Renting A Car In Ireland ~ Resources For Planning Your Trip

Renting a car for your visit to Ireland? We share our experiences based on our travels in 2019 to help make it easier for you!

Renting a car in Ireland and Tips for planning your trip!

Car rentals are a whole other process in the Republic of Ireland. We had a really hard time finding up to date information online when we were planning our trip. The general consensus seemed to be the insurance is expensive, and the roads are narrow. We also had a tough time getting accurate information from the rental companies themselves. Calling their customer service often lead to someone in North America who knew as much or less than we did.

Why am I sharing this?

If you are anything like me arriving jetlagged in a new country on no sleep doesn’t prepare you for the car rental line-ups. The general confusion and being inundated with questions and options at the counter. There is enough to focus on, like driving on the left hand side in a manual transmission. Showing up with your license and credit card and getting the hell out of there and finding caffeine and a warm shower is more ideal. So I have put together information from my experiences and research as of 2019.

Lets start with the lingo:

CDW

Collision Damage Waiver is the basic insurance that is required for car rentals in Ireland (covers the car in an accident, not the driver), the cost varies from about €7/day and up in to the €20 range on typical rentals.

Excess

Excess is essentially a deductible for the CDW insurance and is held in the form of a deposit. With basic CDW the excess deposit was around €2000.

To lower this Excess deposit you can chose to pay non refundable amounts to ‘Reduce your Excess’.

This is pricey for sure, and there is really only one work around.
Rental companies will not accept third party insurance in lieu of the CDW. However you can purchase third party to get reimbursed if you end up making a claim. The car rental company won’t deal with them for you. They will accept letters confirming insurance through your major credit card. This letter has to clearly state that you have coverage in the Republic of Ireland. After confirming with the insurance department at Visa I had no problems getting this letter.

Here is where is gets interesting

Most of the rental companies will accept this letter. However, even with this letter they require a refundable deposit of €5000 to decline the CDW they are selling. The deposit of €5000 held on that same credit card that has the letter, and is paying in full for the rental. That seems to be the going rate after checking with a several rental companies. If you go this route make sure you have enough space on that credit card to cover: the full cost of the rental, extra deposits, and the €5000 hold.

A note about reducing your Excess:

We chose this route with our campervan rental, and it seemed like a good idea. We paid €600 to reduce our excess deposit to €2000.. great right? Stay with me here… so now I have paid €600 non-refundable to lower my deposit. In the event of an accident the rental company will still keep the necessary funds up to the total excess deposit. So if there was €600 damage (say a windshield) they keep that from your excess deposit….at this point I would be out €1200 for €600 in damage.

So if you have the room on your credit card or can have your limit increased for your trip…it actually costs you less in the long run even if the worst should happen and you have to make a claim.

What about your insurance back home?

I went back in forth with ICBC who I will say is not the best, I also contacted other private insurers. It was like I was speaking another language when asking about insurance to drive in the Republic of Ireland….
In the instance of the camper van rental, a rental agent tried to tell me not to worry. If the there were any damage costs, I could always claim back that money with my own insurance back home….not the case. Also that “rental insurance” on your credit card needs to be understood clearly, Visa’s coverage does not include RVs, large passenger vans, cargo vans, or luxury vehicles. So ask those questions very specifically when you are inquiring about insurance.

Since our experience was different with 4 vehicles and three rental companies, let’s recap. The two cheapest options we found at the time of our trip: Easyrent, and Budget Rentals.

Budget Car Rentals

We had a €2000 excess deposit held on my Mastercard. This did not show up as a payment so no conversion fees were applied…and over the course of 21 day rental the funds were still accessible on my card. The shuttle service from the airport was simple and direct. The checkout was quick (though they do to try to sell you more insurance at the time of rental, the basic CDW does not cover windshields, mirrors or tires, and even some of the higher tiers didn’t include them)

The Experience:

There was no walk through, we were given a carbon slip with markings of existing issues with the car, and told to go check it out on our own and just take pictures of any other issues….our page had three issues marked to start, we took about 40 pictures and a walk around video just in case. We had two vehicles from Budget and the normal state seems to be scratches on the sides, hubcaps, and mirrors. (Chalk it up to alot of first time left hand drivers on Irelands very very narrow roads).

