Driving advice for every country in Europe

Find up-to-date driving laws and advice for any country in Europe before you visit, including any accessories you may need to purchase. Don't forget the RAC provides European breakdown cover while you're driving in Europe.

Driving in Ireland

Ireland
Population: 5.01m
Area: 70,283 square kilometres
Currency: Euro (EUR) € = 100 cents

Coronavirus update

Please be aware that driving in Europe may be restricted at the moment.

Check the Foreign travel advice section of the GOV.UK website for up to date advice on all European countries.

Despite being just across the border, driving in Ireland is a very different experience from driving in the UK and if you’re planning a trip it’s essential you know about these differences ahead of time. 

To make your trip to the Emerald Isle as safe and effortless as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road.

Driving a rented vehicle? Jump to the advice for driving a hire car in Ireland section.

In Ireland, RAC European Breakdown Cover (Basic, Comprehensive and Single Trip) provides a wide range of benefits should you break down in the Republic of Ireland to ensure you stay safe. 

To supplement this, RAC also offers travel insurance. Cover will include medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings, among many other benefits.

Advice for driving in Ireland

In an emergency

999 – The number of the emergency services in Ireland is the same as in the UK, and you’ll be able to connect to police, ambulance and the fire brigade. 

112 - Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. 

Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French. 

Driving licence laws in Ireland

Visitors must be aged 17 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in Ireland. Riders of mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over. 

Driving licences issued in the UK, EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised, but not required. 

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Things to take when driving in Ireland

driving-in-ireland-rules

Documents for driving in Ireland

Vehicles from the UK can be temporarily imported into Ireland for up to 12 months. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:

  • A valid UK driving licence
  • A GB sticker on the back of your car – unless your car has 'Euro-plates' (number-plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background)
  • Your motor insurance certificate and a green card – note UK drivers towing caravans or trailers may be required to have two green cards for insurance purposes – one for their vehicle and one for the unit they are towing.
  • Your V5 registration document (ideally the original and a copy)

Do I need a GB sticker for driving in Ireland?

No, you do not need a GB sticker, unlike in the rest of the EU.

Driving in Ireland packing checklist

In addition to required documents, drivers are also recommended to carry the following items when driving:

  • Spare bulbs for your car's external lights
  • A fire extinguisher 
  • A first aid kit
  • A reflective warning triangle
  • A Camping Card International to give you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions
  • A Green Card. Although it’s not a requirement, as Ireland is a member of the Green Card system, it's a useful back-up to your car insurance documents and shows you've got the minimum legal level of cover. If you'd like to find out more, contact your insurance company

Rules of the road in Ireland

Overtaking and passing

In Ireland, motorists drive on the left and overtake on the right. Drivers must not attempt any overtaking if it could cause inconvenience to others.

Who has priority?

Drivers must give right of way to vehicles approaching along a principal road at uncontrolled road junctions. These are junctions not controlled by the police or traffic signals.

In situations where roads at an uncontrolled junction are of the same standard, drivers must give right of way to those coming from the right.

Any vehicle approaching a junction must also give right of way to those turning or crossing at the junction. Any drivers entering the road from private property should give right of way to vehicles moving in either direction.

Finally, cars entering a roundabout should give priority to those already on it unless otherwise indicated. Signs at uncontrolled junctions will highlight the presence of a main road.

Warning of approach

Horns must not be used between the hours of 23:30 and 07:00 on any road that has a permanent speed limit enforced. 

Towing

Check if you need to register your trailer before you can take it abroad.

Also note that UK drivers towing caravans or trailers may be required to have two green cards for insurance purposes – one for their vehicle and one for the unit they are towing.

Ireland seat belt law

If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers. The driver has a responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 17 are suitably restrained in the car. 

The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set at €60, increasing to €90 if you don’t pay within 28 days. 

Traffic lights

The three-colour system conforms to the provisions of the Convention on Road Signs and Signals (red light on top). This system is used in most towns and villages across the country.

Speed limits in Ireland

Ireland uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres.

In built-up areas50km/h max. (30km/h near schools and in some residentials areas where signed)
Outside built-up areas 60km/h – 100km/h max. (according to local signs)
Motorways 120km/h

Special speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicles, including vehicles with trailers and double-decker buses so check local restrictions before travel.

