After touring London, we are going to rent a car for a few days and tour the Cotswold area. Since, we will be driving on the left side, I want to avoid traffic leaving London and stay alive! Would you recommend Tubing it to Heathrow and renting and returning the car there? Another alternative is Luton Airport. We will be staying in the West Kensington area. What are your thoughts?
There will be traffic anywhere you rent - and navigating out of a major airport can be a nightmare, even if you're in the States! Maybe the Luton airport is less busy, but Heathrow looks like it would be a major drag to get out of. The first time we rented a car in London we were staying near Regent's Park. We found a car rental place on Marylebone Road near the Baker Street tube stop and took the A40 all the way out of town, without incident. The A40 sort of turns into the M40, which took us to Oxford in a straight line, no hassle. (And of course would take you to the Cotswolds!) So I guess my thoughts are that I wouldn't bother with the extra step of going to an airport, which may or may not be less hectic and crammed with traffic. I am figuring that if my husband managed to drive a rental car out of London with no incidents - despite it being his first time "on the wrong side" and despite the car being a manual, which he hadn't driven in years - pretty much anyone could do it.
We have rented (Hertz) at LHR three times, then headed off to the west. It was actually easy to leave there heading AWAY from the city. We always try to arrive on a weekend so there is less traffic. However, even on a weekday, the majority of the traffic would probably be heading INTO the city, not leaving. We returned our cars to the airport, either LHR or Edinburgh. However, you might want to return yours to some other city that has train connections back to London if you want more time there.
I have rented from Heathrow a number of times and just plan to head right out onto the freeway. Takes a bit to get used to , but eventually it feels normal. However, even though I drive a manual here at home as well as all over Europe I always rent an automatic in England. I have tried to envision remembering everything as well as shifting and it might be too much for my brain (maybe worse for me since I drive a manual)
We always rent a car at Heathrow and find it very easy to get out of the airport (and back again). We do have a GPS which helps.
Bill - My wife and I were faced with this same dilemma a few years back. We took the train to Oxford and picked up our rental there.
We picked up our rental car at Marble Arch once. Would never again try to drive in London. It is very easy to get out of Gatwick but LHR is another story. GPS would be helpful.
Heathrow is easy to get out of and on the road. Bring it up on Google Maps Satellite and look along the northern boundary of the airport. That's where the rental car agencies are. You'll see that you drive East on Bath Road to intersect the M4 spur which you take North to M4 West. Then stay in the left lane to take the exit to M25 North. Very easy.