The return process was equally easy. We showed up they did a walk through and we were on the shuttle in minutes. They were never really clear on what kind of damage they look for (so I documented every little scuff just in case)

Our second vehicle with Budget was an easy exchange. We were in Dublin (and flew to Scotland for three days) the little hatch back we received was basic, and making alot rattling noises. I called budget, and asked about exchanging the vehicle, they were happy to oblige. I also asked if I could keep the vehicle parked in their secured lot over the weekend as it wouldn’t be in use (saved me doing two separate rentals with two deposits, also saved me parking costs).

Upon pick up the process was the same, a self guided walk around, pictures of all the scuffs and scratches, and we were on our way in a small s.u.v. The return was just as smooth the second time, a quick walk through and they called us a cab to our next destination.

Easyrent

We booked this through carrentals.ie and learned a couple of good though annoying lessons. When we arrived at the offsite pickup/drop off location the office was full and every customer had the same issue….”I bought Excess Reduction when I booked online, but now at the counter Easyrent is still taking the €2000euro hold.” We took a chance and bought the excess reduction when we booked as this was just for one day it seemed simple, we were flying out the next day and wouldn’t leave with a huge hold in our credit card. We were wrong.

If you are booking with a travel site (think carrentals.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com), you are not buying ‘their’ insurance. You are buying third party, and that means if you need it, you have to claim any incidentals back through this other company….this does NOT lower any of the fees or deposits with the actual rental company, it actually has nothing to do with the rental company.

The deposit they held at Easyrent went through as a charge on my card and I was told it could take up to 6 weeks to reverse it after I returned the rental. The girl at the counter was not friendly and her response to my concerns as “you should read more clearly next time”. This hole process was never communicated clearly, and not just to us as was obvious from the crowd of stressed out renters pleading with their credit card companies and reservation companies to help them….

So what’s a traveller to do?

Price compare for sure, talk to your insurance and credit card providers but there’s more…

This is a sneaky little tip:

When searching online, search the “.ie” sites.

Budget.ie

Enterprise.ie

Europcar.ie

sixt.ie

thrifty.ie

avis.ie

The .ie sites are the Ireland domains and they price differently. They build the CDW into the cost of the rental automatically and it is less expensive.

Here is our example:

When we rented through Budget our rental cost ended up being under €400 for 21 days (our Excess deposit was €2000, + €100 for a fuel deposit). After hours on the phone and online, this was a pretty great deal!

My parents rental was booked using Aeroplan points, their options were to buy CDW from the rental company, decline it and leave the €5000 Excess deposit, or pay to reduce…..they paid over €400 to have full coverage on their car, their rental was for a week!

When calling, find the toll free number for their Ireland customer service or at minimum a European customer service. The most accurate information for renting a car in Ireland is from the location directly. (Speaking with a 1-800 agent from more than one company actually led to even more confusion as they don’t always actually know the policies for Ireland)

All in all the rental costs in Ireland were actually very reasonable (probably cheaper than home). Preparing for the deposits and holds is important, and unavoidable without buying insurance right from the rental company, so plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard at the counter. Decide what kind of coverage feels right for you.

One more suggestion is to use Ebates/Rakuten when booking your tip whenever you can. We earned hundreds of dollars in cashback when we booked our trip. Check out Rakuten/Ebates and other money-saving programs for travel here.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for renting a car in Ireland? Please share your experience with us!

Planning Your Visit To Big Bend National Park In Texas

Planning a trip to Texas? Don’t miss out on a visit to Big Bend National Park, one of the largest and most unique National Parks in the lower 48.

Big Bend National Park Van Life Travel Resources

Sharing a border with Mexico and spanning the Rio Grande in the Southwest of Texas. This park offers up everything from vast Chihuahuan Desert landscapes, to the stunning Chisos Mountains and of course the river. There are several trails, canyons, and even Hot Springs on the Rio Grande. This park is massive, there are two gas stations in the park and over 200 miles of paved roads! So if you want to feel isolated in the wild, you will find that here.

Big Bend National Park Van Life Travel Resources

Big Bend is known as a hikers paradise, with more than 150 trails that span to all four corners of the park. Wildlife? You bet; bears, javelinas, big horn sheep, snakes, lizards, birds, bears, mountain lions, the gangs all here! If paddling is your thing, hit the river and explore into the Santa Elana Canyon. If you’re into birding, you probably already know that this park is a hot spot for hundreds of species. During spring migration expect to see birders out in full force.

