Tours: Self-guided vs Guided Bus Tours

Below we list the pros and cons of guided versus self-guided tours across Ireland. No matter which approach you take, you should make sure you take in our ‘101-Must-Visit’ locations, the best places to go across Ireland based on our experience and feedback from our members.

One of the most important decisions you'll make when planning your trip to Ireland, is how you'll get around once you arrive. To drive or be driven – that is the question. Is it better to join a guided bus tour, or strike out on your own in a rental car?

As with any big decision it's important that you do your homework, and to make that job easier we've come up with a list of pros and cons for each mode of travel.

To Drive: Self Guided Car Tour


  1. There are many advantages to a self driven car tour, not the least of which is the fact that you are in charge of the experience. If you want to linger at a breathtaking view, or spend the day in a charming village you can. You have no one to answer to but yourself, and while you won't cover as much territory this way, the experience will be your own.
  2. When travelling by car, you are by default, a smaller group and this can work to your advantage. Talking to the locals is the best way to get a true feel for a place, and many people are quite willing to engage in conversation with a lone traveler or two.
  3. You get to choose your travelling companions. When travelling with friends and family you can relax and enjoy yourself. You know these people and (hopefully), know what to expect from them. As long as you choose your companions wisely, travelling together can result in fond memories that will last a lifetime.
  4. If you're on a budget self drive tours are an economical choice. Many tour companies offer incredible rates on car tour packages.


  1. The art of driving on the left hand side of the road is a skill which comes easier to some than others. If you're one of the others, you might want to reconsider this mode of transportation. Throw in a rental car with a manual transmission, and the difficulties spiral off the chart. Unless you're a very adaptable driver, this may not be the most relaxing way to go.
  2. When you're driving a car and wish to get from point A to Point B without causing an international incident, it's important to keep your eyes on the road. You'll also want to watch for unexpected roadside impediments – wandering flocks of sheep for example.
  3. The roads in Ireland are narrow, and if you meet a tour bus going the other way you'll be expected to back up until the other vehicle can get around you. Also, road signs can be confusing, (especially when written Gaelic), and distances may be shown in Kilometers instead of miles. Should you find yourself hopelessly lost, just follow a tour bus to the next destination. They're always going somewhere fun.

To Be Driven: Guided Bus Tours


  1. If you are a novice traveler or just don’t feel up to planning a complicated overseas vacation, a bus tour is the perfect solution. With this option you simply peruse a selection of tour options, and sign on the dotted line. From that moment everything from food, to lodgings and entertainment are taken care of.
  2. Have you ever wandered around a foreign country and puzzled over what you were seeing? Tour bus guides have all the answers. They’re well versed in the history and details of the area, and can steer you away from hucksters and scam artists, thus ensuring a safe and pleasant trip.
  3. If you enjoy meeting new people and experiencing a variety of personalities and ideas, you’ll love being part of a tour group. You may start out as a group of strangers, but if you’re lucky, you’ll end as a group of lifelong friends.
  4. Suffering from jet lag? No problem. You can sleep without risking anyone’s life, and still arrive promptly at your intended destination.


  1. For obvious reasons, guided tours tend to be more expensive. There are many ways to conserve, i.e. going in off seasons and comparison shopping, but don’t get too carried away - choosing a tour company simply because they’re the cheapest is never a good idea.
  2. Bus tours are planned to please the majority, and while every stop may not be to your liking you get to participate anyway. Initially you have many plans to choose from, but if you hate to waste even a minute of your precious travel time, group travel may not be for you.
  3. Speaking of group travel – the walk of shame is the another word for the experience of making your way to your seat after you’ve kept a bus full of people waiting for 20 minutes. If you are one who simply cannot stick to a schedule, opt for another form of travel.

In Conclusion:

Enjoying the sights and sounds of Ireland is an exciting and unforgettable experience. Travel options should be based on your personality, driving skills, budget and personal requirements.

Cultural Map of Ireland