Speeding fines in Ireland

Speeding fines 

Speeding fines in Ireland are currently set at a flat rate of €80 regardless of the speed at which offenders are caught, or the road on which they’re driving. 

However, the Irish Government has recently announced plans to consider removing this flat rate and introducing graduated speeding measures that relate to the severity of the offence. 

Speed camera detectors

If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any fixed speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. It's illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment when driving through Ireland.

Arrival Breakdown Cover

Get specialist cover for caravans and motorhomes for just £6 per month.^

Travelling with children in Ireland

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that all passengers under 17 are wearing a seat belt or appropriate restraint.

child car seats

Children aged under three cannot travel in a car unless appropriately restrained, regardless of where the vehicle they’re travelling in was registered. Rear-facing restraints cannot be used in front passenger seats with active air-bags. 

Children aged over three can sit in the front passenger seat only if they’re using a safety belt or appropriate child restraint. If not, they must travel in a rear seat. 

Children under 150cm in height and weighing less than 36kg (generally speaking, children up to 11-12 years old) are required to use the correct child seat or booster cushion at all times while travelling. 

bike helmet law

Bike helmets are not compulsory in Ireland. 

Driving a camper van and towing a caravan in Ireland

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4.65 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

Loads mustn’t exceed 10.5 tonnes at the driving axle and 10 tonnes at a single axle.

Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.*

Irish driving penalties and fines

driving-in-ireland

On-the-spot fines

Officers of the Garda are able to hand out on-the-spot fines to motorists that have committed an offence under the Road Traffic Act. This fine is payable within 28 days. After this time, the fine increases by 50%.

Minimum and maximum fines

Fines range from €60 to €200, depending on the offence committed, although for certain, more dangerous offences such as dangerous driving the fine could be fixed at a higher amount following a court appearance. 

The minimum and maximum fines available depend on the offence committed, although offenders pay a reduced fine if they pay the required amount within 28 days. 

Confiscation of vehicles

Any vehicle that doesn’t display current road tax and/or insurance can be confiscated by police officers.

Parking in Ireland

Parking regulations

As well as following any restrictions signposted locally, drivers in Ireland should also note that parking is prohibited:

  • Within nine metres of a road junction
  • Within the same distance - on the approach side - of a pedestrian crossing or pedestrian lights. Exceptions include when a passenger is leaving or entering the vehicle and when the vehicle is being used to load or unload goods
  • At a bus stop with road markings
  • Between a road pad and its corresponding traffic lights
  • On the pavement if this affects the movement of pedestrians
  • On cycle tracks
  • On yellow lines

Parking at night

Vehicles can be parked without lights in situations where street lighting ensures they can be clearly seen by traffic. In other scenarios, side lights should be used.

Enforcement of parking regulations

On-the-spot fines can be handed down in relation to parking offences, while wheel clamps are also used. In some cases, a €80 fee may have to be paid for the removal of the clamp.

Cars may also be towed if they have created an obstruction and, again, a fee may be charged for release.

Disabled parking access

Disabled parking bays are highlighted by blue lines on the ground and the international parking sign featuring the wheelchair symbol.

Vehicles with a disabled badge can often park without time limits in spaces provided by local authorities and public bodies. Elsewhere, time limits in private car parks may be up to the operator.

Badge holders cannot park on single or double yellow lines, while they should also avoid places where their vehicle could cause an obstruction.

Drink-driving law in Ireland

Legal limit

The limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%.

For professional drivers - such as those driving a bus, coach, HGV or public service vehicle - the limit is 0.02%. The latter also applies to newly qualified drivers with less than two years of experience.

Drink-driving test

The Garda may set up checkpoints and conduct random breath testing on drivers. If the test is positive, the driver will be required to go to the station for a blood or urine test.

The Garda must also conduct a preliminary breath test when they believe a driver has consumed alcohol, or at the scene of a crash where someone has been injured and requires medical attention.

If a driver fails a roadside physical and behavioural test, the Garda may ask him/her to accompany them to the station for a drug test, either by blood or urine sampling.

Tolls in Ireland

Some motorways in Ireland have tolls imposed.

Most toll stations don't take credit cards so make sure you've got some change or invest in an e-Toll electronic tag that attaches to your vehicle and pays all required tolls.

