Are cars really necessary in UK?
If you are planning a trip to the United Kingdom, you may wonder if it’s necessary to rent a car. If you are planning on renting a car, you should really re-evaluate whether or not you really need to rent a car. Renting a car in the UK is something that can prove extremely dangerous for Americans, since the British drive on the left side of the road. Also, petrol, which is what the British call gasoline, is about five dollars a gallon. The great thing about the UK is that you don’t need to rent a car because their public transportation is excellent. And besides, you’re backpacking. Renting a car is anathema. However, just because you are backpacking and roughing it doesn’t mean you need to walk long distances.
When you’re in London, it’s very obvious that you don’t want to be driving at all. There is a fee assessed to anyone who drives in the city limits and there is of course a whole lot of traffic. Luckily, London has their famous Underground, also known as the Tube. You can buy a pass of varying lengths for very little money. If you are only going to be in London for a short time, you might want to buy a day pass each day so that you can use the Tube an unlimited number of times.
Common courtesy in UK
You should pay attention to all of the rules of the Tube out of common courtesy and besides, you don’t want to be thrown off of it. There is no smoking on any of the trains or in the stations. Also, when going on an escalator heed the signs that say “stand to the right, walk to the left.” This means to stay on the right side of the escalator if you are taking your time or reading a map or generally not paying attention. The left side is for those in a hurry and it should be for walking (or running) only.
The Tube goes all over London and it’s really easy to walk from one Tube station to another. They are often a short walk from any location. While you are walking around London, you’ll notice that at the crosswalks there are signs painted on the pavement informing you which way to look. They say “Look Left” or “Look Right.” Apparently one too many tourists have been hit by cars. Make sure you look both ways during your trip and not just the direction you’re used to looking at home, because it is wrong. Outside of London, you often won’t get the warning on the pavement reminding you of which direction is the correct one.
How to get around London easily?
Getting around London is easy, but what about when you travel outside of London, especially to smaller towns. First of all, you can take a bus to most small towns in England and Scotland with no problem. Multiple buses arrive and depart to a particular location in a day. If you are in school you will want to stop by the main bus station in London and purchase a student card. It will save you a lot of money on bus fare.
Once you take a bus to a small town you will usually not need any transportation while you are in the town because you can get anywhere you need to go by just walking. Typically, you can take a bus out of the town to any other town that you need to go to. I only had a problem once, where there was a special event going on and so all of the buses were booked solid. I couldn’t go from Bath to York and so I asked the ticket seller where the buses that were available were going. I wound up going to Stratford-upon-Avon instead and so what could have been a major disappointment turned out to be just fine.
I worked my way up to Edinburgh, Scotland over the course of a week. Edinburgh doesn’t have an underground, but they do have local buses that run up and down Prince’s Street for a flat daily fee. If my memory serves me correctly it was less than £3 for the entire day.
I managed to travel all over the UK in less than two weeks and for very little money. With the student card, the bus fare was around £8 for short trips, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Unlike in the United States, the public transportation in the UK is efficient and reliable. And fun too. They still use double-decker buses, a symbol to many Americans of London, not only in the city but also for longer trips. The best place to sit in one of them is right up in the front on the upper deck. And if you haven’t been there long, you’ll find yourself covering your eyes every time you think an oncoming car is going to hit you because it’s in the “wrong” lane, when really every thing is just fine. And if you stay any length of time at all you’ll find yourself doing this when you come back to the States as well.
So enjoy your trip to the UK and rest assured that you can get pretty much where ever you want to go without having a car. If you should decide to rent a car however, perhaps to go somewhere off the beaten path, I would advise renting it outside of any major cities, and sticking to the countryside where there is less traffic to worry about.