Rent a car or take train in England?

Old Mar 7th, 2000, 03:41 PM
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Rent a car or take train in England?

I'm planning to spend 2-1/2 weeks in England in July. We'll be spending one night in London, then are heading off to Cambridge, Stamford, York, Durham, then back down to Chester, Stratford, Cotswolds, and back to London for 2 nights. I've been to England several time, this is the first time "intro to England" trip for my husband. I'd planned to rent a car once we are ready to leave London, then drop it off on the way back. I'm wondering what your opinions are on taking the train versus renting a car.

Old Mar 7th, 2000, 06:25 PM
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Rent the car - absolutely. There's just so many fun, interesting, once-in-a-lifetime things that happen when you can detour off the main roads. Whether savouring picnics, stopping at a pub that catches your eye, dashing into a boot sale you see on the side of the road - you'll miss so much if you don't drive. That said, driving does present its challenges, the 'wrong' side, manual, price of petrol, parking - or lack of - but the wonderful time you'll have will outweigh all of those. Have fun.
Old Mar 8th, 2000, 08:14 AM
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Definitely rent the car. Definitely do not rent the car in London. Take the train out of London to your first stop and rent the car there. Driving in London can be difficult due to traffic, finding a good route out of the City and driving on the other side.......
Old Mar 13th, 2000, 10:44 AM
David White
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Yes, rent the car...even at $6 a gallon, it is still cheaper than the train and infinitely more flexible.

Taking the train to your first location (Cambridge) and renting a car from there would be a good plan. As you may have noticed, opinions on this bulletin board differ, but almost nobody recommends driving in London. (As soon as I write this, some brave soul will send in an posting entitled "Driving in London is cool" or something)

One suggestion though, I would insist on renting an automatic transmission car. Driving on the left is not that hard to adjust to; shifting on the left adds a complication you probably do not need.

Enjoy your trip!

David White
Old Mar 15th, 2000, 08:56 PM
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We were in England last summer. I was nervous about renting a car, so I got a automatic at Gatwick. The roads tend to be small and automatics in England all seem to be big, so I sort of nicked up the aluminum wheels a few times on the curbs.(they didn't say anything when I brought it back) I booked it before hand through Auto Europe and got a good deal. Driving on the other side of the road was not too bad, but unlike here in the states there is no time to look at the map at a stoplight, because there aren't any, all those roundabouts keep you moving(hope you have a good navigator). It was a wonderful experience, all those twisty backroads through the cotswalds made me wish I had rented an MG or some other sports car. We took the loop around London( can't remember the #) from Gatwick then on to Bristol, and there was very little traffic.
Old Mar 16th, 2000, 07:32 PM
Diane Ethridge
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For Heaven's Sake - rent a car. We've done both & the train was a miserable experience, as well as expensive. After a day & a half of running for trains, checking schedules, crowded stations etc we rented a car in a small village paying 3 times as much. Arrange to rent through Auto Europe before you leave home & have a good time. Driving isn't all that hard on the "wrong side of the road."
Old Mar 16th, 2000, 10:35 PM
Carolina Evens
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Dear Kjp:
Boy, do I feel out-numbered on this one! I was once a confident accident-free driver (still accident free, no longer confident) until I decided to drive in England.
I did the driving, my husband did the navigating (our usual routine). The stick shift, narrow roads, and the blooming round abouts almost did me in. By the time we got to York, I called it quits as to continuing our driving itinerary. (We spent the whole week in York & then returned to London rather than go on.)
I don't know about train travel but that's what we'll opt for the next time we go to England.
But maybe you'll do just fine (apparently many do). Good Luck!
Old Mar 17th, 2000, 06:14 AM
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Carolina, its good to see someone offer a contrary view to the majority. I had thought of replying similarly, but then realized that I would not attempt a 17 day, 9 different overnight destination holiday using either mode of transportation. However, if I was going to do such a trip, over a more reasonable time period, I would use the train for all the city destinations and rent a car for the Cotswolds only. I have never yet found a city or large town in England where a car was anything but a cumbersome burden.
Old Mar 17th, 2000, 11:22 AM
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I agree the the prevous post. It's not that driving in UK is so difficult, it's that I didn't enjoy it. I found that I needed to concentrate on things that are normally just automatic, such as shifting gears, positioning the car (tended to go too far left), looking to the right at roundabouts, etc.
This year we are going to try the train, although we may rent a car in Northern Wales.
Old Mar 18th, 2000, 10:41 AM
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I do enjoy driving in Britain; it's actually one of the things that I look forward to. I don't have trouble shifting, but do be sure to get an English car; the Japanese ones have the turn signal and windshield wiper switches reversed from the U.S./English way and that can be a real pain.

We spend most of our time in Britain in small towns and villages, or in the countryside. Our favorite sights tend to be villages, coastline, moors, country houses and castles, and most of them are difficult or impossible to reach by rail.

Our favorite accomodations are often farm house B&B's, miles from the nearest railway.

In the summer months we often enjoy picking strawberries and other fruit at PYO's out in the countryside. The strawberries are WONDERFUL.

The last trip that we used rail much, we happened to hit a period of miserable weather (May '96), and it was awful. Most of the stations where we waited for trains had their doors propped open and the wind blew right through. We both ended up with bad colds.

And as far as 9 different overnights out of 17 days goes, we might actually end up in 16 different B&B's in 17 days.
Old Mar 18th, 2000, 01:21 PM
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Just a few things to add after reading through the responses. There is no problem having a car and seeing the larger centres. We would either drive to a rail center nearby or many of the larger areas have park and drive - so you get the benefit of both. Also my experience with train travel in Britain - probably the ugliest parts of the entire country are coming in and leaving train stations. An idea that works for us re: map reading. We plot out our basic trip the night before and I write it down on a piece of paper. That way the navigator, whoever it is, or even if I'm by myself doesn't have to wrestle with the map but simply reads out the directions so the driver is paying attention, too. Also, re: the roundabouts - I'm sure it's not legal but I've never had any trouble so far - if I come to one and I'm unsure I just head for the middle until I've had a look at all the choices and then carefully make my way out making sure to signal coming out.
Old Mar 21st, 2000, 02:07 PM
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Thanks to all for your help. As to the comments on 9 overnights in 17 days, it's actually 7 overnights (a few of the places will just be day trips from the same location). I know, 7 is still a lot, but other than London, York, and Chester, we will be staying with family. And you know how that have to stay with everyone, or someone gets hurt feelings!!

Also, I'm hoping to go back to visit at least every 2-3 after this intro trip for my husband, we'll be able to concentrate on different areas of England (instead of trying to make a big loop of the whole country). Then hopefully there will be less moving around.


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