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England Road Trip

Hello, we want to rent a car and wondered which way is best:
1. Pick up at Heathrow and head South then end in a 4 night stay in London or
2. Arrive for a 4 night stay in London then train it to Dover & pick up the car there then return it to Heathrow Airport?
Any info would be appreciated.

Jean

Posted by
139 posts

Something to consider - after a long transatlantic flight, how tired/jet lagged will you be? You may want to consider the 4 nights in London first so that you are more rested before picking up your rental car and the added mental stress of driving on the other side of the road. Do you really want to get off a plane after many long hours and then immediately get into a rental car and have to navigate driving? Just my humble opinion, but something you should consider. In any event, enjoy the planning as well as the trip!

Posted by
4857 posts

Another vote for not picking up a car on arrival after a long flight.

Dover is east, not south of Heathrow. The drive from London to Dover is long and tedious, so take the train.

Posted by
4934 posts

My Wife and I did a wonderful four week road trip of England and South Wales in 2017. The largest cities that we visited were Cardiff and York. We stayed away from the London area. The British countryside is amazing. Britain is loaded with historical places as well as very scenic places.

Originally, we had planned to do Scotland as well in the four weeks, but the more planning that I did, it became apparent that we easily could skip Scotland for another trip. In planning, I picked places that were natural for tourists, as well as places that my wife and I had ancestors (from there).

My detailed story of our road trip as well as our transatlantic cruise back to the USA is accessible at this link.
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=599139

Not sure how much time you plan for your road trip, but I have some tips:
1) try to limit your driving time per day to two hours.
2) try to find lodging with free parking at a small hotel or B&B that is centrally located so you can walk to key areas in the city you visit.
3) Have plenty of coins for parking and toilets.
4) Rent a vehicle that is large enough for your luggage to be placed in the trunk (boot for English). If your luggage is visible while parked, it may attract thieves that would break into your vehicle.
5) Rent a vehicle with automatic transmission and a navigation system, if you are from North America and normally drive on the right.
6) Take a good map with you as a backup.

A couple of posters advised you not to rent a car after a transatlantic flight. I agree that it wise to be cautious when driving after a long flight.
On two occasions, we rented a car after such a flight and I had no problems driving. We rented the car in the early morning and I only drove about two hours. For example, our drive from Heathrow to Bath was a little longer than two hours.

Note, that I know my own metabolism. I tend to be very excited about my trips and am ready to go after a transatlantic flight. I do get tired later in the afternoon. It is wise to be careful, but I disagree that categorically no-one should drive after such a flight.

If you are headed into an area with heavy traffic and more likely to be delayed, then perhaps it would be better not to rent after the flight. You mentioned Dover, are you planing to stay in England or cross the channel?

Posted by
1128 posts

I’d never suggest renting a car on day of arrival. This assumes you’re flying in from North America on the typical overnight flight. Even if you always sleep on planes, this time you might not.

How many is we? If there’s young kids, they may not enjoy being strapped into a car for long journeys. Heck, even teens may not enjoy it.

Do you have a tentative itinerary? A car may not be necessary.

Posted by
440 posts

I know it's silly but I've always want to see the White Cliffs... also I know Dover is East but we have to go South prior to going East. We've driven a lot in England, Scotland & Ireland so driving on the other side of the road for us is easy and we've never been tired on our many European drives after a long flight. Just wondered which is best for picking up or dropping off a vehicle at Healthrow!

Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
440 posts

There is just us two Adults...
Just checked, Dover is under a 2 hour drive....we have a GPS for Europe that we used in Italy, France, Belgium, England, Scotland & Ireland previously..
Just wanted to know if it's easier to rent from Healthrow at the beginning of our trip or return to Heathrow & stay in London after our road trip?
Jean

Posted by
4857 posts

Unless you are driving during the lockdown with no traffic, there is no way Heathrow to Dover can be driven in under 2 hours. It’s closer to 3 hours at most times and just because you have driven before whilst jet lagged doesn’t mean you should do it again!!

The cliffs are best seen from the sea, not in Dover itself. You get a better view in places such as the Seven Sisters near Brighton, which maybe less out of your way.

Posted by
440 posts

Well 3 hours is also doable; we're seen most of Northern England so wanted to do the South and yes I know about the cliffs in Brighton and plan to stay there. As mentioned we've seen a lot of Britain and I was just asking the question as to whether it's easier to rent from Heathrow or is it easier to return to Heathrow. I'm getting answers to questions I didn't ask.
We are not going to the Continent.

Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
709 posts

Jean, I don’t think there is much difference between picking up or dropping off a car at Heathrow. It’s an easy place for either.

Assuming you will pick up or drop off at Dover on the non-Heathrow end, make sure the car rental office is open on the day you want. This can be a particular problem on Sundays.

You can see the white cliffs from Dover, but, I agree, the cliffs at Seven Sisters are spectacular. You can hike along them, but be careful! Don’t get close to the edge.

Posted by
440 posts

I was just wondering about arrival to pickup the car, is the rental agencies in the terminal. Also about returning the car are the directions easy to follow to return the rental car park?
We'll have about 3 weeks to see what I'm planning!
Thanks eef,
Jean

Posted by
5688 posts

Which car rental agency do you use?

