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The best way to travel Ireland

Q&A to help you find the best way to travel around Ireland in 2022

A lot of people ask me: What is the best way to travel around Ireland? As an Irish tour guide and enthusiastic explorer, I can tell you: There is no one way fits all! You could drive yourself, hire a local guide or join a tour on a set date. Your way of travelling around Ireland in 2022 will depend on your character, interests and budget.

Ireland might be a small island in size but it’s certainly not short on adventures, experiences or places of interest. The good news is you can travel Ireland in any way you can think of. You just have to decide what style of travelling will suit you best.

The following Q&A can help you to decide what style of travel you like or what type of tour to choose. Once that decision is made, it’s easy to put together the perfect route and itinerary for an unforgettable Ireland adventure.

Looking to travel Ireland ‘off the beaten path’? Check out some recommendation on places to visit in my blog The ultimate Ireland bucket list (for all who hate bucket lists)

What’s the best way to get around in Ireland?

Ireland is renowned for its natural beauty; therefore, most visitors want to explore areas outside of Irish cities. Since a lot of these places are not accessible by public transport, motorised vehicle is still the best way to travel around Ireland.

At the same time this doesn’t mean you have to drive yourself. You can hop onto a tour bus, hire your own driver or guide for a private tour.

Which is the best Ireland tour?

Irish tour companies offer anything from self-drive tours to fully guided private tours. Which is the best Ireland tour for you will depend on your interests and budget. 

Should I book a guided tour around Ireland?

Do you want to take the hassle out of booking accommodation and planning out your itinerary on your own? Are you anxious about driving in a foreign country and have a fear of missing out and getting lost? If so, then a guided tour is for you! Now what is important is deciding what type of guided tour suits you.

Are coach tours around Ireland happening in 2022?

If you have very limited time, a tight budget and you want to cross Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions off your bucket list, a coach tour around Ireland might suit you. Although you shouldn’t mind sharing a small space with lots of other tourists and sticking to a strict time schedule. Since the pandemic coach tours have experienced less demand and a lot of companies have tried to divert to offering tours for smaller groups. It’s difficult to say what exactly the Covid19 restrictions will look like in the summer season 2022, but be aware that tour cancellations are possible because of restrictions or low numbers.

Where do coach tours around Ireland start from?

Bus tours usually leave serval times a day from the cities whether that be for a day trip or multi-day journey. Coach tour packages can easily be picked out and bought on the internet. They are usually specialised in ticking as many boxes as possible in the shortest time frame possible. I’ve talked to people who’ve been to Dublin, Belfast, the cliffs of Moher and the ring of Kerry in under 2 days. This means though you spend 90% of the day stuck in a 52 seater bus.

What are small group tours?

Another option is purchasing a small group tour that leaves on a set date. In this case you usually join a group of up to 16 people. This is a good option if you have found an itinerary that fits your needs. The theme of a tour might fit a certain interest of yours for example photography, hiking or trail running. It is ideal for solo travellers who want to meet more people and share the experience with others.

A private tour is the best way to travel Ireland

Why should I book a private tour of Ireland?

Are you looking for personalised & flexible adventure? Then a private tour of Ireland might be for you. To create your own Ireland itinerary, you get in touch with a local reputable guide or tour company. Firstly, you communicate with them about what you would like to see and do, tell them about you travel style and talk about your budget. The experts then put together a travel itinerary that meets your need. As a result, all you must do is show up at the airport, your guide will be waiting for you, and everything will be organised.

What’s the advantage of a private Ireland tour?

The huge advantage of a private tour is that you create a trip that suits your personal pace and interests. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a thing once you arrive in Ireland – your guide will take care of the logistics. From the moment you arrive at the airport until you are dropped off at the airport, you can relax and enjoy your adventure!

Your local Ireland guide with a tour group

Should I hire a local tour guide?

The best deals (value and money) can usually be found with smaller local tour companies. As a local Irish guide I can highly recommend to try getting in contact with the person who will be guiding you directly. After all you will be spending a lot of time with them. This way, you can make sure you like you guide, and you can prevent misunderstandings. Ultimately, this will add immense value to your experience and you can save money by cutting out the middleman.

Is a private tour the best way to travel Ireland?

If you choose to go on a private tour with a local guide you will have a truly immersive experience. This means getting a locals insight into the Irish lifestyle and passion for their country. Since your guide knows the area inside out, you will be getting the chance to be spontaneous and have a new discovery around every corner. The goal is to not feel like a tourist but rather a part of the local communities. Your guide will become your friend and this is how you really get off the beaten track. Let your local guide show you to their favourite Irish coffee places and help you find the countries hidden gems. In many cases you will end up meeting their family and friends.

The part that I personally love most about guiding is to bring groups back to my Mam’s Bed & Breakfast, showing them where I grew up and having my new friends join Mam in the kitchen to learn how to bake Irish soda bread and hear about the old Irish baking traditions.

Can I plan a trip to Ireland myself?

If you want to plan, organise & navigate your Ireland vacation yourself, without the help of a tour company or local guide, you firstly must decide how you want to get around. Do you want to drive yourself? Or do you want to use public transport? Many tourists choose a mixed travel style like self-driving but joining guided day-tours. Ultimately, planning your Ireland trip yourself requires time for research before, and an independent and adventurous mindset once you are in Ireland.

The best way to travel Ireland

Is a road trip the best way to travel Ireland?

One option to travel Ireland is to book a flight, rent a car from the airport (or take your own over on the ferry) and figure out the rest once you are there. You can go on a freestyle trip, with only a rough route idea, for example just following the Wild Atlantic Way, or book your accommodation and draw out a daily route itinerary. Road tripping in Ireland is popular amongst adventurous people of all ages. You just want to follow the roads looking for adventures? On the emerald isle you can find amazing surprises while getting lost on little backroads. Hence, this style of travel is ideal for people who are independent and have lots of time to explore.

Things to know before planning a road trip around Ireland

There are a few things you should be aware of before you start planning a road trip around Ireland.

  1. Ireland is bigger than you think!

    At the first glance the island of Ireland might seem small but traveling on the beautiful Irish country roads can take a lot longer than you think.
    Mizen & Malin, Ireland’s most southerly & northerly points, are both discovery points along the Wild Atlantic Way. As the crow flies they are only 466km apart, but because the Irish west coast is rugged and has lots of peninsulas, the Wild Atlantic Way is more than 2,500km long.

  2. Irish roads are seldomly a motorway

    Therefore, you can expect to be driving slowly. Along the Wild Atlantic Way an average of 50km/h. Also remember that you will want to stop a lot. Sometimes to take a picture from the roadside, but often you’ll want to get out of the car and walk to the point of interest and the beautiful view etc.
    One of the most common mistakes people make when planning their Ireland road trip is trying to cover too much distance. Do you really want to spend most of your vacation in a car?

  3. Planning time is needed

    Do some research to know what you want to see and do. You won’t be able to see it all – there is simply too much. Pick less to have more time to enjoy it. Stay in places for more than 1 night and plan in car-free days too. Ireland truly has stunning natural wonders and historically important sights around every corner, still it’s not that easy to find the way sometimes. If you cruise around without an itinerary, you might miss some cool local highlights.

  4. Accommodation fills up fast

    It is advisable to book accommodation in advance, especially in the summer months, otherwise you could end up sleeping in your car (no problem in a camper van) or you will only have the option of a hotel over your budget etc.. Years ago, Ireland was full of Bed & Breakfasts and it was easy to drive along and stop at a house with a ‘vacancy’ sign. Things have changed! Most B&Bs are on booking platforms these days and their rooms are booked up weeks in advance. Since the Pandemic it has become even more difficult since a lot of B&B owners retired or switched to rent out the whole house as a self-catering.

