rental car ukBy David Showell

Renting a car in any foreign country can be an intimidating experience, and this is especially the case for American motorists who are visiting the UK.

Great Britain is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world, but getting from A to B while driving on a different side of the road will always be a little problematic. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip to this wonderful country.

 

Bring your license

There are car rental offices and desks all over the UK, from airports and railway stations to high streets and shopping malls, and you will need your driver’s license when you hire a vehicle. Most companies will not rent a car to you if you have only held a full license for less than a year, so be sure to make enquiries first before you arrive.

It’s not right, it’s left!

Driving on the left-hand side of the road will seem strange at first, but you soon get used to it. For first-timers, it’s not a good idea to hit the city streets during a busy period, so try to avoid the rush hour when collecting your car. And if you can find a few quiet back roads for a little practice before unleashing yourself on the main highway, so much the better.

Safely gathered in

In the UK, every driver and passenger has to wear a seat-belt, so make sure everyone is strapped in before setting off. It’s generally regarded as the responsibility of the man or woman behind the wheel to check, so be warned. If you’re travelling with young children, car seats can be ordered via the rental company, so let them know your requirements when you book.

Remember the laws

Mobile phone use by drivers is against the law, so keep your cellphone out of temptation’s way – if you’re even seen just holding the phone in your hand while you’re driving you will be stopped by the police. Drink-driving is a big no-no and will result in severe punishments. Allowable alcohol limits are extremely low, so it’s best to avoid it altogether if you’re driving.

Don’t be a fool with fuel

The vast majority of filling stations in Britain are self-service, so don’t just sit there waiting for an attendant to appear. Most cars run on either four-star petrol or diesel, and you need to make sure you know which one you need. Making the wrong choice could result in an expensive repair bill, so it’s imperative that you select the correct pump. It’s a good idea to write down which you need and to keep the note in the car at all times.

Avoid the rush hours

Roads in almost every major city in the world seem to come to a complete standstill during the peak periods, and London, Manchester, Edinburgh and the rest are no different. If you really don’t need to travel at these times it’s a good idea to avoid them, so linger a little longer over your breakfast every morning, and make sure you’ve arrived at your destination by late afternoon.

 

Joan McCray

Joan McCray is a travel writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in the NewYorker,Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Wine,and many local publications.She has published travel anthologies in Salon.com and Lonely Planet.

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