The Bottom Line
- See the flashpoints of Belfast in a comfortable and secure way.
- Get some insights into simmering tensions and age-old grudges.
- Tours can be extremely one-sided in their political bias.
- Most sights are easily explored on foot from the city center as well.
- The black taxis will take you on a tour of the (former) flashpoints of Belfast.
- Most tours take in loyalist as well as republican areas.
- Commentary will be biased, whatever the brochures claim.
Guide Review - Belfast Black Taxi Tours
"Your driver is a former political prisoner" - right, so the bloke in front once fiddled around with semtex maybe? Normally I don’t care about the past of tour guides, but this blatant advertising seems to cater for those who want to have an extra bit of frisson when seeing places where once body parts were collected in bin bags and where today colorful murals and (often none-too-subtle graffiti) are reminders that resentment is still simmering close to the surface, despite Northern Ireland having changed dramatically.
It is some sort of battlefield tourism - despite the claims of the operators that they'll present a balanced view.
A balanced view is something you’ll rarely find in Northern Ireland. And though companies occasionally claim to have "drivers from both divides" (sic), I seriously doubt that their explanations (or interpretations) of the murals are always unbiased. To a degree this may be possible. But unless your driver sees himself as a citizen with no allegiance at all ... he'll always put some blame on "the other side".
As most areas visited by the tours are actually within walking distance of the city center, exploration on foot is an alternative. This is normally quite safe as well - though tour drivers would know which particular areas to avoid on the day. And they are quicker and more comfortable.
Yes and no - I am firmly sitting in the fence here. Haing myself experienced the desire of many visitors, even the more peace-loving ones, to see the "run-down and dangerous areas of Belfast", I am sure the tours just cater for a demand.