DRIVING IN IRELAND
Canadians holding a Canadian driver's licence or an international
driving permit may use them to drive in Ireland for up to 12 months.
Unfortunately, Canadians cannot convert their Canadian driver's
licences to a full Irish driver's licence. For stays of more than
12 months, one can apply for an Irish driving permit.
Obtaining a full driving licence for use in Ireland requires
completing a written driver theory test on the rules of the
road, applying for a provisional driving licence and completing
an oral and a practical driving test in Ireland.
With the first provisional driving licence (good for two years),
one must drive with someone with a full driving licence. The licence
gained by passing the final oral/practical test is good for 10 years.
Note should also be taken that drivers must have a valid licence
and that cars must be adequately insured, taxed and roadworthy.
Cars over four years old must pass a National Car Test (www.ncts.ie)
to show that they are roadworthy. (Insurance, motor tax and ncts
discs must be displayed on the windscreen). Penalty points apply
if seat belts are not used and if the driver is caught drinking
or using a cell phone.
For more details about these requirements see www.citizensinformation.ie;
and the booklet Rules of the Road, which is available at
libraries and book shops.
Despite the security that should arise from the foregoing apparently
strenuous provisions, there are numerous, unaccompanied drivers
on the road who have failed the half-the-people-fail driver's licence
test - at least once - and who are in the substantial backlog for
another crack at it. Moreover, car insurance is costly and even
an individually-assessed, written record of a pristine Canadian
driving history may not be rewarded with a discount without having
obtained that hard-to-get licence. As a matter of safety as well
as insurance cost, note must also be taken that drivers in Ireland
are still adjusting to the penalty point system, which, only introduced
in 2003, is still in the process of being fully resourced for enforcement.
And then there are the matters of gridlock and parking. The ACCOMMODATION
section of this site notes the gridlock problems to be understood
by anyone considering locating in the commuter belt around Dublin,
and even in small town areas. This section adds that gridlock is
a problem in Dublin itself, where parking is hard to find and expensive
and where, as in many other places, parking violations are dealt
with by clamping.
One is tempted to say "If you don't have to drive in Ireland,
don't!" At a minimum that advice will serve as a caution to
Canadian ex-pats who can't imagine life without a car and suggest,
where practical, that they stick to rental cars.
On the positive side, the COST
OF LIVING section, goes beyond simply reporting on the Irish
Government's VRT (vehicle registration tax) which, on top of the
cost of the car and VAT (value added - sales - tax) makes buying
a car in Ireland excessively costly. It also indicates that you
can avoid a significant amount of that excess on your first European
car purchase, if you act far enough in advance of your move.
Also on the positive side is the fact that the number of cabs in
Dublin increased from some 2,000 to 10,000 in early 2001. Public
transport is fairly good in many areas and there are many pass deals.
For residents of Ireland who are 66 and over, bus, train DART (Dublin
Area Rapid Transit) travel is, by and large, free. Residents of
Northern Ireland qualify for free bus and train passes at age 65.
The passes issued in Ireland and in Northern Ireland are accepted
in both jurisdictions.
It almost goes without saying that both drivers and pedestrian
must always remember that driving is on the left. But, however adept
you may be at adjusting to that, it's important also to remember
that there are tourists who might not have the same skill and are
distracted looking at maps and for road signs (which aren't always
there!): a particular problem in narrow-road rural areas. Pedestrians
should note, too, that there seems to be far less of a sense of
pedestrian right of way than in Canada.
As a final note, tourists who want to drive in Ireland should look
into saving money by making their car rental arrangements before
they leave Canada. Note should be taken of the respective costs
of stick shifts versus automatics, the latter being quite a bit
more expensive. (If you haven't driven a stick shift - ever or for
a long time - doing so under the driving conditions described above
-- and that didn't include getting used to 'roundabouts' - Ireland
is not a good place to suddenly be doing it.)