Live like a local.
Driving on the left side of the road can’t be THAT hard. As long as the wheel is on the inside of the road, it should feel the same, right?
Having a USA driver’s license gives us one year of renting cars without needing a UK driver’s license. That should give us plenty of time to rent cars and get use to it all, or so we thought, before needing to take the UK drivers test. Then COVID happens and our countdown is now shortened to 6 months of learning.
That is OK, we’re not negative nellies! We got this! No time like the present. One of our first vacations (an overnight) Cley next the sea (highly recommend), we decided to rent a car. We are not overachievers, we are realists. We rented an automatic economy car to get use to the left side before having to add driving with a stick shift on the left side (that will take some getting used to).
We also pat ourselves on the back because we thought about driving out of the city and how stressful that might be for the first time, so we rented from a remote airport on our way north. So clever, we thought of everything! However, there are adages for a reason. Best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Bigger isn’t always better. Never underestimate the power of bad ideas. . A day late and dollar short… Unfortunately, these all prove to be accurate.
We arrive at the car rental and they are full of things we didn’t really think too much about. Here in the UK unlimited mileage isn’t as common as it is when renting in the US. “Ok, add unlimited mileage”. Since we don’t own a car, we don’t carry auto insurance. “Ok, add accident insurance”. They have a thing here where they give you an empty gas tank, so you need to gage your driving to maximize returning it as empty as you can. This sounds brilliant. But really it’s only a win for the car rental. Then the kicker comes. “We are going to upgrade your vehicle, free of charge, to a – literally- brand new , not a scratch on the car, automatic SUV”. This sounds too good to be true. We are so comfortable driving large cars. Great. On our way we go.
Today’s world of GPS’ and Google maps, we are set for our adventure.
It is true these roads are narrow, I mean really cramped, no, I mean restricted. Wait, we are in a ginormous 7 seater SUV trying to navigate these poky streets with inadequate experience driving on the left side of the road. What the hell?!*#?! We did this to ourselves. David is driving (doing a mighty fine job) and I am in the passenger side hearing the shrubbery scrape along the side of the, what was once an unmarked car. I turn up the radio to block out the scratching sounds and stop my wrinkled-up face that could be interpreted but not intended as critical.
In the UK your side mirrors fold in. WHY? because, often, when you pass a car if you both don't fold in your mirrors, both of you will regret it. ALSO, it helps when you are fighting with the shrubbery on the side of the road. I'm 100% guaranteed, in the states, i've never used this feature? do we even have it? Here it's just a button you push (fold in/ fold out)
We pretty much survived the weekend, and, on our way home, decide to stop in scenic Cambridge for dinner. We’ve mastered the map and drive into town only to realize we must actually park and get out of this behemoth vehicle. The unpleasantness that passed between David and me make it apparent that we are not having an enjoyable dinner until this car is no longer our responsibility. We immediately left Cambridge and drove back to return the rental hell, I mean car.
Enlightenment that I am issuing to you gratis. You can thank me later. Outside of the USA, when a rental car company up-sells you on a car and is overly eager for you to accept, ask yourself, how does this benefit you? The answer is sure to be, it does not. When you think you want an automatic rental car to make things easier as you learn to drive in another country, ask yourself, what am I giving up by asking for this? The answer is the ability to rent a miniature car, which is what you want, trust me on this. Rent the manual. When you think returning the car empty is easier, meaning you do not have to worry about finding a gas station when you are trying to drop off the car! The answer is, this might be a time saver, but it is a hole in your wallet spewing money. Remember that SUV? It takes a lot of gas! Remember learning about driving in a different country? Gas stations are not on every corner, you don’t want to be stuck, so you fill up the tank when you can. This means you are returning it with money in the tank, that money WAS your money. Remember needing insurance to rent a car? Unlike, the USA, here they inspect that car thoroughly upon your return. Fortunately for us, I think our attendant was not wearing his glasses. Let me conclude, driving on the left side of the road, in the UK, on narrow roads is not for the faint-hearted.
Don't take life so seriously.
I'm Jody. I love to travel. I love to take pictures. I love to meet people and find interesting places. I also love to write about and post pix of what I've found. But, I've been told that I write like I talk - in streams of consciousness. So, if proper grammar and well composed sentences are a must for you - my posts will make you crazy. If you want to follow my journey as I learn about really cool places and offer some great tips about living abroad, read on!