I'm planning a trip to UK and Europe starting May 2012, hoping to last about 6 months. I am looking to hire a camper with pickup from Dublin and drop off in London from end June to start July (about 3 weeks). It'll be for 3 people, and I'm hoping to offset the cost of accommodation, but otherwise hire a car and stay in hostels if this will be cheaper. The only camper (or car) company I can find that will allow different pick up/drop off points is Wicked, which is pretty costly during the LOndon Olympics. I've heard that Ireland and Scotland is best explored in a car, but the research is doing my head in. Any tips?
I assume you are coming from the US or Canada. You need to know that Dublin is not in the United Kingdom and you would have to pay in Euros! Pounds Sterling elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The UK is called that as it unites several countries with very distinct cultures. I am sensitive as I am Scots /Irish.
I googled "Dublin camper vans/motorhomes" and came up with many sites. At random, here is one: www.celticcampervans.com/rates/
You certainly need a car or van to tour Scotland and Ireland as public transport is pretty sparse. i suggest you hire a car or van for your Irish part of the trip, then cross the sea to Scotland as foot passengers and arrange for a car or van pickup on the other side. Shortest crossing is from Northern Ireland to Stranraer. Do your Scottish leg and if you can, leave the car in Scotland. See the following site: www.onewaycarhireonline.co.uk which give advice.
You could leave the car/van in Dublin and take a coach or train to Belfast. From here on spend money in pounds sterling.
I would say that hiring a motor home will be very expensive, and heartily recommend Youth Hostels and a large car. You will meet people at each stop and have many rewarding contacts and conversations. Ireland and Scotland have many independent hostels as well as the 'official Youth Hostel chains. An Oige for the Irish Republic, Hostels Internaional Notheern Ireland, Scottish Youth Hostels Association for Scotland -YHA for England. Self catering is common in Ireland and Scotland and the overnight prices are cheaper than in England. Meals laid on in England but you can save money by self cooking except in big city hostels. The "official" hostels are the best organised, but quirky independent hostels can have charm - or the reverse. Contact Tourist offices or get handbooks in advance.
Where there are no convenient hostels then seek out Bed and Breakfasts at moderate prices. Again, get lists from Tourist offices. Often these places are very friendly and will provide bedrooms for three or even four at the cheaper end if asked. Youth Hostels also will hire out a complete four or six bed dormitory for private use. Ask for a family room. The breakfasts are always cooked and you can save money by eating as much as possible!
Always book ahead and in Olympic year, especially, I would give London a very wide berth. All hostels and camp sites within travelling distance will be booked solid. I would prefer to leave the country myself.
Lastly, negotiating a largish motorhome on narrow Highland roads or into a town where parking will be impossible is really a nightmare. You would be obliged to use camping sites outside in the country and be stranded if you want to explore towns or remote beauty spots. if you want to go off mainland in Western Scotland and take ferries to beautiful islands, then a car will cost less. All ferry fares are quite steep though.
If you need to travel from Scotland to London to catch a plane, then leave the car and fly. This is still usually cheaper than the cost of fuel. on a budget airline. These airlines do charge extortionate extra fees for luggage though. However, you need to do some sums to see if a full car is possibly cheaper. Do not attempt to drive from Scotland to London in one go. Too tiring and almost impossible given the state of our motorways.
One last thing - travel light with minimum baggage. Bring rainwear and walking boots.
Good luck and have a nice trip. You are sensible in planning this far ahead.
Alison Fairgrieve Ixworth, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Wow, thanks so much for the advice, I am actually from Australia and haven't done any overseas travel and so did not know where to start really. Sorry to offend regarding my reference to Dublin, I was aware it is not a part of the UK, but thanks for the insight into the need to be accurate.
A car for Ireland and on foot for Belfast sounds like the way to go. I had hoped to avoid London but my sister is only over for 6 weeks and is desperate to explore. I might still try to find a way to pick up a car in Scotland and drop off in London if at all possible, so we can see the regional areas of Wales and England, otherwise we're going to end up backtracking if we fly between these two cities.
I'll definitely scrap the camper idea and utilise car/hostels as we are on a budget and also want to meet a lot of people.
Thanks again, your help has been fantastic.