27 July 2020

Your Guide to Traveling Around Ireland with a Rental Car

Aleksandrs Buraks
Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com

Why should you rent a car in Ireland?

A fascinating and underrated destination, the Republic of Ireland is a truly fun place to visit. Whether you're coming for the atmosphere of Dublin, impressive sites like the Cliffs of Moher. or the Irish coastline and green countryside, you're going to discover a beautiful and authentic land with lots to enjoy. Getting a rental car is the surest way not to get tied down to just one part of Ireland and to be able to see everything that it has to offer.

Where should you pick up a car in Ireland?

Most visitors to the Republic of Ireland prefer to pick up a rental car at the airport. There are six international airports in Ireland, providing flights to and from many destinations in Europe, as well as countries like the United States, Canada, Israel, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and many others. Many low-cost airlines fly to and from Ireland, including Ryanair, Volotea, Transavia, and Eurowings.

In addition to airports, it is also possible to pick up a rental car at international hotels, car rental company offices, and other locations.

Many rental car companies in Ireland permit one-way rentals, usually for a small fee. Many travelers choose to pick up a car in Dublin and then later drop it off in Galway or Cork (or vice versa).

Now that you've decided where to pick up a car in Ireland, check out our prices there!

Can I drive from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland with a rental car?

Although they share the island of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate political entities — the former is a sovereign country and the latter is a part of the United Kingdom — and there is an international border between the two countries.

The good news is that many car rental companies allow bringing a rental car across the border (albeit usually for a higher fee than for one-way rentals inside the Republic of Ireland). In fact, the route between Dublin and Belfast (the capital city of Northern Ireland) is immensely popular and thousands of tourists make the two-hour long drive every year using the opportunity to see both cities on the same trip. Belfast has two international airports — Belfast Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport. Both are convenient locations for picking up your ride at the beginning of your trip or dropping it off at the end.

The United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union (or Brexit) raised fears that a "hard border" might be implemented between the two countries. However, these proposals were rejected. Despite the fact that the Republic of Ireland remains a member of the EU while the United Kingdom no longer is, there are no physical border checks in place between the two countries, and the border remains fully open for travelers. Do keep in mind, though, that by crossing the border you'll be visiting two separate countries with different visa policies, so make sure you don't need a visa to visit either the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom (this applies to visitors from certain countries, for example, Russia, India and China — despite there being no border in place, you'll still need a separate visa for visiting each of the countries as not having one can lead to deportation).

When should you go to Ireland?

According to many travelers, Ireland is nicest to visit during the warmest months of the year, namely July and August. However, the large number of both local and foreign vacationers also means that the island's most popular tourist attractions can get quite crowded during these months. It is also when things like rental cars and accommodation are the most expensive. Going in May or September can, therefore, be a smart alternative for some travelers.

Ireland is a beautiful country, but it is fair to say that, generally speaking, good weather is not its main attraction. Similarly to the neighboring United Kingdom, it never gets either too hot or very chilly and the temperature differences between the coldest and warmest months of the year are relatively small. The amount of rain is also rather constantly high throughout the year. While the countryside can be more pleasant to visit during the summer months, Dublin, Cork, and other cities can sometimes even be more enjoyable during the nominally cooler time of the year.

How safe is it to travel around Ireland in a rental car?

Ireland is overall a very safe destination to visit, and most travelers only have positive memories of their time in the country. Violent crime is rare and is most often tied to excessive use of alcohol. Parts of Dublin might feel a bit dodgy but are still a lot safer than similar neighborhoods in many larger European capitals. The Irish police, known as Garda, are very trustworthy, and you should ask for their assistance if you do not feel safe or have been a victim of a crime. The nationwide emergency numbers are 999 and 112.

Like elsewhere in the world, petty crime exists in Ireland, especially in crowded areas and near popular tourist attractions. Do watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables near at all times.

The visitors of older generations might remember Ireland in connection with the British-Irish conflict of the 20th century, collectively known as the Troubles. It's important to keep in mind that while the Troubles are a very important chapter in Irish history, most of the conflict actually took place in neighboring Northern Ireland which is a part of the United Kingdom. Discussing the politics related to the Troubles and Catholic-Protestant conflicts is probably not a good idea as the topic remains sensitive and brings painful memories to all who were involved.

What languages are spoken in Ireland?

T English is one of the two official languages of Ireland and by far the most widespread. Practically everyone speaks and understands it. The Irish accent can take some time getting used to for anyone with an unaccustomed ear, but every visitor who understands or speaks any kind of English will do just fine when visiting the country.

The other official language of Ireland is Irish (sometimes also called Irish Gaelic). A Celtic language that is only distantly related to English, it is the native tongue of the island. Nowadays, only about 20%-30% have some knowledge of it and even fewer use it on a daily basis. Still, Irish-speaking pockets remain in the western part of the country, especially around Galway. While you probably won't meet anyone who can't speak English, learning a few Irish phrases can go a long way when traveling in these parts. The presence of Irish can also be noted in bilingual traffic signs, menus, etc.

French is a language that many Irish people study in school and about 20% (or every fifth person) have some knowledge of it. The actual level of speaking and understanding varies from person to person, though.
How easy is it to travel around Ireland independently?
Ireland is a very easy country to explore on your own — it's basically just waiting for you to get in a car and drive all around!

Irish roads are in very good shape and the country isn't especially mountainous, so driving is easy in Ireland. The population density is quite low outside the Dublin area and other cities, so roads rarely are crowded. The Irish style of driving is overall relaxed, most people being mindful of other drivers.

Many parts of Ireland are rural. While it is a real pleasure to explore the Irish countryside, getting an up-to-date GPS to make sure you don't lose your track is probably a good idea. Ask your rental car provider about the availability of a GPS for your vehicle (although using a road/traffic app is also an option).

The Irish people are famously friendly, and this is doubly true for little towns and villages. Although some people can initially be wary of strangers in rural regions, striking up a conversation usually leads to making new friends in very little time (especially if you've done driving for the day and visit a local pub). Making fun and playfully insulting others is a form of showing affection in Ireland (locals even have a name for it - craic). Not taking offense and replying in kind, while obviously staying polite and respectful at the same time, often leads to the most fun travel experiences when visiting Ireland.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

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