I wrote this post in my head while I was sitting in traffic last week (and believe me, there were no rainbows in sight!). I almost always manage to avoid rush hour traffic in the city centre, but one day last week I had to pick up a few cumbersome things I couldn’t manage to take on the train. So I drove. And by the time I crawled all the way home in traffic, this post was pretty much written and I was about to abandon the car by the side of the road and walk. So, let’s talk driving in Dublin, shall we?
The first tip for driving in Dublin? Don’t. If you can avoid it, just don’t drive in Dublin.
I’m no driving wimp, and even I avoid driving in the city centre like the plague. I learned to drive when I was fifteen, got my license in a blizzard when I was sixteen, earned my fair share of speeding tickets (I like to consider myself an efficient driver and my mom is definitely rolling her eyes), and at the age of twenty planned motorcades for Senator John Kerry (now Secretary of State) as he ran for President. I’m generally a pretty happy camper behind the wheel. So my distaste for driving in Dublin has nothing to do with my ability or interest.
After moving to Dublin, it took me a few months to get up the nerve to learn to drive a manual car on the left hand side of the road, but once I did, I was back in action. Just so long as I don’t have to go into the city centre between the hours of 7am and 7pm. It’s just not worth it.
So if you can’t follow my first tip and avoid driving in Dublin*, you’d better read the rest of these tips!
I have a sneaking suspicion that this tip might get me in trouble, but drivers in Dublin drive pretty aggressively. They’re not wildly aggressive or dangerous (most of the time), but they’re pushy. If you want to turn into traffic and no one is letting you out? Stick your nose out there a little, then take heed of the next tip.
The one redeeming thing about driving in Dublin is that drivers are overall pretty polite. If you let someone in front of you, they’ll often flash their hazards at you to say thank you. And you can do the same thing – sometimes you need to nose your way into a lane you didn’t realize you need to be in to make a turn. So nose your way in, then say thank you by giving your hazard lights a few flashes.
Obey the Speed Limit
Says the girl who was nicknamed speed racer on the campaign trail, but even I obey the speed limit. Those navigation apps should give you the speed limit at any given time, because it can be hard to find marked speed limits. Know that most of the city centre is a 30 kilometer per hour zone. And yes, that’s basically the same speed as fast walking. I used to think it was outrageously slow, but then everybody and their mother got a bicycle and started cycling around the city and breaking every traffic law possible. So now I think the 30km zone is safer for everyone involved.
Watch Out for Bicycles and Motorcycles
They’re everywhere and they sneak up behind you. Watch when you’re opening you car doors and when you’re changing lanes. They do not stop for red lights, so you should really even watch out for them when you’re crossing at cross walks.
Watch Out for People
Dublin is a jay-walking city, and you never know when someone is going to try to squeeze between cars in traffic to get across the road. I’m telling you, that 30km zone is a blessing.
Watch for Bus and Taxi Lanes
Most streets in Dublin have bus lanes, and most of the time you’re not allowed in those. There will be signs that say what hours the bus lanes operate, but in the city centre, the bus lane could be 24 hours. During rush hour, a whole stretch around Trinity College is blocked to all traffic except for taxis and buses. Police officers will stop you and redirect you if you try to go through.
Beware of One Way Streets
They’re everywhere. When Michael and I first moved here, we got stuck driving in circles around Stephen’s Green trying to figure out how to get out of the one way system! Last week, I went about a mile out of my way trying to cycle from one side of the city to the other because I couldn’t turn right for block after block. Rely on those navigation apps – they almost always have a good handle on the one way roads. Keep in mind, as if one way streets aren’t frustrating enough, that many streets don’t have street signs – or they might be high up on the side of a building. I’m telling you, sat nav will be your friend!
Beware of Construction
It seems like all of the construction projects that needed to happen in the last five years are happening right this minute throughout the city. As the recession has lifted (or maybe as the streets reached new lows of disrepair), construction has been on the rise. It makes traffic worse and often means closed lanes or even closed roads. Why they can’t manage to do most of this work at night when there’s less traffic, I do not know. What I do know is that the projects mean cyclists and buses and cars are squeezing into fewer lanes than they’re used to and it’s making everyone’s travels more difficult.
Have I fully terrified you with my rant about driving in Dublin? It’s certainly possible, but you’ll want to be on your A-game while you’re behind the wheel! And you might need a stiff drink once you park for the night!
If you’re a local, I’d love to hear your tips – or do you avoid driving in Dublin like I do?
*If you’re planning on renting a car when you come to Ireland, don’t worry. Driving outside the city is way more doable, peaceful and pleasant!