A Complete Guide to Renting A Car and Driving in Scotland (2019 Update)

Everything you wanted to know about Driving in Scotland a 2019 Guide #scotlanddriving #scotlandroadtrip #scotlandcarrental #sarjeantsonfire #slowtravelcouple

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Driving in 2017

“OMG…Scottish traffic signs.  Try figuring them out when you’re driving on the left, with a hysterical wife and a gazillion cars lined up behind you!  Almost impossible.  

I’m here to tell you, driving in Scotland is not for the faint of heart.  But if you do want to brave it, then here are some tips we hope will make your life easier” 

-EXCERPT from our 2017 Blog Post On Driving in Scotland

 


Driving today

Here we are two years later, with four trips and 8,000 miles of road under our belt.  Mike still does all the driving and I am still the hysterical co-pilot, but now only half the time.

Since we feel like veterans, I decided it was time to update the blog with the new and improved: “Driving and Renting a Car in Scotland Guide” blog post!

 

CAR HIRE

You may hear the term “car hire” or “car rental”, they are both the same.

 

Arnold Clark

We always rent from Arnold Clark.  We have used them for all our trips and have been very happy with them.  You’ll find them everywhere in Scotland.

They have a nice selection of cars, the prices are competitive and the staff is very friendly. They also offer free airport and train shuttles.

 

Things you will need to rent a car

Beside nerve, a driver’s license and credit card….” (2017)…

Ok, I was being a bit dramatic back then, but it can be unnerving your first time on the road.

It hasn’t changed, you need a driver’s license and a credit card.  The website says a utility bill but they never asked us for one…I say bring it just in case.

 

Extras



Since you’re driving on the left side of the road with new signs, rules and speed limits — I don’t think renting a car is where you want to try and save money.

I say go for the best you can afford.  We always get an SUV.  You don’t know how many times we were kissing the car and calling it “Baby”, as we were driving up the windy, muddy roads, in the pouring rain.

It would have been really scary in a tiny compact car.  Maybe eat at a 2-star restaurant or buy fewer souvenirs, but don’t skimp on the car!

 

Automatic Transmission

Do you really want to shift with your opposite hand?  Probably not.  So, if it’s in the budget, I would highly recommend an automatic.

 

 GPS or Sav Nat

This is where you can save money.  Don’t pay for GPS/Sat Nav.  If you get a newer or nice enough car, it’s probably standard in the car anyway–we’ve rented 4 cars and every time it had Sat Nav even though we didn’t pay for it.

So it’s not like it doesn’t turn on because you didn’t pay for it, it absolutely does– so use it! And if for some reason there isn’t one in the car, then obviously use your phone.

Costs

This is our costs, yours could be cheaper or more expensive:

  • $75 USD/day for SUV + Automatic
  • Collision and damage waiver – included with our credit card for 31 days.
  • Liability- $750 deductible if you don’t purchase extra

 

 

Everything you wanted to know about Driving in Scotland a 2019 Guide #scotlanddriving #scotlandroadtrip #scotlandcarrental #sarjeantsonfire #slowtravelcouple

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Driving


Mike does all the driving and does a great job of it,  but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.  It was definitely a nail-biting experience in the beginning.  Lots of screaming and using my imaginary brake but once we got the hang of it– a piece of cake.

 

Speed Limits

The speed limits in Scotland are confusing.  You can have a winding narrow road with the same speed limit as a straight wide road.  Needless to say, we seem to always have the ‘dreaded line-up’ behind us in Scotland because many speed limits just feel too fast.

Single Carriageway and Dual Carriageway– here is my very basic explanation:

  • Single Carriageway- a road separated by a line (no barrier)
  • Dual Carriageway- a road separated by some kind of median or barrier

Speed Cameras

According to the car rental people, they are very serious about speeding in Scotland.   You will see lots of average speed cameras on the motorways and roads.

The purpose is to police the zone, not a specific point. Your license plate is read as you enter the zone, and again as you leave – and the time of both photos is used to calculate your speed.  If you are speeding the fine is 100 pounds.

 

Roundabouts (aka The Tea Cup Ride For Cars)

There is a definite ‘art’ to roundabouts.

Our ‘virgin’ roundabout was back in 2017 when we were trying to get out of Edinburgh.  We couldn’t figure out the silly thing, so we just kept going round and round in a circle.

I mean literally going round and round, which BTW is the one BONUS of roundabouts.   If you miss your turn, don’t panic, you can just go around again.

