Ireland’s capital is also the most popular arrivals point for people wanting to travel around the whole of Ireland. Naturally, anyone visiting Dublin on a short weekend break is unlikely to want to bother getting a hire car, but what about for longer stays?
- Value — of all the countries we surveyed, car hire in Ireland was the best value across the board. Although the cheapest places in Europe to pick up a hire car tend to be on the Mediterranean coast, the rates for car hire in Spain varied considerably from one city to the next, whereas car hire in Ireland was consistently good value. You should be able to pick up a hire car in Dublin for a week from around £80 or €100.
- Go west — there is no doubt about it, Ireland has plenty of superb scenery, and Dublin is the natural arrivals point and base for this. Particularly famous places to visit include the Ring of Kerry (see also our Kerry or Cork car hire advice page) and Killary Harbour, which straddles Galway and Mayo counties. In Country Clare, the Cliffs of Moher are another top attraction.
- Wicklow Mountains – much closer to Dublin is the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
- Poor public transport— outside the major cities, public transport in Ireland is not well developed, and the standard of rail service is particularly poor, apart from on the express route between Dublin and Cork.Ireland as a whole is relatively sparsely populated, with most people living along the east coast, especially in the stretch between Belfast and Waterford, which includes Dublin. This means that the car is king, especially in the scenic rural areas.
- Good roads — recent years have seen billions of euros invested in Ireland’s road network, and this has been focused on making it as easy to get to and from Dublin as possible. Given the relatively sparse population as mentioned above, you will rarely encountered traffic on Irish roads, once you are outside the Dublin ring road network.
- Disjointed public transport – getting in and out of Dublin is not as easy as you might expect, although we have seen far worse. Plans for a metro to serve Dublin Airport have been put on indefinite hold in the current economic crisis, although there are regular buses into the city. Rail services are divided between two completely separate stations as Connolly and Heuston.
- City attractions — Dublin has plenty of historical sites to offer in the city centre, including the GPO, site of the Easter Rising on O’Connell Street, and the castle.
- Nearby — there are also several places near Dublin which are well worth a visit, such as Malahide Castle, and these can be reached without too much problem using the DART suburban train service or buses. Malahide Castle can be reached directly from Malahide DART station (no need to walk around the perimeter).
- Modern Dublin – Dublin has had no shortage of new office and residential development of late, making it perfect for a walking tour, or even a tour by bike, speaking of which:
- Dublin Bikes – as with London (although Dublin was actually in on the act two years beforehand) and many other cities, Dublin has a city bikes scheme, enabling cheap and easy automatic bike hire around the central area.
- Trams — within the city itself, it is easy to get around using the modern Luas trams. There are also numerous bus services, predominantly (but not entirely) operated by Dublin Bus.
- Drinking attractions — Dublin naturally has a great deal to offer to anyone with an interest in drinking, including the world-famous St James’s Gate Guinness brewery, with its associated Storehouse visitor centre. This also offers superb panoramic views of the city in a giant rooftop bar, shaped to resemble the head of a pint of Guinness. Nearby you will also find that Jameson whiskey distillery.In the centre of Dublin is the Temple Bar entertainment quarter, where many great pubs and live venues can be found.Naturally, that which is attractive to the drinker is not suitable for the driver.
- Concerts – Dublin is a great live venue for concerts large or small, from intimate pub venues up to the huge Croke Park.Of particular note is the natural amphitheatre at Slane Castle, which has hosted a wide range of big name acts, including U2, who also recorded the album “The Unforgettable Fire” there.
When large scale events are on here, or at Malahide Castle, shuttle buses to and from Dublin are always widely available.
Note that the image used on the album cover of The Unforgettable Fire is actually from Moydrum Castle on the edge of Athlone – to get there, you will need a car, although Athlone is also a key railway junction.
- Cork and Belfast — although rail links in Ireland are generally poor, regular trains are available to the second city of Cork, which can be reached in just under three hours.Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast is just over two hours away, using the Enterprise express train service.You can easily combine a visit to Dublin with either of these two cities, and although there is a much wider choice of flights to Dublin, flights to Belfast are available from throughout the UK and from many places in Europe, whereas flights to Cork are also available from most major UK airports, and a selection of key European cities.
- Scenic train trips— sit back and enjoy the ride, if you aren’t in a rush, there are a number of scenic rail trips which can be taken to the west and south of Dublin, although in many cases you will have two head out and back the way you came, as there are very few regional routes which aren’t feeding in or out of Dublin.
- Coach trips and tours — coaches might be our least favourite form of transport, but they can certainly fill in the gaps where trains are either not available or are just too infrequent to be usable. There are also numerous options for taking scenic tours of Ireland from Dublin.
Is it worth hiring a car in Dublin? Conclusion — as is the case in most European cities, the longer you want to stay in or around Dublin, the more likely you are to want to get a car. Is it worth hiring a car in Dublin? Given that city break visitors to Dublin are highly likely to have already worked out what they want to see and do and are unlikely to consider getting a hire car anyway, our advice for anyone staying a bit longer is that a hire car is strongly recommended.
Verdict — yes
Notes & Links:
- Ireland railway map.
- Irish Rail.
- Bus Eireann (Ireland Bus) – scheduled bus services throughout Ireland from Dublin.
- Paddywagon – for day trips (or longer) from Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland.