CIE Tours is a tour company with a specialty: Ireland. It has been running tours there since 1932 and is currently the largest U.S.-based tour operator that specializes in Ireland. And though CIE Tours has grown to include tours to other countries in the U.K., plus Italy and Iceland, its connection to Ireland remains front and center. That’s largely because it’s owned in part by the Irish government’s national transport company, CIÉ Group (Córas Iompair Éireann).
BEST OF THE BEST: Best Tour Companies for Guided Tours
According to CIE Tours: “This semi-state ownership provides CIE Tours with the stability and reputation of the Irish government behind it.” The company is also noteworthy for its variety of tour types, including standard coach tours, small group tours, independent drive tours, and private tours.
- Countries: CIE Tours is an Ireland tour specialist but also offers tours to Scotland, England & Wales, Italy, and Iceland
- Tour Size Average: Standard coach departures max out at 44; small group tours have a maximum of 26 guests. There are also independent self-drive options.
- Tour Type: Primarily coach but there are also self-drive options
How to Book
To book a CIE Tour, you can either book directly with the company or via a travel agent.
CIE Tours isn’t BBB accredited, but it is partially owned by the Irish government’s national rail transport company. It has a large number of ratings on user-review sites, including 4/5 on Tripadvisor, 4.6 out of 5 on Feefo based on past guest ratings, and 4.2 out of 5 on Facebook.
CIE Tours is a specialist operator that focuses on tours to Europe, and specifically Ireland and Britain for guests from North America. It offers escorted and independent tours to Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, and also has itineraries to Italy and Iceland.
CIE Tours has nearly 40 pre-set itineraries that range from five-day tours to multiweek trips. CIE Tours’ trip formats include:
- Guided Vacations: Led by local tour directors, CIE Tours’ Guided Vacations suited to solo travelers, couples, groups, and adult families. These tours have up to 44 people per departure and utilize luxury coaches.
- Small Group Vacations: CIE Tours’ Small Group Vacations are designed for people who prefer to travel with a smaller group. Maxing out at 26 people, these tours still use full-sized coaches, so guests have plenty of room to stretch out (and claim a window seat).
- Group Vacations: Groups of 10 or more people can arrange to join a larger group on an existing departure or travel privately on an escorted tour. CIE Tours can also custom craft itineraries to suit the preferences of a group, and can focus on anything from ancestry or history to culinary adventures.
- Custom Private Driver Vacations: Designed for groups up to nine people, CIE Tours’ Custom Private Driver Vacations include a private car and driver who mixes local history and insider stories with groups. These tours can be based on a pre-curated itinerary or can be customized for the group.
- Independent Adventures: Independent Adventures give you the structure of an itinerary, curated accommodations, and the self-drive flexibility to move at your own speed. There are both pre-set routes and the option to create your own custom route.
CIE Tours have a 95% guest satisfaction rating, due in large part (according to the company) to the strength of its tour directors. Guides receive extensive training before becoming CIE tour directors, and then participate in annual workshops to make sure they’re offering guests the most current information and the best experience. And since CIE guides are locals, they are able to offer an insider point of view plus untold history and local legends.
CIE Tours’ All-In Inclusive Advantage bundles everything on the itinerary in the up-front price for guided tours. Built into the price are:
- Most meals, including daily hot breakfast
- All entrance fees to attractions and experiences
- Traditional entertainment
- All on-tour transportation
- Free Wi-Fi on coaches and in hotels
- CIE Tours travel pack, including high quality backpack and documents holder, luggage strap and tags, travel converters, guidebooks and more
- Handling of one suitcase per person throughout vacation
- All local taxes and hotel service charges
Airfare isn’t included in the base price, but the company offers flight bookings that include complimentary airport transfers plus assistance if flights are canceled.
Guests on CIE Tours generally are between 45 and 70 years old. Most are from the U.S. and Canada. Only about 5% of CIE Tours guests are solo travelers; the majority of guests on guided tours are couples or people traveling with friends or family. Since CIE Tours has a strong Great Britain and Ireland focus, it attracts a fair number of travelers looking to learn more about their roots.
SOLO TRAVEL TOGETHER: 10 Best Tour Companies for Solo Travel
About three weeks before the start date of a tour, U.S.-based guests will receive a backpack that includes printed version of all travel documents and vouchers, a document holder, luggage strap and tags, travel converters, and guidebooks. Guests based outside of the U.S. receive the travel pack at the first hotel upon check-in. Guests can also access electronic versions of the travel documents through the CIE Tours website.
CIE Tours has a straightforward approach to rewarding repeat guests. It offers a past guest discount of $150 per person on guided tours or $75 on self-drive trips. The discount can be combined with other promotions for additional savings.
CIE Tours’ private options are private group tours and private driver tours:
- Custom Private Driver tours allow up to nine passengers the chance to design their own itinerary and set their own pace. Private Driver tours are available in Ireland, Britain, and Iceland.
- Group Vacation tours allows groups of 10 or more passengers to travel privately on their own coach on an existing CIE itinerary or a custom itinerary. Private Group Vacations are available for all CIE Tours’ destinations.
With both options, CIE Tours’ vacation specialists do all the planning. Once on tour, travelers get the expertise of a knowledgeable local Tour Director who leads the group and manages logistics.
CIE Tours is in the early stages of developing its company’s sustainability program. As a U.S. tour operator with an Ireland focus, the company is a major contributor to the rural regions of Ireland, and seeks to support a “wide range of small, local independent businesses.” The company participates in national and local efforts to protect and share the heritage of the destinations in which it operates.
Health and Safety Practices
CIE Tours has comprehensive health and safety standards and works closely with our local partners to align with country-specific health protocols. CIE Tours tour directors are trained to handle a variety of situations including illnesses and emergencies. Additionally local support teams on the ground are on call 24/7, with systems and protocols in place for guest safety.
CIE Tours is a wholly owned subsidiary of holding company, CIÉ Group (Córas Iompair Éireann), the Irish government’s national transport company. CIE Group also operates Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Irish Rail.