Let’s Take a Hike

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
and Dugout Wells
This is a peaceful spot to learn a little history, and about some of the desert vegetation. It’s an easy and short walk around a desert oasis, and a great birding spot!

The Window

Up in the Chisos Mountains, there are tons of trails, and The Window is a highlight. 5 miles from the visitors center, the trail is well kept and manageable for even novice hikers. We started the hike at 9:00 a.m. and made it out and back with a nice break at the window by noon. We shared the trail with hikers of all ages [the eldest we met was 84 years old]. The view west from The Window will take your breath away.

Lost Mine Trail
This is one of the most recommended trails we have heard of in the park. There is super limited parking, and we have not been able to nab a spot. This trail is just shy of 5 miles and promises canyon views that are second to none.

Visit Big Bend National Park

Hot Springs Trail
Not far from the Rio Grande Village campground, is Daniel’s Ranch. Here the trailhead to a gorgeous 6-mile hike to the Hot Springs this hike takes you up into the hills and meanders above the Rio Grande. There is a bit of a climb and elevation gain early on, but the majority of this hike is level and clear trail. The payoff, of course, is the Hot Springs at the end.

Visit Big Bend National Park Travel Girls

Boquillas Canyon Trail
Take a little climb to a gorgeous overlook of the Rio Grande and Boquillas del Carmen. Watch for bighorn sheep, goats, horses and neighbors across the river. Follow the trail to the banks of the Rio Grande.

Things to Do

Take a drive
If exploring by foot isn’t for you, there are some incredibly scenic drives. The main roads through the park are paved. Drive up to Chisos Basin and see another side of the park. Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and access some of the most popular trails, and unpaved drives in the park! Enjoy several scenic look out points and work your way down to Santa Elena Canyon and have a picnic lunch before checking out the historic sites like Sam Neil Ranch.

The Hot Springs
Take a dip in the 105°F healing waters on the bank of the Rio Grande. This spot was inhabited and was considered a major hub in the early 1900s. The spot is still popular today in our 2 visits to this park we have yet to see the Hot Springs without a ton of people, and a full parking lot. Our recommendation is hitting the Hot Springs early in the morning, or for sunset.

Day Trip to Mexico
Bring your passports in the Southeast corner of the park there is a border crossing to Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico. Spend a day visiting this little village hitch a ride on a donkey and enjoy a delicious meal.

Star Gaze
Big Bend is one of the BEST dark sky parks in the lower 48. Oh yes they’ve got stars. It is 10 miles from Terlingua to the west entrance of the park, and over 40 miles from Marathon to the north entrance. The surrounding small towns are far enough away and are also known for their dark skies. If possible plan your trip around a new moon, that paired with clear skies and you’re in for a treat.

Stock image

Let’s talk Camping

Did I mention this park is BIG? As such it requires some planning, but it’s worth it. There are 3 established campgrounds as well as ample backcountry spots. But know that ALL of the spots do fill up fast. Even if planning isn’t your thing, trust me reservations are a game changer. Being prepared is nice especially when cell service is almost non existant in the park.

The Rio Grande Village Campground

Reserve online to nab a spot for more than a day or two. This campground does offer some first come first serve spots, but be prepared to be there bright and early there may already be a line up. The spots are all dry camping, so no hookups for RVs. There are washrooms and potable water available. There is also an RV dump station, a gas station and general store, laundry facilities, wifi and pay showers just outside the campground. This campground is ideal for our friends with big rigs. We appreciated a few things about the Rio Grande Village Campground: The shade, more space between sites as well as bigger level spots.

Visit Big Bend National Park Van Life

Chisos Basin Camground

Reserve your spot online.
First come first serve spots available, even though it’s up the mountain and not big rig friendly, you will need to get there bright and early and be prepared to move after a day or two.
The spots are all dry camping, so no hookups for RVs. There are washrooms and potable water available. There is a general store and visitors centre here as well for some supplies (even wine!). The road up the mountain has a size restriction, so while it is possible, it isn’t big rig friendly. The spots here are more geared to smaller rigs, vehicles and tent campers. The sites are small and often unlevel. If you need some creature comforts, there are also rooms available in the lodge, and reservations can also be made online. They also offer a restaurant for some apres hike eats, and a beer.

Cottonwood Campground

This campground is dry camping only and no reservations. There are pit toilets and potable water available. This campground was closed during our visit. There is a small general store and visitor centre at Castalon, though the visitor center is closed in the summer.

