Recently I traveled across the drink to Ireland. No, this is not "the mother land" for me. Both sides of my family originate from England. Although everyone seems to associate my fair skin, round face and use of English slang for Irish descent.
Three friends and I set off via 757 from LAX for the "Emerald Isle" on November 12th. What prompted our trip? An excellent offer sent to me via Travelzoo. It was a package for 6 days which included; airfare, car hire and condo rental. The total price per person was less than the average ticket cost alone, how could we pass that up?
Having been to England before, I took the driving duties for our stay. We had lined up for us a manual '08 Ford Mondeo. While many may put their nose up at a Ford, think twice when it comes to euro-spec Ford autos.
The Ford Mondeo is a well-rounded and nicely balanced car. The name Mondeo is from the latin route word "mundus", which means world. Yes, the Mondeo is the "world car" from Ford. While the early models shared platforms with the domestic Contour and Mercury Mystique, this 4th generation was a definite update. The Mondeo MK4, as it's known (to signify the 4th generation) rides on a platform developed with Volvo. The same platform can be found under the Ford Fusion and Mazda6 as well as several global Volvo's.
Now that you are familiar with our ride, let's talk about driving in Ireland.
We flew into Shannon International Airport. Located on the West Coast of Ireland in County Clare. This is one of the three primary airport's of Ireland (including Dublin and Cork). Luckily this is the countryside compared to Dublin, so I had a little space to get re-acclimated to a right-hand drive.
My past experience driving right-hand was on the countryside of England and Whales. several years back I visited friends and family for Christmas and New Years. Being the hardcore gearhead I am, I couldn't pass up on trying this different approach to motoring. Dublin was no different than the rest of the U.K.
One thing I suggest if you give it a go is this; look right, turn left. Use this rule whenever you hit a roundabout. What's a roundabout you ask? It's a way to save thousands of dollars and time with traditional signaled intersections. It's not for the average but rather for the more experienced driver. That's the difference over there, people only drive when in a car! No cell phones, no makeup, no donuts or books, just two hands and a wheel.
Get this, they even have a small sign for your window if you are a learner or a less experienced driver. It's an average sized piece of paper with a red "L" to signify Learner. You can even grab one for your car rental if you want to play it safe.
With the wheel on the right and driving on the left, everything else is flipped as well. From the signal switch to the passing lane, One wonderful thing you will notice besides the attentive driving style, is slow traffic stays out of the fast lane. The fast lane (like most countries including the U.S.) is only for passing cars. No more yahoo's sitting in the fast lane going the speed limit like here. Driver's also flash to pass and flash hazards to thank you for getting over...amazing!
If you ever decide to take on this challenge, take it slow. Learn the vehicle and get familiar with it before learning the rules of the roads. Also take your time, if you miss your turn, just do another lap around the roundabout like the Griswold's.
Happy New Year!
p.s.Ireland is a beautiful country and worth at least one visit in your life. The people are friendly and the history and heritage is amazing. This is a definite place that encourages you to slow down and take it all in.