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Solo Road Trip

I'm traveling to Ireland for the first time in December. I'm a 50-year-old tech-savvy woman who has traveled solo extensively around the US, via car and air, but I've never been outside the US. I'm flying into Dublin and plan to rent a car at the airport, drive AROUND Dublin (not through). My itinerary follows:

Dec 2 - Kilkenny
Dec 3 - Cashel
Dec 4 & 5 - Killarney
Dec 6 - unsure
Dec 7 & 8 - Dublin (I'll return the car and travel by mass transit while in Dublin).

I've read Rick Steves' Ireland 2020.

I'm booked into a combination of modest B & Bs and splurge boutique hotels.

Is there anything I should know about solo vehicle travel that I haven't already read? Also, if anyone has tips about traveling in December (what's open, whether I can hike, etc.) I'd love to know.

Thank you!

Posted by
6082 posts

If you've never driven on the left, I would recommend not driving right after you land in Dublin. It's confusing enough when you are good and rested and not in a busy area but right off of an international flight and in a big city area it can be downright dangerous, especially since you will be alone and not have a navigator. I drove solo on the left for the first time in NZ but I spent a night in Christchurch (after my flight) and picked up the rental car the next day - and that was in a small city without much traffic and it was still quite disorienting. It didn't take long to get used to it but it was a bit nerve wracking for the first few hours.

Posted by
9 posts

That's helpful - thank you. I'm not sure where else I would rent a car, so I need to figure that out. I don't see any mass transit options for getting from the Dublin Airport to south of Dublin, but I've really only looked at Google, so I'll keep researching.

Posted by
5317 posts

Older than you and have driven the island solo twice:

First thing you should know is unless you demand an automatic the rental vehicle will be a clutch.

2nd thing you should know is that Sunset will be closer to 4pm than say 7pm. So plan to get early starts.

3rd thing to know is that December weather will more likely be cold and wet. Make certain your windshield wipers on your rental work.

4 thing to know is that it takes maybe 5 hours to drive on the freeway from Dublin to Dingle. Small island.

5th thing to know if you take “ back roads “ is that you’ll most likely encounter sheep and slow lories. Drive slowly.

Always drive the speed limit, know that stone walls and foliage may block peripheral visibility and understand that in Northern Island speed limits are in MPH but in the Republic speed limits are in Kilometers.

Gas is called petrol and most petrol stations are self service.

Also this is merely a personal preference but I always carry a paper map when driving in Europe. I plot out my routes the night before and have found that GPS sometimes doesn’t have a clue!!

Lastly Kilkenny to Cashel is less than an hour. I’d chose either place to spend a night but not both.

Be certain to have a waterproof not just water resistant coat, scarf, hat and gloves.

Posted by
224 posts

You can take Bus Eireann to Kilkenny and rent a car there. Both Enterprise and Europcar have offices there. I looked into this option when we were there in May 2019 but we ended up renting at the airport instead. I would not feel comfortable driving solo around Dublin immediately after getting off an overnight flight.

Posted by
1742 posts

Although I agree that an abundance of caution is advisable when getting behind the wheel after the long red-eye flight from the US, I think that as long as you don’t overdo it the first day you should be fine.
It’s only a 1.5 hour drive from the airport to Kilkenny, and most of it on modern motorways. Your only real challenge will be getting on the M50 from the rental car area, and you can familiarize yourself with the route by using the handy street view feature on Google maps to get your bearings.
Most here would suggest springing for a vehicle with automatic transmission ... the default rental in Ireland is a manual shifter, and opting for the full insurance cover just for the peace of mind.
We’ve done this quite a few times, and after a lot of trial and error have settled on using Autoeurope for our own rentals - their pricing is quite competitive and they lay out the options for insurance very clearly, something that’s not necessarily the case when booking thru some of the individual company websites.
Other than that just be prepared for rainy weather and short days as per Claudia - it gets dark early that time of year.

