Car rental Edinburgh
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Why rent a car in Edinburgh?
Historic and beautiful, Edinburgh is one of the most unique cities in the United Kingdom. Having the freedom of your own car will let you visit its different neighborhoods at your own pace. From older parts of the city to modern and upbeat districts and even nearby beaches and nature areas, there is plenty to explore.
Top ways to enter Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Airport. The sixth-busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the busiest in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport is served by more than 30 different airlines. ALong with domestic flights and many flights to other places in Europe, Edinburgh Airport is also connected to North America and the Middle East. The airport is about 9 km (5.5 mi) west of the city center.
- Glasgow Airport. The second-largest airport in Scotland, Glasgow Airport is served by a large number of airlines, including many low-cost carriers. The airport is slightly more than an hour’s drive west of Edinburgh.
- Glasgow Prestwick Airport. Another international airport serving Glasgow, it only has flights one airline serving it, Ryanair. With connections to Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Poland, it can sometimes be the cheapest airport to fly into in Scotland. Glasgow Prestwick is a 1 hour and 40 minute drive west of Edinburgh.
- By rail. If you’re arrive in Edinburgh by train, you can conveniently pick up your rental car at the Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station.
Useful city facts
Like much of the rest of the United Kingdom, Edinburgh has a temperate maritime climate with little temperature changes between seasons. Located on the North Sea, Edinburgh sometimes experiences haar, or sea fog. While not everyone likes it, it certainly adds to the city’s unique atmosphere.
Edinburgh has 4,500 protected buildings of historic architectural importance that cannot be demolished or rebuilt without the permission from a special local authority. Edinburgh has more protected buildings, proportionally, than any other city in the United Kingdom.
Top destinations and activities
- Edinburgh Castle. Of all the many impressive buildings of Edinburgh, its castle is arguably the most famous one and the most important landmark of the city. First built in the 12th century from a volcanic rock, the castle is still in use today. The castle complex includes attractions like the Portcullis Gate and the St. Margaret’s Chapel, and offers truly amazing views.
- Royal Botanic Garden. The garden is one of the nicest green places in the city. It includes the 165 m (541 ft) long herbaceous border and many smaller gardens of both local and exotic plants. The stunning John Hope Gateway with a restaurant and museum is also located here.
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The museum is actually made up of two separate buildings called Modern Art One and Modern Art Two which are divided by a street,. Both feature a large number of famous artworks and beautiful gardens for relaxing and taking it all in. The National Gallery of Modern Art is in the New Town of Edinburgh.
Traffic and parking tips
The United Kingdom drives on the left-hand side of the road
On-street parking is usually heavily restricted. Never park on a white, double yellow or double red line (stopping on motorways and along red lines is illegal).
There are relatively few parking areas available for city visitors in Edinburgh. Some pay parking spots are available via a pay-and-display system. You can find many those on this map on the city’s official website. The exact fee will depend on the length of the parking period, on the hour of the day, and the day of the week. It is not a good idea to park without a permit as the fines are quite high and the rules are strictly enforced; sometimes your car might even be towed away.
You are not allowed to use your mobile phone while driving, unless you use a hands-free system.
Unless specifically indicated otherwise, the speed limits are 112 km/h (70 mph) on motorways, 112 km/h (70 mph) on dual carriageways, 96 km/h (60 mph) on single carriageways and 48km/h (30 mph) in residential areas and areas with street lightning.
In Scotland, the legal alcohol limit is 0.05% for both experienced and novice drivers. In the rest of the UK, the legal alcohol limit is 0.08% for both experienced and novice drivers. Exceeding the limit can lead to large fines, a suspended license, or even imprisonment.
The insurance and documentation of the car needs to be in it whenever you’re driving.
If you’re the driver, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
The emergency numbers are 999 and 112.
Currently there is only a single toll road in the United Kingdom, the M6 toll. You also have to pay a toll for using a number of bridges and tunnels, as well as for entering the central areas of London and Durham (a city in North East England).
As an alternative to the M6 around Birmingham, the M6toll is a 43 km (27 mi) long portion of the road, also known as the Birmingham North Relief Road (BNRR), that relieves congestion on the M6 itself. There are toll gates where you can pay by either cash or credit card. As of March 2019, the price is £6.40 for using the toll road from Monday to Friday (from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.), £5.30 for using the toll road on Saturday or Sunday (from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.), and £4.10 for using the toll road at night time on any day (from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.). Find out more on the M6 Toll official website.
Find out more about toll roads in the United Kingdom on the European toll road website.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Portobello. Affectionately called “Porty” by locals, Portobello is a nice beach resort area. Frequented by travelers and local families alike, it is a great place to have a picnic and spend a relaxing day away from the city. Even if you’re visiting in winter, you can still have a nice walk along the beach or visit the Portobello Swim Center and enjoy dipping in the Victorian baths. Portobello is just a 15 minute drive from Edinburgh center.
- North Berwick. Another nice beach town, and arguably even more local in character, North Berwick is famous not only for its coastline, but also for the Tantallon Castle and Coastal Communities Museum. If you’re more of a nature lover, you’ll enjoy the impressive views of the Bass Rock or a visit to the Scottish Seabird Center. North Berwick is about 45 minutes drive northeast of Edinburgh.
- Pentland Hills Regional Park. Great for long walks through its pastures and forests, Pentland Hills is a nature area just south of Edinburgh. Its austere landscape might not be the most impressive in Scotland, but it is a perfect spot to spend a day away from civilization.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular rental car in Edinburgh is the VW Golf. Many travelers also pick the Vauxhall Corsa and the Fiat 500. The most popular rental car types are compact, economy, and mini.
- Glasgow. Rougher than Edinburgh, perhaps less historic, but nonetheless charming, Glasgow is a fun city to visit. From quirky museums to unique restaurants and ancient forests, there’s plenty to see here. Glasgow is just an hour’s drive west of Edinburgh.
- Scottish Highlands. Sparsely populated and spectacular, the Scottish Highlands are, for many, among the most spectacular areas of Europe. Whether you’re looking for natural beauty or to learn about traditional Scottish culture, it’s all there. Start at the region’s capital, Inverness, then go on to explore Glencoe Valley, the mountains, and the lakes. Inverness is about three hours’ drive north of Edinburgh.
- Northumberland National Park. On the other side of the border, this is the northernmost national park in England. There are very few people here, even for a nature area - instead, you’ll find blue lakes, extensive woodlands, and the remains of ancient religious sites. The border between England and Scotland was defended by Hadrian’s Wall during the Roman times, a large part of which still survives and can be explored within the national park’s territory. The park’s northeast corner is just a 90 minutes drive from Edinburgh.
- Shetland and Orkney Islands. These islands north of Scotland teeming with wildlife offer visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and see historic sites from the neolithic era. They can be reached by ferry from Aberdeen, north of Edinburgh. Rental cars can be picked up and dropped off at the Aberdeen Northlink Ferry Terminal. It is also possible to pick rental cars up at Kirkwall Airport which has flights to and from Edinburgh.
How can I save money on my rental car?
Land a great rental car deal in Edinburgh by applying these tricks:
Compare the rates of different rental car providers
Book your rental car well in advance
Plan your route before you go
Know your fuel and mileage requirements
Visit during the month when rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting Edinburgh is cheapest in March when renting a car is about 52% cheaper than the yearly average and about 72% cheaper than renting a car in December, around Christmas time and the New Year’s Eve.
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