England: A Drive in the Country

Apr 4th, 2002, 07:05 AM
  #1  
Fred
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
England: A Drive in the Country

Okay - what's it REALLY like for an American to drive in the countryside of England? I am going to NOT drive in London, but am thinking of driving in the Cotswolds. Is driving the "english" way really THAT discombobulating for a non-English person (someone who has driven in Tuscany, Provence, Portugal and elsewhere on twisty, small, foreign roads)? Thanks all.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 07:08 AM
  #2  
Ellen
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
No, it's not that bad, people do it all the time. It helps a lot if you have an automatic transmission and a co-pilot who will help spot and interpret the road signs and keep chanting "Keep left, keep left." The first day or two are tricky, but then it becomes almost natural.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 07:13 AM
  #3  
pedro
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I drove in England and I didn't discombobulate at all. They are crazy about roudabouts. They even do roundabouts in the middle of nowhere Once you understand the mechanics of it, it turns very easy.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 07:19 AM
  #4  
Grasshopper
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
The thing I noticed most was that the roads are VERY narrow, particularly in the Cotswolds. And we kept hitting the tires on the left curb. The roundabouts can be your friend. If you miss a turn you can always just wait for the next roundabout and go back again.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 07:40 AM
  #5  
Lori
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Been there .. done that!! Get the smallest car that will accommodate you and be sure it is automatic. You may spend a few $$ more for automatic but it is way worth it. Roads are narrow, you can get your perspective messed up easily but if you concentrate it's OK. I suggest (if there are more then one of you) that you pick a designated driver and let that person do all the driving. It is much easier to get the hang of left driving if you do it .. switching drivers only confuses the issue because no one gets really good at it. It's wise to have a navigator as others have mentioned and someone to say Left in a loud voice as you stray across the road!
It can be tricky, but you can do it with a little practice.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 07:42 AM
  #6  
bettyk
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Just remember that on a 2-lane road, as the driver, you should always be next to the center of the road. If you discover that you are next to the curb, you've reverted to driving on the right and need to get over quickly!
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:02 AM
  #7  
janis
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Driving is easy after the first few hours. As the others said, the roads are narrow but that's is not a big problem since there isn't that much traffic except on the main routes.

A few things to keep in mind -

One problem you will have is in car parks (parking lots) because you don't have the same references as on roads. So be specially alert in car parks - it is really easy to get mixed up.

On two lane roads drive to the extreme offside (the left/passenger side) since oncoming traffic often (OFTEN) crosses the center line to get aound parked cars, etc. In the States we tend to think of the center line as a "fence" that divides the road. In the UK it is really just an indicator of the center of the roadway. Drivers are expected to cross over to get around things.

And finally - in towns and villages do not use the direction cars are parked as a sign of which side of the road you should be on. Parking both directions is allowed almost everywhere.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:16 AM
  #8  
Julie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Rent the smallest car you can because the roads in the Cotswolds are unbelievably narrow. Also, buy an up-to-date road map (Ordnance Survey maps are always highly recommended) that covers everywhere you are planning to drive.

We had an out-of-date map that didn't cover the part of the region that our B&B was in, and really paid the price.

If you have driven on other small, twisty foreign roads and feel yourself a confident driver, it shouldn't be hard. My husband adapted very quickly.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 11:17 AM
  #9  
Artemis
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Rule #1: Be patient, and plan for at least double the time you would budget to go the same distance in North America. As long as you're patient, you can relax and really enjoy the scenery as you're putting along behind a tractor.

Rule #2: You will get lost. Even with the very best map. Count on it, and think of it as an opportunity. We had some very pleasant discoveries quite by accident.

Other than that, I'll agree with what others have said, esp. the automatic tranmission. I normally drive a standard at home, but I found the gear shifting with the left hand *far* more difficult to get used to than driving on the left side of the road.

Oh, and gas is *really* expensive. More than double US prices.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 11:42 AM
  #10  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Fred - you should have no problem if you read the above advice and follow it. I must say almost all the key points have been noted here. Let me summarize and add my own:

1. Assign a driver and a navigator and don't switch off. There is a learning curve here.
2. Have a very good detailed map.
3. Get an automatic transmission.
4. Stay alert and keep telling yourself aloud "keep left"
5. When using the Motorways, keep in the left lane except when passing.
6. Look for one-way street signs, not the direction that cars are parked.

Here are mine to add:
1. It doesn't really become 'natural' to you, not even after several weeks at it. Don't get cocky thinking you've now got it and can just relax. Always remain conscious of what you are doing.

2. Talk out loud with your navigator when making right hand turns ("OK, I'm going from this left side to that one over there...following the (color) car,right?") Also, when on roundabouts: "Taking the 1,2,3rd spoke, right?"

3. Rule of the roundabout: Those in the roundabout have the right of way. If cars are in the round about then you stop or slow at the line before merging into the flow. On some larger roundabouts there is often an unmarked an inner and outer circle. You should be in the outer circle as you as you ready yourself to peel off onto the exit you desire. The road directional signs are excellent.

4. You may have a tendency to vere to the left portion of the lane, coming too close to the parked cars or the curb. I believe this is because our brains still have us sitting on the left side of the car and want to place our bodies more to the left of the lane. Ask your navigator to alert you if you are drifting too far to the left and adjust.

5. Make frequent use of your side and rear view mirrors. Accept that you, as the driver, probably won't be able to safely enjoy much scenery while driving.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 11:44 AM
  #11  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Fred - you should have no problem if you read the above advice and follow it. I must say almost all the key points have been noted here. Let me summarize and add my own:

1. Assign a driver and a navigator and don't switch off. There is a learning curve here.
2. Have a very good detailed map.
3. Get an automatic transmission.
4. Stay alert and keep telling yourself aloud "keep left"
5. When using the Motorways, keep in the left lane except when passing.
6. Look for one-way street signs, not the direction that cars are parked.

Here are mine to add:
1. It doesn't really become 'natural' to you, not even after several weeks at it. Don't get cocky thinking you've now got it and can just relax. Always remain conscious of what you are doing.

2. Talk out loud with your navigator when making right hand turns ("OK, I'm going from this left side to that one over there...following the (color) car,right?") Also, when on roundabouts: "Taking the 1,2,3rd spoke, right?"

3. Rule of the roundabout: Those in the roundabout have the right of way. If cars are in the round about then you stop or slow at the line before merging into the flow. On some larger roundabouts there is often an unmarked an inner and outer circle. You should be in the outer circle as you as you ready yourself to peel off onto the exit you desire. The road directional signs are excellent.

4. You may have a tendency to vere to the left portion of the lane, coming too close to the parked cars or the curb. I believe this is because our brains still have us sitting on the left side of the car and want to place our bodies more to the left of the lane. Ask your navigator to alert you if you are drifting too far to the left and adjust.

5. Make frequent use of your side and rear view mirrors. Accept that you, as the driver, probably won't be able to safely enjoy much scenery while driving.

6. You are right not to drive in London. You could take a train to Windsor or Heathrow to pick up your car there. Also, there is a Europcar and a Budget office on Woburn Place, near Russell Sq. These provide easy acces to the A40 > M40 motoways that will put you in the right direction towards Oxford and on to the Cotswolds.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 11:45 AM
  #12  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Fred - you should have no problem if you read the above advice and follow it. I must say almost all the key points have been noted here. Let me summarize and add my own:

1. Assign a driver and a navigator and don't switch off. There is a learning curve here.
2. Have a very good detailed map.
3. Get an automatic transmission.
4. Stay alert and keep telling yourself aloud "keep left"
5. When using the Motorways, keep in the left lane except when passing.
6. Look for one-way street signs, not the direction that cars are parked.

Here are mine to add:
1. It doesn't really become 'natural' to you, not even after several weeks at it. Don't get cocky thinking you've now got it and can just relax. Always remain conscious of what you are doing.

2. Talk out loud with your navigator when making right hand turns ("OK, I'm going from this left side to that one over there...following the (color) car,right?") Also, when on roundabouts: "Taking the 1,2,3rd spoke, right?"

3. Rule of the roundabout: Those in the roundabout have the right of way. If cars are in the round about then you stop or slow at the line before merging into the flow. On some larger roundabouts there is often an unmarked an inner and outer circle. You should be in the outer circle as you as you ready yourself to peel off onto the exit you desire. The road directional signs are excellent.

4. You may have a tendency to vere to the left portion of the lane, coming too close to the parked cars or the curb. I believe this is because our brains still have us sitting on the left side of the car and want to place our bodies more to the left of the lane. Ask your navigator to alert you if you are drifting too far to the left and adjust.

5. Make frequent use of your side and rear view mirrors. Accept that you, as the driver, probably won't be able to safely enjoy much scenery while driving.

6. You are right not to drive in London. You could take a train to Windsor or Heathrow to pick up your car there. Also, there is a Europcar and a Budget office on Woburn Place, near Russell Sq. These provide easy access to the A40 > M40 motoways to 'escape' London and put you in the right direction towards Oxford and on to the Cotswolds.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 12:44 PM
  #13  
Tony
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Driving in the Costwolds really isn't that bad for the American driver although it will drive your passenger nuts. The roads are so narrow that even though you are hugging the center line, they will think you are trying to drive them off the road, into the bushes or walls that line the roadways. When making turns you have to get used to looking the opposite way you are used to looking and crossing the road for making right turns. Just repeat "big right, little left" every time you approach a turn. Some people suggest changing which hand you wear your watch on. Your passenger will quickly remind you (quite loudly) when you make a mistake and are in danger of being in a head on collision or broadsided. Turnabouts are fairly easy to get used to if you just slow down and take it easy. Since its the only good way to really see the Cotswolds at your leisure, enjoy the drive.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 01:03 PM
  #14  
Laura
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Fred -- you have gotten lots of great advice already. The only thing I haven't seen mentioned is this: Don't feel like you have to get out of the roundabout the first time. If it is stressful and you are not sure which exit to take out of it, just keep going round and round until you are sure which way you want to go. We felt stupid at first but it was worth a couple of trips around the roundabout to be positive which exit out of it we needed!

Have fun -- the Cotswolds are BEAUTIFUL!

Laura
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 05:18 PM
  #15  
janis
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Oh - another thing I forgot to mention: Do not get nervous or upset when someone tailgates you - and they WILL. It is not like in the States where aggressive drivers get on your back bumper trying to intimidate you. In the UK drivers who want to go faster will find a place to overtake (pass). But to do that they must stay near to the slower driver. Some passing places are very short and they can't afford to be a long way back. So if someone tailgates don't worry and don't speed up if you are comfortable with your speed. When the other driver has a chance they will be around you in a flash - and without a rude gesture!
 
Apr 5th, 2002, 03:46 AM
  #16  
Mike
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Re the above. If somebody is sitting on your tail and you get fed up with it, indicate left and slow down on a straight, clear bit of road. They should overtake you without any trouble. They may even wave.
 
Apr 5th, 2002, 05:56 AM
  #17  
adams
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I have never had a problem with manual shift, and I normally drive an automatic at home.

One bit of advice I didn't read above:
Avoid driving any distance on the day you arrive if you have taken the over-night red-eye from the States.
 
Apr 5th, 2002, 06:08 AM
  #18  
steve
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Use your right hand mirror instead of the rear view mirror as your primary mirror.

The english don't obey speed limits any more than US driveres do. Even on what you consider incredibly narrow and dangerous roads, they will be speeding along without a care in the world.
 
Apr 5th, 2002, 07:00 AM
  #19  
Fred
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks for all of your comments. They have been very encouraging. One question though: Since you're driving on the other side of the road and other side of the car does your body(and hence the car) have a tendency to "drift" to the left, or right? Or is that not a problem? Is it a matter of mind/body equilibrium, or is it more just a matter of remembering to STAY on the LEFT? Thanks again!
 
Apr 5th, 2002, 07:30 AM
  #20  
adams
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I think you tend to drift to the left. I overcame that by remembering what I learned when I first starting driving as a youth: train your eyes on the center of your lane in the road ahead.
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:38 AM.