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NewInUK May 15th, 2007 04:56 AM

driving in the UK
We live in South East London and haven't driven here yet (we're from Canada).

We'd like to take a day and perhaps a night and drive to York to explore, with our dog. Being new would it be best for us to rent just outside the city so as to avoid the busy streets at first?

I'm nervous and not sure how long it will take to adjust to being on the opposite side of the road and the car from what we're used to.

janisj May 15th, 2007 05:15 AM

What day of the week? If on a weekend, driving out of London would not be bad. But where in SE London? That covers a big area and your best route might not take you through London at all.

clz May 15th, 2007 05:29 AM

I would probably just go with whatever rental car location is most convenient. We live just SE of London (outside the city) and rent cars often in our own town.

What I found the most difficult at first:
*city streets: the narrow lanes. Drive slowly, pop in your side mirrors.
*motorways: looking up to the left for the rearview mirror.

flanneruk May 15th, 2007 05:32 AM

I've found that colleagues from wrong-side countries adapt easiest if they start from somewhere outside the centre of London - and that most residential outskirts are just as daunting. What they need is a nice empty car park, then 50 miles or so on a dual carriageway. BUT:

- If all you want to see is York, train's a lot easier and quicker. The flannerpooch, BTW, LOVES trains, travels free - and most fellow passengers reciprocate his affection. Finding a dog-friendly hotel in York defeated us a few months ago.

- You're not going to get to see much on the way, even giving the trip two full days

- Getting used to city steets in, say, Bedford, St Albans or Northampton isn't much easier than in London. You need an airport (Luton's on the way and trainable from most of London),and if you're worried about roadworks near Luton Airport, Heathrow or (if you can find someone who'll hire there) Alfreton and Mansfield Parkway railway station

- if you live here, you can drive on your Canadian licence only for a year after you arrive (insurance is invalid if you drive thereafter). You'll have to pass a UK test - in London - and that really has to mean getting paid-for lessons where you live.

janisj May 15th, 2007 05:38 AM

per flanner's post -- yes, taking the train up to York would be faster and easier. You can always rent a car in York if you want to explore tha countryside. As for where to find pet-friendly accomodations -- you may have a better chance in a B&B outside of the city.

Here is a site that lists places that accept pets either w/ ot w/o extra fees.

NewInUK May 15th, 2007 06:45 AM

We're in Lewisham SE13. I'm terrified of trying to get out of the city from here. Perhaps lessons are a good idea before we do this...

flanneruk May 15th, 2007 07:27 AM

You need lessons to pass your test because there's a lot in the test that directly relates to the problems of driving in congested areas.

But - as someone who learned to drive in central London, but did so quite late in life - I'm very aware how disconcerting those lessons can be. Driving round an airport car park, then a lengthy stretch on a dual carriageway, should give you confidence, however little it teaches you about making a three-point turn in busy traffic. Remember millions of us change driving side, language and measurement systems simultaneously when we pop over to Calais to stock up on booze - and we all survive it.

If you're really nervous, hire the car at Heathrow, then go to York via the M4 west, M25, M40, M42 north, M1 and A1. Slightly longer, but generally more benign traffic.

bilboburgler May 15th, 2007 07:35 AM

Central York has car parks (sky high prices) and the ancient city centre is scary. York has good Park and Ride facilities for leaving cars during the day.

Train is best but if you do drive stay in hotel close to centre with parking (not street parking).

Pooch hotel need to search hotel/BB for anikmal friendly

Alec May 15th, 2007 08:04 AM

"If you are the holder of a Canadian licence you will receive automatic transmission only when exchanging for a British licence. This can only be upgraded to manual upon presentation of confirmation, from the relevant licensing authority, of a manual test being passed or a manual test is passed in this country."

owain May 15th, 2007 01:13 PM

"city streets: the narrow lanes. Drive slowly, pop in your side mirrors."

