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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; www.drivingtest.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.)

 
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