While it hasn't always been the case, bank letters may be required if you plan to use your credit card's auto insurance coverage in Ireland (the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland), Israel or Jamaica.
Ireland and Northern Ireland are countries that are hard to visit just once - and hard to see completely if you don’t have your own rental car. The Ireland’s have been featured in movies and TV shows like Leap Year, P.S. I Love You, Star Wars – The Last Jedi (Skellig Michael), and Game of Thrones (N. Ireland) for good reason. The landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful, and the friendliness of the people and culture beckon you to visit again and again.
But, it turns out that a few vehicle accidents which happened within the last few years or so have made many, if not all, of the auto companies at Dublin airport suspicious of people wanting to use their credit card's auto coverage, which requires that you decline the coverage at the rental agency. Apparently, the rental companies have had trouble being reimbursed for damages caused by drivers who used their credit card's insurance coverage - not necessarily from regular accidents, but from ones where the drives, and/or other people involved in the accident, had perished due to the severity of the situation. We are not clear on what the exact situations were, but the result is strict and important for anyone traveling to Ireland.
Here they are:
You can buy the rental company's insurance coverage and put down a €1,500 deposit, which gets returned to you if no damage occurs on the vehicle, OR
You can get a bank letter and put down a €5,000 deposit, which gets returned to you if no damage occurs on the vehicle.
The difference is quite large. We rented a vehicle for 16 days for a total of €146.21 from Sixt Rent a Car, but they wanted us to pay over €600 more for the insurance for that period if we wanted to do it that way. As we didn't have a Bank Letter, they weren't going to let us rent the car. Luckily for us, we called our credit card help-line and told them about our situation. They emailed us a Bank Letter right away which we were able to email to the customer service representative at the Sixt Rent a Car desk. We then were able to use our Credit Card's Auto Insurance Coverage instead of paying the additional €600+ for Sixt's Insurance, but we still had to allow them to put a €5,000 hold on our Credit Card.
This is very important information for anyone traveling to Ireland! We did check around at other rental agencies and all of the ones we checked said they would require the same things as certain accidents caused quite a political stir up with all of the rental agencies.
See an example of our Bank Letter here:
Additional tips when renting a car in Ireland:
The roads are narrow so try to get the smallest car you’ll still feel comfortable in. You’ll be thankful when you have to pass a bus on one side and a thorny hedge threatening your paint on the other.
If you drive from Ireland to Northern Ireland or vice versa, refresh Google maps when you cross the border. Ireland uses kilometers and Northern Ireland uses miles. It can be confusing if you’re looking at directions in miles but the road signs are all in kilometers.
If renting a car seems like too much of a hassle (plus driving on the left!), it might be worth it to take the 5-day Taste of Ireland tour - which includes hotels and transportation- and starts off with a walking tour of Dublin - plus you’ll end up seeing all of our other favorite places in southwest Ireland - a traditional Irish song & dance dinner show at the Merry Ploughboy Pub, a visit to the ideal Irish town of Killarney, a tour around the Ring of Kerry, a stop at the Cliffs of Moher, and a Medieval Castle Banquet dinner INSIDE Bunratty Castle as a fairwell! We couldn’t recommend it more!
Plus, if you have 10-14 days, you could do the 5-day Northern Ireland & Atlantic Coast Small-Group Tour from Dublin first, where you’ll get to experience all of the highlights of Northern Ireland and the Northeast of the Republic of Ireland. This tour includes hotels and transportation as well.
Combining both tours will allow you to see ALL OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF IRELAND (Northern Ireland, Dublin, and both the Northwest and Southwest sides of the Republic of Ireland). It’s an amazing pairing that you could easily pull off in 10 days! So, in 14 days you could even explore a bit more around Dublin.
If you’re looking for other adventures in Ireland, we recommend checking out the Highlights of Ireland deluxe tour, or these budget friendly tours that include Bunratty Castle.
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore