I have had clients, leads, and touch points all say that driving on the left is what’s stopping them from doing a self drive tour of Ireland/The UK. I can understand their trepidation – but at the same time, there’s not much to be afraid of. The Pros of a self drive tour far outweigh the Cons. Your schedule is yours, you see something you’re interested in, you can stop – unlike a bus tour. You don’t have to worry about making it back to the bus in time, because you’re the one that’s responsible for getting you to the next destination. The amount of towns/scenery you won’t miss out on are huge – because it’s not bus friendly. And trust me on this – those towns will be the most welcoming, because they are not exhausted by the number of buses that roll in and out of their town on a daily basis.
So, how does an American, who’s used to driving on the right hand side of the road handle driving in Ireland/The UK? By taking a few moments to recognize the similarities and the differences.
First, the similarities:
- White/yellow/dotted lines mean the same thing. Solid yellow, solid white = no pass. Dotted white = you’re allowed to pass.
- You’re still sitting in the seat that’s closest to oncoming traffic. In the US, you sit on the left – which means your left side (since you’re driving on the right) is closest to oncoming traffic. In the UK/Ireland – it’s reversed. You’re sitting on the right, which means that you’re closest to oncoming traffic. Same as the US, just different. Trust me, it makes it easier for you.
- Speed limits are speed limits. Only now, they’re in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. Luckily, your speedometer will be in kilometers per hour.
- There is still a traveling lane, and a passing lane – it’s just reversed. There are right lane cruisers in the UK/Ireland, much like there are left lane cruisers in the US.
And now, the differences:
- Don’t view the speed limit as the minimum, as it is generally understood in the US. You will see some roads that have a 100 km/h speed limit (62 MPH) that would be 35 or less in the US. Drive to your ability, and what’s safe.
- When you walk up to the car, remember – if you’re driving, you’re on the right. If you’re a passenger, you’re on the left. Yes, we failed at that miserably. Multiple times.
- Because it’s so easy to get to the UK/Ireland from the European continent, most of the warning signs are merely logos, no text involved. It can be confusing at times – but don’t worry, as long as you drive defensively, you should be fine.
- Right on Red? NO! Left on Red, while it might seem that’s a logical choice – NO. Red means red. They have flashing yellow on stoplights that indicate “proceed with caution.”
- L/N/R – what does that mean on Irish cars? L = Learners permit. Be patient. They are legally only allowed to drive 70 KM/H, and not on motorways. N = Newly Licensed Driver. Similar restrictions, just now – they are licensed. R = Restricted. Similar to L, but just have been driving for longer.
- Everything is reversed. Passing lane is the right lane, travel lane is the left lane. Etc, etc.
- Signage is better. You can navigate from one town/tourist attraction to another just following signs, no GPS required.
- One way roads. You’ll find yourself on some roads that are very narrow, ones that you would think are one way. One way only exists inside the city center of towns. Once outside, they are multi-way. Look for pull-offs, and be prepared to pull-off/back up to get to one.
- Be polite. They are much more polite drivers in the UK/Ireland than in the US. If someone pulls out of your way on a single track road – wave. If you do the same for someone else, expect to receive a wave.
- Turn your hazard lights on, then off to thank someone for letting you in, turn, etc…
That about does it. Don’t be afraid – you can do it, and you will love how much more of the country you can see!