Liverpool Trip Part 5 – Tips on Driving in the UK

My Ford Focus from National

As we were in the UK for a holiday weekend and because we had planned some day trips, I decided to rent a car. On all of my previous solo trips to Liverpool, I had just relied on the fairly good train service between Manchester Airport, Liverpool and Leeds. I had even taken train trips to North Wales and the Lake District. This time, given that there were two of us (so double the cost on train tickets) and because we wanted some more flexibility on visiting some out of the way places. Train schedules can be more limited on holiday weekends and there are often unexpected strikes or construction projects that further limit the ability to get around by train.

We waited quite a while for the rental car shuttle at Manchester Airport. All of the (fairly small) rental car lots are in one location near Terminal 1 and we arrived at Terminal 2 which is actually miles away. Eventually we made it to the Car Rental Village as it’s called. I found the National Elite office which was separate from the main National/Enterprise building and a very nice rep came out and actually just walked us over to our car. He did all the paperwork on his tablet and allowed me to take some pictures of the vehicle. I did not pay for the extra insurance and just counted on my Chase Sapphire Reserve for any potential damage to the car. I found it interesting that he did not ask for either my passport or driver’s license before I drove the car away.

I had booked an automatic car as I did not relish the idea of changing gears with my left hand while driving on the left. We received the exact car we booked, which was fine as I also did not want to be driving around city streets and parking garages with a big SUV or larger sedan. The Ford Focus was fine. It had air conditioning and USB Apple Car Play connectivity (not wireless). It did not have a backup camera which I found a bit strange, but we managed OK.

It had been about 20 years since I had last driven on the left side of the road, but it turned out to be fairly easy. Now that we have apps like Waze and Apple CarPlay, it’s very hard to get lost. In the dark ages of 2003, I had to print out maps or memorize my route to find my way around plus there was no accounting for last minute traffic or construction detours.

It’s definitely a bit trickier driving in the city. Even Liverpool, as a fairly small city, has lots of one-way roads and narrow streets. The parking garage was a few blocks from the hotel and despite a very narrow entrance gate (the proximity alarms on my vehicle were blaring away), we made it in and out each day and I managed to drive about 450 miles in the four plus days we were in the UK without any major incidents.

I have a few important tips to remember if you drive in the UK:

1 – Pass right, drive left. This is an important rule when you are driving on the motorways (highways). You will get honked at if you drive the speed limit in the right (passing) lane. Change lanes, pass, change back.

2 – Don’t turn left on red. Unlike in the US, where we can usually turn right on a red light if we check that there’s no oncoming traffic, you cannot turn left on a red light in the UK.

3 – Don’t even look at your phone. Like in many states now, it is against the law to hold or even look at your phone while driving. Use CarPlay or the Google equivalent and put in your destination before you start moving.

4 – Drive the speed limit. There are many speed cameras all throughout the UK on both motorways and city streets. Just because there’s not a police car visible, do not speed. It is not worth the ticket.

If you are mostly going to be in London, DO NOT rent a car. It is a terrible city to drive in (I still have flashbacks from 20+ years ago). If you are headed out of London to smaller towns and cities, it could be worth it. Research the parking options before you go. We ended up using a great park and ride lot in York rather than trying to drive into the medieval streets there. You will also find that hotels charge varying rates for parking so make sure you research those options ahead of time.

Up Next: North Wales Day Trip

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