I'm flying from Dublin to San Francisco and when I land I plan to hire a car. I have never driven on the other side of the road and am wondering will I find this ok. I plan to pick up the car at the airport and then start the road trip going to Salt lake city. I think I'm mostly worried about leaving the airport as I imagine this will be the busiest and scariest part!!! Also if anyone can recommend places to stop off on the way that would be great.
Really hoping to hear from you guys,
You realize that you will be charged a very large drop fee if you rent one-way? Research your car rental beforehand because some companies do not allow cars to be taken too far. I live in Oregon, and just rented from Budget (Budget's policy is that I can take the car beyond the borders of Oregon/Washington states, but I will then be charged at a higher rate). I believe that the rental companies all have different policies.
Today, most cars come equipped with GPS for the company's security - they can tell where you drive, and fines are charged if you violate their territory.
When you exit SFO, you immediately enter the 101 Freeway (either north or south) - not the place to learn how to drive (very heavy traffic)!
If you are stopping in San Francisco city, you do not want a car at all - you will be heavily charged to park that car. For safety sake, and to safe these charges, I suggest you change your plans just a little. Instead of renting at the airport, I suggest taking the BART train from the airport into the city, and when you want that car, to rent it east of the city - a good place would be in Sacramento. You could take the Greyhound bus to Sacramento, and rent the car in downtown Sacramento, and continue on to SLC from there. Sacramento has far less traffic/congestion than the SF Bay Area - far safer for you!
If you've never driven on the right before, I would suggest spending a day or two exploring on foot first to give yourself time to adjust. Jet-lagged after a long flight plus heavy traffic is not the time to drive on the opposite side of the road for the first time, if you can help it.
I'm not saying it can't be done, but there's no reason to increase your stress levels if you don't need to.
Once you give your brain a chance to catch up, you should have no problem making the switch. If you're driving a manual transmission you'll probably try to change gears with the door handle a few times!
Otherwise it's basically the same. The pedals and gearbox are the same orientation as you're used to at home. The only difference is your turn signal and windshield wiper controls will be on opposite sides.
My advice would be to relax for the first day and try it out on less crowded streets. Of course, coming out of the airport won't be impossible but really stressful. The trip to Salt Lake City is a long one to make in one day, so I would recommend stopping off in Reno, Nevada. It's a great half-way point and there are some things to do there as well. Depending on which day you get there, it's possible that the streets won't be so crowded at night. Otherwise, when you're on the highway, the only thing you have to worry about is speed (in miles) as you'll mostly be staying on one side the whole time. The state of Nevada is strict when it comes to speed limits, so remember to also keep that in mind as you're driving.
Thanks so much for the replies so far really appreciate it. Just one other quick question, when I was researching different driving routes I noticed that some had tolls. Does anyone know what way these are paid, is it as you pass them or do you need to pre pay?
I'm not sure if they have the drive past ones, but they will definitely have booths that you just pull up to and pay as you go.
I hope you will be spending some time in San Fran, as its a fantastic city. As for a route, I'd take a look at going east on I-80 then just before Truckee turn off on the old Donner Pass road. It's a really nice little road and quite historic. It brings you back onto I-80 still before Truckee and there is a historic marker that explains the history of the place. From Truckee head south to Lake Tahoe. A really beautiful place, go round the lake then go off to Carson City, some great history there and a nice little museum that is the old news paper building where Mark Twain started his writing career after failing at being a prospector. This road brings you back onto I-80 in Reno and then you can carry on to SLC. Just before SLC is the great salt lake where they set world land speed records.
Some excellent replies here
It will take about 2-3 days for jetlag to not cause you to sleep or nod off durng the day so just use your boots and the local tube (Bart) to explore your options and the city.
I'd investigate the various hire car places and explain want you want to do and it might even be worth it to rent an hour of driving lessons on the road. You will not see a lot of roundabouts in the US so that problem is gone but you will see a lot of 4 -6 lane highways at high speed but traffic signs are well placed.
Do not fool around with speed limits or changing lanes without signals and find out the local laws as to celphone use in a car, left turn or right turms on a red light and crosswalks.
Onec you get out in the country you will enjoy the roads, travel during daytime and find out the best clean and well used truckstops as you can get lots of advice and good food. Do not pick up hitchhikers
HAve backup plan and have at least two credit cards and an ATM for cash, most gas stations expect you to pay upfront and please let your CC and banks know you are travelling
have a great trip
ps: I know about swapping right ot left and reverse, turn on turn signal and all of a sudden the windshield washers come on.
MAjority of rental cars are automatic
If you are planning to drive to SLC via Reno, have lots of good music to listen to - it's a long stretch of nothingness and it's easy to doze off!