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The weird and wonderful driving experience in Emerald Isle. Photo by: Getty

Diary of an American left hand side driver in Ireland

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The weird and wonderful driving experience in Emerald Isle. Photo by: Getty

Assignment: Trip to Ireland for seven days.

Taking in Kerry to Dublin and points in between.

Monday morning I depart Shannon Airport after usual haggling over rental car insurance coverage etc. Like many Americans I love Ireland but nervous about left hand drive.

Did not help my cause by approaching car (a French made Renault, automatic) from right side out of force of habit, rental car attendant looks bemused.

The sign outside Shannon Airport says “Conduire a Gauche” Google translate tells me that means drive on left. A French car, a  French sign, Oh là là!

Also signs in Irish and English. Excellent

First roundabout. Give way to traffic on right. Okay so far, until big truck coming through honks horn to warn me to stay back  Almost wet myself.

By the time I leave I’m a roundabout expert though.

Distance to Killarney and everywhere else given in kilometers, spend much of my week dividing by eight and multiplying by five to get mileage.

Come across some old mileage sign posts  and treasure them.

Highways are great, no problem, well signposted, easy to drive, it is when you get off on side roads that problems can start.

A few Irish drivers keep very close proximity to vehicle in front. One guy on my tail so tight I can smell his breath. Merde!

Overtaking on the small roads the biggest problem as you inevitably pass in the oncoming lane and there’s a bend up ahead where a car may or may not suddenly materialize from. Every time I pass successfully I exhale with a huge “phew.”

Making a habit to stop for directions. Great “craic” as they say. “You’re not from around here then” - Well no why would I ask for direction then. “You’ll be following that road ahead that you can’t see yet off to the right.” “Turn left at the chemist shop and then right by the pub.” Wonderful!

Feel like writing a book on Irish directions.

Darn French again can’t find how to open my gas tank as manual seems to be in French.

Friendly  Kerry gas station owner helps me out. “Yerrah that car is too smart for its own good.”

Love it. That’s exactly what I’d been thinking as I tried to find radio knob etc.

Have no idea how much gas costs as it is all in liters but Irish cars amazing on mileage.
Pull into B&B in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. The owner sends her daughter outside to see what kind of car I have. Interesting.

Apparently went through some kind of secret toll on the M50 in Dublin. A sign warns me to pay within 24 hours or be beheaded or something like that. No idea.

Bus lanes confuse the hell out of me in Dublin, but manage okay eventually. I’ll stay out of them in rush hour I think.

Parking in Dublin is like trying to park in Manhattan except they clamp not just ticket. Outside Dublin much more relaxed,

Finally, seven days over, spick and span car back in Shannon terminal. Au Revoir Ireland

Driving in Ireland is a piece of gateaux as my French friends at Renault would say.

* Originally publshed in Aug 2014.

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