And other tidbits about renting and driving a car in Ireland…
I just returned from a long week-end in Ireland. I came across an incredible airfare from my home airport to Shannon and, as it was one of those fares you seldom come across in a summer month, off to Ireland I went. My plan was to find a reasonable place to stay close to Shannon Airport, rent a car, and drive around the West Country of Ireland to my heart’s content. And that is just what I did.
The Roads in Ireland
On a short solo holiday such as this, there is nothing I love better than driving and exploring the countryside along the local N (national) and smaller R (regional) roads. Quite frankly, these roads can be daunting at times with unexpected twists, turns, dips, and even surprise animal crossings. But it is just these tiny winding lanes that provide me with some of the best scenery and surprises on my travels. I never know just what I am going to stumble upon.
The country roads in Ireland are two feet narrower than the equivalent in the US and they do not have shoulders. Oftentimes, they will be so narrow that allowing another car to pass often requires one car to stop completely and maneuver as far to the edge as possible. Sometimes you might have to back up to find a sliver of an edge on which to pull off. Be aware that local residents drive lots faster on these roads than tourists, so be prepared to pull over and let them pass. On some of the twistiest of roads, I just could not bring myself to push my little Hyundai to 100km/hr, the posted speed limit. I pulled off several times to allow others to pass. However, the motorways (M) in Ireland are really no different than interstates at home although exits often consist of a roundabout and those just take practice. I believe they totally make sense in optimizing traffic flow.
The thought of driving on the left can be a big concern for travelers heading to the UK or Ireland for some. However, I have driven on the left several times a year since my first attempt in 1990 having picked up a rental car in Central London and feel comfortable with my skill level (but that doesn’t mean I don’t end up on the ‘wrong’ side on occasion!). If you can survive driving in London, the rest just comes easy. No, the bigger issue when driving in Ireland is often car rental policies and prices. There are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to rent a car:
Most online car rental quotes only include the cost of rental and basic insurance coverage. In some cases, however, if you book through a broker, you will be quoted the price of the daily rental only. Taxes, fees (airport fees), and insurance are almost always NOT included.
When you arrive to collect your car, the car rental company will introduce their zero deductible insurance to you then (Super CDW/Super Collision Damage Waiver). The cost can be around €30 a day on top of your rental fee, but it is NO deductible and only slightly higher than what you pay for insurance with a €1500-2000 deductible. However, even the extra CDW will not cover tires, loss of keys, glass, or using the wrong fuel.
Most credit card companies do NOT cover car rental insurance in Ireland. Ireland is one on a list of excluded countries for coverage by Visa, American Express, MasterCard (most). Discover may be one card that offers coverage, but in any case check with your card company and if coverage is allowed, you will need a letter stating such to show to the rental agency.
If your credit card happens to cover insurance in Ireland, you will be required to sign or initial extra documents. Make sure you are initialing the right choice so as not to be hit with a surprise charge when you return the car. If insurance is declined, you may be charged with a deposit or hold on your card.
If you have any questions, call the rental agency before you show up at the counter.
Speaking of fuel, you are just as likely to receive a car that uses diesel fuel as you are to receive on that uses gasoline. Often in the US the diesel pump handles are green and the regular gas handles are black. It is just the reverse in Ireland – green for unleaded gas (petrol) and black for diesel. Always double check. If you should happen to put the wrong gas in, do not attempt to start the car. Push it to the side or simply leave it and call the agency. They can send a mobile tank cleaner which, although expensive, will cost less than the replacement of the engine.
So, is Super CDW worth it? Last year when I rented a car from Dublin and confined my travels largely to County Meath, I did not purchase Super CDW. I felt my skills were more than adequate for that area of Ireland and the types of roads I would be driving. For this trip, I decided to purchase it because I knew it was a heavier tourist season so there would be more tourists and tourist buses on the road and my proposed route included a lot of R roads, so to feel safe, I paid the extra €5/day. My advice would be for any first time visitor to Ireland to purchase the extra coverage for peace of mind if nothing else….especially if you are not accustomed to driving on the left.
Renting and driving a car truly is one of the best ways to experience Ireland. And if you find yourself not renting a car simply because you would be ‘driving on the wrong side’ of the road, put that fear to rest. It really isn’t that difficult….as long as you remember to drive left and look right.
Added Tip: iMaps with turn by turn directions works fantastically in Ireland… even if some of the name pronunciations are a bit ‘off’.
Do you enjoy exploring out of the way places by car when you travel?