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Train vs Car

Hello all,
My wife and I are traveling to Edinburgh in April. We are planning to travel around Scotland as we have 2 weeks. We are not thrilled about the cost of renting a car plus the petrol costs (and availability of public restrooms) so we are seriously considering travel via train. Any experience with this?

Posted by
4687 posts

Train travel is good for city to city travel, but for rural Scotland, your trip will be significantly enhanced with a car.

The availability of rest rooms shouldn’t be an issue - there are many cafes and petrol stations with bathroom facilities in addition to public toilets.

Posted by
1829 posts

I was going to post a very similar question so maybe I'll just piggyback off yours and share my findings so far. We're travelling in early June and found flights from Calgary to Glasgow significantly cheaper and wondering if renting out of Glasgow cheaper as well. Through Expedia I'm seeing 1 week rentals for $175 for an automatic. However, the smaller cars are double that price, so a question that needs to be asked is if I would regret a premium or midsize car on some of the single lane track roads I'm going to encounter-we will be going to the Isle of Mull for a couple of days.

We have been researching different methods of travel for the sites we want to see and have come to the conclusion that trains and buses won't get us everywhere we want to go-at least not conveniently. We looked at the Rick Steves tour, but this particular one doesn't thrill us. Rabbies is another tour company that we're looking into, and so am trying to determine if I need a car for a full 2 weeks or maybe rent one for 1-2 days at a time as needed. Planning for the 2 week trip and what we want to see has just begun so we are also gathering facts and opinions.

Posted by
9 posts

I'd echo that train is great for getting from city to city, but in rural areas you'd have to rely on buses (rare in some places) or tours, which will often add up to be quite expensive.

I'm going next week, and we were able to rent an automatic Kia cee'd for $270 for 10 days out of glasgow! So very reasonable cost wise. We booked through AutoEurope, and then I kept checking prices, found it cheaper on priceline, and autoeurope matched their price!

I'd just make a list of what you want to see, and anything that is outside of reasonably sizes towns or cities, will be hard to get to. One thing you could do is either front load or back load cities so you can only rent a car for a few days, or pick up a car in one place and drop off in another (for example, pick up in Edinburgh, and drop off in Skye).

We ended up doing the car for the whole time since dropping the car off in edinburgh made the price double, and we were able to find lodging with an included parking space. So lots to consider!

Posted by
453 posts

Kalzak I did not have any trouble finding bathrooms in Scotland or Ireland. For me the rural areas of Scotland provided the most return on my investment of time and money. Pay for the total coverage insurance IMO.

Allan, I regretted being "upgraded" to a mid size from a smaller car on my first trip to Scotland. The roads were much more narrow than I believed they were going to be. The left side driving, a midsize car, and roads that very often were bordered by rock walls and curbs made me really nervous. I had ordered a smaller, compact car but at the airport got upgraded to a midsize. The car looked pretty small to me (it was an awesome car I admit) so I accepted it as a replacement but I struggled with it. I did not have an accident or damage the car but worried way too much about it. I got a "citi" car in Ireland it was great, easy to drive, enough power, and great for parking in smaller tight parking spaces as often found in Ireland and the UK. Parking even in the small villages is pretty tight. Be aware that the small cars wont handle much luggage but for two of us, each with a checked bag and a carry on, the smaller car was better. By the end of my Scotland trip and throughout my Ireland trip (my second on the left driving experience) I adjusted to left side driving, narrow roads, and one lane roads. I loved my time over there!

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Kalzak,

Best thing to do is rent a car for your entire time in Scotland. If you rent for blocks of days within your two week visit, you're going to end up paying a lot more than if you rent for the entire two weeks. Petrol is expensive, but cars in Scotland get excellent fuel mileage. The exchange rate right now is $1.22 to the pound. Hopefully it will be in that range next April.

The cheapest places to buy petrol are in in the forecourts of the major supermarkets - Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Morrison's, Co-op, etc. If there are two supermarkets near one another, they frequently have a price war, which would be to your advantage. At the current price of petrol in the Glasgow area (1.13 UKL per litre), and approximately 4 (3.78) litres per US gallon, you'd be paying about $5.25 for the equivalent of one US gallon, which is not that much different from what you would pay for premium unleaded in California.

Unless you plan to drive the North Coast 500, or head for some of the remoter corners of the Highlands and Islands, you will find public toilets everywhere. In addition to regular public conveniences, supermarkets, pubs, hotels, department stores, museums, and restaurants all have toilets available to the public. In some of the more remote parts of Scotland, you may be asked to contribute a small amount of money if you use the toilet in a shop or restaurant. Sort of like spending 50p to spend a penny! :) Mrs. Auchterless and I have found toilet facilities everywhere in Scotland (although they are limited on the Small Isles, St. Kilda, and Handa). At one point, we had considered writing a "Good Loo" guide to Scotland for those, like us, who have frequent urges.

If you hire a car, as opposed to taking public transportation, your opportunity for exploration will be increased tenfold. The most beautiful parts of Scotland are virtually impossible to reach by train and bus. In the Highlands and Islands, the places that you want to see may be only served by bus service once or twice a day. Also, with two of you travelling, your rail/bus costs would be doubled. Plus, with a car, you don't have to carry your luggage everywhere.

You can hire a car for your two weeks, and still take a day trip (or two) with Rabbie's, or another tour company. As you don't get to stop for long at each place you visit, a tour would whet your appetite for getting back to your car and spending more time at places you visited.

