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Cranky commuter in Ireland

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I've just returned with the family from 10 days in Ireland, and have some advice from that lovely island. Beware of renting a car!

We rented a car, were promised a small van for our family of five, and instead got an enormous grey Kia Sedona that reminded me of a rogue elephant. The rental company failed to tell us when we booked the car on the Internet about mandatory car insurance, that we would have to pay to rent a toddler seat, and other taxes, all of which increased our total to nearly $1,000 for a week, up from the $600 we had expected. The car lacked power steering and had bad brakes. At the beginning of our voyage, we tried to make light of our troubles, and called the car our "wee, slickit beastie," as a play on Robert Burns' description of a mouse. By the end of the trip, we were calling it "the death box."

Then we had to drive this monster, on the left side of the road, down twisting country lanes that were about as thin, as my husband put it, as Olympic girl gymnasts. It was a white knuckle experience. It was a good thing our middle daughter was efficient with a camera and took lots of pictures of scenery as we passed by, because my husband and I were too nervous to look at anything but the road. I can see why Ireland is such a devout country -- I prayed a great deal on the N6.

We rented a car, rather than taking a bus or the train to our destinations, because we have a toddler and needed to carry her diapers and stroller and the rest of her toddler equipment. If we're able to do this again in a few years, baby will be older, and we'll take trains and buses. Or else we'll do our research better on car rentals, so we won't get stuck with unexpected expenses. And we definitely would refuse to take such an enormous car.

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Yes, I know Robert Burns is Scottish. I don't feel like I need to match the poetry I'm thinking about to the country I'm in. But if you insist, here's a bit of Yeats that could apply to the monster van:

"Irish poets learn your trade
Sing whatever is well made
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top"

Baby car seat rental in Ireland through car hire companies can be very expensive and some don't even provide this service. Babystuffhire.com have been providing an independent car seat rental service in Ireland for over a year and the feedback from our customers who have hired car seats has been excellent.

Its not that the infrastructure is the pits, its just that the American infrastructure is barely older than the motor car. It figures that a country steeped in ancient culture and history and with such quaint attaction cannot be simply buldozed to make way for "highways".

For the sake of others planning to travel by hire car, its not fair to slate travelling by motor car as you will see such a whole lot more than travelling on public transport (and your patience would be frayed to the limit waiting on public transport!!) its really not as bad as you make out, many of our people drive large cars with minimum effort.

ps What is the relevance of the Robert Burns quote, wasnt it Ireland you visited - not Scotland???

Maybe I'm weird, but I had no trouble at all driving in Ireland! Except, of course, for getting into cities and trying to find my way out. Truly that was unnerving. But I found, as you, that the drivers in Ireland must be so used to us Americans tentatively venturing forth (especially into the roundabouts) that they were always helpful and polite. In all fairness, however, this was not my first experience driving on the left side of the road. If it was your first, I do totally understand trying to force your nervous system to adjust to doing everything "backwards," and having to make split-second decisions. Let me tell you, though, the country roads in England were far worse! Even the locals called them "diabolical" for a) their width and b) the lack of signage until you're right on them, especially coming off the M4 (or M-whatever) and missing your exit...then there's no place to turn around, forever. I loved Ireland and can't wait to go back. Hope you have a better experience next time. Not a thing wrong with guided tours, but there's nothing like having your own car to go exploring wherever and whenever you wish. (And by the way...Robert Burns is Scottish :-)

Hope your trip was a great one aside from the motoring issues. Your biceps must be rock hard after manually steering a big car, yikes! Plow King needs to give the decaf a try. I'm always amazed when someone tells you that it's different than how you just experienced it. Dealing with car rentals isn't for the timid in any country including this one. They're all working angles on you. Hope your trip was memorable and fun. The Irish people can compensate for any temporary inconveniences. Glad to hear you didn't hit any cow or sheep out there!

1. Power steering is not an "option" for many rentals in Ireland... Did you find the one small rental company that didn't offer it? If not, why at no point did you call the rental company and ask for a repaired vehicle?

2. The only required insurance for rentals is Third Party Liability and that is provided at no charge by the rental company. CDW or Super CDW is not required.

3. The Sedona is a small van and falls in the class of MPV in Ireland.

Sounds like you got ripped off on the first two and didn't know what you signed up for on the third.

Hi, Anon., we were prepared for driving on the left side -- it was the elephantine car that was the problem. We were envying all the smaller cars on the road. If we hadn't had the death box, I think we would have adjusted fairly quickly. To be fair to Ireland, one of the things I was impressed with were the roundabouts, which were used at most rural intersections in lieu of traffic lights. I am convinced the roundabouts slow down traffic and make people more careful. I was also impressed with the courtesy of most of the other drivers -- most people were very polite, especially considering that we were nervous Nellies going about 20 k below the speed limit. I noticed a big difference in manners the minute I went back to driving on Elston Avenue on a Saturday afternoon.

First I am going to tease you about your harrowing trip. If you watch any PBS documentaries on traveling in Europe or to any country outside of America, the infrastructure is the pits.

Secondly, glad you are okay and your skin color has returned to normal. :)

One of the major topics I have always heard discussed from overseas travelers is manuverablity to tiny streets, and this is just walking. Also, driving on the left side is an another adventure in itself. Now Ms. Wisniewski, this is something you should have expected.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on April 13, 2009 9:34 AM.

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