Posted by
9 posts

Claudia,

First, you are amazing, and if you're ever in Tulsa, we should hang.

Secondly, I drive a Fiat Spider and had it shipped in because I couldn't find a standard locally. So, I think I'm good with a clutch? Not sure that I'm good with left side of the road and a clutch? But I'll figure it out. Thanks for the heads up.

I would never have thought about ensuring the window wipers work. Thank you!

Thanks for the map heads up. I created a custom google map, but I'm not sure how that will work while I'm driving down the road. I rely heavily on GPS, so again, thanks!

Regarding Kilkenny/Cashel, I found quite a few interesting things in Kilkenny, so the night in Cashel is really just a second night in Kilkenny, if that makes sense? Am I overestimating how interesting Kilkenny is? It looked like a place to do some shopping and putz around. And, I like historical sights and saw quite a few there.

I just bought a Marmot waterproof thigh-length parka discounted 66% a month ago. so I'll have it for my trip. I'll make sure I have everything else you've listed here, too.

Thank you so much!

Posted by
4276 posts

I'll just echo the advice about driving after an overnight flight, especially on the left side. If you're like me and get little or no sleep, it can be risky to you and others. Also suggest an automatic if you can get one. Left-side driving is disorienting enough without having to manage left-hand shifting as well. The downside of the automatic is that it may mean a bigger car, giving you less room on those narrow country roads.

A real talking GPS can help a lot, especially with no navigator on board. I have a portable Garmin with a European map (costs c. $70 with AAA) which I just bring along, cheaper than renting one. A paper map is a helpful backup so you don't fall victim to occasional GPS craziness.

I hope you have a wonderful trip with superb windshield wipers! ;-)

Posted by
9 posts

You're all fabulous - thank you so much!

I am re-thinking my first day and looking at options. I'm thinking I might rent a place at the airport for a half-day to sleep, but knowing me I'll be too excited to actually do that. Or take a bus to Kilkenny, which is my first planned stop. I had some places along the way I wanted to visit, but I can likely double back there once I rent a car in Kilkenny. I will also spend the $$ for an automatic. I like a challenge, but I'm not absurd. Finally, a friend who visited spent the money on a hotspot with the rental car. Has anyone done that? I use my mobile so much (I am the world's oldest millennial) that I'd really like to have wifi in the car.

Posted by
23833 posts

Shelley, since there is no guarantee that everything will be open in December because of the current problems, can I suggest that you are very careful with any reservations requiring payment in advance and check carefully refund conditions.

Don't expect money back from companies which go broke or get into difficulties, no matter how nice they are. Or individuals in a similar situation.

Posted by
9 posts

Nigel, thanks for the heads up. I'm just reserving at this point - haven't paid for anything. For work, I help small and mid-sized businesses with strategy development, so I've been neck-deep in helping quite a few companies stay afloat for the last ten weeks. I'm aware and being careful. Thank you.

Posted by
5317 posts

Thanks for the option of hanging in Tulsa.

Believe you should consider the following as you explore Eire.

Day 1 -arrive, spend the night in Dublin. Bus from airport to accommodation.
Day 2 - breakfast in Dublin then bus back to airport to pick up your rental car. Head to Glendalough. Explore. Then from there to Kilkenny Maybe via Kildare. Then spend the night in Cashel
Day 3 Rock of Cashel exploration. Then on the road to Kinsale. Lunch then off to Killarney.
Day 4 Killarney National Park, Gap of Dunloe. Spend the night in Killarney.
Day 5 explore Killarney. Drive to Portamghee. See the cliffs. Stop in Sneem on the way back to Killarney.
Day 6 - 7 - Dingle, Slea Head
Day 8 - drive back to Dublin

Posted by
66 posts

I did not drive solo in Ireland, but I did in Scotland. I absolutely LOVE to drive and know how to drive a stick - but decided to get an automatic because it was one less thing to worry about with also driving on the left. I also made a little sticky note that said 'STAY LEFT' and put it on the dash. This actually came in handy when I found myself a little distracted by traffic, being a bit lost, etc, because my instinct under pressure was to use US driving habits. This helped me keep my focus! I flew into Glasgow and drove about 2 hours that first day (not in Glasgow). I arrived at 9am, and it was a sunny day - so I did OK with that drive. But, like others have said - you really want to be sure that you can handle the jet lag and then plan not to drive too far that first day.

