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Driving on "wrong" side of the road

I'm thinking of spending 4 days in southwestern Ireland on the way to the continent. I think it would be a nice first stopover in Europe, as Rick Steve says that Europe gets more culturally "intense" the further south and east you go. The problem is, we'll have jet lag which I am concerned will complicate trying to drive on the left side of the road. I'm not talking about a long drive the first day, but I want my family to make it from the airport at Shannon or Cork to Killarney National Park or Dingle in one piece. Is this advisable? Are there 4 day bus tours that focus on southwest Ireland? Thanks!

Posted by
410 posts

Personally I would be very hesitant to drive on the 'other' (sorry as an Australian I am used to driving on the left!) side of the road with jet lag. It does feel very alien and strange for a while - at least for most people - and to me would not be worth the risk. The south west of Ireland is spectacular so I can only support that idea. Could you not just stop somewhere overnight and get a car the next day? Or drive the shortest distance possible day 1? There are probably bus tours but I think the experience by car would be so much nicer.

Posted by
375 posts

We did this drive some years ago and I would not recommend it in a tired and jet lagged condition, especially if you are not accustomed to driving on the left with a right-hand drive car. Many roads in Ireland are very narrow and winding, with no shoulders and with stone walls immediately on the edge of the road. Add in lorries whizzing by inches from your head and possible rainy conditions. Also add in trying to get used to shifting with your left hand and looking up to the left to see the mirror instead of to the right, in an unfamiliar rental car. We had a very uncomfortable trip, and we were coming from continental Europe so we weren't even jet lagged. Other people may have had different experiences but this was ours. As our trip progressed and we became more accustomed to it, it got better. Initially, though, it was difficult.

Posted by
991 posts

It's totally what your're going to be comfortable with and something only you can decide. Previous posters would not..I would

Posted by
375 posts

I'd like to stress that I believe this is a matter of safety and not a matter of confidence, good general driving skills, or experience. Extremely fatigued drivers can be just as impaired as those under the influence of alcohol, and unfortunately like alcohol users, rarely recognize just how impaired they are. It doesn't matter what you are used to or how good a driver you've been in the past, if you are impaired. It is possible that those people who have had no trouble driving in a new situation while very fatigued and jet lagged may have simply been more lucky than in control. I'm not trying to unduly frighten anyone or to accuse anyone; simply trying to make the point that safety, for ourselves as well as everyone else on the road, should be the primary consideration here.

Posted by
703 posts

I agree with Laurel, I would (and did) do it. If your so jetlagged that you're not thinking clearly, then I wouldn't even recommend driving in CA! It's not that big of a deal, just go slow, and really pay attention at 4 way stops. Think where you're going before you go, as these were the most perplexing part of driving in the UK for me (and the roundabouts, of course). If you take it easy, it's not that bad. I wouldn't skip the experience of driving the Irish countryside for this concern.

Posted by
1831 posts

We travel from Lewiston, Idaho to Seattle, to Amsterdam to Glasgow to the Isle of Islay where our car is waiting and my wife jumps right in and tears across the moor like a banshee. I have trouble guaging the distance between the car and the left side of the road, fulling up the wheel wells with grass and mud. She, on the other hand takes control and has everything well in hand. Then we have some pints and put our little heads down for the night. It all depends on you abilities.

Posted by
4524 posts

As the others say, only you will know. How good a driver are you? Are you a confident driver? Driving on the left is really not that hard or disconcerting because the position of the drivers seat is different. As a driver, it always feels natural to keep uncoming traffic next to you. What might be more of a concern is being tired and trying to navigate. Not getting lost can be tricky, or at least not making the wrong turns in a roundabout...

Posted by
629 posts

I would be more concerned that you will be tired than anything else. Shifting with your left hand, looking in the mirror on your right and the NARROW roads will be enough without being mentally off with jet lag. When I'm totally rested all of these things are minimal but when tired they all multiply. That may just be me but it only takes a moment to look the wrong way in a roundabout and then dangerously proceed. I would start the drive rested because the first day of driving on the left is usually my toughest. After a couple of hours it becomes quite comfortable if you enjoy driving like I do. Only you will know best - but do rent a car!

Posted by
5757 posts

If you have ANY concern, then don't do it. Why stress? Safety first, always! I had no problems whatsoever but I spend hours in my auto for work and am comfortable driving on all types of roads and weather. Even the sheep didn't bother me. Have a wonderful tour. Breathtaking beauty to behold.

