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Driving in Ireland
Renting (or "hiring") a car is by far the best way to discover Ireland (outside the cities) but it can be a more expensive option, particularly for younger visitors under the age of 21 years, as insurance is expensive.
Use the following website for planning routes and gauging journey times. However, do take the quoted times with a "pinch of salt"; they're a bit optimistic and don't take the fact that you're unfamiliar with the road network, plus roadworks, traffic delays and diversions, cattle or sheep on the road (yes, really!) etc, into consideration.
Recommend you add a further 20% to the quoted journey times for a realistic figure:
Distances and Minimum Drive Times between Dublin and Popular Destinations (from aaireland.ie):
Dublin-Cork: 255km; 3hrs, 4min
Dublin-Dingle: 346km; 4hrs, 48min
Dublin-Galway: 218km; 2hrs, 43min
Dublin-Kilkenny: 123km; 1hr, 42min
Dublin-Killarney: 302km; 3hrs, 54min
Dublin-Sligo: 208km; 2hrs, 52min
Dublin-Westport: 252km: 3hrs, 30min
Bear in mind that when driving through rural areas many roads are narrow, single lane that twist and wind through the landscape; you'll probably average 40km/hour.
The majority of car rental companies have offices in Ireland, plus there are several local companies that you can find by searching the internet.
Sadly most complaints posted on the Ireland forum stem from problems with car rental: extra "hidden" fees charged on collection being the main problem.
Follow the advice here and you should have a stress-and-problem free experience:
Please note - when renting a car in Ireland, if you do not want to pay their huge car insurance fees, you must bring a statement from your USA based auto insurer confirming you will be covered and to what $ amount. A one week car rental booked on a US credit card for $250 could end up costing $675.
Roads in Ireland
Photos of typical rural roads around Ireland: Beara Peninsula:
The Burren, co. Clare:
Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula:
The major inter-city roads are much improved, and are increasingly being replaced by motorway; most of these projects are now complete.
Routes between smaller cities and towns are usually fast moving, but are often a single lane in each direction.
Due to the low population density in Ireland, the rail network is less extensive and the frequency of service is less than in most other European countries. However travelling by train is generally a comfortable way to see Ireland. For journeys between Dublin and Cork and Dublin and Tralee and points in between the train is generally much faster than driving or taking the bus. The Dublin-Rosslare line is very slow and the bus is generally faster. However, the train to Rosslare wins hands down if the purpose is to gaze out of the window. Travelling south, after having left the Dublin suburbs, the line clings to the coast as far as Wicklow. Turning inland, it runs through verdant pastures through Arklow, Gorey and Enniscorthy. Beyond Enniscorthy, the line clings to the side of the River Slaney all the way to Wexford. That's three hours of views that you cannot gain by any other means of transport! For other routes the train is generally about as fast a driving and a bit faster than the bus.
You can usually take advantage of cheaper fares if you book online in advance through www.irishrail.ie
If you haven't got a seat reservation and are travelling at weekends or over holiday periods, be sure to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before departure otherwise, you may have to stand for your journey!
On the website "standard" means that you have a seat number allocated and "ticket only' means just that. Not all trains can be reserved and not all seats can be reserved on any train. Seat reservations are only possible on the web, not at rail stations. On the Dublin-Belfast "Enterprise" service there is "1st plus" and some Dublin-Cork trains have "CityGold" both of which offer a roomier coach with 1+2 seating instead of the normal 2+2, complimentary coffee, etc. On other routes there's really very little difference in comfort between First (Premier) and Standard class.
Unlike Amtrak in the USA, there is no "check-in" process. You simply find your train and your seat if you have reserved one. You can turn up 1 minute before and still board, though this is not recommended for the faint hearted!
If you have made a reservation, your name will be displayed on a little electronic display above your seat on newer trains (e.g. all trains on the Cork-Dublin route)
The Cork-Dublin Train:
Standard Intercity Trains to all other destinations (except Belfast). These are being rolled out across all routes in the Republic, and already serve most destinations on the network.
The bus network is much more extensive than the rail network and buses are often considerably cheaper than trains. On the main inter city routes services are frequent but off the beaten track there may only be a one trip a day - or per week - so advance planning is essential.
Services are operated by a number of different bus companies, the largest of which is Bus Eireann. Details of other operators' services are harder to come by - try the page on Wikipedia which lists companies offering services to & from Dublin. A number of Bus Eireann direct services are operated from a number of Irish Airports to different parts of the country.
GoBus - A new non-stop bus service between Galway and Dublin city and Dublin airport.
Also service between Cork - Dublin city and Dublin Airport. Ireland's first non-stop coach service, handy for those who needs a quick direct travel plans. On board services : Wifi, Toliets, Seatbelts and air conditioning.
When planning a trip around Ireland, keep in mind that taking ferries across rivers can help cut down on travel time. For information about ferries across the river Shannon:
**Note: The original information for this paragraph came from the following forum thread: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-...