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Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Featured, Irish Travel Resources, Q&A | 4 comments

6 Tips for Choosing a Tour in Ireland

There’s an Irish motor coach tour (bus tour) for foodies, history buffs, golfers, ghost hunters, castle-lovers, even new-agers, but year after year tourists can’t resist the itinerary that has been bedazzled with the longest list of sites… no matter how many hours they’ll end up bumping around in the bus.

If you’re finding yourself wooed by the big-list tour, PUT DOWN THE BROCHURE! It’s those laundry list schedules that give bus tours a bad name. Instead, consider these tips when choosing a tour:

  1. Avoid “grand tours.” In tour operator talk, “grand tour” usually means “we’re-packing-in-more-than-we-should-because-people-like-to-see-a-really-long-checklist-of-places-they’ll-visit.” Instead, choose a tour that focuses on a region or theme, and although you won’t cover as much ground, you’ll actually see more. Fact is, if you want to “see it all,” you’ll need to extend your visit.
  2. Watch out for “bribed” tour guides. Although distilleries, crystal factories, and woolen mills can be fascinating stops, be on alert if every stop on your itinerary describes gift shops and souvenirs… some tour guides stick to places that offer kickbacks. The best tours also include experiences and access to things the average visitor might miss.
  3. Research your accommodations, meals, and other “extras.” Some travelers choose a tour solely on the itinerary and price. Looking a little deeper may help you avoid frustration with lackluster accommodations, sub par meals, unexpected add-on fees, or getting stuck with a crowd that is older or younger than you were expecting.
  4. Sign up for email updates. If you’re not sure when you plan to travel, but you’ve found some tour operators you like, sign up for their email list. They’ll let you know about specials and new tours. Discover Ireland also announces specials via email. Just remember to refer to #3 above when you find a deal.
  5. Don’t be afraid to travel solo. Tours attract a diverse group of people, so they can be a wonderful way to share your travel experience. Tour companies usually charge an extra “single suppliment” fee for solo travelers, but you can sometimes avoid this fee by booking at off-peak times or offering to “share” your accommodations with another traveler. And if you really want to go, pay the extra and take the tour you want.
  6. Extend your visit. Tour operators are happy to help you extend your stay a few days or weeks. This can give you extra time to see sites not covered on your tour, conduct some genealogical research, or visit with friends. If you’re leery about transportation, buses, trains, cabs, and day tours can get you where you want to go.

Do you have a bus tour tip? Add it to the comments.

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4 Comments

  1. I went on two consecutive tours in 12 days with Vagabond Tours. I did not count on how much of an effect the tour guide/driver would have on the overall experience. Fortunately Irish law limits the number of consecutive hours a driver can work, therefore our Guide/driver was switched 2 times for first one week trip. The first guide,Jane, was a lovely, the second guide was condescending, pompous and moody. He refused to stop at the Cliff of Moher as we drove pass it! My experience was so awful with him that I would have dropped out of the second 5 day tour had I been able to have my money refunded. Thankfully, Sam, our guide for the 5 day North of Ireland tour was amazing!!! Kind, easy going, funny, and knowledgeable. Having Sam as our Guide changed the entire tour experience. Our tour group all agreed that we would love to have Sam be our guide for a world trip! I now know it is a chance you take when going on a tour…

    Besides the one difficult tour guide the Vagabond tours were great. The small size makes it much easier to travel with a more casual schedule. The daily hikes were beautiful. The accommodations they had booked were all very nice. All the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable about all things Irish.

  2. think B&B Ireland new idea of having different levels of vouchers is not a good decision our family have used Irish Ferries to travel back to Ireland for years and used the accommodation vouchers for our 1st and last nights near the ferry ports and this year our voucher restricts us in the type of B&B we can use, we will not be including your vouchers in our package any more, we only became aware of this when we had to pay for our “upgrade this week end” . It was the same package we had always purchased from Irish Ferries. Sneaky increase is what this is.
    AVOID VOUCHER SYSTEM BOOK DIRECT WITH B&B OWNERS

  3. Hey there Corey..
    Great advice. I was thinking of doing the 4 day deluxe Southwest tour with Paddywagons Tour guide. I am 54 & hostels aren’t built for my body..LOL The tour starts in Dublin & goes to Connamara, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Penninsula, Killarney, then over the Cork & Kerry mountains to Blarney Castle & back to Dublin. ALL THIS PLUS B&B’s $523.00. I think it sounds like a great deal. Do you have any feed back on this tour??

    • I’ve never taken a Paddywagon tour, but I’ve heard good things about them… but those comments also included mentions of a young, somewhat party-going crowd who didn’t mind hostels with firm beds and thin pillows.

      That said, I talked to one person who was young at heart, but definitely not Paddywagon’s usual demographic, say she had a great time hanging out with the young crowd… she said they kind of watched out for her like she was their “cool” aunt.

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