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Should 2 sisters take a tour or drive themselves around Ireland?

Should 2 sisters take a tour or drive themselves around Ireland?

Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 04:03 PM
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Should 2 sisters take a tour or drive themselves around Ireland?

My sister and I are hoping to go to Ireland in July for about 2 weeks or maybe a little less. We are in our 20's and have traveled to Europe several times before. However, we usually stick to one or two cities and travel by train between them.
From what I have researched so far, it looks like I would like to be able to travel throughout Ireland and see a lot of the country.
I was wondering what people thought about taking an escorted tour (only because it might be easier and safer?) or driving ourselves around the country. Again, this would really be the first time we would be in a car out in the middle of an unknown place. But, I am very wary of taking a tour because I know you have a very limited time in certain places and I would like to be in control of where we go and what we do. I guess I really would like to know what you all think about the ease and safety of 2 younger girls traveling around Ireland alone.

I just happened upon a tour that looked very interesting. If you wouldn't mind telling me what you think of it, I would really appreciate that. If you think we should travel on our own, is there any place we should make sure to put on our list?
Thank you so so much for your help!
:0) Joanna

CIE tours:
Day 1: Depart for Ireland

Day 2: Dublin Arrival & Tour

Day 3: 6th Century Glendalough & Abbey Tavern

Day 4: Blarney Castle & Killarney

Day 5: Dingle Peninsula Tour

Day 6: Foynes & Bunratty Ceili

Day 7: Cliffs of Moher & Galway Bay

Day 8: Connemara & Kylemore Abbey

Day 9: Knock Shrine & Belleek

Day 10: Derry & Giant's Causeway

Day 11: Ulster American Folk Park & Cabra Castle Stay

Day 12: Return Home
Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 04:53 PM
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Will either or both of you have experience driving a shift car? Most of the cars I've rented in Europe and in the U.K. do not have automatic transmission, which of course is the norm in the States. You'll be driving on the left side of the road, so you'll have that to remember also.

That being said, if I were going to Ireland, I'd probably drive because I think it's more fun. You can stay as long as you want when you're enjoying something and leave when a place or event begins to pall.

I haven't taken trains in Ireland, so I can't address that.

Another possibility is to go on your own and to take day tours.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Oops! I forgot to say that I can't think of a place in the universe that would be safer for you than Ireland.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 04:58 PM
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no, neither of us know how to drive stick. is it impossible to find automatic transmission in a rental car? that could be a major problem i guess.
i'm glad to hear its realy safe!
any suggestions on where to visit?
and any idea what the weather might be like in july?
Thanks so much!
Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:19 PM
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I had to respond, because a friend and I drove around Ireland--20 years ago!--and had a great time and still talk about our driving experiences all these years later! (no, we did not have any accidents, just one parking ticket!) It was easy and very safe and you have the opportunity to take side roads and make discoveries.
Ok, it does depend a bit on how adventurous you are, since you have to adjust to driving on the other side of the CAR and ROAD. After picking up our car at the airport, I drove around the parking lot for a while until I felt comfortable.
Yes, you can probably rent an automatic, but it may cost more; at least 20 years ago it was twice as expensive, but this may have changed, so check it out.
However, I had never driven a stick shift, but had one lesson before traveling and picked it up ok after my practice run in the airport parking lot!
On the other hand, you may enjoy an escorted tour if you like to meet other travelers.
It sounds like you are covering a lot on your trip. I have to put in a word for the town of Cork, which I loved.
But you will probably enjoy wherever you go.
I don't know what the weather will be like in July, specifically, but you can be sure it will rain at least some of the time; even if the sun is out morning when you go out in the morning, bring an umbrella, hat, raincoat! And make sure you have your camera ready to photograph the resulting rainbows!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:38 PM
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yes, i just checked the hertz website, just to see and it seems like automatic transmission is about three times as expensive. but i guess we'll just have to deal with that. thanks so far for all of the help! sounds like ireland is a fantastic choice!!!!
Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:39 PM
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Renting a car is definitely the best way to see rural Ireland. However, a car with automatic transmission will cost you big bucks. I did a quick price check with Auto Europe, a consolidator I've used and many people recommend, and found that renting a Toyota Corolla for two weeks in July will cost $230 (stick) and $650 (automatic).

