Guide to Driving In Ireland - Drive Safe in Ireland

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Ireland?

Driving in Ireland

You may think that driving in Ireland would be exactly the same as driving in the UK but there are many subtle differences. You need to be aware of them to prevent yourself falling foul of the Gardai, the Irish police. In Ireland, as in the UK (and Northern Ireland), all traffic drives on the left hand side of the road. That means that you give way to the right and this includes at roundabouts. You must by law give way to any emergency services vehicles such as ambulances and police cars with flashing lights. Most cars are manuals although you can rent automatics if you are willing to pay a little bit extra.

If you are driving in rural areas then watch out for potholes or livestock crossing the road. It can be a good idea to rent a 4x4 vehicle. Rush hour in Dublin is very busy and chaotic - best avoided!

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

Everyone travelling in a car must wear a seatlbelt and it's the driver's responsibility to make sure the law is followed. 

Drinking and Driving

The Drink Driving Limit in Ireland is 50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood for experienced drivers - much lower than the rate in the UK. For learners and those driving for less than two years the limit is 20mg per 100ml of blood. Both these figures mean that you can be over the limit with just one drink so we recommend that you do not drink then get behind the wheel of a car in Ireland. The penalty is usually a two year driving ban and a fine of between 1500-5000 euros.

Ireland Drink Driving

Must Have Documents

You need your passport and driving licence to hire a car. When you are driving you should also have the vehicle registration and proof of insurance documents on you in case you get stopped by the police; a green card from your insurers is also handy. Some companies require you to book vehicles using a credit card so that they can debit any charges or fines you may incur as well as being able to trace you should there be a problem.

Speed Limits

All distance signs in Ireland are specified in kilmetres an hour - confusing if you cross over the border to or from the north where the signs are in miles per hour.

The speed limits are as follows:

50 kilometres per hour in built up areas
80-100 kilometres per hour on open roads
120 kilometres per hour on dual carriageways and motorways.

If you are caught speeding by a fixed camera you'll have a ticket sent to your home address or, if renting a car, the car rental company will forward the ticket to you. Mobile speed traps will issue you with an on the spot fine.

Minimum Driving Age

The minimum driving age is 17. Most hire car companies require you to be over 25 years of age with some driving experience. Some will accept younger drivers but they may charge a premium for doing so.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Use of safety camera warning devices are illegal in Ireland and if you have the function on a sat-nav you will be expected to turn it off. If you are caught using one, it will be confiscated and you'll incur an on the spot fine. 

On the Spot Fines

Ireland operates a system of on the spot fines for minor traffic offences. More serious offences such as dangerous driving or alcohol related offences will result in a summons and a court appearance. If you don't have the cash on you, you'll be taken to a cash machine. 

Child Safety Rules

Children under the age of 12 or 1.5m tall cannot sit in the front of the car. They need to be secured in an appropriate child seat or booster with suitable restraints for their age or height.


A minimum of third party insurance cover is required in Ireland and you will need to be able to prove you have it if stopped. A green card, usually issued free of charge by your insurance company is useful.

Rules of the Road

Driving in Ireland is subject to standard European regulations with the following exception:

In Ireland you are not allowed to use your horn between 11.30pm and 7am in built up areas. 
All new cars (since 2011) must have daytime running lights.

Towing Regulations

There are no specific rules for towing in Ireland - you are simply expected to use common sense and ensure that other drivers know what you are doing. Hazard warning lights and a visible sign are good ways of doing this.

Speed Cameras

There are many fixed speed cameras in Ireland and regular mobile speed check set ups. You are not allowed to use equipment to detect them although the location of fixed cameras is often forewarned with signs and you can view a map of their locations online. However, they are there for a reason and the speed limit should be obeyed.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is illegal and if caught you'll get an on the spot fine of up to 2000 EURO


Parking regulations
Parking can be quite difficult to find in the bigger cities and especially in Dublin. In the capital it's better to try to park in CCTV controlled lots as car crime is high. On street parking is allowed where there are no lines painted against the kerb. Yellow lines mean no parking, single ones mean you can park at certain times. Road signs often tell you the exact regulation in force. 
Paid parking
Pay and display is common in Ireland getting a ticket from a machine nearby. City centres can get quite congested and there are a number of park and ride schemes to help. 
Enforcement of parking is done by the police or wardens in the cities. You'll get a ticket to be paid at council offices or banks. Details should appear on the ticket.
Disabled parking
The disabled blue badge is widely recognised but we'd still recommend you check local restrictions on its use. 

Motor Way Signs

Motorways have white writing on a blue background. Brown and white signs mark tourist attractions, while tourist information is marked in blue. While most road signs are in English some are in Gaelic. Warning signs in Ireland have yellow backgrounds and are diamond shaped whereas in the north they have a white background and a red border.


English is spoken everywhere although the road signs are in Englaish and Gaelic. Here are some phrases that American drivers may need some help with!

Petrol – Gasoline
Hard Shoulder – Left hand lane of motorway only to be used for stopping in emergencies.
Services – Motorway rest stops.
Zebra crossings - Pedestrian crossings
Excess – Deductible (insurance)
Gearbox – Transmission
Boot – Trunk
Bumper – Fender
Detour – Diversion
Indicators - Blinkers

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights go straight to green to signal you may go, rather than turning amber like in the UK. 
Fines of upto 120 EURO and 2 points are given if traffic light systems are not obeyed.

Toll Roads

There are eleven toll roads in Ireland some are toll bridges or tunnels so make sure you have some change handy and remember the country uses Euros. Many motorists purchase an electronic tag which can be fitted to the car - ask car hire Ireland staff about this. 

Ireland Dublin Port Tunnel

This is a list of the toll roads, bridges and tunnels in Ireland –
1.     M1 Motorway - Drogheda Bypass
2.    M3 Clonee-Kells
3.    M4 Kilcock - Enfield - Kinnegad Motorway
4.    N6 Galway - Ballinasloe
5.    M7 Portlaoise - Castletown
6.    M8 Portlaoise - Cullahill
7.    N8 Rathcormac - Fermoy Bypass
8.   M50 barrier- free with electronic toll
9.   N25 Waterford city bypass
10. East link Bridge
11.  Dublin tunnel/Limerick tunnel
See our guide to toll roads in Ireland here.


The emergency services can be contacted on 999 or 112.

The British embassy is at 29 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 and can be contacted on (353) (1) 205 3700. Their website is

The American embassy is at 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge Dublin 4 and can be contacted on (353) (1) 668 8777. Their website is

What to do in an emergency

For a problem with the vehicle, call the number given to you by your car hire company or if driving your own car, the Irish partner of your home breakdown service. On the motorways there are orange emergency phone boxes if you don't have your mobile to hand.

If you are involved in an accident you should switch on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers. If serious, the accident should be reported to the relevant emergency services by dialling 999 or 112. Ensure all uninjured parties are moved to safety and away from the highway but don't move the vehicles unless they will cause danger to others. Whilst waiting for the police to arrive, it's a good idea to take photos of the scene then get details of the insurance policy of the other driver and any names and telephone numbers of witnesses.

Fuel Costs

Petrol prices are currently, as of September 2018, 1.46 EURO for 95 octane unleaded and 1.36 EURO for diesel.


Please do not rent an SUV / 4x4, there is no need for one and they are totally unsuitable for driving in town and cities. Chances of accident are significantly higher.
5/9/2018 12:29:04 PM
There is no double red lines in Ireland (only uk) Traffic lights do not go both red and amber to get ready (like uk) they go directly to green 
3/30/2017 11:13:03 AM

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Ireland and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.