10 Reasons to Ditch the Tour Bus and Self-Drive in Ireland

Ireland is an incredible country to visit and traditionally the group tour bus has been the way to do this but times are changing! GPS and great roads has made travelling in Ireland easier than ever so with that in mind here are our 10 best reasons to try a self-drive holiday in Ireland.

  1. No fixed dates: Coach tours only run on particular dates and last for a certain period of time and if there aren’t enough passengers, occasionally they cancel the tour all together! On a self-drive holiday you can travel for as long as you want to the dates that you want and spend as many days in each region as you wish to.
  2. Travel the scenic route: Many of Ireland’s most scenic routes are also the ‘long way round’ and often unsuitable for coaches. For this reason coach companies running to a tight schedule will take the shortest route possible but if you are in a car, you are able to take some of the most stunning coastal, mountain and countryside routes in the world.
  3. Visit your favourite attractions: Coach or mini-bus tours usually have a fixed itinerary visiting certain attractions with particular pre-booked tours already in the schedule. What inevitably happens is that you will be taken to attractions you have no interest in and stare longingly out of the window as you drive straight past something you would have loved to have stopped at. Self-drive enables you to see what you want including a visit to friends, family or to visit your Irish ancestral home if you wish!
  4. Travel at your own speed: One of the greatest limitations of a tour bus is the strict pace and itinerary that drivers must follow. Driving laws make stopping for an extra cup of tea, a bit of extra souvenir shopping or a little longer to take in the views no option. Self-drive holidays have no limitations like this. You can choose to whizz around and see everything you can possibly squeeze in or sit back and enjoy that extra cup of tea!
  5. See the best kept secrets: Companies running pre-scheduled tours will have deals set up with all the attractions visited. This means that you may be visiting a particular place not because it’s the best one but because it offers the tour company the best incentives. A self-drive tour means that you can travel off the beaten track and discover the hidden gems the tour companies simply miss out.
  6. Choose your own travel buddies: Sharing your holiday with a group of people – whether strangers or friends can be a huge blessing or a total nightmare. In any group of people it’s inevitable that there will be people you get on with and people that drive you crazy. If you’re spending a lot of money on a holiday of a lifetime, do you really want it ruined by the loud mouth couple that won’t leave you alone? A self-drive tour gets around this issue completely so you share your holiday with the people you love. If you want to take your young family with you, a coach trip is often not an option at all!
  7. Empty roads: For many people the fear of driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road is enough to put them off self-drive holidays. In Ireland the culture is laid back, relaxed, the pace is slow and the driving tends to reflect this. With a very small population there are lots of rural country roads with very little traffic at all making Ireland one of the easiest countries to drive in; even the towns and cities are relatively small and easy to navigate.
  8. Don’t get stuck in your hotel: Out of town hotels often offer the best rates and as a result are very popular with coach parties. The downside is that outside of scheduled activities you may well find that you’re stuck in your hotel for the evening or for dining when you would love to get out and about, finding a local Irish pub, watching the sunset or taking an evening stroll on the beach. A self-drive tour offers you the flexibility to come and go as you please so you’re never left stranded.
  9. Tailor made tour companies: For many the idea of a self-drive tour is just too much, having to research a foreign country, plan a route, choose hotels, find and select attractions; it’s a time consuming process! Companies like Great Irish Trips take all the stress and hassle out of planning a self-drive tour to Ireland. By simply telling them what kind of things you like, the pace you want to take, your budget level, destinations you would like to visit, even specific hotels if you wish, some tailor made tour operators will use local knowledge, contacts and expertise to plan a free no obligation itinerary for you as well as make all the bookings.
  10. Stay at your choice of hotel: Many Tour Operators are tied into deals with specific hotels, chains or brands that either offer great rates, great incentives or are part of the same group. At these hotels the price may be good but the quality or location isn’t always the best option in the area for your budget. A self-drive tour enables you to choose the hotels that are to your taste and in the most convenient location or best price. This way you can dodge the boring chain hotels and find a quaint pub, a converted manor house or even a castle to stay in!
Contributed by Ruth Lancey : Ruth Lancey is a travel enthusiast, published writer and director of a tailor made tour company Great Irish Trips, a company which exists to help visitors jump off the beaten track and discover real Ireland. 

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  1. I agree with everything that Ruth has written. But there are several reasons people don’t rent cars in Ireland
    There is no cead mile failte if you are over 75. Rental car companies won’t rent a car in Ireland to people over 75 – that especially affects the Irish returning home for family visits.

    But the biggest reason that people don’t rent cars in Ireland has to do with the cost of rental car insurance. Everywhere in the world Credit card companies provide CDW/LDW when you book and pay for a rental car on their card. There are few exceptions and Ireland is one of them. I have heard that this is not due to concerns about trouble in the North, but rather a legal issue in Ireland – mandated by the government. When the cost of insurance is added to the rental car rate it makes it unaffordable. People are then choosing to go to other European destinations where they can either rent a car with insurance more cheaply (1/2 the price or more) or where there is train service and public transportation.

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    • Hi Marybeth,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Just an FYI – many car rental companies have dropped the over 75 rule, so it’s a good idea to check first.

      You’re right, car rental insurance prices can be high… especially if you are looking at adding Super CDW. If your credit card doesn’t cover it (and as you mentioned, most do not), you can find some credit cards that still do… here’s a thread over at IrelandYes that talks about the ones that will cover insurance http://ireland.activeboard.com/t43773951/which-world-mastercards-cover-ireland-for-car-rentals-which-/

      I should note that I’ve toured Ireland using public transportation quite effectively… it can’t compete with having your own car when it comes to off-the-beaten-path places, but most towns are quite accessible.

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  3. Ireland is a beautiful country and there are so many places that you can visit. Every city is special in its own way and has a lot to offer for the tourists. Renting a car to drive around the city is a better option than using the public transport. It saves your time and is more comfortable and gives you a lot more of your private space.

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  4. Just returned from my second self drive tour. This was my first as driver. No issues, just take your time on the roads. There are lots of curvy, narrow roads which may include bicyclists and tractors! 🙂 While waiting in line at a couple different sights I talked to some people on bus tours who complained about being on a schedule and seeing things they weren’t interested in visiting. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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  5. There’s nothing better than getting lost in Ireland and finding your own hidden gem – maybe a secluded beach or crumbling old castle – Ireland always surprises me – even though I am Irish born and bred!

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  6. I am really impressed with this article and i also want to hire a car to enjoy the drive, one thing to say that once who had studied this article would always want to hire a car as you had discuss about the benefits of self drive in a very attractive way, In the last i want to say that its an awesome article very well done sir, THANKS!

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  7. Refreshing and sound advice there! Here on the West Cork peninsulas, where coaches can’t always reach to the tips(!), we really enjoy meeting those tourists who have the confidence to travel off the beaten path.
    When you opt for the self-drive route, it’s easier to take advantage of the tips from locals that are such a big part of an Irish holiday. And easier to find the hidden gems too …

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  8. My wife an I are planning to self drive Ireland and would like to stay in B&B’s as well as Pubs. Do you have any route suggestions as well as how do we procure the proper car insurance?

    Post a Reply


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