Planes, Trains and .... Campervans.
June 26, 2019 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Ireland, for the first time, in a few weeks to spend a week with my daughter at the end of her summer study program. It's late in the game, but I'm considering renting a campervan and hitting the (left side of the) road! Advice appreciated.

I've researched as I can, but I can use advice...

Good idea? Not so good idea?
Will we find campground spots?
Will we meet a lot of people, or would we meet more renting a car and staying at B&Bs etc? (I.e. Do people keep to themselves when camping, or is it social?)
Anything else I ought to know?

Thank you!!
posted by ecorrocio to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (7 answers total)
Irish rural roads are quite narrow; if you are unused to driving on the left side of the road, driving a camper van, or driving stick, you could find this very difficult.

Additionally if you are used to renting cars without getting insurance because you have a credit card through an American bank that usually provides you car insurance, be aware that Ireland is an exception country for almost every credit-card based car rental insurance.

I can’t speak to the camping experience in specific, but I will say I did meet quite a pile of people on various rural buses; this was some years ago though and the network might have changed.
posted by nat at 8:51 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I have extensive experience travelling in Ireland (and Scotland, and England) and I don't want to be a downer but I'd advise against this!

Seconding nat, the roads are incredibly narrow if you're used to the wide roads of the United States. In towns and villages, you're often down to one available narrow lane for traffic because of parked vehicles. In rural areas, there are single track roads with passing places which are what they sound like - the road is wide enough for just one vehicle and you have to pull in regularly to let other traffic pass. If you aren't comfortable reversing a large vehicle along a narrow and often twisty road while sitting on the 'wrong' side and driving stick, then don't drive a campervan round Ireland.

Fuel costs in Ireland (and in the EU generally) are massively higher than in the US. Think $8 a gallon for diesel. Campsites and caravan sites are widely available, but by the time you've added up the cost of renting a campervan (in excess of a thousand euro for the week in summer), putting fuel in it, and the site fees (usually around 30 euro a night) you can just as easily have rented a much easier to drive small automatic car and stayed in some nice hotels or B&Bs.

What areas are you thinking of visiting? Ireland is generally friendly, particularly once you get out of the main tourist areas. If you go to a tourist trap like Killarney, you'll get what often feels a bit like a "friendly Irish craic!" act but there are huge areas that aren't over-run with mass tourism. I always find rural Northern Ireland to be the place where you're most likely to have random conversations with people, but that might just be me. It'll all be quite busy with holidaying families in a few weeks time, because the Irish and UK school holidays will have started.

This page relates to a popular driving route around the north of Scotland, but roads in a lot of areas of Ireland are very similar so the safety and driving tips are applicable here, too. You'll have a lot more fun, and be able to spend a lot more time looking at the amazing scenery if you aren't clinging for dear life to the wheel of a motorhome. There are too many of them clogging up our rural areas as it is.
posted by winterhill at 1:57 AM on June 27

I have friends in Ireland who did it for years with 2 kids and they loved it so much they've never gotten rid of the van. They live close to the border and found that tourist traffic and stopping options got way worse once they found themselves in prime tourist areas south of the Shannon. And it is most definitely true the drivers on small Irish roads are insane--plus there are laws against cutting hedges in the summer, so roadsides can be very overgrown, hampering visibility.

If you're going to do it (and I can't really see the advantage, TBH) stay away from Cork and Kerry. Plan a coastal-inland loop around Connaught, or even Connaught and Ulster. It should be manageable in terms of driving. Weather is a different matter...
posted by Morpeth at 4:42 AM on June 27

If you are using google maps to navigate, be prepared for it to be completely wrong about various small roads. Last time I tried to navigate Ireland, there were several t-junctions that weren't on the map at all. Maybe pay extra for an updated sat nav when you're hiring, it might be better. And yes, rural roads are narrow and sometimes basically only for one vehicle. I personally would find a car and B&Bs a more pleasant experience
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:30 AM on June 27

Please don't rent a camper van: they're too wide for the roads and you'll cause a tailback of folks calling you rude names. Some of the rural roads can have very prominent ditches (or very soft verges) at the side which will swallow a wheel. It's been a while since I drove in Ireland, but the general local driving style was far faster than I was comfortable doing on narrow roads. I'm just back from Scotland where we drove the Wester Ross Coastal route, and being stuck behind campers on that gloriously tiny (single track with passing places, yeah!) road would have been crap.
posted by scruss at 5:51 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

I live in Ireland and would not rent a camper van. The roads are narrow, as mentioned, but petrol is expensive and also you will be roasted alive in a tin can. Just rent a car.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

As an American who has driven all over the Emerald Isle from the Antrim Coast to the Ring of Kerry, let me add my voice to the chorus of DON'T.
posted by whuppy at 12:22 PM on June 27

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