Some ( Hertz, Eurocar ) at Heathrow are accessible by shuttle busses which take you to offices on the perimeter road.

Use Google Maps Satellite view and enter in which rental agency you prefer using.

Each time I’ve rented at Heathrow it’s been at least an hour after deplaning, going thru immigration and getting to the rental office before I’m in the car.

I also recall to return my rental a few years back it wasn’t as well posted as I hoped and remember getting frustrated. I was returning from my stay in Lyme Regis.

Posted by
709 posts

Returning is always a little trickier than picking up a rental car because you have to get gas. We have always rented from a rental car company along the perimeter road. There are a bunch of them all in a row. There are two motorways right there, so it is easy to be on your way.

Make sure you know where you are plan to get gas if you return at Heathrow. With the traffic, you have to make turning decisions quickly. It’s a little tricky. Once you have gas, it’s pretty easy to hit the perimeter road.

Posted by
440 posts

We usually used Auto Europe but is not written in Stone! If we're bused to perimeter road, can I assume you return it there and is it easier than the airport lot?
Thanks again eef

Posted by
3299 posts

We rent from Avis and pick up the car right outside terminal 5. We return it to the facility on perimeter road. I too have no problem driving for up to 2.5 hours after a long flight. Unless you plan on stopping at places between London and Dover, there’s no reason to rent a car. Some places we visited include Churchill’s house at Chartwell, Igtham Mote, Aylesford Priory, Leeds castle, and Canterbury. Also, we spent nights in Tonbridge and Canterbury before spending a few hours in Dover before continuing to Rye. We always end our UK trips returning the car to the airport and taking the tube into town for a night or two before departure. It’s a nice way to wind down the trip.

Posted by
440 posts

We are doing a road trip for 3 weeks in England so we need to rent a car. Can we catch the tube into London near the Perimeter Road car drop off and if so, how far is it to the tube station?
Cheers,
Jean

Posted by
5688 posts

No regrading a tube stop near the perimeter road.
Best to take the shuttle back to Terminal 5 and catch it there. About an hour ride into London via the Piccadilly line.

Posted by
1063 posts

Steer clear of very dodgy hire car companies like Green Motion and Easirent (many, many complaints on Tripadvisor about them), if you book a car with a 3rd party agency you may end up with one of them.

Posted by
26010 posts

...if we're bused to perimeter road, can I assume you return it there and is it easier than the airport lot?

That is the airport lot. There is not a closer one. There are none within the perimeter of Heathrow airport, unlike at Gatwick where everything is very close.

Or rather, lots. All the majors share a very large area.

Driving from there all the way around the M25 will be no fun whatsoever.

If you want to get to Dover I propose using the rail network and perhaps getting the car in Dover. Just be prepared for a seriously ugly town.

Posted by
4408 posts

Jean.

I can sense your frustration at receiving plenty of advice that you didn't request and your attempts to find the answers pertinent to your questions.

I have an observation to make that may assist in future questions. Your initial post asked two questions however there was no additional information that would have prevented the slew of assumptions that followed. I appreciate that it would have taken longer initially but if you had briefly described that you had visited the UK before and had experience driving on the left, that you were planning on the trip when it was safe to do so, the reason for wanting to visit the cliffs at Dover and also pre-empting the inevitable good advice that The Seven Sisters is a much better option by stating that you intend to visit there as well would have significantly reduced the number of replies and likely resulted in you receiving the answers to your question sooner.

I've never rented a car from Heathrow as I've never needed to however if you want the greatest choice particularly if an automatic is essential then Heathrow will be your best bet. If those factors are not that important then for the sake of a more pleasant travel experience I echo the option to travel to Dover by train and rent a car from there. Personally I would stay in London first. I have only driven once straight after a transatlantic flight (Philadelphia to Absecon, NJ and immediately hitting Friday evening rush hour!), I managed fine but I was younger and quite hyped but now I will always overnight at a nearby hotel before picking up a car. The drive from Heathrow to Dover includes a sigificant part of the M25. Whenever I drive to Heathrow I enter the M25 from the A3 and the stretch of the M25, especially if departing from T5, is much shorter than the stretch you'd be driving. I have never not experienced delays and slow traffic, I would not want to drive that route at the best of times let alone after a long flight.

Posted by
440 posts

The reason I mentioned Heathrow is that is where my flight from Toronto, Canada usually arrives.
We only rent standard vehicles as it is a lot cheaper to do so.

We may now stay in London upon arrival then train it to Dover & rent a vehicle there as you say it would be easier than renting at the airport and heading out!

Only planning on one night in Dover...

Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
4408 posts

If landing at Heathrow then that is perfectly reasonable to mention why you were considering renting from there. It probably has the widest selection of cars to rent however if an automatic is not essential then you should have no problems renting from somewhere in Dover.

If you haven't already viewed the National Trust site then I recommend it as it details the best way to see the cliffs from land:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-white-cliffs-of-dover

Posted by
4934 posts

We rented from Europcar (I would not recommend renting from them).

There was a minibus that transported us to their car rental site that was very convenient to a major (dual carriageway).

We headed to Bath after receiving the car and it was easy to navigate.

If you head for Dover (east), you are more likely to find heavier traffic, especially if you go on the M25 Orbital. The M25 is a parking lot most of the day time.

Posted by
4408 posts

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