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Car rental is soooo expensive ! Train ?

We are a family of four (2 adults 2 kids of 10 and 14) And we are looking for a one month trip in july-august that would start and finish in London. We want to see parts of england and Scotland and we usually rent a car when we travel. Bu Car from London cost so much ! (nothing below 1800 pounds for 3 weeks). Is there a way to get lower prices ? It it doable by train ?

Posted by
3186 posts

What do you want to see and where do you want to go? Unless you are planning to spend the entire time in very rural locations you can probably do a lot of the travel by train.

Posted by
3982 posts

Less inventory and high tourist season means higher prices. Nothing you can do about the price if you want to rent a vehicle. If you want an automatic it will probably cost more. Unfortunately, that’s how things are now.

Posted by
1259 posts

Highly doable by train and advance ticket purchase helps saves money.

Hoping Nigel sees your post and offers comments as he lives in England and retired from the train service, a great expert.

Seat 61 is the website you seek for reference.

Posted by
5842 posts

nothing below 1800 pounds for 3 weeks

Yep, and do not forget to budget for fuel (bit more these days, and double what you would pay in the US), Parking, and any post trip surprises in the form of camera tickets, parking tickets, or damage fees).

I would suggest not looking at it as Train or Car, but primarily train between regions and major cities, and if needed, a car locally for a day, or three, to see things just not easily done by train or bus.

So want to get up to York? take the train, see the city. Also want to wander the moors, see Whitby by the sea, or explore smaller towns (Masham has a couple great breweries and is a charming town.) in the interior?, then rent a car for a couple days, return, then on to Edinburgh.

Will you save money overall? Maybe. But the amount of sanity saved navigating larger towns and cities, finding secure parking, and hassles a car can bring are worth quite a bit.

Posted by
29 posts

I studied abroad in England and got on fine without a car for the most part. I didn't end up in the Lake Country due to the trickiness of getting there from Bath on public transport. From Bath I could easily get to Cardiff, Oxford, Bristol, London, Kent (Dover, Rochester, Canterbury) plus York and Durham by train. Additionally it was easy to get to Glastonbury and Wells on the bus.

Trains are not generally 'cheap' in England, but they will be cheaper. The suggestion to do as much on the train and then add in a car rental to get to rural areas is a good one.

Posted by
308 posts

Split between car and train seems doable. But we have to take into account the time to learn to drive on the ''other side'' and the fact we will need an automatic car (I dont see myself learn to drive with a lefty manual car).

What would be those regions only accessible by car that are must see ?

Posted by
21026 posts

I don't think there is such a thing as a "must-see", but rural Scotland (Highlands and islands) was an area where a car would have been very helpful to me. You can get to some places by train or bus, but public transportation doesn't run very frequently, which can limit your flexibility. In addition, Scottish weather (especially in the west) tends to be changeable, overcast and wet. Having your own vehicle in that area gives you more ability to deal with weather challenges because you can check the forecast and head in a drier direction for the day.

I need to pause here to warn you that it is getting really late to look for affordable July-August lodgings in high-demand coastal areas like western Scotland and Cornwall. The awkwardness of traveling in those areas without your own vehicle really won't matter if you cannot find reasonably priced lodgings.

If you want to spend multiple days seeing the Cotswolds but not hiking in that area, a car may work out better. There's limited public transportation available there; some buses fan out from Moreton-in-Marsh, which has a train station. Another option is the small-group tours that do one-day loops through a bunch of small villages, most of them departing from Bath or Moreton-in-Marsh (an easy train ride from Oxford). GoCotswolds is one of those providers. Its van tours cost £50 per adult and £40 per child up to 15. An expert driver who knows the territory can pack a lot into a day; on the other hand, you don't control how much time is spent in each village when you take a tour. I can imagine children getting antsy during such a tour.

Cornwall is slow going without a car of your own. People mostly want to see the coastal spots, but there's not a road hugging the coast, so miles are covered fairly slowly even if you do have a car. There are buses, but they may not be frequent. It's a high-cost area, and the transportation challenges mean you'd need to spend more than a night or two to see very much.

You would have no difficulty at all filling a month and using only public transportation. It all depends on what you want to see and do. With children, I'd think London, York and Edinburgh might be more attractive than places one might go for scenic beauty (like the Lake District), but I don't have children and am only thinking about what bored me on family trips as a child. Unfortunately, London, York and Edinburgh have some of the highest lodging rates in the UK. Edinburgh rates go even higher in August, during the month-long Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo.

Posted by
456 posts

Don't forget to factor in the hassle factor of mixing train and car travel and carrying luggage. This seems to expand exponentially as a holiday progresses...

Posted by
6333 posts

Honestly driving on the other side of the road is NOT a big deal. Takes about 3 minutes to rest your brain to look RIGHT first, then LEFT before pulling into traffic.

Had my first "other side" of the road driving experience in the 80's when we drove from Dublin to Belfast. The only thing that spooked me was seeing British soldiers with guns at bay in a field outside Belfast.

Since then I've done landing at LHR, taking bus to Perimeter Road to Hertz to retrieve my rental and then driven 4.5 hours to Lyme Regis.

Have also rented in Belfast and driven across Ireland to Dingle in 5 hours.

Will say the first roundabout I encountered required two times of circling but once I got the hang of the traffic flow, nary a problem.

I always am bemused when my UK and Irish friends visit the states and never complain about driving on the "other side."

Lastly, nothing you can do about the pervasive world capitalism that causes prices to soar in the summer months when tourism is at it's height.

Finally, depending where in England and Scotland you wish to travel to taking the train could be an option. Will take time to research and beware both countries have more than one rail operator.

Posted by
5531 posts

For city to city points, the train is easier. For seeing rural parts, a car is almost essential.

If you share your itinerary, we can suggest options. Please don’t get off a long flight and try to drive on unfamiliar roads in a strange vehicle. Either start in London for a night or two then hire a car or take the train on day 1.

Car hire prices are likely to be much cheaper in a manual car, as probably 95% of hire cars will be manual. July and August are the two most expensive months too. I have never had any issues moving from a British car to driving in Europe and America on the wrong side of the road. The manual stick will take more practice but it’s not difficult.

Posted by
13044 posts

We have happily traveled around England, Scotland and Wales all by train. We did not see “everything” but one never does. We did see everything we wanted, including some out-of-the-way places we really liked, like Whitby, Haltwhistle, and others.

Look into a Family and Friends Railcard for sure—the card gives you 1/3 off rail fares for 2 adults and 60% off for children. And the reductions apply even to the much-discounted Advance fares.

Posted by
27707 posts

both children are of an age to qualify for half price train tickets. As Lola says, if you have any significant amount of train travel a Family and Friends Railcard will save plenty of money, and when combined with Advance train fares (check the restrictions) you can be quids in.

Everything you need to know is on the official webpage -

Posted by
298 posts

A left manual really isnt as bad as you think. It really does become second nature.

Lola and Nigel have already mentioned looking at a Family and Friends railcard. They can save tons of cash.

I avoid the car as much as I can and prefer the train whenever possible. Even with full trains, you are much more relaxed, can enjoy the beverage of your choice, and watch the world go by. Much less stressful - which is part of what a holiday is about. Parking can also be problematic in towns and villages, especially if your car is any bigger than a 4-door hatchback. Also remember that fuel prices in the UK are double what you are used to. If you do end up getting a car, what I would do is target my rental for those specific places public transport is more difficult. Instead of renting a car for three weeks, get to an area you want to explore and hire the car for three days.

Posted by
779 posts

Depending on your destinations, you could do BOTH. Train between cities. Public transit within cities. Rent a car for those parts of your trip where you are going to villages or countryside. You don't necessarily have to rent for the full 3 weeks.

Bear in mind that whatever the price is for a car is the price (plus fuel, of course). But the price for a train has to multiplied by 4.

I'm also shocked you can't rent for less than GBP 85 per day.. I mean, I just did a generic search on for Heathrow to Heathrow for 21 days and found prices at GBP 68 per day.

Also consider renting outside of London. You can often save money by taking train to, say, Milton Keynes and renting a car from there. Plus you avoid having to drive in London.

Posted by
3428 posts

Just a note on how we traveled. We have visited the UK more than 40 times (mostly just us 2, but several trips with both our kids and one with an 'extra' one). We ALWAYS used the trains and occasionally a 'local' bus. As you found, renting (hiring) cars is expensive. Gas (petrol) and parking are also very expensive. And parking can be hard to find and not conveniently located. Automatic transmission cars are rarities. We found that we actually really enjoyed the trains. Gave us time to read, listen to music (aren't ear buds awesome), sketch, or just rest. You can watch the scenery and even take pictures. There is a toilet on board, so no worries there. Many trains (especially longer distance routes) have either a restaurant car or a 'trolley' with drinks and snacks and sometime sandwiches that goes up and down the aisles. Or you can purchase your food and drink before you board and bring it with you. we found that many, if not most, train stations were centrally located. We liked the convince of using a BritRail Pass, but if you have fixed days of travel and don't plan to add unexpected day trips or change your plans, advance purchase tickets and the judicious use of 'discount' cards such as '2 traveling together' or 'senior' cards can greatly reduce the price of rail tickets.

Posted by
2564 posts

just to mention, driving on the "other" side is NOT easy for everyone and can be quite nervewracking. Heck, even driving on the "correct" side is another country is tricky enough.

Posted by
17 posts

We did 3 weeks in England/Scotland with our kids and I highly recommend doing it by car. Build a car into your trip budget---in my opinion it allows for more flexibility.

And a side note---

A must see in Scotland with kids is Leault Working of the best things we ever did in Scotland with our kids.
Also go to see the Puffins with Staffa Tours.....your kids will love it!