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9 Key Tips For Driving In The UK And Ireland, According To A Local

There are so many interesting places to visit in the UK and Ireland. From England’s historic Roman towns to quaint Scottish islands and picturesque Irish villages — unless you stay in London — you will almost certainly want to rent a car.

If exploring London is all you want to do, forget the car and use the underground (“Tube”). Public transport is much more developed over the water and taking a train or bus can often get you from one city to the next rapidly and comfortably. However, away from the towns and cities, public transport can be a little less available and renting (“hiring”) a car opens up all sorts of possibilities to discover wonderful places off the beaten track (think remote hiking in spectacular scenery and stopping for lunch at a remote country pub).

There is no reason driving overseas should feel like a daunting prospect. Here are a few things to consider before taking delivery of your rental car keys and slipping behind the wheel.

1. We Drive On The Left

This might sound obvious but it’s kind of important! In both the UK and Ireland, traffic drives on the left. There’s a good historical reason for this: When horseback was the main mode of getting from A to B, and most people were right-handed, riding on the left allowed you to easily protect yourself from possible threats approaching from the opposite direction. So… that’s why we drive on the left.

Staying on the left-hand side is easy when other cars are also on the road. However, when you are the only vehicle on the road, take extra care as you might find yourself drifting over to the right. This is particularly easy to do when you are turning right and there is no other traffic around or at night when no other vehicles are around to guide you.

2. Manual Or Automatic?

The majority of cars are manual (stick-shift) so you get an extra pedal too. If you are not used to driving a manual car, you can opt to rent an automatic transmission (often for an extra charge) but do check with the rental company ahead of time as there are fewer automatic vehicles available.

3. The First 20 Minutes

The first 20 minutes are the most dangerous moments when driving a new vehicle. It doesn’t help if this is also the time you want to thread your way out of an airport and are trying to find your way. Take the time to do a “cockpit check” to familiarize yourself with the controls before setting off. You may be eager to go but this check is well worth a few minutes of your time. You will likely bang your hand on the window a few times as you go to change gear and realize you need to use your left hand, not your right hand.

If you are picking up a car having just arrived on the red-eye across the Atlantic, be aware to stop at service stations or just pull over to take a short nap if you are feeling tired. The interstates (“motorways”) have numerous service areas where you can pull over for a rest. On smaller roads, you may find pullover areas (or “lay-bys” that are designated by a blue P sign) where you can park legally and free of charge.

4. Allow More Time

Roads away from the motorways can be narrow and slow. In tourist areas, the roads can become clogged during peak travel season. Consider traveling when schools are still in session and avoid public (“bank”) holiday weekends.

Distances may seem small on the map, but remember you’re not usually driving as the crow flies. Roads frequently meander, speed limits fall as you pass through villages, and traffic lights always seem to turn red as you approach them. Whatever time Google tells to allow for a journey, add more time.

5. Understand Renting Restrictions

You will need to present a valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license to rent a car along with a valid photo ID. Many rental car companies in Ireland require drivers to be 25 years old or over, while the UK is 23 or over. Also, for those over 70, some companies may have additional restrictions, so do your research before booking. Also be aware of costly add-ons for having additional drivers. If you’re not planning on spending multiple hours driving each day, it may not be worth having that second driver on the ticket.

6. The Roads Are Narrow

Roads in the UK and Ireland are narrow compared to North America. Don’t be tempted to rent a larger vehicle than you really need. Parking spaces are equally narrow, so hiring a decent-sized SUV (the larger ones are called “people carriers,” like a Honda Odyssey) can be a very tight squeeze in many parking places.

7. Rules Of The Road

Take a moment to look at the rules of the road before driving for the first time. Check out the Highway Code (UK) and Rules of the Road (Ireland). Here are some tips to remain safe and avoid upsetting the locals.


People are more likely to overtake here than in North America on single highways (one lane in each direction) — and they are generally good at it. If you get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle (i.e. a tractor) you will be expected to overtake it, too, when it is safe to do so. If you are not confident overtaking, pull over to let others pass.

No Turn On Red

This is a great rule in North America, but you cannot turn at a red traffic light in Ireland or the UK.
Box Junctions

Look out for that yellow-hatched area on the road at an intersection. The idea is to keep this area clear at all times so people can go through the junction. Do not enter the hatched area unless your exit is clear. If you get stuck in the “box,” other drivers will not be impressed.


We love roundabouts; they keep the traffic moving. If your way is clear, you do not need to stop but yield (“give way”) if traffic is approaching from the right. Look out for mini-roundabouts — often just a white circle painted on the road — which serve the same purpose as a full-blown roundabout. Some congested roundabouts now also have traffic lights to better control traffic flow. Take care to ensure you are in the correct lane.

8. Watch Your Speed

Speed limits are posted in miles-per-hour in the UK but in kilometers-per-hour in Ireland. Speed cameras are installed everywhere, and therefore, most drivers tend to stick to the limit. If you happen to get caught speeding, not only will you likely receive a fine, but rental car companies will also hit you with an administration fee for sending you the ticket.

