You drive on the left lane and the steering wheel is on the right. The speed limit signs are in kilometers. That is slower than miles, even if there are miles on your speedometer. Many roads are narrow with walls on both sides and signs are confusing or nonexistent. Get the best insurance!

Drive on the Left

Drive on the Left

When I went to pick up my rental car, they’d given it away. I was even about a half hour early from when I told them I was getting in. With some insistence, they called around and found another car for me elsewhere. They took me to a little building somewhere in Dublin and I rented what they had left, a tiny little stick-shift car that had been waiting to have the tires changed. They marked all the dents. But it was sure better than no car at all.

The rental car was a bit dinged and needed new tires.

The rental car was a bit dinged and needed new tires.

They explained I could have it for the weekend, then come back to trade it for the car I had reserved.

Hyundai Atos

My Hyundai Atos

Look closely. You can see that the seat is pushed forward. The car was so small; my suitcase would only fit on the back seat if I pushed the front seat forward. It was a big suitcase.

So, sitting on the right, changing gears with my left hand, they turned me, jet-lagged me, loose in Dublin. I kept pressing the gas for the clutch, since everything else was backwards. Fortunately it restarted easily every time I stalled out.

I had mapped out my route from picking up the car at the airport. Now I had no idea where I even was.  I circled, learning the car, staying off main roads, until I saw a sign saying I was in Swords. I found it on my map, and drove straight to the Crannmor Country Guest House in Trim. Roads are not marked very clearly. There are a lot more roads than are shown on any of my maps. The road is named by where it goes to. So, you will be driving along on Rathcoole Road and then it isn’t Rathcoole Road anymore, because you passed Rathcoole. Or you are coming from another town toward Rathcoole, so you are on a different Rathcoole Road. Get a GPS. Really, really get a GPS.

Drive on the Left

The next day, looking for Liexlip Castle, I came around a bend and a car was coming right at me. I was correctly driving on the left, but my first reaction was “What am I doing? I’m on the wrong side of the road!” So, I swerved and braked. The American, driving on the right, the wrong side of the road, also swerved and braked and we hit each other head on. Not very fast, but the airbag went off and I broke my wrists. My tiny little car was demolished. His giant Mercedes barely noticed. Coincidentally he was from Asheville, only about 30 miles from my home in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

So, I got to meet the Garda, the Irish police, had an exciting hospital visit and was without a car the rest of the weekend. On Monday I was delivered the car I had originally reserved and I rented a GPS.

The second rental car had signs all over it to remind you which side of the road to drive on.

The second rental car had reminder signs all over it.

The next week, near the Cliff’s of Moher, another American came at me in the wrong lane. This time I just blew the horn and stopped the car. We were traveling more slowly than before and no persons or cars were harmed. He was from Cashiers, about an hour from my home. How often are Irish hit by Americans?

Narrow Roads

Many roads in Ireland are very narrow. There is nowhere to pull over. If you meet a car, someone has to reverse.

Many roads in Ireland are very narrow.
There is nowhere to pull over.
If you meet a car, someone has to reverse.

I would recommend renting a small car. Many of the roads are very narrow. There are often walls on both sides of the road, so there is no way to pull off the road. If you come upon another car going the other way, you have to back up till you get to a wider space to pass. I am good at going in reverse, but the broken wrists made it more of a challenge.

Bridges

Bridge over the Grand Canal in Shannon Harbour

Bridge over the Grand Canal in Shannon Harbour

Some bridges on little roads are one lane and very steep. You cannot tell if someone is coming from the other direction. After just being hit head-on, I was twice shy. As I got to the first bridge, deciding what to do, I heard a toot toot from the other side. So, every time I got to a bridge, I gave a couple little toots. I got safely over them.

Traffic

Cattle driven down the M11 in Ireland

Cattle driven down the M11 in Ireland

I only hit traffic a couple of times. Every time I was held up by cattle or a flock of sheep going down the road. Even main highways have gates from fields and animals are taken from field to field down the road.

Traffic Circles

I got to a really confusing traffic circle near Belfast Airport. It shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. I had been driving on the left for weeks now. And we do have traffic circles in the States. But this one had a lot of lanes and I was supposed to change lanes twice in the circle and there was a lot of traffic. I got in, as the people behind me blew their horns. Then it spit me back out on the wrong road. I was going to turn around and try again when the GPS recalculated and I just took it from there. Get a GPS.

 

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