Are you planning a motorbike tour in Ireland? Congratulations, you have made a great decision, you will love Ireland!
You already know when and how long you will be in Ireland, where you want to go and what you want to see - but what is still missing, are the accommodations?
Then here are some tips on how to choose and book your accommodation.
1) Decide how far in advance you want to book.
2) Plan realistic daily distances
3) Roughly choose the location or region for your overnight stay.
4) Choose your preferred setting - city or rural
5) Choose your budget and comfort level - low, medium or high
6) Choose your accommodation format: hotel, B&B, hostel or castle/manor
7) Choose the services that are important to you
8) Check the location in Google Maps
9) Check suitable options in booking.com
10) Check suitable options in airbnb.com
11) Check the availability of your selected options
12) Check reviews for available options
13) Compare photos of your booking platform with Google Street View.
14) Decide how / with which platform you want to book
15) Choose your preferred payment method and book your accommodation.
Are there still uncertainties in your planning, or is everything clear? The flight is postponed, the Covid travel conditions change, a nasty flu suddenly sets in, you want to stay longer than planned in a beautiful region, etc....In any case, it's good to have a little flexibility in your bookings, just in case.
If you want to travel in the early or late season, i.e. from early April to mid-May, or from late August to October, you may not need to book too far in advance. This time of the year, good accommodation can be found only a few days before arrival, or even while on the way.
From mid-May to the end of August, I recommend booking your accommodation in advance. In these months, hotels and B&Bs are well booked, and it can be nerve-wracking and expensive if you are too late. But then it is important to look at the cancellation policy: If you can cancel free of charge up to one or two days before arrival, that's a big advantage.
Riding a motorbike in Ireland means riding a lot of small beautiful narrow and bumpy country roads. You will cover less distance than in some other countries. 200-250 km is often a good guide for a day of riding in Ireland.
If you do arrive at your hotel surprisingly early, you can always add a loop. However, if you plan too long a day and then realise at lunchtime that most of the route is still ahead of you, you will only stress yourself out unnecessarily during your holiday.
Now you have roughly planned your route with realistic daily distances and, as a result, the places where you will spend the night are almost self-evident. Usually, you have several options from which you can pre-select a "wish list" or short list of places.
Do you want to rush into the nightlife of the city centre in the evening, or would you rather spend the night in peace and quiet in a small B&B on the mountain with a distant view of the sea? The wishes are different - it's good if you already think about your priorities.
If you like a quiet stay, the city centre hotel in a larger city like Cork, Galway, Londonderry or Belfast might not be the best choice - but there are certainly nice places to stay on the outskirts or outside the city.
When it comes to accommodation, Ireland is certainly not a cheap country. So, it's important that you set yourself an approximate budget for your bookings:
Overnight prices in high season per night with breakfast for one person:
Decent/good B&Bs cost about 90-130€ in high season.
Decent hotels are about 120-140€.
Upscale hotels start at 140€.
Hostels and simple B&Bs can be booked much more cheaply, often with a significant reduction in comfort and features.
If you book without breakfast, you usually save 10-15 euros per night. Outside the cities it is cheaper and off the high season it is significantly cheaper.
The classic form of accommodation in Ireland is the B&B. Especially in rural areas you will find very pretty, little houses with only 4 or 5 guest rooms, which are often run by a charming elderly couple with a lot of dedication to the wellbeing of their guests.
You will be warmly welcomed, receive the best travel tips from the locals and you will enjoy a phantastic home cooked breakfast in the morning.
You may not know exactly how to fit your motorbike luggage into your small room with at least 20 plush pillows, but you experience the most amazing hospitality that you will remember for a long time.
The downside: You should arrive at "civil" times, never late at night. You might also want to confirm your booking by phone to make sure everything works out, and it's best to have enough cash with you in case the card machine or Wi-Fi don't work again today.
If you prefer a professional service and a reception desk that is available around the clock, then you'd better go to a good hotel.
And if money is no object, Ireland also has the most beautiful manor houses, castles, and estates where you can stay in splendid luxury.
A tip for all "normal mortals" among us: Treat yourself to one or two really great accommodations and save on your budget on other days with cheaper accommodation – a good mix is key!
In my opinion, the most important service is the option to cancel the booking free of charge.
A bathroom ensuite is not always included in older B&Bs and small hotels, sometimes there is a bath or a separate bathroom in the corridor. Make sure you choose the right room with bathroom included (ensuite). Whether you need a TV, a minibar or a gym - write down the things that are important to you on your wish list.
At the end of a long day, you probably don't feel like hiking with 4 pieces of luggage in your heavy motorcycle gear...? Neither do I, which is why I make sure that the accommodation has parking spaces right by the house.
In the countryside that is usually not a problem, but in some city hotels the advertised underground car park tends to be two blocks away and will cost a fortune extra.
How do you find out? Take a look at the aerial photos in Google Maps, where you can see parking spaces and the surroundings of the hotel very well.
Is there an industrial area, a railway line or a motorway right next door? You can easily check this with the Google Maps satellite view as well.
Booking.com is a platform that is very common in Ireland. Search the pre-selected properties, look at the photos and get an idea of availability, facilities and prices. And read the cancellation policy!
An alternative to Booking.com is Airbnb. This platform is also very popular in Ireland.
Both booking platforms show you directly whether rooms are available in the selected hotels / B&Bs on your dates and at what prices.
But don't give up immediately if there is no availability. Often, the hotels do not give all their allotments to booking.com and if you book on their hotel homepage or call them, you can often still get a room.
You can find reviews on booking platforms and, for example, on Tripadvisor or Google Maps. Be careful, the rating number (e.g. an 8.7 at booking.com) is not always meaningful. Also read some of the guests comments and get an idea if they suit you.
The internet is patient. The beautiful photos on the hotel website may be 20 years old and the photos in Google Street View or Google Maps looks completely different – this does occasionally happen.
Just as the neighbouring railway line or motorway is probably not mentioned on the hotels website - just check Google Maps satellite view to find out.
Everyone has their preferences and if you trust one platform more than another, then that will be your best platform.
Payment methods usually include the option to pay directly or to pay at the accommodation. With the direct payment option, the prices are usually better - but check what this means for the cancellation option.
There are usually several payment options, from Paypal to credit card and direct debit to Google Pay and Apple Pay. Usually the booking must be secured with your credit card, regardless of the payment method. If you don't have a credit card yet, you should apply for one for your upcoming travels.
Yes, I admit it, this all sounds very complicated, but don't worry, it will soon become second nature to you and it won't take any longer than reading this text.
I'm not very interested in accommodation, hotels or B&Bs myself. Planning the most stunning motorbike route is much more interesting to me than choosing my accommodation.
But a long motorbike touring day can also be exhausting. And after a long day “in the saddle”, a good shower, a solid sleep and a good breakfast are exactly what you need to recover. You want to get back on the bike the next day refreshed and highly motivated.
Take some time to choose and book your accommodation, and you will enjoy your well-deserved holidays even more!
Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg, January 2022
Photo credit: easycruiser.tours
Sources: Google Maps, www.booking.com, www.airbnb.de