9. Learn The Vocabulary

Forget the accent, even the words are different over here. The engine is under the “bonnet” (hood) and you store your luggage in the “boot” (trunk). You fill up with “petrol” (gas) and the GPS is often called the “sat-nav.” The glass at the front is the “windscreen” and “indicators” are your turn signals. In an emergency, you put on your hazard warning lights (don’t say “flashers;” these are people who expose themselves). Motorways are equivalent to interstates, we give way and we drive slowly over “sleeping policemen” (humps in the road to slow traffic).

Take the time at the beginning of your journey to familiarize yourself with the vehicle, know your route, and take your time, and you will have a safe, fabulous experience exploring the beauty of the British Isles.

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5 Tips to Unpack the Benefits of Travel Insurance

Travel season is upon us. If you have a trip planned, learn why you should consider purchasing travel insurance and how to choose the right policy.

Traveling is an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also come with its fair share of uncertainties and risks. No matter how well you plan your trip, there’s always the chance that something could go wrong. That’s where travel insurance comes in. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about travel insurance, including what it covers, why you need it, and how to choose the right policy for your next adventure.

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to protect you against potential financial losses that may arise while traveling. These losses can include medical emergencies, trip cancellations or delays, lost luggage, and more. By purchasing travel insurance, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re covered in case unexpected events disrupt your trip.

Why Do You Need Travel Insurance?

While no one likes to think about things going wrong on vacation, it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are some reasons why you should consider getting travel insurance:

  1. Medical emergencies: If you fall ill or get injured while traveling, medical treatment can be expensive, especially if you’re in a foreign country. Travel insurance can help cover these costs, ensuring that you receive the necessary care without breaking the bank. (For retirees traveling, it’s critical to understand that Medicare may not cover medical costs incurred outside the U.S.)
  2. Trip cancellations or interruptions: Unforeseen circumstances, such as severe weather, illness, or family emergencies, can force you to cancel or cut short your trip. Travel insurance can reimburse you for non-refundable expenses, like flights and accommodations. Be careful to compare policies, as each carrier defines these instances differently. Some carriers consider a delay as anything that is 6 hours or more while others see it as 24 hours or more.
  3. Lost or delayed luggage: It’s not uncommon for luggage to go missing during transit. Travel insurance can provide coverage for the cost of replacing your belongings or even cover the expenses of purchasing essential items if your luggage is delayed.
  4. Personal liability: Accidents can happen, and if you inadvertently cause injury to someone or damage their property, travel insurance can help protect you from potential legal and financial consequences. Additionally, some policies offer coverage for emergency evacuations, particularly useful for adventurers participating in high-risk activities or visiting remote locations.

By understanding these common coverage types, travelers can make informed decisions when selecting a travel insurance policy that best suits their needs.

How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance Policy

With so many travel insurance options available, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect policy for your needs. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:

  1. Assess your needs: Consider the type of trip you’re taking, your destination, and the activities you’ll be participating in. This will help you determine the level of coverage you need. For example, if you’re planning a high-risk adventure like mountaineering, you’ll want to ensure that your policy covers emergency evacuations and medical treatment related to your specific activity.
  2. Check for existing coverage: Some credit cards, health insurance plans, or homeowner’s insurance policies may already provide some level of travel protection. Review these policies to avoid purchasing duplicate coverage.
  3. Compare policies: Shop around and compare different travel insurance policies to find one that offers the best balance of coverage and affordability. Be sure to read the fine print and understand what’s included and excluded from each policy.
  4. Consider annual vs. single-trip policies: If you’re a frequent traveler, it might be more cost-effective to purchase an annual policy that covers multiple trips within a year. However, if you only travel occasionally, a single-trip policy may be a better fit.
  5. Look for reputable providers: Choose a travel insurance provider with a solid reputation and a history of prompt and fair claims handling. Read reviews and ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have had positive experiences with their travel insurance providers.

The Rewards of Travel Insurance

Investing in a suitable travel insurance policy is more than just a practical decision; it’s an essential component of planning a stress-free and enjoyable vacation. With the right coverage in place, you can embark on your journey with confidence, knowing that you’re protected against unforeseen events and potential financial losses. By alleviating concerns, you enjoy the freedom to fully immerse yourself in the adventure and create lasting memories. So, pack your bags, grab your passport, and enjoy your trip, knowing that you’re well-prepared for whatever comes your way.

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Travel Tips: Six Ways To Improve Your Packing Skills

One can skillfully pack with thought and resourcefulness, relieving themselves of the weight of extra luggage and relishing the flexibility of mobility.

A trip offers the chance to travel the globe and become immersed in a variety of people, cultures, and environments. To accomplish this, one needs to perfect the skill of going light, which calls for dexterity and accuracy. One can skillfully pack with thought and resourcefulness, relieving themselves of the weight of extra luggage and relishing the flexibility of mobility. So, in order to help you pack your suitcase efficiently, we’ve put together a list.

Only Essentials

When choosing the necessities for an expedition, practice judgment by choosing travel-sized toiletries and a minimal cosmetic regimen. This will release you from the restraints of extra products, allowing your beautiful nature to shine through.

