Driving – Personal Drivers and/or advice

September 10, 2006

Question:

We are visiting Ireland for the first time in November and have never driven on the left side of the road. Is there a way to hire a personal driver for a couple days until we get used to the change? Or any other advice will be appreciated. Thanks.

2 Answers

  • barker13 says:

    Dawn: Are you a good driver? A competent driver? (*GRIN*) If so… don’t sweat it! If you wouldn’t hesitate to rent a car somewhere in the States where you’ve never been, you shouldn’t hesitate about renting a car in Ireland.

    Rent an automatic. Remember, even if you’re used to a stick… even if you’re lefty… you’re already driving from the “wrong” (our passenger) seat and your stick shift will be on the left. Why add another distraction?

    Also, we’re not talking Caddies and Lincolns… (*GRIN*)… the Irish in general drive smaller cars than we’re used to. (Look on the bright side – they’re better on gas and can fit in tighter parking spaces!) That said, don’t rent something TOO small – something uncomfortable to drive. Again, being scrunched up and uncomfortable while driving is a distraction you don’t need. I assume you’ve checked out this site’s recommendations?

    My advice: Do your own price surfing, double check what you’ve found using the rental company “800″ phone lines, and if you want to double-check your own research ask your travel agent if he/she can get an even better deal.

    Another tip: BUY an atlas-type roadmap of Ireland. What are you gonna spend… $15-$20? It’s worth it for peace of mind. The road atlas is a great companion to your “regular” guidebooks.

    Make sure you get locked-in quotes prior to 21-days before your rental. If you try to rent at the last minute you’ll probably find higher prices because the rental companies figure you’re getting desperate. For example, Dan Dooley will lock in your quote for seven days. And remember, as long as you have a locked in quote, you can always keep on looking – and if you erase the cookies from previous searches you’ll avoid being directed back to “your” previous best price – in other words, you might get a better price.

    Anyway… hope this helps! (P.S. – American gasoline company credit cards won’t work in Irish gas stations. “Regular” credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, etc.) will.)

  • IrishFlair says:

    Dawn,

    It is surprising how quickly you will adjust to driving on the left when you arrive in Ireland, so don’t worry you won’t need a driver.

    If you are flying into Shannon then that is ideal as you won’t have much if any city traffic to handle right off the plane. Driving in Dublin traffic is a lot more tricky so avoid it if you can. Besides you don’t need a car if you stay in Dublin your first day or two and it’s double an expense to have to rent a car only to pay to park it anyway.

    You can always head back to the airport or to a rental car office just outside the city to pick up your car and then you will have little to no city driving at all.

    The biggest issue with driving on the left in Ireland is when you are not thinking about it. This is why it’s extremely helpful to have more than one person in the car and to have that person help you. It’s a Tag Team approach to driving and my husband and I do this every time we go.

    The driver needs to concentrate on the road and other things that may be on the road – cars, trucks, tractors, sheep, etc. The passenger helps the driver by having a good detailed map, looking at the road signs and knowing/looking ahead on the road and map to where you are going next.

    This person also helps to remind the driver to Keep Left – this is most important when you are first getting out into traffic. If you stop for lunch, a photo or to sight see and then get back out onto the road then that is the time for both people in the car to really think about the rules of the road. Too often you just pull out and don’t realize you are on the wrong side until you see someone coming at you. There are plenty of signs in the rental car, too, that say Keep Left.

    Hubby and I also came up with some Code Words when we first started out as apparently my screaming was getting on his nerves. Ha!

    When you are on the right side of the car but used to being on the left side of the road (you, the driver, usually has the side of the road just out your window) the driver will tend to drift toward that side of the road. But because all of the rest of the car is there the passenger and left side of the car will be very near or just on the side of the road (usually on grass but sometimes there’s a rock wall or drainage ditch pretty close to the road) and that can be scary for the passenger.

    I came up with the Code Word “ditch” to let hubby know that he was driving close enough to the side to make me nervous about it. I would just say it at my normal speaking voice “Honey, ditch.” and the volume would increase the closer to the edge he got. Within a day I rarely had to say anything though we’d go through a little routine as soon as we got in the car.

    “Mirrors?”
    “Out!” (Fold in the car mirrors whenever you park the car to keep them from getting knocked off)

    “Map?”
    “Got it!”

    “Destination?”
    “Galway!”

    Engine on, pull up to road, look right then left and then
    “Stay left!”
    “Check!”

    The key is to take your time. If someone really wants pass you then slow down and pull over where you can or pull off the road and stop if needed and let them go – it’s better for both your blood pressures. Plus you are on vacation and don’t need to deal with Skippy the Speed Demon rushing you along. There’s plenty of places and reasons to stop, pull over and just take in Ireland.

    Another bit of advice is to get a good detailed map. The one the rental car will come with is good for getting an overall view of Ireland but it won’t help you on the small back roads – and there are a ton of those. So having a good map, one with roads signs and rules listed is perfect, is essential.

    Round abouts are tricky at first but I found that I actually prefer them to stoplights and signs now. Most are set up just like a four way stop but the beauty of it is that you only have to stop for on coming traffic. If there’s no one right there you just slow down, look and keep moving. Here’s where the passenger really needs to help look at signs. Often you can tell by the map which round about exit you need.

    Treat them like a four-way stop and have the driver make a “left” (first left exit on the round about), a “right” (third left exit on the round about) or go “straight” (the second left exit on the round about.) If you miss your exit just go around again! (Look kids! Big Ben!) Signal your intent to leave the round about usually as you approach your exit so anyone waiting to get into the round about can know if they need to full stop or can keep going since you are exiting and not passing them.

    You will find big round abouts closer to major cities and towns and these will actually have stop lights for entering and sometimes sitting on the roundabout itself. But these are really large compared to regular ones and you’ll know immediately before you get to them to look for the lights.

    OK, I’m sure I’ve gone overboard with info. It’s a lot harder to type it all or out or read it than to actually do it so don’t be nervous! With you going in November you will not have many tour buses to deal with on the roads nor many tourists in even the busy, touristy places. You will do fine!

    Safe travels,

    Wendy

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