If you have any interest in visiting the Emerald Isle, then I have two words for you: BOOK IT! However, you need to decide if you want to see Ireland on an independent self drive vacation or as part of a tour group (there are both small and larger group options). This decision is a very important one to make, and there are pros and cons (you’ll be in Ireland so using the word “cons” is really silly because like I said, you will still be in Ireland seeing the beautiful country!) to each choice.
I’m the independent type, and I love to meander around new destinations on my own so it will come as no surprise that my husband and I opted for a self drive vacation while in Ireland. Keep in mind that one needs to evaluate their own comfort level when it comes to driving on the “other” side of the car and the “other” side of the road in a different country! Also, most flights from the US will arrive in the morning local time, and as such, you’ll be starting out your drive with jet lag for sure. I know I did, and the first day was by far the worst day behind the wheel. There were no accidents (thank goodness), but I was rather tense and tired while driving that first day. By day three, I was much more comfortable. I will caution you that many of the roads off of the Motorway (think our interstate road system) are more narrow than the roads you are probably used to driving on. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know I would not be comfortable renting any vehicle larger than a cross-over SUV, and on some roads I still may wish I had a smaller vehicle. We drove a BMW wagon which was new and already had documented scraps and dents on our rental paperwork!
Renting a car in Ireland is a different experience than renting a car in the US. To begin, I recommend you use a car hire broker such as AutoEurope. They have been in business over 60 years and help get the best rental rate with the car hire companies. There are other car hire brokers you can research on the internet as well. Most cars in Ireland are manual transmissions. You will have to pay extra to rent an automatic transmission vehicle. If you are not used to driving a manual then I highly encourage you to pay the difference and rent an automatic. You’ll have enough on your hands just getting used to the other side of the car and the other side of the road. Trust me. Now that I have had my first “rodeo,” I do think I’ll be fine renting a manual on our next visit, and therefore, save some money on the car rental.
The next big ball of wax to get through is the insurance. Oh my gosh. This part drove me crazy. Forget about using your own auto insurance company to cover you while driving in Ireland. Although there is one type of credit card that can be used in place of part of the insurance, you have to have something crazy like a $50,000 availability on the card. Just do yourself a favor and at the time of booking get the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and add the Supercover liability as well. Without the Supercover, you will need to have a certain cash balance available on the credit card you used for the booking, and the amount will be held on the credit card until you return the car. If there is damage, your card will be charged accordingly. The amount held on your card is dependent upon the class (size) of rental car you rent. Without the Supercoverage, our hold was going to be something like $1800. Umm, no thank you. I’ll just get the extra insurance. You will also be offered Tire and Wheel coverage (charged as a daily rate) because even with the Supercoverage, that isn’t included. We did not get the tire and wheel coverage; however, I cannot stress enough how important it is to purchase the Supercover liability. Ninety percent of rental cars in Ireland are returned with some sort of damage. You will totally understand why after one day of driving and passing cars, trucks, buses and tractors on very narrow roads! Also, you must add navigation to your rental package if the vehicle does not come equipped with a navigation system. I had road maps, and we looked at them frequently; however, the navigation system was such a big help!!
Have I scared you yet? I certainly do not mean to, but I am being very honest here folks! Other rental decisions will be aC/no AC as well as diesel or gasoline. We rented a diesel and will do so again. Most cars over there are hybrids too so don’t be surprised when the engine cuts off at stop lights. Also, the boot or trunk space as we call it, is much smaller than we are used too. Keep that in mind when renting a car for the number of people in your traveling party.
If you think you’d rather sit back and relax while someone else does the driving, you’re in luck. There are several reputable tour companies that offer various packages to attract different interests. Whether you choose an independent self drive vacation or join a tour group, one thing is for certain. You WILL fall in love with all of the beauty that is Ireland!!!