Driving in countries on the left side of the road can be very intimidating especially when you are traveling with your husband and children. With a bit of experience in Bermuda and sheer determination, I took on this task June of 2014.
First of all, yes, my husband does the bulk of vacation driving in the U.S., but, with his touch of dyslexia, I knew my safety paranoia was going to be a good motivation for taking on this task abroad and ended up being quite manageable. Here are my quick tips:
- Watch YouTube videos on this to get that virtual training. I also practiced driving in a remote areas outside of Nashville on the left side of the road to get a feel for it.
- When planning your trip, rent your car early to secure an automatic. Yes, my husband and I both can drive manuals, but, remember, you will be shifting opposite as well. It would save you money, but, for our first time out, we really wanted one less confusing element and rented an automatic.
- Check Google images for the car you chose to get a feel of the trunk room as well. With a family of four, we traveled with 4 carryon bags and one checked bag for our liquid toiletries like contact solutions. It worked perfectly.
- A good GPS system is critical. We rented one from Dollar (a division of Hertz). We also found a better “car hire” rate with this company. The GPS system gave us the audio commands but it was also helpful having my son read the GPS. You’ll find boys who play a lot of video games are great as navigators!
- Roundabouts can be intimidating at first but it also means you are on bigger roads which we found easier. The signage wasn’t uniform and finding road names – many in Irish – was a little difficult. Counting the turns by number instead of name was very helpful.
- I printed a sign for the car “Hard Left. Wide Right. Right Bites.” Yes, now I’m admitting my serious nerd-ness but it actually helped in the beginning.
- CDW – Super Damage Waiver Insurance. The ultimate peace of mind was securing CDW insurance through the “car hire” company in case of damage to mirror, hub cab, etc. We had no scrapes, but, on the super narrow roads, we were just lucky.
Although we began our trip in Dublin, when renting a car for the first time, you might want to choose Shannon airport or a more remote area to begin driving in less congestion. We arrived in the morning after rush hour so we did just fine in Dublin and chose to only drive 40 minutes on our first leg to begin the trip slowly.
The family was surprised by a guided tour for our second day with Michael Fox. When you Google tours of Boyne Valley, you’ll find Michael’s name at the top. He arrived in a spacious Audi and gave us a full day tour. Utterly charming, letting him do the driving our first big tour day was brill-iant! And, when he found out our love of collecting art, we got a surprise visit to his wife’s home studio and picked up a beautiful fiber art piece.
More info than you needed, here’s a quick YouTube video with some extra tips. Safe travels and slainte!