Service areas in Ireland

There are motorway service areas located across Ireland, although in more rural western areas there are significantly fewer of these service areas so you may prefer to use local facilities instead.

Availability of fuel in Ireland

There are plenty of filling stations located across the country that sell petrol, diesel and LPG, although in rural areas in the west of the country there are fewer.

In larger urban centres, such as Dublin and Cork, there is also a growing network of electric charging points.

Driving a hire car in Ireland

Not all of the information in the guide above will be relevant to those looking to rent a hire car in Ireland. Though it might be a good idea to read through everything anyway, here are the most important things to know for drivers of rental vehicles:

Rental information

  • The minimum age to hire a car is 23
  • You need a full, valid UK driving licence and usually a second proof of ID (passport)
  • Car rental companies ask that you have held your licence for a minimum term of 2 years
  • A credit card may be required by some companies, it is best to check beforehand
  • You may not be able to drive outside of Ireland unless planned in advance - check with your hire company first
  • Make sure you get car hire excess insurance before your trip to protect yourself from unexpected costs. It's almost always cheaper to do this with a separate insurer and in advance

Hire car driving tips

  • The national speed limit on motorways in Ireland is 120km/h (74 mph). On a main road outside a built-up area it's up to 100km/h. For built-up areas it’s between 30km/h to 50km/h.
  • Dial 112 in an emergency
  • If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers.
  • The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland

Car hire excess cover

Protect yourself from unexpected excess costs when hiring a car.

Driving in Ireland FAQs

  • Can I drive my car in Ireland?

    Yes, although you should always familiarise yourself with the laws around driving in Ireland before you set off to keep yourself and others safe on the road, while also ensuring you have the right insurance and breakdown cover for your trip.

    Getting to Ireland by car is fairly straightforward for UK residents – simply drive across the border from Northern Ireland, or take a ferry from England or Wales and enter the country through one of its ports.

  • What side of the road do they drive on in Ireland?

    As in the UK, motorists drive on the left-hand-side of the road in the Republic of Ireland and overtake on the right.

  • Can you drive in Ireland with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can legally drive in the Irish Republic with your UK-issued driving licence without the need to apply for an International Driving Permit, regardless of the length of your stay.

  • Do I need extra insurance to drive in Ireland?

    Ireland and the UK are both part of the Green Card System, a Europe-wide scheme allowing all countries to recognise foreign vehicle insurance policies of visiting motorists, so it’s quite possible your existing insurance will cover you.

    However, before setting off on your trip, you should contact your insurance provider to make sure that no additional cover is required, as you won’t be able to buy short-term cover at the border entry points.

  • Do I need a green card to drive in Ireland?

    While carrying a green card is no longer a legal requirement, many motorists choose to take one for extra proof of insurance and you should always check with your insurance provider before travel to ensure you will be covered.

  • Is driving in Ireland dangerous?

    Driving in Ireland is much like driving in the UK and most UK drivers will likely familiarise themselves quickly due to the fact that both countries drive on the left.

    In some rural areas, the roads aren’t as well maintained and before driving in any foreign country like the Republic of Ireland you should always familiarise yourself with the law to ensure you stay safe on the roads.

  • Do I need a GB sticker for Ireland?

    You will need a GB sticker on your car unless it’s equipped with EU number plates, which show the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.

  • Is driving in Ireland the same as in the UK?

    For the most part, yes. Both countries drive on the left and the vast majority of road signs across Ireland are in both Irish and English, which will help UK drivers feel comfortable on the roads.

    However, there are differences when it comes to driving laws and requirements, so before driving in the Irish Republic make sure you research these as well as ensuring you have insurance and breakdown cover for the entirety of your trip.

  • What age can you start driving in Ireland?

    To legally drive in Ireland you have to be 17 years or older and in possession of a full valid driving licence.

UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice


Source: Information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) & the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC’s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (November 2020).
 
*https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/travelplanning/eurotraveladvice/europeancampingguide/page5/

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

British Embassy Dublin

29 Merrion Road 
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4
Ireland

Telephone: +353 (1) 205 3700

Fax (management): +353 (1) 205 3885

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover

^ For existing Camping & Caravanning Club members purchasing new personal based Roadside only on a monthly renewing contract.

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover