roadtrip

Episode 10: Roadtrippin' Through Ireland

Roadtrippin’ Through Ireland

We’re talking all about Ireland today, one of our FAV countries where we spent a good two weeks exploring around all the cute little towns and countryside. There are plenty of transportation options for getting around the country, but having a rental car will allowed you to really do your own exploring and pop into the teeny-tiniest villages, visit ruins off the side of the road, and pop into shops as you please.

So we’re gonna to go through the stops we made on our Ireland Road-trip, some of the things we loved and why YOU should go there, too!

Listen below!

Essential Stops for An Ireland Roadtrip

First Stop: Killarney

Killarney is a wonderful place to begin your road trip. The town itself sits on the West side of Ireland and it fairly small. The downtown area you can certainly walk through and don’t need a car to see the entire town.

If you do a few other stops before that like Dublin, Waterford, or Cork, you can pretty easily reach these towns by local busses and they are also very walkable where you don’t necessarily need a car to explore the area.  

The region itself, in County Kerry, is beautifully wild with plenty of exploring to do. Here are a few of our favorite areas in Killarney to visit on a road-trip through Ireland.

The Ring of kerry

Having a car here allows you to explore the surrounding areas like Killarney National Park and the wonderfully scenic Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is essentially a giant loop throughout County Kerry with several well-known stops along the way. Some of the better known stops are the Skellig Rocks, visiting the adorably colorful town of Kenmare, the rugged coastline of Derrynane Beach, and the town of Ballinskelligs has cliffs which are aptly named, “Kerry’s Most Spectacular Cliffs” which only cost about 3 euro to go walk along and are much, much less crowded than the ever-popular Cliffs of Moher.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry can be done several ways and we saw plenty of giant tour busses doing the drive. However, doing it that way only allows you to make a few very specific stops, and you’re on a time schedule as well as there is an entire group of people on a time constraint.

If you do some research ahead of time, you’ll find many recommendations that you should do the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise direction, AND plenty of recommendations to do the Ring of Kerry clockwise. Why the discrepancy? Well, the giant tour busses do their tours going counter-clockwise and therefore, if you go the opposite way, you won’t be stuck behind these guys and have bus-loads of tourists getting off at the same exact stops as you, every time.

Here’s our thought — grab your rental car and just leave before all the tour busses do, OR if you’re not an early-bird, leave AFTER those tour busses get going, and then you won’t have to deal with any of that nonsense; you can go counter-clockwise, or clockwise..kinda like choose your own adventure.

Having a rental car was a great way to do this drive; we were able to stop in little towns along the way, make pit-stops along the ocean, and stay as long as we wanted in each of these places. 

The gap of dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe, a 7-ish miles round-trip hike through Killarney National Park is another must-do while in the area. There are a few ways to make your way through: biking, horse-drawn carriage (they call it a Pony and a Trap and it holds 4 people), or plain ol’ hiking. We chose to hike it and had the opportunity to take our time, we stopped and climbed up a rock to have some lunch, and the walk through was not too strenuous — paved all the way through and a tad bit of uphill here and there.

The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe

Depending on where you begin the Gap of Dunloe and how you want to do it, there are two options. Here’s a breakdown of the different routes:

Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage to Ross Castle

Getting to Kate Kearney’s Cottage:

  1. Taxi from town of Killarney, about 15 minutes.

  2. Take the Killarney Shuttle Bus for a couple Euros. You can find their information here: Killarney Shuttle Bus

Beginning at Kate Kearney’s Cottage will allow you to rent a horse carriage to take you through the Gap of Dunloe. The horsemen will be here, if you don’t book this ahead of time, having some cash on ya will help you book one of these on the spot. They have a pretty steady flow of horses and carriages going back and forth from each direction, so you shouldn’t have much trouble going this route.

Lord Brandon’s Cottage overlooks the lakes. Here, you’ll find bathrooms and a small restaurant. You can also hire a boat here and get across the lakes to Ross Castle. Ross Castle is closest to the town of Killarney, and is about a half an hour walk back into town.

If you don’t want to walk:

After you arrive at Ross Castle, there are busses that run back into town. The Killarney Shuttle Bus picks up at Ross Castle, in the parking lot, and costs 2 Euros per person for the ride back to town.

Ross Castle to Kate Kearney’s Cottage

Getting to Ross Castle:

  1. Walk from the town of Killarney, about 30 minutes.

  2. Take the Killarney Shuttle Bus, departs from Killarney Tourist office. You can find the timetables/schedule here: Killarney Shuttle Bus Schedule

Boat Hire:

You will need to make a reservation for someone to take you across the lakes on a boat. The boats leave from Ross Castle, and arrive at Lord Brandon’s Cottage where you can begin your hike through the Gap of Dunloe in the opposite direction as the above option.

To make a reservation for a boat, there are a few companies. The one I’ll give you here, you can book your bus and boat together. To make reservations, check out: Gap of Dunloe Traditional Boat Tours

Second Stop: Galway

While Galway can certainly be explored on foot, the surrounding countryside is full of rolling hills, lakes, and picturesque towns. We loved having a rental car in this area as we were able to go outside the City of Galway and rent an AirBnB that was in the middle of a massive meadow, wayyyy down a teeny-tiny road that wound through lakes and fields full of frolicking sheep. If you’re up for some country drives, driving the little Irish roads around here and making stops in towns like Oughterard where the John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man was filmed. 

Galway Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher

Likely the most popular stop in this area besides the city of Galway are the Cliffs of Moher. Although the Cliffs are in County Clare, there are a pretty quick stop on the way to Galway, or an easy day trip from city of Galway. Again, there are multiple ways to do the Cliffs of Moher, there are plenty of tours that go out there, but you don’t usually get that much time out there to walk around and hangout. We loved having a car as we made some stops along the drive and took our sweet time to walk along the trails on the edge of the Cliffs, of which there are just over 11 miles. It was wonderful to not be on a time constraint and have plenty of time to take photos as just sit on the edge and spend some time relaxing. 

Cliffs of Moher

COnnemara National Park + Kylemore abbey

Another good stop in County Galway is Connemara National Park, where again, there are loads of hiking trails to do, and stops along the way. Also on the way out to Connemara National Park is Kylemore Abbey, a massive Gothic Abbey with Victorian Gardens. Here you can tour the inside of the Abbey, which is decked out in Victorian style as well as free tours of the gardens. 

Kylemore Abbey

We always say that a rental car is essential for exploring these little areas, and we will absolutely be renting a car on our next trip there. While it is fairly easy to get around to each of the bigger cities like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast, picking up a car in these cities to do some exploring of the surrounding areas allows you to visit those places not every single tourist goes to, and it gives you the flexibility and time to adventure on your own schedule.

Galway Ireland

If you’re planning a road trip around Ireland and have a solid amount of time to explore, considering adding some of these stops as well!

  • Howth

  • Adare

  • Kinsale

  • Kenmare

  • Dingle

  • Sligo

  • Donegal

 

what stops would you add on your Ireland road-trip?! Let us know in the comments below!

 
Essential Stops on an Ireland Roadtrip

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Episode 9: Driving in Europe

Episode 9: Podcast Extras + Breakdown


Today’s episode is all about driving, specifically in Europe. We’ve rented cars in several countries and have come across a few tips and tricks that we figured we might as well pass along to you.

We think most people think of traveling by train when they think of getting around in Europe, and while that really is a great way to make your way around, we’ve found picking up a rental car for certain portions of the trip has really paid off and allowed us to have a completely different experience.

Listen below!

When to rent a car:

While there are regional trains which connect a lot of the smaller towns, sometimes the schedules and frequency of those trains don’t provide as many options as you would like.

And while you can fairly easily take trains to connect to bigger cities, trying to get around in less-populated areas can be a bit of a hassle. Definitely do-able, but a hassle.

If you arrived into Rome and decided you wanted to explore Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside, a fantastic option would be to take a train from Rome to Florence, and then pick up a rental car in Florence for a few days. Just like in the US, you will be charged to pick up and drop off at different locations. So basing yourself out a larger city and then exploring for a few days and then returning the car to that city is usually how we do it.

Here’s why we love it. Last year, I rented a car in France and Germany for about 2 weeks. I could have gotten around via train, but having the option to stop in every little town that struck my fancy was really appealing to me. I stopped in places I otherwise would have missed if I was just traveling by train.

Renting a car in Europe

Costs:

Car rental costs are really not that expensive and for my trip to France and Germany, the car was about $200-ish dollars for 2 weeks. It can be a really amazing option, especially if you want to do some exploring on your own, or if you’re traveling with other people who you can split the cost with.

We use the website Auto Europe to book our rental cars. They compare prices of the major car rental companies and you can book directly through that website.

Gas

Fuel can be a fairly big cost, so be sure to factor that in. Even if the rental itself isn’t all that much, if you plan on really doing a lot of driving, the gas ain’t cheap.

Tolls

There can also be fees for tolls, or for things like, entering different provinces. This means every time you cross the line into a new province, you’ll go through a toll station. The provinces in France all set their own prices for these tolls, and they can vary throughout the year. For example, in France, I had to pay a shitload of money which I wasn’t planning on spending for these tolls. And because I drove through SO many, I was not happy I didn’t know about these beforehand. Be sure to do some research about your route and how much it’ll cost ya.

Just to give you an idea, driving the 6 hours from Paris to Bordeaux will cost you about $60-ish. Choosing where you want is key, because you could just take the train there and save money, if it is a comparable cost.

Parking

Probably just like in your home country, you’ll have to pay to park in bigger cities. However, of course, there are places in the countrysides of countries where it’s usually a small fee you can pay at a kiosk, or it’s free. This is something you’ll need to calculate into your budget, if you’re thinking about renting a car.

If you’re thinking of renting a car while you’re exploring Paris and you have to pay to park everywhere, AND there are wayyyy better ways of getting around the city rather than a rental car, that’s probably not you’re best bet.

Age

In whichever country, or countries, you’ll be visiting, be sure to check out their age requirements! An example of this would be that Audriana and I planned on renting a car in Ireland when we were 21 years old, and we were turned down by the rental company because we were not old enough. Some companies will rent to younger people, but you’ll have to pay an extra fee to do so.


Manual vs. automatic

If you can drive a manual, you’ll save yourself some money! Luckily Audriana and I both know how to drive one, which always saves us money on rental cars.

We always get the smallest, or second smallest sized rental car, because it’s easier to park and maneuver in narrow European streets, and it’s less expensive than the full-sized options.

Getting around/GPS:

We are cheap bastards and don’t pay for the in-car GPS. We just bring a car phone charger, and pull up our Google Maps without wifi, or data, and just follow that blue dot! And sometimes we bring a good old fashioned paper map, and just make sure to go over the route several times before actually driving it so we’re familiar.

Driving in Europe

And in our experience, it’s not like driving in LA where there’s about 500 freeways to take and it’s confusing as shit. For example, driving throughout Germany, there was basically one highway to follow and it was pretty much the only road out in the countryside and therefore pretty easy to follow along.

If you want to spring for the in-car GPS, rental car companies do offer this at an additional fee, just make sure you know there will be that extra expense.

Insurance:

Just like in the US, they want to sell you the insurance and collision waiver and all that jazz. If you have a travel credit card, sometimes the company covers international insurance, but we always recommend you call! We always get travel insurance which covers a lot of things including car rental insurance, which saves us that addition cost at the car rental company.


Actually driving:

Renting a Car in Europe

If you’ll be driving on the other side of the road, make sure to really pay close attention when you first get in there. Take the extra second to make sure you’re turning onto the correct side of the road and not into oncoming traffic, looking the opposite way than you usually do at home, and knowing how roundabouts work. Don’t be the freaking jerk that is stopping in the middle of the roundabout and making me want to get out of my car and strangle you.

Familiarize yourself with some of the basic road signs and what they mean. You don’t need to know every little one, but some of the basics will help ya out. Obviously you may not be able to read all the road signs, so having an understanding will help.

Here’s an example: In some countries, stop lights turn yellow before turning green and then go straight from green to red.

Know the laws/speed limits:

There’s cameras you can’t see that will just send a ticket to your home, or simply just charge your card, so you won’t know for quite some time that you even got a speeding ticket.

Sometimes the car rental agency will just charge a $50 “finders fee” just for giving your address to the authorities if you do receive a ticket.

Getting gas:

In many places you fill up your car and THEN go give them money! Something that surely would not fly in the US as people would just get gas and then leave. This helps out if you don’t know how much you’ll need to get, you can just fill it up and not worry about only giving them enough euros for a quarter tank when you need a full tank.

Driving in Europe

In my experience gas stations here are kind of amazing! I swear every single gas station in France had an espresso machine and good snacks, clean bathrooms and were available on basically every exit of the highway.

Germany had rest stops/gas stations, I’m pretty sure every single exit. Some were just toilets (some not so great) and some were full-fledged restaurants + cafes with picnic tables.

In England, driving in the countryside, not so much availability so we were sure to get gas before we needed it so we wouldn’t have to make a slight detour.  


Where to pick-up/drop-off:

It can be incredibly stressful to pick-up and drop-off a car in the city center of a large city. Especially if you’re not familiar with what the signs mean or how things work just yet. And also, there’s soo, sooo much traffic.

We made this mistake by picking up and dropping off our rental car in central Paris. The way out was a Sunday and we left early so that was really easy. On the way back into the city however, we were stuck on the same mile stretch for about an hour and it was insanely hectic.

To avoid this in bigger cities, select a pick-up/drop-off location on the outskirts of the city and use the public transportation to get yourself out there. That way you’ll be less likely to be stuck in the thick of city traffic at the beginning and end of your trip.

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks were helpful to ya! And if you have any handy tips about driving in Europe, be sure to leave a comment and share them with us!

The Rambling Gals Podcast