Renting a Car in Scotland – Useful Tips, Options, FAQ

Traveling in a van in Scotland

Scotland is a breathtaking country – incredibly varied despite its relatively small size. Though it is small in comparison to other countries, however, Scotland’s wild expanses mean that it can take a while to get from A to B – sometimes far longer than you might have imagined. So, should you rent a car? If so, what do you need to know? These tips should help you decide the answers to these questions, and help you plan your perfect Scottish adventure.

Do Your Homework Before You Arrive

Whether or not you ultimately decide to rent a car, it is important to do your homework before you come. Depending on where exactly you wish to go, public transport might be a cheaper option (and might also be a better one). While it can be tempting to try to see everything at once, you may decide that it is better to see a smaller area properly rather than taking a broader whistle-stop tour. In which case, you might prefer to consider a hiking holiday, or enjoying one of the amazing outward bound pursuits for which Scotland is so well known. The ‘right to roam’ laws here mean that there is amazing freedom to explore the wilds of the country on land or water car-free.

Edinburgh is Very Walkable – Hire a Car After Exploring the Capital

If you do decide to explore Scotland by car, it is likely that you will begin your adventure, as so many do, in Edinburgh. As a local, I would highly recommend exploring the capital before picking up your rental. Edinburgh’s main attractions are mostly within easy walking distance, and in the centre, driving can be more hassle than it is worth, especially with all the pleasant places to stroll. (This is especially true during the famous Edinburgh Festival & Fringe.)

Check About Parking For Accommodation in Towns & Cities

Cars can also be more of a hindrance than a help in Scotland’s other major towns and cities. If you plan to tour from city to city, taking public transport (trains, or buses) can often be easier than braving the traffic. (Especially if you are heading from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Stirling or Dundee, for example.) While it can be relatively easy to drive here, even in the towns and cities, traffic can sometimes be bad, and parking can often be an issue in the hearts of the settlements. If you are on a driving tour, check with your accommodation in the various places that they have parking. If they do not, you may sometimes struggle to find a space nearby during the peak season.

Do Hire a Car To Explore Off the Beaten Track

Public transport connects all the major towns and cities and is very easy to use. In the Highlands, and other remote areas, however, public transport can be patchy. If you want to get off the beaten track, hiring a car (unless you hike or cycle) is really your only option. And off the beaten track is when Scotland really comes into its own. But perhaps the best way to explore off the beaten track is to make some time to leave the car behind altogether.

Driving in Scotland

  • Remember to drive on the left and obey the rules of the road.
  • Be aware that the weather can change at the drop of a hat, and be prepared for ever-changing road conditions.
  • Take it slow, especially on winding routes and single track roads in remote areas.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the requirements for renting a car in Scotland as an American?

US Citizens are not required to have an international driving license to drive a car in Scotland. You can use your US driving ID upto one year. Additionally, you have to carry your passport with you.

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