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Advice on Renting a Car

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Advice on Renting a Car

We are in the UK for 4 days. Two in Salisbury to visit Stonehenge and Bath. Two in London to see the various sites. Public transportation from Heathrow to Salisbury and then around Salisbury is very time consuming. I'm considering renting a car, it would be cheaper and easier to travel on our own schedule. How difficult is it to drive and get around? I'm considering returning it when in London and using public transportation then. I'm a little worried about driving on the other side of the road!

somewhere out there
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1. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Hi JenJen,

Don't be afraid to rent a car so long as you plan ahead you will be fine.

Rent the smallest automatic you can get , gas is expensive here, it will save you money and also because of the spatial differences that occur when you drive on the "other side" a small car will help with that.

Pick up and drop off at Heathrow and don't drive into London.

You will drive out of the London area on a divided highway, giving you time to get used to driving, most of the way to Salisbury is on divided highway.

Buy yourself a good map before you leave the US and study it well so you can become 'familliar" with the lay of the land.

Watford
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2. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Hello and welcome to the forum.

I would agree with Anemone. Salisbury is only about a 90 minute drive from Heathrow and you should return the car back there. The shuttle bus will then take you back to the airport from where you can catch the tube or Heathrow Express into London.

Don't rush to get away. Get a feel for the car and make sure you have directions. You will need the M25 south and then the M3 and A303. The M25 (London's beltway) will almost certainly be busy and there are roadworks at the moment so take care.

Hope that helps but please do ask more questions.

Adam C

adamhornets@yahoo.com

Salem, Oregon
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3. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Hi, JenJen,

You might benefit from reading an earlier thread about driving in England. Put the words "beware tourist drivers" in the search function at the top of this forum.

The only roads where it's realistic to expect to go as fast as the Brits is the Motorways (Ms) and the dual carriageways (2 lanes going each direction).

If you haven't driven on the left before it will take some getting used to and your time will be slower, possibly much slower. It will continually feel as if you're about to hit or be hit by oncoming traffic, or that you are driving too close to the outside edge. I drove the same roads from Heathrow to Salisbury recently on my first day and my time was much slower. It was my third time driving there. Also, there is often slowing (or even stopping) on the roads because of congestion or roadworks. Rent the smallest car you can manage and try not to drive after dark. Driving is just harder and more stressful then because the challenge is the same but you can't see the verges in the dark.

All that said, it is certainly not impossible to drive in the English countryside. Take your time, don't schedule too tightly. Rent your car at Heathrow and return it there too. Do not attempt to drive in London. You will need a good map, better an atlas, best several Ordnance Survey maps for the area of Wiltshire you plan to visit.

I would encourage you to consider visiting these places, all very close to Bath:

* Courts Garden at Holt. It's a true gem of a garden, small, intimate and absolutely gorgeous. Holt is very near Bath.

* Lacock Village is not far from Holt. It's a quaint medieval village with Harry Potter setting in the abbey.

* Avebury Stone Circles not far from Lacock. Many people prefer it to Stonehenge because you can walk among the stones. Very big site, huge undressed stones.

* Just up the road from Avebury is the West Kennet Long Barrow, a huge Neolithic multi-chambered burial place. Walk around inside. Very interesting.

London, UK
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4. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

All good advice above.

Would also add that it's worth specifying if you want automatic gears, AC & power steering etc. These are considered extras for the appropriately sized smaller car - e.g 1.4 or 1.6 litre engine.

For a someone unfamiliar with left hand side driving & in holiday, comeno further into London that Heathrow drop off.

London drivers can (ahem) be determined possibly even aggressive (ahem ahem), & tend to be little impatient (splutter) with other less committed motorists. Vehicles may only move at an average of 11mph, but that does not reflect the 0-60 acceleration undertaken when any vehicle does actually move.

London driving is not fun, so why bother.

Salem, Oregon
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5. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Oh, a warning about returning a car to Heathrow. When I last returned a car there I was driving in at around 10:00 in the morning by myself. There were road works and the traffic was bumper to bumper. The bad part is that the outside lane was like a solid wall with one truck after another that blocked all the road signs. I missed my exit and ended up 25 miles further on before I could turn around. Fortunately I had allowed myself an extra hour and I used approximately 50 minutes of that extra hour. This sort of thing happens to me regularly even though I'm well-traveled in Britain. This is why I always give myself a verrrry wide berth and recommend the same for others. :)

US
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6. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Thanks to all! I think I will rent the car and follow all advice to return it to Heathrow and not drive into London. I was considering getting a manual to save money but now I'll get the automatic. I can definitely see myself missing that turn into Heathrow so I will be extra careful. I appreciate the suggestions on where to visit as well. This is a great forum, thanks for the quick responses.

brussels
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7. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

i wouldnt bother too much with an automatic if you dont want one. To an experienced driver it doesnt take long to get used to and is considerbaly cheaper.

Salem, Oregon
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8. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

Don't be led astray by brusselsboy. For an American, you're shifting with the wrong hand. My husband does that just fine but I wouldn't want to add that to the stressful situation. He says it's fine until he gets tired. I've never wanted to find out!

Conwy.North Wales
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9. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

anemone, I am struggling to understand your advice to people when it comes to hiring a car in the UK, your comments on visitors to Scotland are ---

If you have driven in the UK before,fine, if not then having had the pleasure as a visitor myself, IMHO take the train!

You do advise not to drive on the roads in Scotland which are virtually traffic and stress free.

But on this England post you advise to hire a car and drive on one of the worst roads in Britain, doesn't add up to me.

Jen, if you are comfortable with the car great, it can be daunting driving out of Heathrow, there is an option of getting the train from Heathrow to a town not far away to pick up the car maybe a good idea

Also, if you do visit Bath etc, there are park and ride facilities located outside the city in various locations, you will see signs for this, this is a good idea parking can be difficult and the cost for the day can be expensive.

Have a great time in the UK.

Colorado
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10. Re: Advice on Renting a Car

I agree with the automatic, you have enough to think about (stay on the left, stay on the left) without having to adjust to manual on the left side. I kept looking for my rearview mirror on the right side, lol.

Do consider the amount of luggage when you rent your car. We had reserved a full size because of 4 large pieces of luggage and ended up upgrading to a Saab for an extra 3GBP a day to fit all our luggage...even then it was a tight fit.

My first time driving in England I did find myself drifting to the left a lot so be careful of that. Roundabouts are a bit of an adjustment, make sure you are in the correct lane when entering. Having a co-pilot helping with directions and exits helps a lot. Ask the car rental agency to loan you a road atlas, it is not standard and they don't give you maps, except for one showing how to return the car.