Driving in Ireland 

Renting (or "hiring") a car is by far the best way to discover Ireland (outside the cities) but it can be a more expensive option, particularly for younger visitors under the age of 21 years, as insurance is expensive.

Use the following website for planning routes and gauging journey times.  However, do take the quoted times with a "pinch of salt";  they're a bit optimistic and don't take the fact that you're unfamiliar with the road network, plus roadworks, traffic delays and diversions, cattle or sheep on the road (yes, really!) etc, into consideration. 

Recommend you add a further 20% to the quoted journey times for a realistic figure:

Distances and Minimum Drive Times between Dublin and Popular Destinations (from aaireland.ie):

Dublin - Belfast: 167km; 2hr 0min

Dublin-Cork: 255km; 2hr 46 min

Dublin-Dingle: 343km; 4hr 11min

Dublin-Galway: 208km; 2hr 16min

Dublin-Kilkenny: 123km; 1hr 29min

Dublin-Killarney: 302km; 3hrs 03min

Dublin-Sligo: 208km; 2hrs 46min

Dublin-Westport: 266km: 3hrs 22min

Bear in mind that when driving through rural areas many roads are narrow, single lane that twist and wind through the landscape; you'll probably average 40km/hour.

Car Rental 

All major international brands are represented at Irish Airports and in large urban areas. There are several local/independent companies such as Dan DooleyIrish Car Rentals and CARHIRE.ie

Sadly most complaints posted on the Ireland forum stem from problems with car rental: extra "hidden" fees charged on collection being the main problem.

Follow the advice here and you should have a stress-and-problem free experience:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g...

Please note - when renting a car in Ireland, if you do not want to pay their huge car insurance fees, you must bring a statement from your USA based auto insurer confirming you will be covered and to what $ amount. A one week car rental booked on a U.S. credit card for $250 could end up costing $675.

Roads in Ireland

Photos of typical rural roads around Ireland: Beara Peninsula:

Beara Peninsula

  The Burren, co. Clare:

  Road through the Burren

 Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula:

Sheep On Slea Head Drive

The major inter-city roads are much improved, and are increasingly being replaced by motorway; most of these projects are now complete.

Routes between smaller cities and towns are usually fast moving, but are often a single lane in each direction.

Cork to Dublin M8 Motorway  

Public Transport

Details of all public transport services, including Northern Ireland, are available on the National Journey Planner website at www.a-b.ie 

Trains 

All train services in the Republic of Ireland are operated by Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann in the Irish language) - see www.irishrail.ie

Due to the low population density in Ireland, the rail network is less extensive and the frequency of service is less than in most other European countries.  However travelling by train is generally a comfortable way to see Ireland.  For journeys between Dublin and Cork and Dublin and Tralee and points in between the train is generally faster than driving or taking the bus.

Scenic Routes

The Dublin-Rosslare line is very slow and the bus is generally faster.  However, the train to Rosslare wins hands down if the purpose is to gaze out of the window.   Travelling south, after having left the Dublin suburbs, the line clings to the coast as far as Wicklow.   Turning inland, it runs through verdant pastures through Arklow, Gorey and Enniscorthy.   Beyond Enniscorthy, the line clings to the side of the River Slaney all the way to Wexford.   That's three hours of views that you cannot gain by any other means of transport!   For other routes the train is generally about as fast a driving and a bit faster than the bus.  

Train Reservations

You can usually take advantage of cheaper fares if you book online in advance through www.irishrail.ie 

If you haven't got a seat reservation and are travelling at weekends or over holiday periods, be sure to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before departure otherwise, you may have to stand for your journey!

Not all trains can be reserved and not all seats can be reserved on any train.  Seat reservations are only possible on the web, not at rail stations. 

On the Dublin-Belfast "Enterprise" service there is "1st plus" but there's really very little difference in comfort between First and Standard class.  Do NOT not believe the marketing which invites you to " Experience the luxury and comfort of a 1st Plus cross-border journey".    Do NOT waste your money buying 1st Plus.  It's twice as expensive.     The only differences are the colour/fabric of the seat covers, having a light on your table and having someone come and serve you what, quite frankly, is pretty abysmal food....editing this article whilst travelling 1st Plus on 6th March 2015.  

If you have made a reservation, your name will be displayed on a little electronic display above your seat.

The Cork-Dublin Train: 

   

Standard Intercity Trains to all other destinations (except Belfast). These are being rolled out across all routes in the Republic, and already serve most destinations on the network.

 

 

Bus Travel

The bus network is much more extensive than the rail network and buses are often considerably cheaper than trains.  On the main inter city routes services are frequent but off the beaten track there may only be a one trip a day - or per week - so advance planning is essential. 

Direct services are operated from a number of Irish Airports to different parts of the country.

Services are operated by a number of different bus companies, the largest of which is Bus Eireann.  Details of all companies' servies are available on the National Journey Planner website at www.a-b.ie

 

Ferry Travel  

When planning a trip around Ireland, keep in mind that taking ferries across rivers can help cut down on travel time. Useful ferries include:

 Ferries are also available to many offshore islands. In general, these ferries do not carry cars; the exception is the ferries to Bere Island

Below is a list of islands served by ferry, with the ports you can use to catch them

  • Saltee Islands [Kilmore Quay] 
  • Clear Island [Baltimore or Schull]
  • Sherkin Island [Baltimore]
  • Heir Island [Baltimore or Cunnamore Pier]
  • Long Island [Schull]
  • Bere Island [Castletownbere or The Pontoon]
  • Inisheer [Doolin]
  • Inishmaan [Rossaveal]
  • Inishmore [Rossaveal]
  • Inishbofin [Cleggan]
  • Inishturk [Roonagh Pier]
  • Clare Island [Roonagh Pier or Cloughmore]
  • Arranmore [Burtonport]
  • Gola Island [Bunbeg Pier]
  • Tory Island [Bunbeg Pier or Magheraroarty]

 **Note:  The original information for this paragraph came from the following forum thread: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-...