Posted by
629 posts

D.D. makes the most important point of this post. Driving, even a rental car, is a privilege and not a right. To do so regardless of being overly tired is not bravado it is dangerous. Being tired at the wheel is the same as impairment by acohol or drugs and should be treated as seriously.

Posted by
9363 posts

I agree with those that say it's a matter of what you are comfortable with. I have been to Ireland four times. On the first trip, we drove from Shannon airport to Bunratty Castle, six miles away. That was enough to get us accustomed to driving on the other side. We continued to drive for another hour or so to Liscannor, drove to Doolin for dinner, and back to Liscannor for the night. On subsequent trips, I have gotten a rental car on arrival and driven virtually all day. Jet lag doesn't seem to bother me, nor would I say I was overtired. Everyone reacts differently to the long flight, but I have not ever had a problem with driving the first day because of it.

Posted by
5574 posts

I have rented a car at the Glasgow airport and headed out. I drove to Edinburgh with a stop at Hopetoun House on the way. It was about 50 miles and a mixture of motorways and smaller roads--no real wee roads. I then drove another 12-15 miles after lunch to my hotel. This was not stressful. (It was prior to the trams project!). I do think that a100 mile journey on small roads does have potential for issues. However, it sounds like you will have a navigator which will help tremendously. Can you find a spot halfway? Do a scenic route and stop for pictures, snacks, lunch etc. The next day will be a lot easier. There are tricks to navigating so you can prepare your navigator.

Posted by
3696 posts

You might consider getting an automatic. I drive all over Europe as well as England and Ireland and I drive a manual at home, but when I am on the 'wrong' side I do not want to worry about shifting as well. Just one less thing to worry about. I always drive the first day. I don't know if it is the adrenalin, but I do not arrive in Europe wanting to go to bed. When are you going and can you go without a reservation? That way you can drive till you are tired. The drive to Dingle through the pass was definitely challenging and I would not do that one tired. If I remember correctly I think there is another way to go, which would be my choice.

Posted by
1986 posts

We usually fly from California West Coast into Heathrow, and then drive out to the Cotswolds or vicinity on arrival. That is probably a little longer airflight. Once we are at our hotel we walk or rest as the mood (and our tiredness) dictates. We have often taken anothe rdrive that same afternoon. So a few hours drive from the airport is not unreasonable

Posted by
991 posts

I have to agree with Terry about trying to get an automatic. More money but less agro. And I always refer to it as driving on "the correct" side of the road.

Posted by
9363 posts

One person's "wrong" is another person's "correct". I just say "other" or "opposite" in order to avoid indicating a bias.

Posted by
3696 posts

Is there a political correctness to this??? Wrong, right, opposite, etc. Hope I didn't offend the road :) Edit.... not meaning to be snippy...just a joke, hence the smiley face

Posted by
349 posts

Driving jet laged almost got me killed(also a Leeds family almost joined me in heven) if this is not clear or you think I am joking please write me I AM NOT

Posted by
703 posts

I agree with Terry Kathryn on this on. Of many countless trips to europe, I've never arrived anything but Jazzed and ready to go! I've never felt fatigued upon landing, as I usually pretty excited to be in Europe. With this in mind, I always hop in the car and take off to wherever I'm going, even after a red-eye that drops me at 8am.
Left, Other, Wrong side... I don't know. Feels different.

Posted by
31318 posts

Jimmy, I'm assuming that you've never driven on the "correct" side of the road previously? Whether or not to try it on this occasion will depend to some extent on your driving skills and how confident you feel about trying it. I definitely agree with the others that it would be prudent to specify an "automatic". I have driven immediately after a long flight to the U.K. and although I'm considered a "professional driver", it still took a lot of concentration. By the time I reached my destination, I was ready for a rest. I'd suggest spending 10-15 minutes familiarizing yourself with the layout and operation of the controls before leaving the rental agency. If you have any questions, the agency staff will be able to help. It would also be a really good idea to budget for and accept the best CDW offered by the rental firm. You may find it helpful to have a look at This Website. There are short tours available covering southwest Ireland, but they often depart from Dublin. Have a look at This Website for further information. Happy travels!

Posted by
991 posts

Terry, No political correctness intended. I will have my little joke, very little, and Nancy will be unbiased.