Train routes are limited in Ireland. The bus will give you more options.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:42 PM
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I have been to Ireland 7 times (with #8 looming in one week) in the past seven years. -- I mention this to establish my credentials. --
Here are some observations:
1) Yes, you CAN rent automatics in Ireland, but they are more expensive.
2) The trouble with tours, like the one from CIE (a good company, by the way) is they should be called "The Green Blur Trough The Bus Window" Tour. In all my trips to Ireland (each trip averaging 8-16 days)I still have not seen everything on that CIE itinerary! And, IMHO, NOBODY should try to see that much, in that number of days.
3)Bar none, the BEST way to see/experience Ireland is by car. If you can not or will not drive there, you can hire a driver (expensive), travel by train (limited destinations), or by bus between larger destinations, or any combination. Once situated in a location, you can opt to sign on to take any number of smaller, more personable, day tours.
Ireland outside of the bigger cities (Dublin, Belfast, Limmerick, Cork)is infinitely safer than almost any country, and even the urban areas are safer than most. Yes, there IS crime, and some of it IS violent, but with reasonable common sense, Ireland is probably as safe (or safer) than your own home town.
There is a CLASSIC 'Single Girl Touring Ireland Alone' thread in the archives here. I'll try to find the link for you, or just do a SEARCH for CRAZY MINA. It's a great read and should be quite informative, as well.

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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:46 PM
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OK, here's Mina's:


You can also do a SEARCH for TOURING IRELAND WITHOUT A CAR. There are a few good posts that I remember seeing that might be helpful.

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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:49 PM
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We just returned from Dublin. Second trip to Ireland this year. We rented an automatic....about 20 euros more for the day. This trip we were only in Dublin for a week & only rented for a car for a day trip. Last May we rented a car for three weeks.
The cost for an automatic was about 15% higher.

Ireland is very safe....and the people are so open & friendly. I would discourage a tour....go with the flow. So many of our marvelous memories are about the spontaneous adventures of the Irish....we'd go into one shop & they would suggest a pub or restaurant or church or beach....

You'd miss all the fun!!

Go & have a blast....see where the road takes you!!!!!!!!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:56 PM
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We have rented a car in the UK several times (Scotland, not Ireland). We usually decide to pay the extra $$ and rent automatic. I figure that I am dealing with enough trying to negotiate driving on the other side in an unfamiliar location without trying to shift with the other hand in an unaccustomed gear shift pattern! Just wait for the roundabouts (I'm assuming they're in Ireland)!! Worth it, though.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 08:10 PM
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Definitely rent the automatic and see Ireland by car, but do not try to follow the CIE tour. Itallian_Chauffer's Green Blur description is right on. You will get a lot of photo ops, but you will only being seeing sites and NOT the country.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 08:34 PM
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You can tell the tourists driving near Shannon airport, because windshield wipers will be going on a sunny day. They've turned them on with their left hand when they meant to hit turn signal. Another tricky thing is remembering to glance the correct way when pulling onto a roadway; you make that quick last glance to the left, but the traffic in the near lane comes from the right. We had jetlag from overnight flight when we picked up our car, so that added to the confusion of it all. That said, my goodness yes take the car and meander where the road takes you (and may the wind be at your back.)
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 08:34 PM
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Yikes!! The tour itinerary sounds ambitious! My personal feeling is that you are better off on your own as long as you are reasonably comfortable driving. An automatic just might be worth the extra euros.

We have driven the length and breadth of Ireland, and it was a WONDERFUL experience. Yes, we did have a flat tire, were delayed by sheep being driven down the road, and we drove into a ditch (a passing country bus stopped and the men aboard got off and lifted the car back onto the road), but it was all part of the experience - a wonderful experience.

In my opinion, Ireland does not lend itself to the hurry, hurry of a tour. It is a lovely, leisurely culture, with lovely, beautiful scenery -- best enjoyed at your own pace. If there are a few mishaps along the way -- so be it...

We did take a train on one trip to Ireland, but felt limited. A car is better.

We've explored Donegal, County Clare, the Dingle Peninsula, Dublin, and places in between. The Irish people are wonderful, warm, friendly people - and I think you are as safe there as anywhere.