I did travel on a RS tour in Ireland and found a bus from Dublin to Ennis (and there were a ton of buses leaving Dublin). It stopped at many smaller towns, so if you can take a bus to your first location and then rent a car from there - that might be a very good alternative. I had a friend who drove in Ireland who shared a photo of their rental car stuck right off the side of the road. With very narrow or single track roads, one might think they can pull a little off the road to let someone by or stop to take a pic. This would be very doable on most US back roads. But, probably due to how wet Ireland is, as soon as the pavement ended - it was super boggy and their car sunk so low that they needed a tow truck to pull them out. This was truly right where the pavement met the grass. So, be very cautious on those "back-roads" to stay on the paved part. Have fun!

Posted by
715 posts

I would add to the short day heads-up, that while I found driving left side no problem, I did find night driving for further than just short distances in town the scariest thing I have ever done. And would never do again. Make sure the rental company explains the lights to you thoroughly. I found that the automatic setting was unlike any automatic setting I have ever experienced - it self adjusted both normal vs brights and the angle of the lights.

I was there in mid-November and while some things were closed, many others were not. And it was easy to get the hours ahead of time, so no guessing involved.

If you are able to go, you will have a marvelous time!

Posted by
542 posts

Check out the bus system. We rented a car at Dublin Airport but a friend came in late and met us the next day via bus. Regarding the car rental - we got stuck paying CDW insurance because I couldn't produce a letter that said the car was insured by my credit card. Would have saved a lot of $$; however, because the of narrow roads and brush the left side of the car got scratched pretty good after driving for a week. Because I had their CDW there were no worries regarding any damage. Without the CDW it may have been different. Also agree with the above recommendation about staying in either Kilkenny or Cashel. BTW the Rock doesn't take that long to explore. Have fun!

Posted by
207 posts

I enjoyed Kilkenny and the surrounding area. I only spent one night there, but wish I had booked two nights.

You might consider staying 2 nights there, then visiting Cashel on your way to Killarney. A tour of the Rock of Cashel is a nice break in the drive.

Visiting several of these would make a nice day trip from Kilkenny if you enjoy historic ruins and high crosses: Kells, Kells Priory, Kilree High Cross and Tower, Jerpoint Abbey, and Killamery High Cross.

Also, for your rental car in addition to the windshield wipers, make sure that the phone charger port works. Mine didn’t as I discovered the first day when my Google Maps voice stopped talking about an hour from Kilkenny as I was driving from the Wicklow Mountains. Fortunately, I had a map.

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
54 posts

I did the similar trip and route in 2016 by myself
I found the trains and buses easy to get around .
there's an app for Ireland that gives route and times , just cant remember it at this time
there's also wifi on buses and trains

Posted by
715 posts

One other note: I found offline Google maps to work very well. I have only been twice, though, and certainly not to all areas. On my first trip, I was on a tour bus at one point and testing out my offline maps (by myself) - when we came to a place where the driver (relying on his own google maps via data) had no signal, whereas I could navigate not depending on data. It made me have more confidence about driving myself on the second trip with my offline maps.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello - Just read through the messages.

I am planning a solo driving trip through Ireland mid-September into October and found all of the previous insights and tips very valuable!
I am a very active retired female who loves to travel mostly solo and loves to drive, however, the left side issue has me slightly concerned, ok more than slightly.

I think that I will follow tips to stay the 1st night then rent a car, love the left sign on the dash! and the other tips.

Thanks everyone!
Lynn