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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
221 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.

https://www.visitwales.com/holidays-breaks/sightseeing-and-tours/road-trips-10-sightseeing-tours-of-wales
Some really small group tours available

Posted by
1556 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).https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.845394,-4.1149533,335m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1

Posted by
1574 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
172 posts

"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."

You summed up the main the pro's and con's and it's up to you to decide, I just want to reassure you that all of these places are fairly easy to reach by train or bus and riding the narrow gauge trains of Wales is an experience in itself.

https://www.visitwales.com/explore/travel-maps/getting-around-wales

Look into the Explore Wales train/bus pass.

https://tfwrail.wales/ticket-types/explore-wales

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
1556 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.