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Rental Car in the UK

Old 06-04-2015, 03:43 AM
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Default Rental Car in the UK

I'm headed overseas next week landing at Heathrow. This is a 2.5 week trip with my daughter. We land at 9:25am and I'm thinking of renting a car at the airport to head out towards Stonehenge. Plan is to come back and drop the car at the airport then take the Heathrow Express train into Paddington Station.

Most rental cars are manual shifts and of course driver on the right. How hard is it to drive a shift using your left hand in traffic? It's been many years since driving a shift car, let alone on the other side. Cars with automatics are twice as much to rent.

By the way, I was able to add an ATT Passport plan to my cell service for $30. It includes unlimited texting including pictures. Data is only 300MB, but all hotels have free wifi. Calling is $1 per minute but that would only be in a crisis.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:03 AM
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I've rented a few times in the past 5 or 6 years for work. Just as you said, from heathrow, then headed south to Brighton. Once drove by Stonehenge on my way back, was a nice detour. The car I had was an automatic though. However, when I was a kid, I did a semester in London, found that driving a manual wasn't really a big deal at all. i'd say it has more to do with staying on the correct side of the road (especially when going around turns).

All in all, I personally didn't think it was a big deal.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:19 AM
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I lived there for a few years and had a car with a manual transmission (Alpha Romeo T Spark). It takes a few miles to get used to it and the trickiest part is shifting left handed. I always felt like I was throwing like a girl

Like I said, take your time and you will be fine. Since you are landing at 9:30am you have a choice of 2 routes. You can go the M25 south to the M3 which is the quickest by distance or straight out the M4 from Heathrow to Swindon then head south (cant remember the 'A' road). The M4 is probably the easiest in terms of access and navigation.

Its a bit of a ride but a car is the only way to get there since its in the middle of nothing. You will be surprised when you find it.

Have fun, enjoy the trip!
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:26 AM
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Train system and taxis .... I drove on the left once and nearly lost my mind....
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by triplenet View Post
Train system and taxis .... I drove on the left once and nearly lost my mind....
Its not that bad...

The trickiest part is that the pedals are on the wrong side, Gas/brake on the left foot and clutch is on the right.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Mersiles View Post
Its not that bad...

The trickiest part is that the pedals are on the wrong side, Gas/brake on the left foot and clutch is on the right.
Doubt that very much...I know Alfas are weird and wonderful...but...
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:42 AM
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A few comments on this plan, I made 7-8 UK trips a few years back...

1) unless you're a great plane sleeper, last thing you'll want to do is collect your luggage, go through customs, get your bearings in a new country..and then rent a car and drive a couple hours. For me that first day is pretty groggy - although if you can stay awake till 10pm local time that first day, that's been my best advice to adjusting to the time zone in that direction.

2) Sorry to say it, but stonehenge is better on the internet. You can, however, take a bus tour to see it. I did it on one of my trips to the UK and afterwards felt like it was a waste of time, both in how much of my day (2.5 hour ride each way I think?) was spent to get there and what was actually there when I arrived. A lot of the mystery that was in my head about it as a kid was quickly destroyed, as the tour said things like "people used to think x, or y, or z, but turns out really it's just a bunch of rocks in a circle" Don't get me wrong, I guess I'm glad to say that I went, but could think of lots of things I'd rather have done in retrospect. Now if you could get out there for a festival, or some weirdo moonlit cult thing, that would be fun.

3) Where are you going for your 2.5 weeks? 2.5 weeks IMO would be a relatively long time to stay in london or even the UK, but your choices for train journeys around Europe (either day trips or quick overnight trips) are limitless.

Depending on your phone use (or your Daughters) 300 MB can go very fast. Consider upping that, it's worth it. Download the tripadvisor app in advance and pre-load ("take offline"?) the cities you plan to visit. On a 5 day trip to Europe I probably make less than 5 mins of voice calls but I'll be googling things nonstop and/or using maps on my phone, trying to find directions between touristy things, reading restaurant reviews, etc.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:43 AM
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"2) Sorry to say it, but stonehenge is better on the internet"

Id have to agree with this. It was very underwhelming.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:04 AM
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Driving on the left is manageable for Americans, but it takes some concentration. I found myself talking to my self "Stay left, stay left, stay left..." The first time you make a left turn your brain is going to want to make you drift over to the right side of the road if you're not focused. The manual is a little awkward,- like batting left handed if you're a righty, but the pedals are the same. It's one more level of stress while driving over there. Also the roads off the main highways are very narrow, often lined with hedgerows, just off the pavement, which means limited sight distances,- and the natives who are used to this drive at a pretty brisk pace, so it's easy to become tourist road hazard. Take the insurance. Don't put gas in a diesel.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Mersiles View Post
Its not that bad...

The trickiest part is that the pedals are on the wrong side, Gas/brake on the left foot and clutch is on the right.


Guys.... just remember that the English have a highly evolved sense of sarcasm.



Last edited by Mersiles; 06-04-2015 at 05:48 AM.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:54 AM
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I have no clue about the car part but I agree with everything else that has been mentioned, especially getting more data. Being able to have tools in your hand from GPS, Google, Trip Advisor, and some apps for choosing restaurants is great.

It also appears they have Uber in London, so I would probably download that as well. Much better than a taxi.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:55 AM
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For me, driving on the wrong side took more concentration than shifting with the wrong hand. In several weeks of driving over there in several trips, I only pulled out on the "American" side of the road once.

I did pull out on the "British" side of the road pulling out of the airport when I got home the first time.
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Old 06-04-2015, 06:39 AM
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As long as there is traffic you'll be fine on the left side, just follow others. It's when you get on the road alone that you have to put thought into which side you'll be driving on. Your reflex will always be to pull out onto the right, so be mindful and think it through.
Getting the gears down is different for every person and how fast you pick up. I never had problems with things like that, maybe a gear or 2 once or twice but you soon learn to correct the minor mistake. Good luck and enjoy the trip.
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Old 06-04-2015, 06:47 AM
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I've been to Stonehenge before but my daughter hasn't. For me, it will just be a nice ride through the countryside before hitting the city. My thinking on the data side is that the hotel has free wifi, and I'm sure many places in the city do as well. We may stay the first night near Southampton as I have family just west of Brighton in Shoreham-by-Sea. Could have breakfast with them and then get back up to Heathrow to drop the car before 11 or so, within the 24 hour rental period. I have also driven manual transmissions in the past. It's the coordination with the left hand that seems funky.

Lot's of logistics to figure out. From London we fly to Florence to stay 4 nights at a hotel owned by one of client's sons. We then drive to Rome and take a 7-day Western Med cruise before spending 2 days in Rome and flying back the 27th.

This will be the longest trip I've taken as an adult. As a sole proprietor it's pretty stressful.
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Old 06-04-2015, 06:50 AM
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Practice with your left hand before the trip...
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Old 06-04-2015, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Dreamer View Post
Practice with your left hand before the trip...
Luckily I don't have to do that anymore!!!
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by ytmorris View Post
It also appears they have Uber in London, so I would probably download that as well. Much better than a taxi.
London taxis are good - the surprise will be when the driver starts up an intelligent conversation about american politics.

Sprock, if you're determined to rent a car - blow the budget and get an automatic. It's just not worth the added hassle.
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:26 AM
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I think Flot is right. Get the auto and get the insurance too.

I always get the insurance. Makes a world of difference to the hire-car experience.
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:26 AM
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Everyone is different. Personally I liked Stonehenge. We did it via tour bus but it also included getting to Windsor and Oxford. We enjoyed all of it. Driving was never much of a problem but I went with an auto. Funny thing is I thought something was wrong with the car and that it kept stalling out. Damn gas saving technologies!
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Flot View Post
London taxis are good - the surprise will be when the driver starts up an intelligent conversation about american politics.

Sprock, if you're determined to rent a car - blow the budget and get an automatic. It's just not worth the added hassle.
I'm leaning that way. And I am a good sleeper on a plane. A couple of Benedryl do the trick.
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