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When it comes to travel styles, I’m kind of all over the map.
I’ve traveled solo and with friends and family; on road trips, train trips, and bus trips; independently but also on large group guided tours.
I’m a firm believer that there’s no one “right” way to travel, or even a “correct” way to visit any specific destination. The only right way is the way that’s right for you at any given time.
So today, let’s talk about Ireland and why you actually might WANT to travel there on an organized tour.
Traveling to Ireland
Ireland is a very popular country for people to want to visit – especially Americans, who often can trace part of their ancestry back to the Emerald Isle. (Ireland’s history is filled with emigration, and it’s estimated that 70 million people around the world can trace their roots back there.)
I’m one of those people with Irish ancestry, and have been to Ireland 6 or 7 different times now (honestly, I’m starting to lose count!). And I’ve experienced the country in a different way nearly every time.
- I’ve taken the ferry to Ireland from Wales and did a home stay.
- I’ve traveled around Ireland with an Irish rock band (true story).
- I’ve based myself in Dublin and taken day trips from there.
- I’ve gone on a breakneck-speed backpacker tour where I stayed in hostels.
- I’ve road tripped around Ireland with family, and with my husband (check out my Ireland road trip itinerary).
- And I’ve done the big bus tour of Ireland highlights, too.
And you know what? Every single trip to Ireland has been great at the particular time of my life that I did it.
Ireland is not necessarily a difficult destination to visit (it’s fairly easy to get to, people speak English and are very nice, etc.), and I’m sure some travel “experts” will tell you that you absolutely don’t need to take a tour there.
But, having explored Ireland myself in ALL the ways, I can confidently say that there are plenty of reasons why you might want to book an organized tour.
7 reasons to take a tour in Ireland
Travel styles are subjective, and can shift and change depending on your age, what your interests are, and where you’re going. If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Ireland and aren’t sure whether you should do it independently or on a tour, here are a few things to consider.
I recently did an 8-day trip in Ireland with a company called Globus Journeys, which is known for its extensive roster of guided tours all around the world. (Yes, this was a paid partnership, but no, they aren’t writing this post!) I went on their “Green with Envy: Ireland By Design” tour, which is part of the Globus Choice Touring line and allows you a little bit more freedom than your average group tour.
Since this wasn’t my first guided tour of Ireland (it was actually my third in the last 15 years!), I took notes this time on the things that I loved the most about seeing Ireland in this way.
So without further ado, a guided tour of Ireland might be right for you if…
1. You don’t want to drive in Ireland
This is perhaps the biggest sign that a tour of Ireland might be the right fit for you. Driving in Ireland isn’t like driving in the US, or even in other parts of Europe.
First, you drive on the left side of the road in Ireland, with the driver sitting on the right side of the car. (So, backwards for American drivers.)
Ireland also doesn’t have huge highways; many of the roads are just two lanes, and many of those roads are very narrow and lined on both sides with ancient stone walls. One-lane roads are not uncommon in the Irish countryside.
Renting a car and driving in Ireland, therefore, is a daunting task for a lot of people – and it’s completely understandable!
You DO get used to driving on the left, and if you rent a small enough car the narrow roads won’t be an issue. But if you’d rather not deal with that stress at all (or the price of rental cars, which have increased astronomically in the last few years), then a guided tour might be the way to go.
2. You’re traveling with a multigenerational group
I’ve actually written before about how Ireland is a great destination for a multi-generational trip. It’s a relatively easy country to travel in, and there’s something to appeal to just about everyone.
If you’re traveling with multiple generations (maybe you and your parents, or parents, teens, and grandparents), though, it can be tough to plan one trip for all those travel styles at once. And if you add in things like mobility issues or consider that renting a vehicle for a group of 4-6 adults can get very pricey, then a tour might start to seem very appealing.
A tour where people can pick and choose different activities (like Globus’ Choice Touring itineraries) can be a great way to make sure everyone can do what they like while still being on the same trip together.
3. You want someone else to handle logistics
Speaking of things like dealing with rental cars and hotel bookings and all the various other things that go into planning a trip… if you don’t like dealing with all of that, then a guided tour is definitely for you.
All of the details and bookings are rolled into your tour – sometimes they can even offer you help with booking airfare, too.
You guide (and driver) are the ones responsible for figuring out the timing of your days, getting you from Point A to Point B, securing attraction entrance tickets, and checking you into hotels. When you book a fully guided tour, all you really have to do is pay attention to what time you need to be on the bus each day.
I do a lot of independent travel and can tell you that it’s only gotten MORE stressful since 2020. Now along with figuring out where to stay and how to get around, you also have to think about pre-booking things like museum visits and even meals. Having someone else handle all those details on a big bucket list trip is seriously so nice.
4. You want to travel with a expert
In Ireland, good tour companies hire local tour guides who can not only share the history and stories of the places you visit, but also share with you their unique perspectives of growing up and living in Ireland.
On my Globus tour, we had a lovely local tour guide who not only made sure we were where we needed to be each day, but also shared SO much about the places with visited, whether it was the history of a city or a local story or legend about a lake or mountain.
5. You want to get off the tourist trail
This might seem counter-intuitive when we’re talking about group tours where you’re traveling around on a bus. But organized tours often include stops at places that you may not have thought to stop on your own.
On my “Green With Envy” tour, for example, I chose an optional day trip that took us to Achill Island, the largest offshore island in Ireland. Globus is currently the only large tour company that visits this wild part of Ireland, and we had all the viewpoints and stunning beaches basically to ourselves!
Organized tours also sometimes get access to attractions or experiences that independent tourists don’t.
For example, on my Globus trip, we stopped at a rural sheep farm where we had lunch inside a charming old thatched house and got to meet the sheep farmer and his sheep dogs. This was a lovely stop, but the average visitor to Ireland cannot book it themselves.
6. You’re bad at making decisions
Don’t like researching hotels, planning driving routes, or deciding how many nights to spend in each city? Then a guided tour might be right for you.
I know that planning a trip on your own can be really overwhelming, and sometimes it’s nice to not have to make any major decisions beyond which tiny Irish pub you’re going to listen to live music at after dinner.
Some travelers prefer the freedom of independent travel, but I also really appreciate the trips I take where no major travel decisions have to be made by me every day.
7. You want to day-drink whiskey
Lastly, if you want to appreciate all the great Irish whiskey in Ireland (I mean, it was in Ireland that whiskey distilling was first “invented,” after all!), then you probably don’t want to rely on self-driving unless you’re traveling with a designated driver who doesn’t drink.
Ireland’s drunk driving laws are very strict; the legal limit is a BAC of 0.05, which many people will reach after just one drink.
So if you want to visit distilleries or enjoy an Irish coffee in the morning, consider letting someone else do the driving.
(On my Globus trip, we visited two distilleries plus the Guinness Storehouse, and made a stop for Irish coffees almost every morning. It was great not to have to stress about getting behind the wheel afterwards!)