My vote is drive, take your time, and enjoy. If you don't see everything on your first trip -- well, Ireland has been there for many years; you can always return.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 12:58 AM
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jhg - Hi. My situation is much like yours. In May, my 19 year old sister and I (I'm 23 - well, 24 on Sunday) are going to Ireland for 10 days. Neither of us have been to Europe. We considered an organized tour on a bus, which would be easier planning wise, don't have to worry about logistics of getting from place to place - things are all worked out by someone else. But my sister and I both decided that we wanted to have more freedom to see what we were most interested in, to spend as much time as we want in certain places. We decided to go with renting a car, we wanted the flexibility that it allows. The two of us are excited to get in the car and see what happens.

Some of our family are a bit concerned about the two of us young women traveling by ourselves but I think we'll be fine. We'll be smart, use common sense, stay together especially after dark as we head out of a pub etc.

Also, about renting cars - automatics are available and they are more expensive. Since my sister is only 19 I will be the one doing the driving and I decided what with having to think about driving on the left on unfamiliar roads that I wanted to go with an automatic. Just makes things a little easier for me. (BTW - just a little info about us renting...I just confirmed an 8 day rental with Dan Dooley - the smallest car size, an automatic for $240.)

Anyway, this is just what we felt was best for us. You and your sister will have to decide what will be the best for you two.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 02:07 AM
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If you're flying into Dublin, check out http://www.paddywagontours.com
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 03:42 AM
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i just want to put in a word for renting a car. My sister and I always do, and many of our fondest memories are from our time in the car. You just have to be careful to pull over if you get to laughing too hard.

I haven't visited Ireland yet, but we were in England and Wales in 2001 and had a ball squeezing past oncoming drivers on narrow country roads, with stone fences coming right up to the edge. A sharp intake of my breath told my sister she was too close to the stone wall.

Gosh, it was fun! Easy for me to say, hun? She was the one doing the driving.

If you rent a car, before you leave the rental agency, have a checklist ready to go through to make sure you know how and have tried:

To put the car in reverse (this is a famous shared embarrassment of Fodorites)

Turn on the headlights and the windshield wiper

Open the cap to the gas tank.

I hope you are able to go and that you have a marvelous time.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 06:23 AM
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thank you all so so much for all of your help!
i think you have convinced me to rent a car and spend a little extra for the automatic transmission.
i was thinking that the tour i mentioned in the first post probably stopped at all of the important places? but it sounds like some of you disagree? does anyone have any suggestions about a route or itinerary?
again, thanks again so much. you all sound like we made the right choice!
:0) joanna
Old Mar 24th, 2006, 06:26 AM
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And yet another vote (if you still need it!) to getting in a car and driving. That 'green blur' tour is just that!

I have trip report from both times I've been to Ireland, both driving, here, as well as my planned trip for 2006 summer:


I don't like tour busses -- they never stop where I want to stop, or go too quickly (or slowly) through other spots. CHoose your own path! I am not much of a shopper, and tour busses tend to stay where the most money can be spent - touristy gift shops. I prefer touring the ancient sites, abbeys and castles, and will take an hour or more just exploring a place.

Safe, safe, safe, safe, safe! I am from Miami, so I know unsafe when I see it. I never even felt unsafe in Dublin at night. It's a wonderful place, and you WON'T get to meet the people if you're encased in a tour bus
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Rent a car(pay extra for the automatic).Ireland is just about 300 miles long and 175 miles wide so 2 weeks would be fairly good to see most of it.Better still would be to spend the two weeks in the southern half (do the northern half next time you come) or vice versa.Donegal is the most beautiful county in Ireland with spectacular mountains and beaches. Dont miss Dingle, Ring of Beara, Connemara, County Kilkenny with its wonderfully maintained medieval city, try to get out to the Aran Islands for one day and rent a bike for a total chill out. The Skelligs off Valentia are amazing. Tory Island off the Donegal coast. As in any part of the world, when in Ireland keep your wits about you and use common sense regarding your personal safety. Do not hitch-hike. The weather is so unpredictable. It should be about 18-20 degrees at least but bring warm sweaters and wind cheaters.(Its 11degrees here today). Have a wonderful holiday and come back again!
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