Hiring a Car vs Public Transport on Holiday: Which is Best?

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We all love a good holiday, but sometimes the amount of planning that goes into a successful trip abroad can take away from the fun. To avoid letting any logistical issues put a dampener on the whole thing, make sure you’ve organised the most important aspects of your vacay before you hop on a plane. 

A great place to start is how you plan to get around your destination of choice. Will you be zipping about in a hire car, or navigating the local public transport system? We’ve put together a few questions to ask yourself that will make this decision a breeze.

Without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

Where are you heading?

The most obvious place to start is to think about the type of location you’re visiting. Some places are much easier to navigate by car than others, and vice versa. Exploring sprawling cities or travelling between quaint rural villages might take a very long time if you’re relying on public transport to get you from A to B. Those taking in the beautiful sights of the Scottish Highlands, for example, might need to pack 3 days of supplies just for the trek to the nearest bus stop!

walking down road with suitcase

When it comes to densely populated urban areas, however, the opposite is true. For people heading off on a city break to somewhere like New York City, a car might actually be a bit of a nightmare. Anyone who’s visited the Big Apple will know that competing with local cab drivers for space on the road is not for the faint-hearted! You’d also end up spending a lot of the holiday stuck behind the wheel in a traffic jam. There’s simply no need when you have multiple transport options (including buses, subways and ferries) at your disposal. 

Lone wolf or travelling in a pack?

Who’s actually going on the trip makes a big difference in terms of which transport method is best. If you’re flying solo, public transport can be a bit of an adventure and may even prove to be a good way to meet people. Perfect for those searching for an Eat Pray Love experience! It might also be more financially prudent to take a bus, rather than forking out for a car and the subsequent fuel top-ups just for one person. 

New York Taxi

If you’re travelling as a family it’s a whole other story. Keeping track of small children on a busy, unfamiliar transport system is enough to send shudders down any parent’s spine. Kids plus commuters isn’t exactly a recipe for a fun, relaxed holiday! Having your own car means you can get everyone strapped in, settled and secure—leaving you to focus on the journey ahead. 

Are you a fast learner?

Travelling by car in a foreign country often means getting used to new rules and a different road etiquette. Driving on holiday can be convenient and a lot of fun, but it also comes with a certain amount of responsibility. Make sure you are positioned on the correct side of the road, adhering to local laws and have all the relevant paperwork the country you’re visiting requires. 

tourist looking at a map

Even if you go for the public transport option, be prepared to adapt to the local pace of life. When planning out your day, take into account factors like rush hour, when services will be extra busy. The vaporetto is a great way to travel around Venice, for instance, but you must appreciate that it is used by locals and tourists alike. Don’t expect people to be patient if you’re loitering in front of exits or dithering about with a map. Those Italian old ladies have sharp elbows and they are not afraid to use them—block their way at your own risk! 

Structure or spontaneity? 

Does the idea of a strict holiday itinerary make you feel calm or confined? For those who prefer to play it by ear and see where the day takes them, hiring a car provides a lot of freedom. You can pretty much go wherever, whenever—no need to worry about limited timetables, train strikes (we’re looking at you, France!), or delays.  

Then again, having your own motor can also be useful if you have a schedule to stick to. Travelling long distances is often quicker by car and you may stumble across a few short cuts along the way. 

If you’re someone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning, though, the restrictions of public transport can actually be a blessing. Not wanting to miss a train is great motivation to be up and out in time!

Do you enjoy a tipple?

Holidays are about having fun and letting your hair down. For many people this includes enjoying a cocktail or two. This is all well and good until it comes to getting back to your accommodation. If you’ve hired a car, you need to be particularly careful. Make sure to research the drink-driving laws of the particular country you’re visiting before you start to indulge, as they do tend to vary depending on where you are. 

For those heading off on a full-blown party trip, public transport is definitely the safest option. You don’t have to worry about breaking the law or putting anyone in danger. Just focus on having a good time! If you want to let loose and still enjoy the freedom and ease of hiring a car, you and your travelling companions can always alternate the role of designated driver.

 As you can see, whether hiring a car or relying on public transport for your holiday travel, there are various pros and cons to consider. Deciding between the two largely boils down to where you are going and the type of trip you intend it to be. It’s a decision that can make a big difference to your holiday, so do give it plenty of thought. 

Whatever you choose, do your research, stay safe and have a great time. Bon voyage! 

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Zena

Zena is a 40ish year old Mum with 3 kids and UK travel blogger who is keen to pursue her passion for exploring despite being a busy parent. She’s also partial to coffee and chocolate.

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1 Comment

  1. cebu tour package
    November 30, 2018 / 3:56 am

    Great post Zena! I love how detailed and informative this article you’ve posted. I also agree with you that in choosing a mode of transportation will depends on what kind or whom you are traveling with. Love how you explain things to be on point and easy to understand. Glad I found your blog today!

    Regards,
    Allysa

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Whether you are looking for travel tips to make the most of your next cruise holiday or you need UK travel ideas we’ve got you covered on Zena’s Suitcase UK travel blog.  We started sharing our holiday and travel reviews in 2013, so if you can’t find the travel, family or lifestyle blog above you are after make sure you head over to the search bar to find what you need.  Think of us as one of the best travel blogs brimming with ideas to get you out and about with and without the kids.