Do this, injure a passing cyclist, and good luck explaining your actions.

annhig May 15th, 2007 01:20 PM

hi, newinuk,

a long trip to York is not the way to start, IMO [ie agreeing with everyone else], especailly as the train to York is sooo easy.

From Lewisham, you could easily drive out into the kent countryside - the area around tunbridge wells, for example. Choose a weekday, set off after 10 and get home before 4, take a map [or even GPS] and go for it! you'll have a lovely time.

Just don't wander into the M25 - you'll never want to get behind the wheel again. Anywhere!

regards, ann

NewInUK May 15th, 2007 11:40 PM

Thank you everyone! I think I've decided to train it until after lessons.
Ha - flanneruk, I'd love to hear more about this Calais/booze business!!! :-)

alya May 16th, 2007 11:01 PM


Why don't you contact your local driving school, explain the problem to them and ask for their advice?

If you legally can - book a few lessons locally and I don't think it will be long before you will feel comfortable on the roads.

If it helps - I'm feeling a little nervous about driving in the UK next week - and I'm a Brit, who learnt and drove there for 15yrs :-D

I'm sure it won't take me long to lose the nervousness and get used to the 'other side of the road' again but that doesn't make me feel ultra confident - which I think is a good thing, you should always be careful/comfortable when you sit behind the wheel of a car.

I admire that you are willing to admit you might find it difficult.

York is a perfect place to visit by train, so don't feel bad that you have the sense to realise that. :-)

alya May 16th, 2007 11:11 PM

BTW - for Pooch friendly places try these hotels and B&B's.

flanneruk May 16th, 2007 11:25 PM

Booze is cheap in Calais, and there's practically no limit on how much you can bring back.

For normal Britons, stocking up with a month or so's worth of wine at a Calais hypermarket (or the Tesco near the Tunnel, or the cash and carries like the extraordinary Eastenders) will create savings about the same as the cost of driving over, though for hair-shirted North Americans the break-even might require buying a few months' more supplies.

Buying more - say for a party - will more than pay for hiring a van (take a copy of the invitation or whatever if you're buying over 100 litres per adult traveller so HM Customs don't think you're running a smuggling operation), though you need to check on the T+C of the hire contract. We just hired a van last time and drove over, but I think the car hire companies get antsy if they find out.

The nicest way to do this, though, is to join The Wine Society, order something really nice, drive to their shop in Montreuil to collect it and hit the Montreuil restaurants.

The Calais stores and Montreuil are seriously geared to selling by the case. The hypermarkets at the edge of other French towns that you pass on the motorway when bopping down to Provence are a bit less geared, and you often find a lot of loose bottles rattling round the boot.

The bad news, though, is that the practicalities of the pet passport scheme make it impossible to take the dog with you on a day trip, and very, very tricky to take him for a Saturday/Sunday weekend. You really need to be on the continent for 48 hours or more to be sure of getting the pooch back into the country without seriously disrupting your plans.

alya May 16th, 2007 11:28 PM

If thst link doesn't open try 'googling' pet friendly hotel york yorkshire

The list was
Olgas Guest House - "short walk to city centre"

St George's Hotel - "We are situated in a quiet cul-de-sac by York's beautiful racecourse, which is as pleasant for a scenic walk as it is for the races. It is only a ten minute walk to the ancient walls surrounding the City"

Novotel York - scanned this one but couldn't find any info about dogs, than again Novotel isn't my favourite chain in the UK

Holiday Inn - Pets are welcome by prior arrangement (but not allowed in public areas) near the racecourse - 1.5 miles to the city centre.

Judges Lodging hotel - no mention of animals

Me? A dog lover? :-D

Dukey May 17th, 2007 01:10 AM

Flanner, I have to tell you that the "hair-shirted" North Americans only have to drive to the corner to get good prices for wine and booze..and we have such cheap petrol prices, too, so we can shop at those Whole Foods places.

Now, admittedly, "the corner" isn't exotic France now is it?

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