Anam Cara Tours LLC
Frequently Asked Questions
What does anam cara mean?
In Irish anam cara means soul friend. It is pronounced AWN-um CAR-uh.
There are many tours to Ireland, why should I go on this one?
Because the group size is small, by intention, affording more space, independence and overall ease of travel. You will not wear a name tag, nor do I use a megaphone to get your attention. The group gathers ahead of departure for a meet-n-greet session, now likely by Zoom. You will connect with private guides whom I’ve met during my many travels to Ireland, sometimes dining in their homes. You will get to know me, and our Irish driver/guide, quite well. We have oodles of things to share, including songs, stories, jokes and local lore. Your wisdom and talent is also welcomed. Sometimes we are able to visit a site by special request. These opportunities don’t happen on larger tours. Plus, you are investing in a small business owned and operated by a woman!
How do you select dates for the tour?
Spring often affords fair weather in Ireland and Scotland, and it’s before tourist season which officially begins on May 1st. That’s when prices go up, plus roads and sites become congested with numerous coaches and tourists. April is also before “midge” season. These biting insects are similar to ‘no see ums’ in the US. During summer months they can be quite annoying.
What’s the weather like in spring?
Ireland’s latitude is similar to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Average daytime temps in April are 46 to 54°. April sunrise is at 6:24am, sunset at 8:27pm.
Scotland’slatitude is similar to the southern part of mainland Alaska. April is one of the driest months of the year with an average daytime temperature a comfortable 48°.
Does it rain a lot?
Ireland stays green all year long, inspiring the Johnny Cash song “Forty Shades of Green.” Rain contributes to the brilliant shades. Occasionally a storm system will come in and deliver heavy rain, ocean swells and high winds. It’s more likely that squalls will pass through. Sunny one moment, raining the next, then back to sun. I’ve had some tours without any rain at all.
Scotland also stays green year long. April is a (surprisingly) dry month with only 3.5 inches of rainfall on average across the country. Temperature in April averages 45°F to 55°.
Do I need a special visa?
A regular passport is sufficient. Be sure yours is up to date and that it doesn’t expire while on the tour or the weeks before.
On the itinerary it says “subject to change.” What does that mean?
Occasionally a site will be closed due to unforeseen circumstances, like plumbing issues or extended renovations. It’s also possible that road conditions could interfere with our travel schedule. On rare occasions the weather could impact where we are going. This would be due to strong winds or overly muddy paths. We do everything possible to replace a cancellation with something even more entertaining and interesting, without adding a cost to the travelers.
Is there a toilet on the bus?
No, but we will make frequent “comfort stops.”
I have motion sickness. Will this be a problem?
It is common to have a traveler or two with this issue. Many Irish & Scottish roads are narrow, with hills and curves. We reserve the front seats of the bus for those with sensitive tummies. They are also encouraged to consider motion sickness medications and other treatments.
What if I get sick or injured?
We will be staying in or nearby towns with access to hospitals and urgent care clinics. You will have to pay out-of-pocket. Keep the receipts and, after returning home, submit them to your health care provider. I’ve had to do this a couple of times for sinus stuff. I’m in and out of the Doctor, with meds in hand, after about 20 minutes. Both Ireland and Scotland have universal health care.
How much walking will be involved?
Our driver will drop us off and pick us up at the entrance to most sites. However, there will be walking, often on uneven stone and grassy surfaces. Sturdy walking shoes are a must, as are rubber boots or goloshes. If there is a site that you are unable to walk to with confidence, our driver will stay behind with you. Often that person has a fun experience that the group missed out on. It’s worthy to note that I’ve made my way around Ireland while recovering from a broken foot. It didn’t stop me from doing anything, but it did slow me down a bit. Perhaps I needed that?
I have special dietary needs. Will this be a problem?
Hotels and restaurants are now very accommodating regarding food needs, such as gluten free or vegetarian menu items. There will be many opportunities to shop at markets for specialty items to carry with you.
Is tap water safe to drink?
Yes, but if you are at all concerned definitely purchase bottled water.
I don’t drink alcohol. Will that be a problem?
I’ve had many people in recovery travel with us to Ireland. Unlike the U.S. there are no minimum drink requirements at the smoke-free pubs and hotel bars. Sipping a Coke or soda water is pretty normal. (I hear some of the best AA meetings are in Ireland with sober Irish people telling stories.)
What if I don’t have a roommate?
It’s always advisable to enroll your own roommate. If not, we will match you with a same sex roommate. If this is the case, you are encouraged to communicate before the tour to get acquainted, share sleep habits, etc. Single rooms are spending and discouraged by the hotels.
Do I need shots?
No shots are required when visiting Ireland or Scotland. You are advised to be up to date on your own vaccinations, if this is applicable. However, due to the pandemic, ACTours requires proof of Covid vaccination.
What about phones and internet access?
Phoning and texting can get very expensive. Check with your cell phone carrier regarding an international plan. All of the hotels state that they have free Wi-Fi service. Keep in mind that this might mean it’s available in the bar or lobby.
Are there tips for clothing?
Always think in layers. As noted about the weather, it can turn in a heartbeat. Be prepared, including a plastic rain poncho that can go in your pocket or backpack. For our group dinners, bring something to spiff up a bit. By that I mean a nice shirt/top. Otherwise, think casual.
Are there laundry facilities?
Most of our hotels will offer laundry service, for a fee that are sometimes spendy. They do not sort by color or texture. You place all of your items in one bag, located in hour hotel room, and place it at the front desk first thing in the morning. It will be ready for you by late afternoon. This is usually offered on weekdays only.
Will I have time alone?
The itineraries offer pockets of time away from the group, including the non-group dinner nights. If you’re wanting quiet bus time, that’s what the back row seats are for. If for some reason you feel like staying behind on a certain day, you are welcome to do so but always let me know in advance.
Do I need travel insurance?
It’s not required, but highly encouraged. A few years ago a woman got very ill about a week before the tour. Upon doctor’s orders, she had to drop out, as did her sister as her traveling companion. Both had paid for travelers insurance and received 100% refunds. Their airline offered them a voucher for future travel. However, most of the travelers for the cancelled 2020 tours received little or no money back from their insurers. You are advised to seek “cancel for any reason” policies.
How is the price for the tour calculated?
This is always a tricky thing because of bouncing exchange rates, precarious economies and number of travelers. The price point is set at 14 people paying full fare for the land package. Some groups have been smaller, and I’m pleased to say I never had to raise fees. Note that ACTours’ groups are intimate by intention, therefore rooms and such will cost more. I also enroll private guides who have extra fees. The tours advertised at much lower rates are because of larger numbers, which gives the tour operator incentives and savings.
What if I want to leave the tour?
Should you choose to leave the tour while in progress, you do so at your own risk. You will no longer be covered by Anam Cara Tours’ contract, nor your travel insurance policy. This has happened only once in 20 years of offering tours.
What happens when the tour is over?
Some plan to stay on or go to another destination. I will be happy to help with your planning. But remember, once you are off the tour, you’ll discover the high prices! It’s also fun to share photos that can go into a memory book that I usually produce, for cost only. Ideally, you receive them at a group reunion sometime in the later summer.