Role Gracefully

Rolling clothes is an innovative method for arranging items in a suitcase in a tidy manner. It breaks free from the constraints of traditional folding and establishes a peaceful cohabitation whereby available space is maximized and creases are ignored.

Technological Win

Our ability to access literature, maps, travel guides, and priceless experiences has altered the way we travel. We can find literary gems on our e-readers and cellphones, and they also serve as a window to the rest of the world.

Capsule Wardrobe

The length and type of an adventure are taken into consideration while designing capsule clothes. Combining a few key items to create a variety of compelling styles transcends time and trends.

Accessorize Creatively

Even the most straightforward outfits can become more elegant and charming with the addition of accessories, opening up a world of design options. Statement hats, scarves, and necklaces can lend a touch of class and charm.

Pick Wisely

Choose adaptable clothing that is both fashionable and functional, such as wrinkle-resistant materials and light items that work for both day and night. You’ll have a wide range of sartorial options as a result.

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6 Awesome Travel Food Photography Tips For That Perfect Instagram Shot

As well as portraits and shots of beaches why not take a few photos of the plates of food you purchase? After all, getting your smartphone out before you chow down is the normal thing to do nowadays, isn’t it?

It’s coming up to that time of year when many families start to think about jetting off to warmer climates or simply heading to the Britsh coast to escape reality for a while. An accessory that’s guaranteed to be packed is a camera but instead of just capturing shots of family members in pools and on the beach, why not turn your attention to food photography and capture some mouth-watering images of the plates you’re served and stalls you pass on trips.

1. Where Will You Be Taking Your Photos?

Where you’re working can sometimes determine what equipment you can use. If you’re in a busy restaurant there’s probably not room for a tripod so you’ll have to work hand-held or use a smaller support that can fit on the table. But if you’re out in the street photographing food stalls and the people who run them, they’ll be more room to use a tripod, although if you plan on moving around a lot, you’ll probably better taking a monopod with you as they’re easier to walk with and take up less room.

2. Think About Presentation

Restaurants want to impress you so food is, generally, presented and displayed well already which means you don’t have to play the role of the designer. Do look out for attractive produce though, particularly if you’re at a hotel where you can serve yourself. Make sure fruit isn’t bruised and colours are vibrant. If you’re photographing meat make sure it’s not overcooked and lookout for herbs and pepper grinders as a sprinkling of pepper or a few green leaves can make your photograph looking more appetising. Also, look out for crumbs and sauce that may be sat on the side of the plate as this can distract the viewer.

3. Consider Using Repetition

If you can pick your own food, repetition works well and three items on a plate will often look better than two. Don’t think you always have to centre your subject and if you’re working with tall items such as ice creams and coffees in glasses, switch your orientation to portrait.

4. Backgrounds Shouldn’t Distract

Try and keep your background uncluttered but if you’re in a busy restaurant where this isn’t possible, just use a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus or you could try placing a plain jacket/cloth over a chair and positioning so it sits in the background of your shot. If the chairs are too low use the back of a menu, so long as it’s plain, as your background, placing it behind your plate. If it’s coloured make sure there’s no colour cast on your food/plate, particularly if the crockery is white and a shallow depth of field will help keep all attention on the food in the foreground of your shot.

Don’t forget to take some wider shots of the serving area too. In hotels particularly you’ll find several buffet carts, chefs preparing food and guests deciding what to eat which can make interesting shots.

5. Stick To Natural Light

Use natural light where possible so if you can pick where you sit, choose a window seat or better still, sit outside. You need to avoid using direct flash as your food won’t look very appetising so make sure you’ve switched it off, particularly in low light situations where some flashes will automatically fire.

6. Get Out On The Street

Away from restaurants, you can find small stalls, especially in markets, that make and sell food. If you want to snap a few shots of the stallholder it can help if you actually show some interest in the food they are producing. It’s not always advised to eat the food they’re cooking but you can ask them questions and spend some time actually appreciating their skill. If you’re working close up never shoot without asking permission first and if they say no, just move on to another stall instead of arguing with them. For those who do agree, fill the frame with their face as you’ll find they’ll create plenty of interesting expressions when concentrating on getting their creation perfect.

If your subject is working under a canopy your camera can get confused by the brighter space that surrounds them and your shot can end up a little dark. If this is the case, just lock your exposure and recompose the shot.

If the weather’s not playing ball or you’re on a street that’s shaded from the sun don’t be tempted to use your flash as this can destroy the feeling/atmosphere you’re trying to create. Just try using a wider aperture or a higher ISO and if you find the higher ISOs make your shot a little grainy, try turning the shot black and white as it can work rather well.

Another option is to use a tripod and slower shutter speeds which will blur the movement of anyone who passes through your shot, however, if you’re focusing on someone who is moving between a chopping board and a stove, the blur can emphasise the speed they’re working at. The slower shutter speeds can also be used to capture a few closer shots of flames, just make sure you don’t burn yourself and don’t catch any hot plates and pans by mistake.

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