Renting Car from Heathrow--should I?

Old Oct 19th, 2006, 03:10 PM
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I think it all depends on how likely you are to sleep on the plane and which of these various options you're considering. Don't remember where you live so don't even know how long you will have been traveling.

As someone who has driven there, I really don't think you should try driving alone, overnight flight or not, period, end of story. The first time you drive on the other side, you really need the moral support and navigating help of someone else in the car, IMO.

I would either hire the private tour guide so you can go at your own pace and be picked up at the airport, or go to Oxford or London or elsewhere and do a tour on Sunday or Sat. afternoon/Sun. Why not contact Genny and see if she's available, how much it would cost, what she recommends etc. Then you can decide.
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Old Oct 19th, 2006, 03:11 PM
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Driving on the other side of the road is an acquired skill. Driving on the other side is only one aspect of the adjustment. I have now driven in the UK on four trips and feel somewhat comfortable doing it. In the begining it was stressfull and not fun. I have never done right off an overnight flight. Right off the daytimer is great because it is night on arrival and no busy.
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Old Oct 19th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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The tour is a great option, thank you. Thank you for the link.
And thank you all for your invaluable help.
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Old Oct 19th, 2006, 11:28 PM
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Why would anyone with only 36 hours to spare want to tour the Cotswolds?

It's a pretty area. There are, it's true, bits that aren't easily accessible without a car. Actually, with a bit of planning, you could see practically everything in a few days by public transport (anyone who wants my summary of public transport in the area is welcome to mail me at [email protected]), though it's tricky witgh luggage, and it doesn't really work at weekends: the Cotswolds' surprisingly good bus and train system is there to get the young and the carless to schools, surgeries and market days (this is a living community, and the Ye Olde Englande theme park industry is economically and socially trivial). So it's unlikely to help JES get about much.

But the area's dirty little secret is that there really is limited value in seeing a great deal of it. Its most pleasant towns (Burford and Chipping Campden above all) easily provide enough distractions for a weekend.

In practice, a one-town weekend probably forces you to walk around the area a good deal - which is fine, since the public footpath network over miles of private land inevitably offers you the views of the countryside the country was designed to offer, and that just aren't acceesible from the roads.

And it forces you to understand a bit about the town's history - again fine, since it's highly accessible. And the single finest bit of England's architectural heritage - our 8,000 listed country churches - isn't memorable like the posh cathedrals or palaces for their lavish decorations funded by toffs. Or, like much of Italy, for their museum-quality artwork. England's churches are about a thousand years of continuous community investment, with centuries of modestly prosperous self-made entrepreneurs putting a bit of their wealth back into the town where they made it.

A Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning in and around Burford, taking in the medieval wallpaintings at Widford, visiting the Fettiplace and Mitford graves at Swinbrook, then getting the full tour of the church from Burford amazing churchwarden, will show you as much lovely countryside as any carbound frenetic drive.

It'll expose you to almost as much lovely building. And it'll give you an easily assimilated course in our (and therefore America's) REAL history - how communities, attitides and institutions developed, not the trivial nonsense about which king claimed sovereignty over which bit of France when - you'll never get by trying to see how the thatched cottages in Bourton on the Wold differ from those in Moreton Magna (they don't anyway).

If the evening entertainment (typically the restaurants, the pubs, or a quiz night, classical concert or school PTA fundraiser) don't appeal, then you can get into and out of Oxford by train from Moreton or Charlbury, though these two places aren't as stuffed with goodies as Burford or Chipping C (or as Woodstock, which technically isn't in the Cotswolds, but who's being technical?)

It's certainly true that touring the Cotswolds is easiest with a car. But I'm not at all convinced you can get anything worthwhile out of the exercise you can't get by staying put in one accessible place.
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Old Oct 19th, 2006, 11:44 PM
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if you are looking to stay on a farm
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 12:51 AM
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Regarding driving on the wrong or 'proper' side of the road, this is a subject I can speak on with some authority, having provided training for hundreds of American servicemen newly arrived in the UK. About two weeks ago a USAF airman was killed late at night driving the wrong way on the A14 in Suffolk, having been in the UK for over six months. It was late at night, and he was alone in the car. He ran head-on into a lorry (large truck).

Common factors in these accidents seem to be when the driver is tired, alone in the car, driving unfamiliar roads, or not fully concentrating. Far better, IMO, to let someone else do the driving and have a safe, enjoyable trip.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 01:10 AM
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We are used to driving on the left (in Aust) and picked up a car at Heathrow several years ago. Getting out, heading North was not much of a problem but my husband is an excellent navigator. Returning the car to Heathrow several weeks later was a nightmare I would prefer to forget. Major traffic jam, badly signposted, the need to get petrol and the deadline of getting a flight. And on neither occasion we were just off a long flight.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 02:03 AM
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Well said.

Ms F is currently sitting about six feet away from me, jointly managing the global activities of Flanner International Enterprises plc.

It's only by a miracle she's not six feet under the graveyard of the Eighteen months ago, a tired, lone, American driver ran into her car late at night, on the wrong side of the road.

She - just - survived. The car didn't. If I somtimes seem a tad tetchy on this subject, it's with good reason.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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The last trip where I drove in England (10th time, more than 30,000 miles total, no incidents despite several cases of driving the morning after an overnight flight), I was hit from behind by an English driver at a traffic backup when leaving Heathrow. It really ruined my day; you should keep those English drivers off the roads.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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JP, yes, British drivers cause accidents too, but if you had been killed I don't suppose it would matter much who was to blame. Perhaps you could have inscribed on your gravestone the epitaph: "It Wasn't My Fault."

Sadly, there have been many deaths of American servicemen on British roads, two in the last month alone. A year or two ago a mother and her three children died when their car left the road and plunged into a water-filled ditch.

Most Americans drive in Britain without mishap, and remembering to stay on the left is actually very easy. But in an emrgency situation when your reactions take over, you will revert to habits learned in the States. Step off an airplane when you are tired, get into an unfamiliar car, drive alone on a strange road looking for direction signs to a town you have never visited before, and all this in heavy traffic, you increase the chances of having an accident.
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