Hi all, I need your kind advice please. I will be in UK for 4.5 days during the first half of May 2014. As I need to visit Sheffield and Exeter, in addition to some sightseeing in London, this is how I've planned:
3 May (Sat): ETA at Heathrow Airport 7am. Travel to Sheffield and overnight.
4 May (Sun): Depart Sheffield in the morning. Travel to Exeter. ETA at Exeter afternoon and overnight.
5 May (Mon): Depart Exeter in the morning. Travel to London city. ETA at London city afternoon and stay for 2 nights. Leaving London on 7 May (Wed) afternoon.
Now this is where I'm in a dilemma regarding the travelling options between these 3 counties/city. Based on some research I did, I can:
(1) Rent and draw out a car from Heathrow Airport, so much so that I can drive from Airport to Sheffield to Exeter to Airport, return the car at airport, take the train/taxi/bus to London City Central. Just to check:
(i) If ETA to Heathrow Airport is 7am and I'm flying in from Singapore i.e. international flight, roughly what time should I indicate to the car rental company that I should draw out the car? Is 8am good or 9am safer? This is in view of customs clearance and such especially from an international flight.
(ii) Is the route from Airport to Sheffield to Exeter to Airport relatively straight and easy to drive, or complicated with numerous signboards and meandering roads? Based on google maps, it shows that I have to use expressways M25 to A414 to M1 to A630; A630 to M1 to A42 to M42 to M5; A30 to A303 to M3 to M25. Also, any tolls that I should expect to pay if I travel along this route? If have indeed, what are the toll charges then? In addition, I understand from the car rental company website that there is this "london city congestion surcharge" or some sorts, but in my case, it's not applicable for me since I'm not driving into the city centre right? How about the availability of petrol stations along this route? Are the opening hours of petrol stations in UK generally 24x7 or they operate during office hours only? I ask because if indeed they operate during office hours, that would imply that I would need to carefully plan ahead my route and especially pinpoint those petrol stations with reasonable distance apart from one another, lest my rented car runs out of petrol before I reach the next petrol station and leaves me stranded in the middle of nowhere!! I am also somewhat concerned about the traffic jams and congestion along the above mentioned expressways during the Sat to Mon period.
If the above option (1) is deemed too much of a hassle or cost ineffective, would taking the train be a better alternative instead? I could instead:
(i) Take the train/coach from Airport to Sheffield, then train from Sheffield to Exeter, then train/coach from Exeter to London City Centre directly
(ii) Take the train/coach from Airport to Sheffield, then train/coach from Sheffield back to London City Centre directly, then train from London City Centre to Exeter, then train/coach from Exeter back to London City Centre. A quick check on the web shows that apparently, the costs of the train ticket for the Sheffield to Exeter leg is unusually expensive and hence, I thought of this option (ii) instead.
I apologise for the lengthly post though. Any inputs would be deeply appreciated please. Thanks a lot!!