Friday, August 14, 2009

Driving in the UK and Ireland

It might be common to travel Europe and the United Kingdom by train, but have you ever considered driving instead? Not only is it more convenient when traveling the countryside, but you're more likely to hop off the beaten path this way. Doesn't sound bad, does it? The only probable blip, as most of us know, is getting on the other side of the road, and liking it! Between that and roundabouts, many visitors feel intimidated into taking the train in the United Kingdom. Many areas in the States, for example, have added roundabouts in recent years, but it doesn't hurt to give this circular, yield-upon-entry a test or two in a less populated area before you get to the big ones! If you're nervous about the other cars on the road—and making a mistake or two—Rick Steves recommends dropping by a gas station or car store and getting a “P” sign: it stands for Probationary Driver, and will get you some much-needed slack as you're going from place to place.

Rick Steves' Top Tips on Driving in the United Kingdom
At least Rick Steves didn't tell us that driving in the United Kingdom was super easy--it just takes some practice. If you'll be in England, keep in mind that crowded cities may incur a congestion fee to drive through city centers, meaning that you'll have to pay around $13 to drive through London, for exampled. Since the buses and the tube are excellent means of transport, why not stick to the exploratory driving when you're out in the country, at least to kick things off? Rick Steves suggests renting a car in Bath, exploring the countryside, and then dropping off your rental in York to take the train to London. It's easy, it's simple, and it will get you where you need to go, while still giving you the opportunity for better picture snapping! Outside of cities, you'll also need to keep in mind that roads are smaller in general, meaning that you need to share the road with your fellow drivers. When you're on a rural country road, you'll need to pull over at more narrow spaces to allow the other person to pass.

Other Rick Steves Tips Include:

*Buy Google maps and rent or buy a GPS loaded with maps of the places you'll visit. Getting lost can increase the stress of driving on the other side of the road.
*Remember the rules of traffic as a pedestrian, and be sure to look the “right way” when preparing to cross.
*Keep in mind that traffic in roundabouts usually has the right of way, but entering cars usually yield.
*In some towns, you will need to cross the center line to get around parked cars on the shoulder. Do so carefully, and drive defensively for safety.

Hotels to Consider
Now that you're planning on going to Ireland, how about these hotels?

Four Seasons Hotel Dublin: Head to the Spa at Four Seasons when you're not checking out the Four Seasons' delectable dishes and fabulous amenities. Enjoy a central location near museums and great pubs.

The Westin Dublin: This hotel occupies a city block near Trinity College, and the original 19th-century banking hall seats over 200 people for special events. Take a walk to the business distinct or Grafton Street from your hotel as well.

Dromoland Castle: This fine castle hotel provides a unique Irish experience for visitors, with plenty of elegance and modern-day comforts. The castle is close to Shannon Airport and the cities of Limerick and Galway, so take your pick—and get driving!

Ashford Castle: Nestled on 350 acres of land, Ashford Castle kicked off its years as a hotel in 1939. If you're wowed by over 700 years of tradition, this is the stop for you. This castle hotel is also within driving distance of the Shannon Airport.

So, will you be hitting the roads in the United Kingdom, in between your luxury hotel stays?

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