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All car hire companies in Ireland offer a similar selection of cars, ranging from economic models to luxury cars and sports utility vehicles. When choosing a car, not only bear in mind what luggage capacity you will need and how far you will be travelling, but the larger the car the more difficult to transverse any narrow roads off the few motorways they have. It is important if you will be spending extended periods of time in the car that you are comfortable and additional passengers have adequate room.
Automatic / Manual Gearbox
The most cars in Ireland are operated by a manual gear shift. All car hire companies will have a limited range of automatics available for hire in all car sizes. If you are interested in hiring an automatic car, the best advice is to book early to ensure availability and call ahead to make sure your booking is filled. There have been occasions when tourists book an Automatic and find a manual version at the curb (due to the scarcity of same). Automatics are significantly more expensive to rent than manual cars. If you have never driven a manual car, renting a car with a manual gear shift is not a good idea as damage that can be caused by improper use of the clutch is expensive to fix.
Insurance - All car hire companies in Ireland offer standard insurances with the price of hiring the car. Optional additional cover to reduce or remove the excess will be sold locally. For people who normally rely on the CDW coverage provided by their credit card companies, it is important to know that Ireland is one of only a handful of countries (Israel, Jamaica for example) where this coverage will not be given. However, some credit cards have added CDW coverage in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some VISA cards, like the VISA Amazon card offers coverage. You should call your credit card company for details. In Ireland you will have to purchase insurance on top of the very low rates you will be quoted by car hire companies and travel web sites. This insurance can be triple the daily rate of the most economical car, leading to sticker shock at the counter. The reason is simple: too many claims. While Ireland now has wonderful roads, the scenic routes can be narrow and drivers unfamiliar with driving on the left tend to bump into things. (Update June 2013). Even when buying the "Super" CW Insurance it does NOT COVER tyres, wheels, mirrors, loss of keys and glass.
In addition, "full coverage" no longer means full coverage. Budget & Hertz, for example, do not include coverage for tyres even when you purchase full coverage insurance. This can leave you with a €150 tyre replacement bill when you thought you purchased the most coverage possible. ALWAYS read the 'fine print' carefully and ask if there is anything excluded from full coverage.
Putting the wrong fuel in the tank (diesel vs unleaded) is also not covered. If you catch it BEFORE you start the car, you can have the tank drained (at your expense). If you start the car, you will cause much more significant damage and you will be charged for expensive repairs. American tourists should note that diesel in Ireland is dispensed using the black pump and unleaded through the green pump and not according to the colour codes used in garages in America.
Licence - When hiring a car, ensure you have all required parts of your licence with you. You do not need an International Driving Permit when hiring in Ireland or the UK.
Car Hire Companies
It is useful to visit the websites of reputable car hire brokers to compare offers as the deals of major and local car hire companies (suppliers) are confusing. Sometimes comparisons are offered in one site. Most offer online booking, live support and reservations agents available by phone. However, be sure to read VERY CAREFULLY the final agreement, as what is advertised and what is finally agreed can vary, especially on "Super CDW" insurance. As stated, a very real car hire 'minefield'. Finally, MAKE SURE you bring the Internet Booking promised Coverage print-out WITH YOU so, you can 'get the deal advertised', AS PROMISED and AGREED TO when you signed up. Also suggested: After you return from Holiday, go back and read your credit card charges and compare!
The policy on 'extra coverage' varies between hire companies. All of the following are optional extras that you can refuse if you so wish.
CDW Insurance - with hire car typically has an excess of €1,500 that you still have to pay yourself in the event of damage to the car, and it will cost extra to reduce this further. If you decline this insurance, the car rental company will place a hold on the excess amount on your credit card until you return the vehicle. This no-deductible insurance is only slightly more expensive than the required basic level, and is recommended.
Fuel - different car hire companies have different policies. Some will require you to buy a tank of fuel up front and return the car empty, while other companies will require you to bring the car back full, and charge you an extravagant fee for any additional fuel. Diesel is more widely used in the UK and Ireland than the USA. Make sure you know what type of fuel your car takes and REMEMBER IT (most cars have a sticker at the fuel port). If you accidentally put the wrong type in the tank, DO NOT START THE VEHICLE. You can call and have the tank drained (approx. €300) however if you start the car you will cause much more significant damage. Full coverage insurance does not cover putting the wrong fuel in. Also: Requesting and actually booking a petrol car instead of a diesel is not necessarily honored. You can order a petrol car and find a diesel sitting at the kerb on your arrival. Also note: The fuel pumps in Ireland are NOT marked with green for diesel like America. GREEN is petrol, black is diesel. Easy to make a mistake fueling up!
Airport/ Location charge - Despite the advertised promises, some car hire companies in Ireland charge an airport tax or "Location Charge" this may even be highlighted clearly prior to booking. So, read every line carefully! Some of the companies that charge this fee include Budget and Hertz. You have to negotiate it OFF the final bill (Hertz) if you have been duped. Irish Car Rentals has removed this charge end of 2015.
Credit Card Charge - similar to all companies processing a credit card, a €5 fee applies (Jun 13). Debit cards are not accepted.
Tolls - Not all car hire companies pay the M50 tolls. Those that do and these will be added to your bill even if you INADVERTENTLY paid them yourself in cash and will not be reimbursed. Do check with the car hire company directly to find more about this.
