After spending 3 days in Edinburg, we want to pick up a rental car. Are there places in the city that rent automatic transmissions, or will we have to go to the airport for that? Any suggestions for car rental companies? We'll be using the car for 11 days, returning it in Glasgow, probably at the airport, before we go into the city, comments?
The chances of being able to count on getting an automatic at an in city location are probably slim . Most cars across the pond are stick , so Edinburgh Airport would be a better choice for pick up . Getting to the airport is a piece of cake by bus or tram . The drop point at Glasgow Airport couldn't be easier , and the Citylink 500 bus from Stance # 1 is just across the street from the rental lot . The fare into town is about 6 pounds as I recall . As far as rentals , I generally use Hertz or Avis ( compare prices ) and if you book Avis , and are an AARP member , booking via the AARP site will get you a far better price .
Using www.kemwel.com, a US "consolidator" agency, Enterprise comes up as the vendor with the cheapest automatic cars from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow airport.
You need to request the automatic transmission. It costs more. Laura's suggestion is a good one. But, if you know how to drive stick, then don't panic if you get stuck. The feet are the same. What you are changing is shifting with your left hand. In a warped way it can help keep you on the left. :) I was amazed at how fast I got use to shifting with my left hand. When I returned from my first trip to the UK where I drove, I was picked up at the airport and then it was a couple of days before I got in my car and headed home. I'll never forget slipping into the driver's seat, turning the key, looking behind me to make sure there was no school traffic, and then slamming my left hand into the door as I attempted to shift with my left hand. :)
We rented a car at the airport after three days in Edinburgh and very glad we did. After wandering around Edinburgh I'm so glad we didn't rent in the city. Do NOT underestimate how unnatural it is to drive on the "wrong" side of the rode, especially the first 5 minutes or first day. A friend dropped us off at the airport to pick up our rental and we only had to go 2 blocks to the Hilton to meet our friend, then follow her home. In the first two minutes my husband hit a curb on the left, then proceeded the wrong way around the hotel roundabout.
Then think of replacing all intersections with stop lights and stop signs with roundabouts of all shapes and sizes. Five lane roundabouts with 8 exits. Intersections that appear "normal" but are really roundabouts with a round hump in the middle. The roundabout rule that saved our marriage is "driver continues to go around the roundabout until the passenger directs driver to correct exit". If you do make a wrong turn the next round about is never that far and you can just slingshot back the direction you came from. The UK's signage is extremely good in comparison to Italy. And definitely use a GPS.
If you want an automatic, you will need to specify an automatic, The vast majority of cars here are manual, and some of the smaller cars may not be available in automatic at all.
Don't fret about driving on the left, it will become more natural as the time increases, Though if I have to drive in France, Spain or Italy in a hire car I am still changng the gears with the door handle from time to time.
I'm going to disagree with Karen as I think that you can over estimate what it's like to drive on the left. I do agree that starting out it's difficult, but if you remember your mantra of left, left, left, you'll get started properly and things will flow well. I can't imagine going the wrong way in a roundabout unless there was no other traffic. If you're worried, here are the directions for learners. Here are some more general tips.
The hardest part in my view is the navigation, so since there are two of you, this will be so much easier. The thing to remember is that Scottish and other UK directional road signs often don't have the route number on them. Rather they tell this is the way to then next town or village. So, when you are plotting a trip, you need to look at the map, and be aware of the towns in between your starting point and your destination. As a solo driver, I used to compile a list and have it on the dashboard or somewhere near to consult as I approached an intersection.
And, yes, you will bump the left hand curb with your tires. So, consider that when you purchase your insurance. The scuffs will show up and the rental companies know to look for them for non-UK drivers! :)
Lastly, while you are less likely to run into single track roads in the central belt or Borders area, here are some tips on driving on single track roads. And, if you do decide to go to Glasgow, don't rent a car! Take the train. :)
I think the issues about driving " on the left " are nuanced , driving in the UK is neither a horror show , nor a stroll in the park . Keeping to the left is only one component of it , You will indeed bang up the left front , all Americans do it . When buying insurance , a buy down of the excess ( deductible ) which covers things like glass and tires is desirable ( often called Super CDW ) . Also the narrow roads , roundabouts ( Karen's description of one resembling an octopus is accurate , although I didn't encounter those in Scotland above Glasgow ) conspire to make things somewhat involved . Most importantly , everyone has a different learning curve and you have to take your own personality into account in the process . The first time I drove in England , the first two or three days were somewhat hairy , but as I became accustomed to it I began to relax . Having recently returned from a protracted trip to the UK , and another 3,000 miles , I rarely had an issue . Take into account what you have read here ( Pam's links will be very helpful , as always ) and keep in mind that Scotland , like much of the UK really works best with a car , Outside of the major cities , a car gives you the freedom to see a lot of places that you just can't get to any other way . It's worth sticking your toe in the water , it's not nearly as cold as many people think .
