We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Which Ireland hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Western Ireland...
Destination Expert
for Loughrea, Southport, Clifden, Connemara
Level Contributor
16,926 posts
52 reviews
Save Topic
Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

There is a greatly perceived fear factor when it comes to driving on the opposite side of the road. This fear factor seems to be mainly with US drivers. Europeans seem less terrified by the prospect?

I would not advocate driving mindless miles straight off a red eye (although some "Travel Experts" do!) but what are the stories from those who have actually made the transition and lived to talk about it..

Edited: 13 July 2012, 09:31
Waterford, Ireland
Level Contributor
6,414 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Maybe the perception that US drivers are more concerned is as a consequence of there being more US drivers on this forum? We get very few European queries here, probably because of language issues, and because they would have already visited the UK.

new york
Level Contributor
957 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

I have driven twice in Ireland and will be doing so again. I fly into Shannon and know the area well enough to not feel overwhelmed upon arrival. I do some practice spins around the airport before heading out to the main roads. One word of advice though is to plan your travel routes ahead of time.

I will be driving to Corbally area in September and do not want to drive straight away through Limerick city... I believe there is a "back road" as we say here in the US...I need to get to the Westbury Estates.. Can anyone let me know the name of the road. From what my memory serves me, I believe it takes me out near Punches Cross????? Thanks!

Maryland
Destination Expert
for Las Vegas, Washington DC, County Donegal, Western Ireland
Level Contributor
49,346 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

I hope more people respond to this. I think it's natural for people to be wary of the first time they're driving on the left. It IS stressful if you've never done it before. But I think 99% survive the experience. :)

One thing I did on my recent trip was tell my passengers to stop worrying about the possibility of my hitting a wall, tree, or anything else on their side of the vehicle. After a day of hearing intakes of breath and "watch out!" from that side of the vehicle lol. I had to explain to them that as the driver, I'm focused on the white line on the middle of the road, and focused on the vehicle coming the other way. And that driver is focused on MY vehicle. So I'm not going to look over at the wall, or the tree or whatever, in an effort to avoid it. I already know there's plenty of room over there.

I think it helped calm them down, but I did notice they all wanted Connnemara marble rosary beads when we got there, and they didn't pack them away in their bags. :)

I'm also with you on the "don't drive much on the first day" thing. People who wouldn't think of getting in the car here at home on 2 hours sleep sitting up in a chair for a 4 hour drive think it's ok to do so in Ireland for some reason.

Nebraska
Level Contributor
516 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Most Americans don't travel outside its borders. We aren't exposed to driving on the left so it feels like sink or swim before getting behind the wheel. My initial fears for driving on the left side were primarily driving in the larger cities and right turns. The actual biggest problem for adjusting to driving in Ireland was the compulsion to drive the speed limit. In the US we drive the speed limit plus another 2-5 mph faster for good measure almost without fail. You just can't do that in Ireland and you have to experience that to understand it. But I'd say the fundamental issue is the relative insulation from other countries and cultures here in the US.

Fanore, County Clare
Level Contributor
600 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Please do not drive the speed limit especially on the country roads.The 'N' roads{national roads} indicate that you can drive up to 100kph but many of these roads have bad bends and are very narrow.Just today, driving from Ennistymon to Fanore{18 miles} I met two cars on the wrong side of the road and one driving far too fast round a tight bend.You need to have all your concentration focused on the road so I would advise only short journeys after a long flight

Charlotte, NC
Level Contributor
768 posts
54 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

The fact that you are sitting on the right side of the car makes it perfectly natural to drive on the left! I agree completely with Irishfan---focus on the white line, the approaching driver and forget glances at the ever present wall. BTW, I'm a senior and I learned to drive with a manual transmission. If you drive a manual in the states, or are confident driving a manual, by all means rent one in Ireland. It's MUCH less expensive, and as sitting on the right and driving on the left feels normal, sitting on the right and shifting with your left hand also feels normal. Thank goodness the pedal arrangement remains the same. lol

Admittedly, last year when I first visited Ireland, I was concerned about driving on the left as I had not done it since the mid 70s in the UK. However, it all came back very quickly and this year I was feeling very confident about it. (Until I picked up my Dooley rental car with 7km on the odometer. No dents, no scratches--it was perfect!! Nothing I could blame on a prior driver. Happy to say I returned the car with over 3500km with no damage what-so-ever.)

A comment about the roads--the M and N roads, especially the Ms, are boring!!! I guess they are ok for getting from A to B but forget seeing anything!! Avoid them if at all possible. Take your time, drive the smaller roads and see what Ireland is all about!!

Whitney, Texas
Destination Expert
for Ireland
Level Contributor
10,712 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

ditto to what irishfan and kilted said...use your white line as your guide, get off the m and n roads, and absolutely do not drive very far on arrival day.....

also as kilted said, being on the right hand side of the car, makes driving on the left and shifting with the left hand seem normal....if you can drive a standard by all means rent one and save that money you'd spend on an automatic to buy yourself something....

Western Ireland...
Destination Expert
for Loughrea, Southport, Clifden, Connemara
Level Contributor
16,926 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

The point of the question is not for my benefit, I have driven on the right in a right hand drive and drove a left hooker in the UK for years. The point was to get answers to the question and give reference to folk who are afraid of taking the plunge.

Ireland is best seen with the freedom of your own transport but many post questions about tours, bus's and trains. Reassurance from those who have taken the plunge, bit the bullet or whatever phrase has to have value.

Many thanks to those who have answered.

Seattle
Level Contributor
206 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

I found it to be much easier than I had anticipated/feared. It helped to have my first driving to be on the motorway out of Dublin - pretty hard to mess that up!

I found it to be a lot of fun after about the first day. I did have to be careful when turning right (I clipped a wall on one turn onto a narrow bridge - whoops!).

Shifting with the left hand was not an issue at all. The only slight trouble I had was with navigating and driving, as it was just me in the car, but I had no real problems with driving.

Can't wait to get back there and do it again!

Limerick, Ireland
Destination Expert
for Limerick, Killarney
Level Contributor
24,512 posts
82 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

We're experiencing the opposite at the moment - we're in France with our own car. We had a 14 hour ferry ride last Saturday night and had breakfast at an ungodly hour (4.30am Irish time!!) and were on the road before 8am French time (Irish time + 1 hour) for a 9 hour drive.

We have our own car so it may be somewhat different to hiring one (although we've done that on occasion too!!)

It can be a bit scary at times, particularly at the start on narrow roads and on more than one occasion (try more than several) there were roars from me of "Jaysus Mr Bean!!" as we got up close with road edges and other drivers. Remember here that I'm in the centre of the road as the passenger while Mr Bean is driving in the margin.

But you do get used to it eventually and for us, certainly, the disadvantages are far outweighed by being on holidays and having fun.