Headed to the Emerald Isle? The best way to explore all that Ireland has to offer is by renting a car and heading out on the roads. Before you book your rental though, following some of these helpful tips.
- Check the rental company’s policies before you book your reservation, as some companies will not rent to anyone under 25. Also, confirm whether you need an International Driving Permit –if your driver’s license is written in English, you don’t need one,
- Reserve your car before leaving home–you don’t want to arrive in Ireland to find that the only cars available can barely accommodate you and your luggage.
- Pick the car up at the airport, particularly if you’re arriving in Dublin. Some rental car agencies have locations outside of the airport, but getting there takes time and it can be tricky to navigate around the city if you’re unfamiliar with the area. There’s usually an extra fee for airport pickups, but the reduced hassle is worth it.
- Read the agency fuel – known as petrol in Ireland –policy before driving off. In most cases, the gas tank will be full when you pick up the car, and you pay for it up front. When you return the car, you generally have the option of re-filling the tank and getting that money back, or just leaving it empty. Double-check before you return the car though, to avoid an unpleasant surprise or extra charge.
- Ask about paying the M50 toll before you head out. The M50 is a section of highway near Dublin – and chances are you’ll travel on the toll portion at some point if you fly in or out of Dublin. There is no toll gate, so you might not even know you are on a toll road! Some agencies will cover the charge for you, but you might have to pay it yourself – if you don’t, you’ll get hit with a fine when you return the car. Stop at a shop that displays a “PayZone” logo to pay the charge.
- Driving in Ireland is not like driving in the U.S. or in major cities around the world. First, you have to drive on the left—pay extra for an automatic transmission vehicle if you’re not comfortable shifting with your left hand. Many of the side and back roads are narrow, twisty, unpaved, and your chances of running into a flock of sheep are pretty good. Pay attention to the conditions, take your time, and let the sheep have the right of way. Invest in a road map book of Ireland – the Ordnance Survey Ireland is a good choice—since many places are not listed on GPS, and it’s easy to get turned around.
Booking Your Car
Most of the familiar car rental agencies operate within Ireland, including Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, and Enterprise. The best rates can usually be found online—shop around and compare all before booking your car. Read the fine print, and get the car you want!
Be prepared to pay taxes and fees in addition to daily rates. Ireland charges a fee for an extra driver, road and VAT taxes (some companies include the VAT in the daily rate) and in some cases, a fee if you plan to travel into Northern Ireland. If you are under 25, and the agency will rent to you, expect to pay an extra fee and higher insurance rates.
When you rent a car in Ireland, get the extra car insurance. Driving along twisting rural roads can be hazardous, and an unfortunate encounter with an untrimmed hedge or wayward sheep can cost you a chunk of change.
When you rent your car, you’ll probably be given choice between Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) that pays a deductible of up to 1000 Euros, and Super (or Super CDW). With the Super CDW coverage, which usually runs between $10-14 U.S. per day, you’re fully covered with no deductible. Keep in mind again, with the rural nature of Ireland’s roads, it’s easy to get a dent, scrape or ding on the rental car – and you will have to pay for it.
All rental car agencies will charge you for third-party liability coverage, meaning that you’re covered for damage to property or injuries to people outside the car. It’s mandatory coverage.
If you’re thinking that your credit card will cover you in the event something happens to the rental car, read the terms of your credit card coverage carefully – some plans specifically exclude car rentals in Ireland, among other countries.
Once you arrive in Ireland, the process of renting a car is the same as anywhere else. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore!