Getting a driver's licence in Ireland

Updated 2010-02-22 15:42

I'm an American, and unlike many Europeans, but like most Americans started driving at 15, took driver's ed and got my license at 16 and have been driving ever since. When I moved over to Ireland, I had the unpleasant experience of basically starting that process over again. Neither your American license (or any other license outside the EU and listed countries) nor an International license will do anything for you outside of a rental car.

The first thing to do is to get the Irish Provisional Driving Licence. You can get an appointment to take this online and they sell books in most book stores to help study for the test. This is just a test on the rules of the road. After passing this, you get a certificate to take to your local motor tax office to obtain your Provisional Licence. After that, you can apply to take the full driving test. You can be insured on a Provisional Licence, but not before then. Depending on the locality, it can take several months to get an appointment date for your driving test. They send you the date and time. Technically, provisional drivers can only drive with a licensed driver accompanying them, though many Irish break this rule. However, they are becoming more and more strict about the limitations of the Provisional Licence.

In the meantime, it is advisable to book a few driving lessons with a local instructor. While this screams of flashbacks from driver's ed, it is advisable to swallow one's pride and take a few lessons! The Irish driving test is considerably longer than most American tests. Instructors will take you on the routes that are used for the test, which is invaluable. They will also teach you about the finer details that will inevitably be the difference between passing and failing, such as when to look in the mirrors (it's very specific in this test, and not necessarily common sense) and when to turn on the turn signal, etc.

The day of the test, the examiner will first ask a few basic rules of the road questions. Then, you'll be asked to pop the bonnet (hood) and point out parts of the car as requested by the examiner. Once you get past this, you're driving for about 20 minutes. Hill starts, roundabouts, right turns, reversing around a corner, and hand signals are included. It is not until you arrive back that you'll find out if you pass.

The test itself isn't terribly difficult, but the preparation is necessary. Because of the wait times for test dates, passing the first time is highly recommended! Your insurance premium will likely go down once you've successfully passed the test.

I'll be honest, it was a bit degrading to have to endure this process again, but the satisfaction of receiving my license was great!

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