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Traffic and Healthcare in Ireland

Living in Ireland as an expat has undergone an unprecedented boom in the past decade. Even after the global crisis of 2008/2009, Ireland remains a popular expat destination. The InterNations Expat Guide on Ireland provides you with info on education, healthcare, and daily life.
Don’t let the scenery distract you when you drive in Ireland!

A Different Road System

Many of our readers will be aware of this, but as it appears to be a problem with some foreigners, we’d like to explicitly point out that motorists drive on the left-hand side in Ireland. It might sound a little patronizing, but as quite a few severe crashes are caused by confused drivers using the wrong side of the road, it is highly important to keep this in mind at all times.

Generally speaking, road conditions in Ireland are on par with any other highly industrialized country. It will only take a few days for experienced drivers to get used to driving on the left and using countless roundabouts. Outside of city limits, things can get a little bit trickier when you leave the main roads and use the country roads. If you have no problems with curvy, narrow and slightly rocky roads, you will be just fine, though.

Traffic Regulations

If your stay in Ireland exceeds twelve months, you have to apply for an Irish driver’s license in order to keep driving a motor vehicle. If you are from within the EEA or one of the recognized states, you are lucky. You can simply exchange your driver’s license for an Irish one at the nearest National Driving License Service (NDLS) center. Recognized states include Australia, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan. If your home is not on this list, the only option is to start from scratch and complete the process of becoming a qualified driver in Ireland.

It is important to note that Ireland works off a penalty point system. Penalty points were introduced in 2002 due to the significantly high number of traffic-related deaths. There are 62 offences which can incur points on your license. If a driver receives more than twelve points, they will be suspended from driving for six months and must submit their license to the relevant authority within 14 days of notification of suspension.

Always keep in mind that Ireland has very thorough legislation to prevent driving under the influence of alcohol. Please leave your car at home whenever you plan to consume alcoholic beverages.

A Well-Functioning Healthcare System

In terms of health and well-being, you are in very good hands in Ireland. The tax-funded Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for providing extensive healthcare assistance to every resident of Ireland. While healthcare is generally free, some services, such as emergency care, doctor’s visits, and hospital stays, come with fees. However, if your income and assets are below a certain limit, you can apply for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card; then you are exempt from certain or even all healthcare fees. Up to a third of the Irish population is covered by these cards.

However, if you earn above this threshold, you will have to pay some healthcare fees in Ireland. While these fees might seem steep to some readers, they are capped. There is an annual or — as with prescription drugs — a monthly limit. Hospital expenditure for inpatients, for instance, is limited to 750 EUR annually; prescription medication will cost a maximum of 144 EUR per month if you apply to the Drug Payment Scheme. If you have certain long-term illnesses, like diabetes or multiple sclerosis, you can get the required drugs free of charge.

While the healthcare system is based on tax payments, both residency and means also play a role when it comes to the services provided. If you have decided to live and work in Ireland for more than one year, you should contact the HSE as soon as possible to confirm your status as ordinary resident. This will grant you the quickest possible access to healthcare services.

Expats hailing from within the EEA are entitled to receive certain medical services free of charge (e.g. emergency care for visitors with a European Health Insurance Card), but they might not be fully exempt from fees. Please consult your Local Health Office for further information.

Health Services: Some Improvements Still Need to Be Made

Unfortunately, despite relatively large expenditures for healthcare services and the quality standards of public institutions, there are still a few issues the HSE has to tackle. The most pressing one being long waiting times in hospitals (and sometimes also for general practitioners) and for certain non-vital treatments.

High demand for medical services and professionals was unfortunately not met with an increased number of practitioners. You are unlikely to be made to wait for months, but do not expect to be treated right away every time. If you would like to improve your personal situation, you can opt for private health insurance instead. The Health Insurance Authority provides information on the private healthcare market in Ireland.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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