Additional options - you may choose to add additional drivers, GPS systems and child safety seats either while booking or locally. If you own a GPS, it is MUCH cheaper to purchase a SIM card with Ireland maps on it and bring your own GPS rather than renting a GPS unit. The car "cigarette lighter" plugs are the same voltage as the rest of the planet. The GPS is a must if leaving the main road in Ireland as the roads are poorly marked in most cases.
Child Safety Seats - the laws in Ireland specify a number of child safety seats for children of different ages. There are the normal child safety seats, but children once too big for these seats graduate to booster cushions which ensure the seatbelt is at a safe height for children. For more information on seat belt and child restraints please see The AA guide on the Internet.
The AA and AAA provide lots of essential information for all your travel and motoring needs. Check out the Driving Tips and any Route Planning information. Discover Ireland.com also offers a very useful route planner tool for Ireland which includes tourist destinations.
Roadside Cameras: You are liable for any speeding tickets. These will arrive long after the trip is over, already paid by the fine print in your car rental agreement, deducted from your credit card. Most cameras are well hidden and are located as you crest a hill or behind stone walls as you zoom through a town. You MUST watch the speed limit signs and heed them. They change very quickly from 50km to 100km and back. Use your brakes, lifting your foot from the pedal is not sufficient. If you take a GPS, it may warn you with an irritating beep-beep but the volume is adjustable. A simple parking ticket, unpaid can result in a €160 fine weeks after the trip. Once again, the rental agreement allows them to bill your credit card for any fines.
The Road Safety Authority provides comprehensive information about the road rules of Ireland. It should be essential reading for all visitors who are planning to drive a hire car around the Irish countryside.
Cars in Ireland come in both petrol and diesel configurations. It is important to notice in petrol stations that the Green handle is for unleaded fuel, and the BLACK for diesel. Putting the wrong fuel in the car can do enormous amounts of damage and lead to an expensive repair bill. You must also use City Diesel or at least not Agri or agricultural diesel. Not only is the agri diesel quality a bit lower than the "city diesel" (well, it's going into tractors) is attracts a lower rate of VAT to benefit farmers and other authorised users. It is dyed green and if you are found with any green diesel in your tank there are substantial penalties up to €5000 per offence.
Irish car rental and others companies will all be around the same price for Car Rental Insurance prices. The level of cover you decide on is down to your personal choice, but you cannot decline to have any.
Drive on the left. The roads are 10' wide, wide enough for trucks/articulated lorries so they are wide enough for you. However, the "country roads" are 2 foot narrower than in the U.S. and they do not have verges. If you are not familiar with driving on the opposite side of the car AND the opposite side of the road, it can initially be very disorienting. 10' wide also translates into 'watch for truck or lorry mirrors which often hang out into your lane. Country roads and some larger thoroughfares can offer many 'potholes' and a blown tyre so, give yourself time to get used to watching for large (deep) 'puddles'.
Also, locals drive a LOT faster on these winding, roads then most tourists. Be prepared to pull over to let locals rush by so you do not feel pressured to drive faster than you are comfortable with. Nearly all Irish drivers are very pleasant and easy to deal with.
No turns on red. You can not turn right from a one-way onto a one-way on a red light in Ireland or the UK. Watch the entrance on small streets . It will be painted on the pavement if it's one way or Do Not Enter. If you make a mistake- there's almost no chance of turning around.
These are not the usual signs you will find in other Countries. These do exist especially in very small Villages. Make enough time to stop and make sure you're going the correct way. Most sign are erected in both Irish and English. Most Irish are happy to help but,
answers can be unintentionally vague.
You will see street signs in both Irish and English. This takes a little getting used to as you feel like you are having to read so much information to find what you need. But, it's actually to benefit tourists.
Moderately major roads are numbered, but in general, roads outside of big cities are not known by names and do not have name signs. Instead, it is important to know what village is next on your route. Ireland has the very good practice of putting up directional signs 50 metres or so before you get to the junction. However, this gives you very little time (at 40 mph) to think before you make a driving commitment.
Colours of signs:
Blue signs - Are found on Motorways only
White signs - These are the standard directional and distance signs. They are commonly in KMs but really old ones can be in miles. Be careful. Also, boisterous type revelers coming out late at night like to point signs in the wrong direction and sometimes simply take the signs so If you're unsure stop and check or ask somebody. Don't be proud and get lost, ask somebody.
Brown signs - They are just for you....Tourist signs. They point to places of interest and now include some but, not all, B&B's and Hotels.
Green signs - They are for directions and distance and can be found on National routes.
Folks in Ireland tend to decide which road to take by the place the road is heading to. "How do you get to Dublin" you might ask, the answer will be "Go up the road and turn left and follow the signs to Dublin". There is usually no mention of the name of the road such as the "N7 Limerick to Dublin". Most Irish people are not bogged down with road references.
Even in the "big cities", street signs are not frequent. Having a GPS is a life safer and will reduce a hazard and in-car arguments.
For roads around Dublin city, you can view these on Dublin Cities website traffic cameras
This is the road from Dublin to Portlaoise and is not typical
Below: this would be the usual kind of road found off the beaten track around Dingle and West Clare. Note the lack of any verge. If you need to study a map, pull over while you can in a village. Many times there are 'pull-off' areas to get off the road safely.
There are also many back roads with high stone walls. It is difficult to see around corners when traveling on these roads. Breathe, be patient and if you have a line of traffic behind you, pull off and let them pass you. Sometimes sheep and cattle will emerge, watch for the road signs that will tell you when a safety concern is imminent. And, above all, don't be too intimidated by this article....ENJOY driving in this beautiful, beautiful country!!