Seriously, if you do decide to drive in Scotland or UK,  I suggest you watch this 13-minute video which has some excellent info on roundabouts:

 

 

 

Passing

 

Many foreigners, that includes us, usually drive slower than the locals.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a bunch of angry drivers behind you.  Whenever possible be courteous, find a passing place, and let others by.

This mostly affects the more rural areas of Scotland, like the Highlands.

For single track roads, whoever reaches the turn out first should pull over and yield to the oncoming driver.

 

Signs

In my 2017 post on driving in Scotland, I pretty much just complained about the signs, which doesn’t help you one bit.

So here’s a very basic tip on sign shapes that should get you started:

  • SIGN SHAPES

Scotland Sign Shapes #sarjeantsonfire

Scotland Sign Shapes

 

 

Also, here’s a great video by Visit Scotland that gives you a 4:30 minutes overview of driving:

 

Alrighty, friends, I hope this update was helpful.  Once you get the hang of it–it’s actually great fun.  We love the freedom of driving through the beautiful highlands of Scotland and I know you will too!

Happy Trails 👣

Donna

Everything you wanted to know about Driving in Scotland a 2019 Guide #scotlanddriving #scotlandroadtrip #scotlandcarrental #sarjeantsonfire #slowtravelcouple

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Mike and Donna have been exploring the world slowly since 2017. They are halfway to their goal of exploring every country in Europe! They would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    March 28, 2017 / 2:32 am

    Hilarious, have a fun time!

  2. Anonymous
    July 7, 2018 / 3:59 am

    Every word she said is true!!!! Just got back and enjoyed the trip, but it can wear on you mentally to drive there.

    • July 7, 2018 / 4:31 am

      Thank goodness we aren’t the only ones who thought that! Thanks for the comment… Donna

  3. Alice
    July 14, 2018 / 10:46 pm

    The reason there was 1000 cars behind you is because you were driving at 50mph.! Honestly, it’s not taken that seriously, just hover around the limit and you’ll be fine. Okay, so the signs… 1st one means there is 1 lane of traffic going the same direction as you (the lane you’re in) and 2 lanes coming the opposite direction. 2nd means it’s a bendy, windy road so dont drive faster than 30mph round the bends. 3rd is 2 lanes merging into 1. 4th is no parking. 5th is for an upcoming roundabout. 6th is for an upcoming mini roundabout.
    Hats off to you though, driving in north America would freak me out.

    • July 22, 2018 / 1:17 pm

      Hi Alice, thanks for the sign clarification! Since I wrote that, we have been back 2 more times and Mike is now driving the speed limit! Hahahahaha! Well barely, but he doesn’t even drive it over here in the U.S either. I’m with you I would never be brave enough to drive it a foreign country! Donna

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2018 / 6:45 pm

      Thank you for the translation, Alice!

  4. Heather
    July 22, 2018 / 10:03 am

    Omg this is so funny and well explained at the same time . I guess we in Scotland know all of this but good for you to help others out x

    • July 22, 2018 / 1:14 pm

      Thanks so much!! Luckily we are experts now— after 3 trips. Of course, we know I don’t drive there —-but my navigational skills are perfect… Donna

  5. Kimberly
    July 25, 2018 / 11:28 am

    A couple of topics you left out that I think will be of great help to drivers new to the area. One is that when driving on a multi laned roadway, slower traffic uses the left lane, and passing is to the right. Once you pass, move to the left unless you are traveling at a speed that would cause you to pass multiple vehicles.
    Another is that at actual traffic stops, motorcycle drivers are permitted to move up to the signal, passing cars safely. This is very different from the U.S., and I’ve seen Americans get a bit peeved at the idea of being passed in line. It’s not meant to be an offense, it’s actually more efficient as they gather at the front, more vehicles get through the intersection before it changes.
    Finally, the traffic lights are a little different in operation. They go from green to flashing yellow (sometimes solid), to red. Then red will stay solid and yellow will begin to flash. This is when you want to ease off the brake and prepare to move forward. Most newer Euro cars now have a passive ignition system that cuts the engine when you come to a complete stop, it saves oodles of fuel, which is very expensive. Do wait for the green before entering the intersection.

    • July 25, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      Thanks so much for the extra tips!! Yes that traffic light thing was a little odd at first…luckily Mike got used to it quickly. In our 3 road trips to Scotland— I haven’t driven once.. in fact last trip I posted a video of Mike getting too close to the edge of a cliff… I was screaming at him “you’re my driver don’t slip …please!!”… 🤣Donna .

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