  5. Irish roads can be adventurous

    If you are renting a car its 100% worth it to pay the extra bit for an insurance that covers everything that could possibly go wrong. You might be a good driver, but Irish roads are narrow, and sheep tend to appear out of nowhere. Small roads are mostly used by farmers, expect tractors, cattle or sheep traffic, or tourists that might not be used to driving on the left side of the road.

Is a road trip the best way to travel Ireland? An Irish road full with sheep

Is a road trip the right thing for me?

To sum it up: A self-planned road trip suits people with little time constraints, who don’t mind getting lost while driving on the Irish country roads. It’s perfect if you have time to do a lot of research or if you don’t have specific expectations. You can either take the time beforehand to plan your itinerary or you can just go with the flow and be amazed by randomness. The latter, it’s ideal for people traveling in a camper van since that sorts out your need for accommodation. Otherwise, pre-booking accommodation is strongly recommended, especially if you travel on a budget, even if that means less flexibility.

What’s the best road trip itinerary for Ireland?

If you are up for a road trip around Ireland without doing all the research and booking yourself, a self-drive tour might be what you are looking for.

What is a self-drive tour of Ireland?

To book a self-drive tour you get in touch with a reputable local Irish tour company and communicate with them to purchase a road-trip tour itinerary from their website. This might still involve renting a car but having the tour company co-ordinate the accommodation bookings, suggested activities, restaurants and giving you a list of hidden gems to discover.

A self-drive tour is a nice way to travel if you wish to be independent and like driving on the left side of the road on sometimes very narrow roads with lots of sheep. The tour company will take the hassle out of making bookings, will provide you with route details and ensure you don’t miss out on ticking off your bucket list.

An Irish road. Is a self drive tour the best way to travel Ireland?

Is a self-drive tour the best way to travel Ireland?

For many people the 2 main reasons for choosing a self-drive tour are independence and budget. Self-guided tours are a great way of exploring as a private group while enjoying the advantage of a professionally planned & organised itinerary.

Although in many cases it’s worth considering booking a private tour and a local guide instead of a self-drive tour. Especially if you are a group of 4 people or more, a private tour around Ireland can work out at a similar price as driving yourself, but you’ll enjoy a lot of additional advantages. For example, you can skip the hassle of driving in a foreign country and gain a fun travel companion with a lot off local knowledge.

What are alternatives to driving to get around Ireland?

Can you travel Ireland by bike?

Yes yes yes! In my opinion, a cycling tour is a great way to travel. Cycling tours can be the ultimate way of ‘slow tourism’. In this case, ‘slow’ doesn’t solely refer to your moving pace. This alternative traveling style is also about changing your attitude towards travel and realising your impact on the environment, communities and economy of your holiday destination.

Firstly, a cycling trip around Ireland is a more sustainable way of travelling. Additionally, you can get off the beaten path and experience the wild Irish landscape and local communities up close and personal.

Bikes in front of an Irish abbey. Are cycling tours the best way to travel Ireland

Why should I book a self-guided cycling tour?

A self-guided cycling tour is a great option if you want to explore Ireland on the bike. A professionally planned itinerary can spare you a lot of research time and worries. This means a tour company takes care of bookings, provides you with maps – both digital and physical – and gives you all the tips where to stop off. Usually, you can choose between bringing your belongings with you in panniers or have your luggage moved.

Can I cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way?

With Rachel’s Irish Adventures I have specialised in tailor-made cycling tours along the Wild Atlantic Way and beyond. In my opinion, the Irish west coast is one of the most beautiful places for a cycling tour you can imagine.
I know the Wild Atlantic Way like the back of my hand since I cycled it in 2016 as part of the WAWA Audax and in 2020 during the TransAtlanticWay event. Besides that, I’ve spent lots of time training and touring along this spectacular route.
Now, I’m delighted to use my knowledge and experience to tailor personalised itineraries for cyclists who want to explore the Wild Atlantic Way.

Do you have any other questions about traveling in Ireland?

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