One suggestion and we use it when driving on the wrong side over in France, is get the navigator to act as an extra pair of eyes and remind the driver to stay on this other side. Switching between the two sides is as Steven says not that difficult and not that easy, but you do adapt.
However I have driven the wrong way around a roundabout in France, at least it was seven am outside a budget hotel in the middle of nowhere. Well, suburban Rennes.
I am actually going to be driving on my own so I am renting my car in Stirling on recommendation of some of my Scottish friends :-) They told me that the roundabouts, especially coming out of the airport, are vicious and even have stop lights in the middle of them.
I just ended up having AAA make the reservation for me to save some money and to make sure that I had full coverage insurance with no deductible. The whole charge was about 392 for about 8 days (I am renting at 10 am and returning at 1pm so it racks up an extra day). That is for an automatic. I think I'm probably going to have my hands full just with the left sided driving and trying to find my way around! Hoping I can get my garmin fitted up for the trip.:-)
" They told me that the roundabouts, especially coming out of the airport, are vicious and even have stop lights in the middle of them. " Not to mention things that go BUMP in the night ! Of all the places you will encounter easy to navigate roundabouts , Edinburgh Airport is one of the best ! I just looked at your other post , lots of driving , light on seeing things - Hopefully Pam and MC will give you better suggestions . Hope this works out .
The roundabouts with lights are probably the easier ones if you are not used to them. I can think of at least two in Stirling off of the top of my head. Where there may be issues at the airport is it is an airport and some of the drivers will be unfamiliar with the car and the basic UK road rule of 'keep left'.
QUESTION: We're renting a car in Glasgow to explore Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Will the rental car companies prohibit us using car ferries to the outer islands? What about close to the mainland islands, such as Isle of Mull?
You need to get a DEFINITIVE answer from the specific rental agency that you will use . It is unlikely that they would prohibit this , but better to have your T's crossed .
As Steven says if you are in doubt ask the hire car company, however there is no legal distinction in the insurance coverage between use on the island of Great Britain, and use on the islands off of it subject to UK law.
This certainly isn't a requirement, but spending a couple of pounds on green "P" magnetic decal to affix to the back of the car gave us a little peace of mind last August. Rick Steves' guidebook mentions getting a red "L" (indicating a learning driver, which may alert others on the road to cut you some slack if you're a little hesitant or aren't driving like a pro), but MC's helpful suggestion on this forum correctly advised getting the green P.
We picked ours up in Edinburgh at a 5-and-dime kind of store called Ali's Cave, but I was also told you can get them at some Scottish garages and big-box stores. The P's came in a two-pack and had fairly weak magnetic strips. The first one blew off during a windy rainstorm, but the second one stayed on - even on the Motorway. We still got a couple of honks (maybe from another American tourist?) but it made things a bit less stressful on the road.
Edit: I think we originally planned the trip with an older Rick Steves guidebook, but looking last night at our 2014 Great Britain book, Rick does say to get a Green P (for Provisional), not a Red L. :-)
Adding to Cyn's comment, it is worth repeating do not get the red 'L'. This has a specific legal meaning in the UK because of the restrictions it places on the driver, and may invite the attention of the police. The green 'L', now almost universally now a 'P', has no legal status, but does indicate a newly minted driver, and therefore expect some strange driving!
actually a trip to the airport in Edinburgh would be a pretty good way to start out your rental. Numerous companies there. You can take the tram very cheaply to the airport, ride the bus, or get a cab there from Edinburgh. Then it is relatively easy "first time in the UK" driving as you go west from the airport. Nice wide, easy to travel motorways...initially. You will of course have a couple of roundabouts as you leave the airport but I really had no problems with them as the roadway has markings on it that are helpful, and if you are compulsive about the driving (as I am) you can visit google earth or a similar on-line map that has street level and you can move along as if you are driving out of the airport. I did it a time or two before my trip and it was very useful, especially leaving the airport.