Backcountry Spaces

These are ideal if you’re able to boondock. These spots have to be booked in person. For $12 to stay up to 14 days, the price can’t be beat. You will have to choose how long you are staying when you book, you can’t really extend after the fact.

Depending on your set up this could be ideal. Last year we tried to stay at Grapevine Hills past balanced rock. But the 6.4-mile road in took us 2 hours out and back. Without high clearance and 4×4, we opted against camping here. We wouldn’t be able to come and go and explore the park and this was our goal. This was the only spot that was Van or RV accessible that was left when we arrived. These spots also fill up fast. I would say and it’s an ideal situation if you have a vehicle that can easily manage the rough gravel roads or at least mountain bikes to be able to come and go. If you want the gorgeous wide open space check in regularly at the visitor center for availability.

The Road To Big Bend
Visit from the North via Marathon, Texas.

This small town offers fuel, supplies, accommodations, hiking trails and dark sky opportunities. It is worth noting that gas at the Rio Grande Village in the park was actually cheaper when we were there. A small grocery store for supplies and a little stock up expect to pay slightly higher prices here. We highly recommend Marathon Motel and RV park. Full hook-up RV spaces, nice showers, and laundry facilities. Furthermore this is a Passport America park with a great discount price. They also host dark sky parties and stargazing on a clear night is top notch.

Visit from the West via Terlingua and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

There is an awesome piece of history here in the ghost town in Terlingua. Plan to stay a few days in this funky spot with a great cafe, restaurant, and some of the friendliest people. We highly recommend Big Bend Ranch State Park either on your way in or out of the National Park. This area is so vast and diverse, give yourself as much time as you can.

We have met several people who were born and raised in Texas and have never been to this park. While it is a big trip to visit Big Bend, it is well worth it.

Regardless of how much time you have, this park needs to be seen. Next time you’re planning a trip to Texas: fill your tank, stock up on food and water, make reservations and get your butt to Big Bend National Park.

Visit Big Bend National Park

We hope these suggestions help. Keeping in mind that we are restricted traveling with our dog, temperature control is always an issue and as in most national parks, dogs are not allowed on trails.

We would love to hear your experiences and tips from visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas.

While planning your visit to Big Bend National Park in Texas we have another great suggestion for you! Check out our post on Free Camping In Junction, Texas.

Finding Free Camping In Junction, Texas

So excited to share this free camping in Junction, Texas!

We have now made the journey across southern U.S several times. We have taken different routes but often find ourselves at some point on Interstate 10 in Texas. It is a long stretch from San Antonio to El Paso or from the Guadalupe Mountains to the Gulf coast, and finding free spots along the interstate can be a little underwhelming.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Fort Stockton Walmart & Dominos Again…

Most of the spots you find along the way come in the form of rest stops, picnic areas, truck stops and Walmarts. We have stayed at the Walmart in Fort Stockton on 3 separate occasions now. Rest stops in Texas are also really nice and well maintained. We appreciate these types of stopovers to break up a long driving day and rest our heads for a night. But they aren’t really the places we hope to camp along the way.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life

Our most recent trip from the Guadalupe Mountains along I-10 heading East brought us to the little town of Junction, Texas. This sleepy little town lies on the shores of the Llano River.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip,

We were fortunate to make it to Junction and have a few quieter days to enjoy our free campsite and explore the town.

There are several options for camping around Junction. These included Llano River State Park and a few RV parks. We were stoked to find a super picturesque free spot right on the river.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Schreiner Park is a county park located on the west bank of the South Llano River. The park allows 3 days of free dry camping!

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking, Junction Texas, Traveling with pets

The park offers: an outdoor community pool, the home of the women’s softball team, beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, a huge picnic area, and a massive community smoker.

This area was devastated earlier this year by flooding, and we did see some of the aftermath. The city park across the river as well as the RV Park were being repaired.

But as far as free camping in Texas goes this spot was pretty perfect.

When we arrived most of the pull-through spaces with covered picnic tables and barbecues were actually being used by locals. So we opted to pull right along the bank of the river. I think the park is actually more dedicated to day use, but no one seemed to be spending time in the area we parked.

We enjoyed hot Sunny days with the park basically all to ourselves. Got to take a few dips in the river to cool off. Long walks with Holly, and she loved swimming in the river. Park workers, as well as police randomly made rounds throughout the day so we always felt safe. Every time a local drove by they smiled and waved.

