Ireland information: travel by road

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim

If you're planning on driving in Ireland, here's what you need to know about driving laws, tolls and parking.

Driving through Connemara's mountains, County Galway
Driving through Connemara's mountains, County Galway

For anyone planning to travel around Ireland by road, it is essential to be prepared. The information contained here will provide a broad background to road laws in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (the island of Ireland). It also contains several useful links to official bodies where further information can be sourced.

Roads in Ireland

Roads in Ireland are generally of a high standard.  One thing to be mindful of are terminology differences between the U.S. and both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Major driving routes, which would be comparable to highways or parkways in the US, may be referred to as motorways, national roads, primary roads etc.

In the Republic of Ireland, motorways are prefixed with an “M” (for example M50). National roads are prefixed with an “N” (for example N18) and can be either national primary or national secondary roads.  National primary roads almost always consist of several driving lanes in each direction while national secondary roads may also include those with two-way traffic.  Distances on road signs are shown in kilometers and speed limits are given in kilometers per hour (km/h)

Roads in Northern Ireland are prefixed with an "M" for motorway; an "A" and a "B" for primary and non-primary roads. In Northern Ireland, distances are provided in miles and speed limits are in miles per hour (mph). 

Useful Links

Toll roads

There are no tolled roads in Northern Ireland but you'll find tolls on a number of roads in the Republic of Ireland (Disabled drivers are not charged tolls on roads in the Republic of Ireland). These are managed by the National Roads Authority and Dublin City Council. Generally tolls are paid at the barrier of the toll booth, however, there is one exception: M50 eFlow Barrier System.

M50 eFlow Barrier System

There is a barrier-free toll system in operation on the M50 ring road around Dublin. Instead of paying your toll at a toll booth, the system will record your trip by photographing your vehicle's licence plate number. It is important to to pay your toll before 8pm the next day, either online, in branded Payzone outlets or by LoCall 1890 501050.

Driving laws

Driving in Ireland is on the left hand side of the road and all passengers are required to wear seat belts at all times in both the front and back of the vehicle. For those riding motorcycles, both motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets. Ireland's laws on drink driving are strict. Those drivers found to be contravening the laws will be heavily penalised. Use of mobile/cell phones while driving is strictly prohibited.

License and insurance

You will need either a valid, full national driving licence or an international driving permit to drive in Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, you must carry your driver’s licence at all times.

You must also have motor insurance either in your own name or as a named driver on another’s policy. If you are renting a car, the Car Rental Council of Ireland advises on the various insurances, waivers and options appropriate to your needs.


You will need to pay for parking in many cases in Ireland. Look for street signs showing parking information for guidance. You can pay for parking using:

1. Coins in the Pay and Display machine on the street.

2. (Republic of Ireland) and (Northern Ireland).

Parking for people with disabilities

If you have a Disabled Person's Parking Permit or Card (also known as European Parking Card or Disabled Parking Badge, you can use this in any vehicle in which you are travelling. Australian and New Zealand Disability Parking Permits can also be used in Ireland. Contact the Disabled Drivers' Association for more information.

Signposts in the Republic of Ireland
Signposts in the Republic of Ireland


In the Republic of Ireland, road signs show distances and speed limits. Road signs and place names are displayed in both Irish (Gaelic) and English. In Gaeltacht areas (where Irish is the primary language) only Irish is used.

Signposts and speeds in Northern Ireland are in miles and miles per hour, while all place names are displayed in English only.


Gas prices will vary between service stations. The Automobile Association features information on pricing in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Find out about renting a vehicle in Ireland.

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