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Car vs Public Transport in Wales - solo travel

HI all

There seems to be a lot of support for renting a car for Wales travel, even for US tourists. It's definitely something I am considering but I noticed that just about every post I've read about renting a car involved two or more people - so there was always much discussion on having a co-pilot, particular as an occasional reminder that the driver needs to stick to the correct side of the road. For my trip, I will be solo.

Trip details currently - late July, starting in N. Wales and then eventually heading down the western coast to Pembrokeshire. Duration is 8 days (car being picked up on the first day and dropped off the morning of day 9 when I arrive in Cardiff).

Right now, I figure the pros are - a) flexibility in travel, b) more flexibility in where I stay overnight as I won't be stuck to towns with public transportation, c) not wasting time waiting for scheduled trains/buses, d) easier time transporting luggage and e) maybe covering more places/stops.

Cons would be a) traveling solo w/no passenger to help in directions, b) not able to pay more attention to the scenery during travel and relax, c) never having driven on the other side of the road or in a foreign country, and d) I've only ever driven automatics so my rental options will be slimmer.

If it helps, places I'm currently considering visiting while there are Llangollen, Conwy, Llandudno, Snowdon/Snowdonia, Caernarvon, Porthmadog, Portmeirion, Aberystwyth (steam train to Devils Bridge), Tenby, St. David's, and Pembroke Castle. Additional places I'm interested in, time dependent, are Bodnant Garden, Betws-y-Coed, some other steam trains, Harlech Castle.

So for any tourists who went the car route, or other tourists who specifically took public transport in Wales - how was your decision? Any one do either of those options solo?

Thanks much for any help!

Posted by
270 posts

I'm confident driving in reverse conditions (i.e. In America with an automatic) but I would share your concern about doing this on you own. 1. Because this part was f Wales does not have straight forward highways - you zig zag around a lot. 2) all the signage will be bilingual and in North and West Wales they tend to put the Welsh first which can be disorientating for a first timer 3) Sat Nav signals have a tendency to drop out in the remote areas and can leave you unsure of where to go, 4) you'll be travelling in the school holidays when the roads are likely to busier.
Rather than public transport, which is not the best in the areas you want to go to, have a browse at some tours - try out some local ones who will know the best places to go and things that RS wouldn't cover.
Some really small group tours available

Posted by
1610 posts

Yes, a car would make getting around much easier - especially in remote areas. On some back roads, you may have to reverse to a passing place but, if you stick to A and B roads, you would not have this problem. Read what I have written in the Glasgow to Holyhead post as that is also relevant to you. Euston to Chester will be a very fast journey - much of it at 125mph on a train that will tilt slightly to take the bends at speed. If you click the following link, you will see a streeview of a main ‘A’ road that is typical of these roads in Wales. You might to advance it to see how your brain works driving on the left. (It is the A40 between Crickhowell & Brecon).,-4.1149533,335m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1

Posted by
1762 posts

A co-pilot does come in handy as an extra set of eyes to read road signs. For the places you’re visiting, driving would be much easier than trying to figure out public transportation to get to the same locations. A GPS with updated maps works well, as does google maps downloaded to your phone for offline use. The google maps works well for those small places that are not on your GPS maps. Rent an automatic, specified when reserving the car. Each evening, look over your route for the following day, that why you’ll have an idea of the towns you’ll be passing through. That should help reduce some anxiety.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you! I will def. check google maps and the group tours as some ideas to try out. The one place that is causing the biggest hick up to my public transportation goals is getting from Aberystwyth to anywhere in Pembrokeshire later in the afternoon of a Sunday, so the car rental option might still be in play as well as hiring a driver for that portion of the trip. Will explore all of these ideas!

Posted by
1610 posts

Sundays can be a problem with fewer services and the railways often have engineering work. Anyway - no railway exists going directly from Aberystwyth to Pembrokeshire.

A bus service does operate between Aberystwyth & Carmarthen on Sundays - and being a Traws Cymru service T1 - it is free on the weekends. From Carmarthen, it is possible to catch a train westwards into Pembrokeshire.

A company called Richards Brothers operates the so called T5 service on the behalf of Traws Cymru on a more westerly route:>
Aberystwyth > Aberaeron > Cardigan > Fishguard > Haverfordwest. I think that they only operate a Sunday service between the first Sunday in May and the last Sunday in September.

First Cymru operate an hourly bus service Haverfordwest > Pembroke (348 & 349) > Tenby (349) but not on Sundays.

Posted by
850 posts

My mother traveled solo to Wales several years back as her grandmother came from Wales. She never had a problem finding a private driver and always enjoyed their company and comments. One even invited her back to his house and his wife made them tea. One of the places she stayed was Aberystwyth, another was Newtown. I don't remember the rest. I have taken the train from Chester to Bews y Coed and really enjoyed my day trip. I have also rented a car, but always with someone to be my navigator. I love Wales and know you will really enjoy your trip. When I visited Caernarvon we drove over to Anglesley Island and had a wonderful day.

Posted by
12382 posts

I saw a bit of Wales (Cardiff and some of the places you want to hit in northern Wales) in 2017, using public transportation. I day-tripped into the country from Bristol once and Chester twice, which was more limiting than actually sleeping in Wales. I agree that you've thought this through well and identified the key decision-making criteria. I suspect accomplishing what you want to do in 8 days will be challenging without a car, but you can probably manage it (probably not all the optional places) if you're willing to spend the money on town-to-town taxis when the going gets tough. A lot of the beauty spots and many of the embarkation points for the historic trains are in rather isolated areas with infrequent bus service. You may be transferring from bus to bus sometimes with a substantial layover, and that is a time-consumer.

How do you feel about a lunch of something like packaged nuts? A good mid-day meal often goes by the boards for me when I need to pay careful heed to bus schedules. Not just in Wales have I had to choose between a sit-down lunch and hanging around for many extra hours or moving on, hungry. However, I am not an early starter, so I may be painting too pessimistic a picture here. You'll certainly have a great time, because Wales is beautiful.

Posted by
1 posts

I can't really offer any help on this as I am considering the same! I'm traveling solo to Wales July 4-8 and then catching a ferry to meet up with family traveling to Ireland. I've gone back and forth about using public transportation, hiring a driver or driving. I'd prefer not to drive but I've got such a short time and after considering, I've gone ahead and rented a car. I'm a bit nervous but I think after the 1st day, it'll be okay. I rented an automatic and will make sure I have routes mapped out in advance.