Driving in Ireland

Driving in Ireland is certainly a test of anyone's abilities with narrow lanes and fast drivers all over the place. Keeping a cool head and concentrating is essential to driving in Ireland.

Signage is often inaccurate and missing so care must be taken to travel with a good map and have a good idea of where you are going before you actually set out.

Rules of the Road: The Basics

All cars drive on the left side of the road and most cars are adapted so that the driver sits on the right. Speed limits are mostly posted on white circular signs with a red border and black numbers in the middle. Speeds are normally posted in miles per hour (unless otherwise indicated) but distances are often indicated in kilometers (though CAN be in miles, if indicated).

A dashed line across your lane on approaching another road indicates that you are to YIELD to traffic on that road (an inverted triangle may also be drawn on the road to indicate that a yield intersection is ahead). A double set of dashed lines simply indicates an intersection with a major road whereas a single dashed line indicates a smaller road.

A circular white sign with a diagonal black line through it indicates that the national speed limit is to be used. This is:

  • 70 MPH - On Motorways (roads named M) or divided roads.
  • 60 MPH - On non-divided roads (such as N roads).
  • 30 MPH - In built-up areas (though typically 30 MPH zones are posted)

On many larger N roads a large hard shoulder (often as big as a lane itself) is present separated from the main lanes by dashed lines. Irish drivers will expect slower drivers to pull into this lane to allow them to pass and may “flick” their high beams to indicate this. Normally drivers should not drive in this lane.

European Cars

Most cars on the road have a standard transmission as petrol (gas) is expensive (though not as expensive as the UK) not many people drive automatic cars. In the past many European cars tended to be smaller than American cars though this is generally changing.


Roundabouts are so tricky to understand that I have decided to devote a whole section to them. Roundabouts operate in the same manner as those in the UK, namely, on Roundabouts in Ireland you drive clockwise and yield to traffic on the right. Simply speaking, a roundabout is a circular traffic intersection that allows traffic to move efficiently into different roads. In general though, roundabouts are easy to understand. All traffic entering a roundabout MUST yield to traffic from the right. A roundabout is always in a clockwise direction (unless otherwise directed, for example due to construction).

  • Turning Right - To turn right, get in the right lane (if present) and turn on your right signal on approaching. After entering the roundabout proceed to the inner-most lane, indicating left immediately after the exit prior to your own. To exit the roundabout, you can proceed to the outside lane (if your way is clear) or the inner lane (if present) on your exit road.
  • Turning Left - To turn left, get in the left lane (if present) and turn on your left signal. After entering the roundabout, stay in the outside lane and proceed to the outside lane of your exit road (continuing to signal until you have left the roundabout).
  • Proceeding Straight - To continue straight get into the middle lane (if present or the left/right lane if not). Whichever lane you enter the roundabout using, you should stay in that lane on the roundabout (so, if you enter in the middle lane, use the middle lane on the roundabout and NOT the inner or outer lane). Signal left after the exit immediately prior to your exit. When leaving the roundabout, again, stay in the lane you entered the roundabout on (if possible).
  • Performing a U-Turn - Proceed as if turning right, continuing around the roundabout, signalling left immediately after the exit prior to your own. Proceed out of the roundabout as normal.

There are exceptions to these rules typically in larger areas or on bigger roundabouts where specific lanes may be indicated for specific destinations from the roundabout. A good guide is to always pay attention and take it slowly. Other recommendations I have heard are to stay in the far left lane no matter where you are turning too but this may be dangerous in that drivers will not be expecting this.

When approaching a roundabout, most will have a sign mapping the layout of the roundabout and indicate most exits. A good thing to do is to know which direction you are taking on the roundabout before entering it. The sign always indicates the point at which you are entering the roundabout at the bottom.

Driver's License

To drive in Ireland you need a current driver's license (licenses for most countries are allowed for use in periods up to a year in the Ireland). An International Driving Permit is NOT required. You may wish to check to see if your particular country's license is accepted in Ireland.

Further Information