yellow means that there is no parking at any time.

Insurance and roadworthiness for tourists visiting Ireland

All motorists must have adequate valid motor insurance, and an insurance disk must be displayed on your car windscreen.
Vehicle roadworthiness is regulated by a testing regime for all cars over 4 years old. This car testing is referred to as NCT and a valid certificate must be displayed on the car windscreen (applies to private vehicles over 4 years old)
Drivers must carry a valid driver’s licence with them while driving at all times

Seat Belts
It is compulsory to wear front and rear seat belts. Children should be suitable restrained using adequate child car seats or booster seats. Children under 12 years of age are not permitted to travel in the front passenger seat.

Speed limits in the Republic of Ireland

Most new cars in Ireland will display speed in kilometres per hour. However, in recent years Ireland switched from generally displaying speed limits in miles per hour to kilometres per hour. Because of this, older cars speedometers may display mph more predominantly.

The speed limit is 100 km/hr (approx 62 miles per hr) on national – signified by “N” on road maps e.g.N3
120 km per hour on motorways shown by "M" and a number e.g.M50

The speed limit on secondary or regional roads is normally 80km per hr (about 50miles per hr)

The speed limit in built up areas is generally 50 km/hr (about 30 miles per hour).

In Northern Ireland speeds are still measured in miles per hour with the standard speed limit set at 60 miles/hr.

Fuel prices in the Republic of Ireland

The cost of fuel in Ireland is a little below the European average. However, visitors from the United States of America will find fuels prices to be high in Ireland compared to prices in their home country. As of Aug 2011 you can expect to pay about Eur1.48 per litre of unleaded fuel.

Alcohol and driving in Ireland

It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol in Ireland. Heavy penalties can be imposed on drunk drivers  There is random breath alcohol testing checkpoints set up by the Police, known as Gardai These can take place at any time, and especially at times such as bank holidays and pub closing times.
Although it is possible to drink a small amount of alcohol and remain below the drink drive limit, it is highly advisable that you refrain from drinking alcohol before driving.


Roundabouts are commonplace in Ireland. You must yield to all vehicles coming from your right and always enter the roundabout to the left.

Accidents and emergencies

If you are involved in an accident on Irish roads you are advised to call the local police. If either party has suffered an injury you must call an Ambulance and the police by dialling the emergency number 999
You should write down the contact details of all witnesses to the accident. And if possible take some photographs of the incident. Record all relevant names and addresses. You should never admit liability for the accident until you have reported the accident to your insurance company or car rental company- and you should report the accident to them as soon as possible.

We hope you found this article to be useful and if you plan to travel to Ireland we wish you an enjoyable and safe visit.

This article is not a comprehensive guide to all aspects of driving in this country and is provided as an advice service to our visitors. The advice and information in this article is provided as a guide to some of  more important general driving rules for this country. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of rules and regulations. We make no guarantees that the information is correct and up to date and we cannot be held responsible in any way for consequences arising from any inaccuracies.


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Ashbourne, County Meath, Ireland
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