If you visit the UK, don’t rent a car, or “get a hire car,” as they say. Resist the temptation. Just don’t do it.
Last May, we traveled to the UK for 2 weeks with another couple, our friends, Reid and Nell. As we were only stopping a day here, a day there, we convinced ourselves that renting a car was the way to go. While I now have vertigo and drive very little, Sharon, Nell, and Reid felt comfortable with driving in the UK with its differences in traffic rules, steering from the right-hand seat, etc.
So, the naïve Americans we were, we rented a car at Heathrow. It was a terrible decision. Almost immediately, in London’s morning rush-hour traffic, we busted the left-rear tire against a stone curbing. Our first day in the UK was not going well… until a call to the UK version of AAA resulted in our being rescued by a very fit, tattooed, young man who eventually got us on our way. The girls each took several photos of the tire changing.
Those couple hours and a damned expensive new tire later, we arrived at our hotel to find there was no car park. The car got stowed in a not-cheap commercial car park but, unbeknownst to us, we’d already qualified for the Illegal Parking In The City citation. We began to question our transportation choice.
Yet Brighton the next day seemed to be a reprieve. Brighton, a very lively beach resort, thankfully had several multi-level pay-on-leaving parking garages. But Brits drive better than old Americans, so their parking spaces are tight. It took us more than an hour to park the car, then get the people and luggage out of the car.
From there to Lyndhurst in the New Forest at a B&B with its own car park. Upon leaving there, we busted the left-rear (new) tire against a (different) stone curbing. Another equally fit and good-looking young guy changed this tire. More photos were taken of the road service. No small amount of our pounds put a new tire onto the same wheel.
From Lyndhurst, we took the damn car to a rental shop in Salisbury and turned it in. Then caught a bus to Hindon. Rail, bus, and taxi took care of travel for the rest of our stay. Rail and regional buses are a great way to travel or sight-see.
While we were in Hindon, we looked at the photos taken up until then. There were lots of tourist-y photos from London, Brighton, and the New Forest, but interestingly, the tire-changing pictures were only of the fit young men who had done the rescue. The busted tires and disabled vehicle hardly showed up.
We have been told that had we bought rail passes before leaving the U.S. we would have saved money. Don’t rent a car when you visit England. That is, unless the girls in your party just want to get photos of some young, fit, good-looking guys.