If you have a Visa/MasterCard, you can use it in lieu of car insurance. Your credit card will reimburse you for any damages to your hired car. You pay for the damage when you return the car, and then submit the paperwork to Visa or MasterCard. It takes a while to get reimbursed, but the system works. You have to decline all coverages (except towing, if you decide to accept it) offered by the rental company in order to activate this coverage.

Don't fret about driving on the left. It takes about an hour to get used to. On the motorway, the slow lane is the left lane, not the right lane. If you're at all apprehensive, hire a car with an automatic transmission. It's one less thing to worry about. The roads in the Highlands are narrow, and even in some of the smaller towns as well. So driving in Scotland does require a little more concentration than you would give in your home town. Traffic circles (roundabouts) can be a bit unnerving at first, but if you read up on the rules and procedures before you head over, you'll be fine. As with driving anywhere, a little courtesy goes a long way.

Very best wishes for your April holiday. The daffodils and crocuses will be in bloom while you're over, and newborn lambs will be frolicking on the hills in most of southern Scotland.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

@rmg643 - You can't drop a hired car off on Skye. The nearest drop off point for any of the major rental companies would be in Inverness.

Posted by
18746 posts

Not mentioned above, unless I missed it, is the weather situation, especially in western Scotland. With your own car you'd have some flexibility to go where it is less rainy on a given day, consistent with your hotel bookings. Without a car your flexibility to react to bad weather will be more limited.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you all for your input. While not completely sold on car rental we are taking a closer look at it. For those who have rented in Glasgow, where are/did you rent at? Airport or elsewhere?
Thank you

Posted by
1722 posts

For those who have rented in Glasgow, where are/did you rent at? Airport or elsewhere?

We flew into Glasgow and rented there. We declined the "upgrade" the rental car company suggested and were very happy with our "wee blue Fiat".

Our favorite places in Scotland were not served by train or bus. I consider a car essential to explore the Highlands.

We didn't drive in the cities. We spent the first few days just outside Glasgow in Uplawmoor. There as a convenient commuter train we took into town. When we visited Edinburgh, we stayed on a Clydesdale farm just outside Linlithgow and took the train into Edinburgh. There's plenty of safe parking at the commuter stations.

Posted by
2732 posts

We've rented out of Glasgow and also returned a car there (2 different trips). It is a nice facility, but make sure to ask the agent who puts you into your car which signs to follow at the roundabouts leaving the airport campus. I think there may be 3 roundabouts, and the signs are not necessarily self-explanatory when you want to get onto the Motorway headed either north (toward the Erskine Bridge and Loch Lomond) or south (toward Glasgow). It helps to know that the airport is actually in Paisley, slightly north of Glasgow. And it's on the southwest side of the River Clyde, so you have to cross the river in order to go north to the highlands or east toward Edinburgh.

We also returned a car in Edinburgh. The airport is bigger and the car rental lot is at the opposite end of the terminal from the taxi stand, so you have to walk a ways with your luggage if you want to get a taxi into town. The taxis are not allowed to pick you up except at the head of the line of the taxi stand.

I know this is probably TMI, but FWIW!

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Kalzak,

Definitely hire out of Glasgow Airport. However, if you're spending a couple of days in the city at the beginning of your holiday, it may put your mind more at ease to take public transportation in to the city first, then come back to the airport to hire your car.

Glasgow is a confusing city to drive in, especially if you are not used to driving on the left. In addition to the one way and dead end streets, there are also "bus only" lanes and bike lanes to be aware of, and traffic cameras everywhere that are intended to make lots of money for the Glasgow City Council.

I have to heartily agree with epitd's comment. The on ramp for the M8 leading to Glasgow is bang in the middle of a roundabout, with vegetation hiding the sign until you're right on it. As many times as I've driven out of GLA, I still miss that exit, and have to go half way 'round the airport! :(

However, once you get on the motorway, you never have to venture on to the city streets unless you have reason to.

Best wishes, and happy motoring!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
3148 posts

We use a rental car so we can come, go, and stop, when we want and where we want. If we are only going to a couple cities we’ll use trains, but mostly, we visit the rural places not often regularly served by public transportation.

Posted by
5547 posts

It really does depend on what you want to see and do and experience. If you want to go to Skye, you need a car. If you want to go north of Inverness, you need a car. I am not sure why you are figuring in public restrooms. I've got to say that I really never really had any trouble finding a place to pee in Scotland. I will admit that at least once I sat on a ledge in the heather, but I don't think that is your concern. (The ledge in the heather was one of the great peeing spots ever!)

Posted by
1765 posts

Agree with other posters. Rent a car. You won’t regret it. I found driving in Scotland a pleasure.

Posted by
20 posts

Okay you all have convinced me. I’ll rent a car. Now the question is where to rent one from! Is one online site better than another when renting a car in Europe or the UK?

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Kalzak,

If you're renting out of Glasgow Airport, you'll pretty much need to rent from one of the majors. Go to each website to see who offers the best rates. I've rented from Avis the last few times over, and have been satisfied. At the time I rented, the cost was less then Hertz, National, and Enterprise. There are several other companies which rent out of GLA. I think that Thrifty and Dollar have kiosks there, as well.

Be sure when you're comparing prices to compare apples with apples. Make sure that you have unlimited mileage, identical charges for insurance packages (if you decide to take insurance), local and national taxes, and airport fees.

Best wishes for your holiday plans!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
3148 posts

My rental car company of choice is Avis. I’ve rented from it for a number of years and have always been satisfied.