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking

The park is clean and well kept. There are restroom facilities that leave a little to be desired, but if you need a free washroom this park has it. Covered picnic tables and BBQs are scattered through the park.

The pool was not open while we were here but if the timing worked out it’s $2 to use the public outdoor pool and I would assume that there are showers available here.

While you’re here pop into town grab a bite at the local diner, visit quaint local shops, take a scenic drive, grab an ice cream cone and slow down. Don’t forget to take your camp chair over and cheer on the Eagles Ladies Softball Team!

If you enjoyed this info on Free Camping in Junction, Texas check out our visitor guide to Big Bend National Park

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail

Full-Time Van Life Travel: Louisiana has so many hidden gems!

Visiting Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail. Last year we saw New Orleans and Natchitoches in Louisiana. Both offered amazing history and culture (and a visit with my rad cousin). It was awesome, but this year we decided to take a slower quieter route through the south.

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail van life dog

Logan has been really enjoying birding this year, it is something he has always been in to. Now with decent binocs and a new spotting scope he is stepping it up a little.

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail Birding, Free Camping,  Vanlife

So we found some new great spots. We experienced a quiet, wild and beautiful side of Louisiana. This trip included almost 100 birds species, and some amazing free camp spots.

Big Branch Wild Life Refuge

Our first stop. There is no fee to visit the refuge that is located just outside of Slidell, north of New Orleans.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

For birders, Pelicans, Egrets, Herons, and other waterfowl are out in full force. A highlight was seeing the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, which is rare and considered endangered.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

There are boardwalks and trails throughout the refuge. Access was easy, narrow paved roads lead to large gravel lots. No garbage or toilets so these areas are pack in pack out.

We also drove south of Lacombe and watched the birds put on a show during a gorgeous sunset. We boondocked at a boat launch which is also an area where manatees can some times be spotted, though we didn’t see them.

Birding, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Our spot was quiet but buggy, as we learned that is to be expected all along the water and bayou areas.

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

Tucked way off highway 10 just east of Lafayette. Driving out to this spot was a little intimidating. You are in hunting territory.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Trailers and hunting cabins have a real backwoods vibe to them, we even saw hog heads mounted on someone’s fence posts.

That being said the reserve is really beautiful, it is a forest on the banks of the Atchafalaya River. It was very quiet overnight. Our free spot backed onto the river. Practically perfect except for hunters we hear shooting in the morning. Update** There are designated free campsites in the WMA please find them here

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Also, this was the first time we saw warnings in the south for Bears!

Lorraine Park

We discovered that there is a Parish Park system that is made up of small parks with limited sites for RVs and campers.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, Travelling with pets

This little park outside of Bell City and Hayes has 9 spaces with power and potable water. It also offers shower, washrooms, and a dump station…for $12 per night!

The park has a boat launch and backs onto Lacassine Bayou. Owls, gators and the chance to see manatees. This park was perfect.

You are tucked away, it felt like a bit of a locals secret. The park is next to the Lorraine Bridge which is a historic spot. A resilient little bridge that has been knocked down and rebuilt to connect two parishes several times since the 1800s.

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

This was an interesting loop drive with birding aplenty, and gators galore. Whistling ducks were a highlight during our visit.

The loop is an unmaintained dirt road and it is overgrown in a lot of spots. Bumpy doesn’t begin to describe it, we actually drove on the grass in certain parts, following the lead of vehicles that were way better equipped to handle it.

From Lacassine we wandered down to Rutherford Beach, it is a pretty popular boondocking spot. Our experience was short and not great. It was intensely foggy and buggy. Beach camping and porta-potties, for free. But our van actually got overrun with mosquitoes and we had to high tail it out of there. We spent the night casino camping and clearing out the van in Lake Charles.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

We stopped off and did a couple of walks through this refuge. This is part of the Creole Nature Trail. We spotted some Rosette Spoonbills but missed the local gators. Definitely, a nice spot to stop and check out.

Birding, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, travelling with pets

Holly Beach

Our last night in Louisiana we boondocked at Holly Beach. There is hard-packed sand at the end of the road, it was super quiet, and we only had one neighbor. It was free and with no one around Holly finally got to run and play in the water.

Beach Camping, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, traveling with pets

The downside to this area on the gulf coast is being able to see the offshore oil rigs.

Next stop Texas!
Tell us some of your favorite places in Louisiana!