Boots on the Ground

9 – 11 June 2016: Learning to Drive on the Left

As first timers in Europe, we had to conquer a few basics before we left Dublin on our road trip around Ireland and beyond. How do you drive on the left side of the road? Hey kids, you’re learning the Metric System right? What is the Walmart of Ireland? They call this a what?

I’d like to say our first few days went off without a hitch, but that would be a lie. We had some of that Irish luck and a few days in Dublin to work out all the kinks. Like I said in a previous post, we arrived a day earlier than we had planned; therefore we had to find a place to stay and quick. In the end it worked out well for us. The place we found was in a better location so we extended the reservation and stayed all three nights.

Adjusting to driving on the left side of the road was difficult at first but is getting easier with experience. We did go back and buy the full insurance though; we’ve never done that before, if that tells you something. Part of the problem is we rented a minivan, quite large by Ireland standards. The roads and parking spaces are narrow and that in combination with driving in the rain and on the opposite side of the road can be tough. We needed a larger vehicle because there are four of us and we are traveling for almost four weeks. If you were only here for a week, I’d strongly suggest a smaller car. One advantage though is their extensive use of traffic circles, or roundabouts. If at first you don’t succeed go around and try it again. Sure, we might have unintentionally agitated a few locals by taking an extra lap or two, but hey I’m a NASCAR fan driving a fully insured rental… you’re move buddy.

One item that helped a lot was the GPS. It took us awhile to figure out where to buy one. We got ours at Argos but Curry seems to be their equivalent to Best Buy. We could have downloaded the maps to our GPS at home for $75 but a new one with them preloaded was only 69 Euros plus tax. I tried going down that path during my trip to Alaska and decided I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. Being able to fully concentrate on the road and have lane guidance the entire way is extremely helpful.

We also had a list of basic consumables we needed to purchase. Groceries were easy enough to find but we had some difficulty finding a Walmart or Target type store. As it turns out, Tesco seems to be the closest thing locally; this was easy enough to determine with a Google search. What threw us off the trail was that they have several different types of Tesco stores. We kept finding Tesco after Tesco convenience stores but it wasn’t till we realized they have Superstores, Extra Stores, Metro Stores, Express Stores, Grocery Stores and Gas Stations that we finally got everything we needed. Well almost everything.

The last piece to our road trip puzzle was a cooler; seemed simple enough. Just something cheap and disposable we could keep drinks and fruit for the road. Ultimately we looked in at least 6 stores before we found one, ironically, within walking distance of our hotel. In the Information Age, how could finding anything be difficult? While it wasn’t that bad, there are two things you need to know. One, we jumped from free Wifi to free Wifi to avoid using our international data plans whenever possible – it ain’t cheap! – and while we all speak English, we are not all speaking the same language. Google searches are only useful when you know what to search, Navi not GPS, cool box not cooler, etc.

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