Posted by
41 posts

Thank you all for your feedback. While I wouldn't have a problem driving on the...left...side of the road, I have no....right....doing so in a jet-lagged state. Walking around in Europe has not been a problem for me on my first day, but I was always fighting sleep five minutes after boarding a train or subway. I believe in forcing myself to stay awake until it's time to go to bed in Europe, but for me to drive a car in a jet-lagged state is now more crystally-clear beyond my abilities. I'm going to have my wife and children with me, so I'll leave the driving to the bus driver.

Posted by
21 posts

Having driven on the "wrong" side of the road for the first time this past August, let me add my "two cents". We took an overnight flight from Philadelphia to Glasgow, picked up our rental car, drove to Alloway/Ayr and then backtracked and went to our B&B in Edinburgh. Frankly, it was too much. I was exhausted when I got to Edinburgh at about 6:00 p.m. Coming from California, you'll probably be feeling even worse, so I would not recommend driving very much right away. Even though both our vehicles here in the U.S. are manual, I was glad to have an automatic transmission rental car it was one less thing to worry about. I found that getting used to driving on the left wasn't too bad in a day or two it was almost second nature. However, I never got used to the narrow roadways that you often encounter. The person in the passenger seat (whether it was my wife or I - when she was driving) always felt that we were too close to the left. In some places, it was quite nerve-wracking. I also found that I had to force myself to look in the rear view mirror. It just didn't seem right looking up to the left for it. I mainly relied on the side mirrors. However, in spite of all of this, I wouldn't hesitate to drive there again - but I certainly would very much limit the amount I did the first day, if any at all. Good luck!

Posted by
439 posts

I've made the exact journey twice and didn't have a problem except my wife and I got a bit grumpy. From Shannon to Killarney the road is pretty wide and you shouldn't have any trouble. Later on, you might get on a narrow road and then just go slowly and you'll be fine. I reserved an automatic shift and I'd highly recommend that you get one since driving on the "wrong" side will be challenge enough without having to shift with your left hand

Posted by
439 posts

BTW Southwestern Ireland is the most beautiful place I've ever been.

Posted by
2638 posts

I see someone is a little snippy. If you want to get politically correct it would be....the "correct" side of the road. Edit: Not to you TK

Posted by
76 posts

We picked up our rental car as soon as we got to the Dublin airport and drove all the way to Kinsale. We were definitely jetlagged a little but getting in the car, driving, stopping for sight seeing, kept us awake and excited. We were a little nervous about driving on the other side but it turned out just fine.

Posted by
3696 posts

Seriously did not mean to offend anyone.... was just responding to a joke with a joke.... easy to see how things can be taken wrong......Sorry

Posted by
120 posts

Something to be aware of when driving in Ireland on the main two-lane routes is the Irish method of passing (overtaking) another car. You drive down the centerline and the oncoming traffic and the car you are passing move over to let you by, at least in theory. Even if you don't want to try it, you need to be more aware of both oncoming and following traffic than you would in the US. For driving on the narrow rural roads, follow a bus or truck and let them clear the way for you.

Posted by
13 posts

I own a right hand drive English car (MGTC) my hubby thinks it's easier for me to drive. I thibnk so too. He does very well on motorways with no turns. The hardest thing about driving a right hand car is not the shifting, it's remembering where to sit. Also, I agree get an automatic. Follow the tail lights of the car in front of you. For us it'd not the day of arrival, but the 2nd day that needs rest. Practice driving in a big city like SF, LA, Boston or NY. Sacto is not a big city . You need hills and streets that do NOT meet at 45 degree intersections. Drive to Berkeley and practice roundabouts, too. Then just enjoy. No worries.
Betz

Posted by
13 posts

I own a right hand drive English car (MGTC) my hubby thinks it's easier for me to drive. I think so too. He does very well on motorways with no turns. The hardest thing about driving a right hand car is not the shifting, it's remembering where to sit. Also, I agree get an automatic. Follow the tail lights of the car in front of you. For us it'd not the day of arrival, but the 2nd day that needs rest. Practice driving in a big city like SF, LA, Boston or NY. Sacto is not a big city . You need hills and streets that do NOT meet at 45 degree intersections. Drive to Berkeley and practice roundabouts, too. Then just enjoy. No worries.
Betz