Renting a Car from Edinburgh Airport:
If you are traveling to Scotland and plan on seeing any of the wonderful country, renting a car is mandatory. I have been there twice in the last two years (2009 and 2010) and driving on the opposite side of the road is a bit bizaare, but you get used to it after a few minutes. I went on a golfing trip with the guys this year and rented a minivan from EDI airport for about $700/week. Car rentals, or car hires as they refer to them, are expensive in the UK. Scotland rental cars run about $300/week for a midsize car that is automatic. You can save a bit of money by going with the manual cars which outnumber the automatics by quite a bit. Manual car rentals - say an economy size - go for less than $200/week in some cities. You need to look around on websites like Expedia or Travelocity for deals. I found that by searching the web for "UK car hire discounts" I was able to get a good deal on the full size van that we needed. I ended up renting with Budget, but Edinburgh airport also offers rentals from Alamo, Europcar, National, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar, and Thrifty. Car class sizes range from minis to standard size 4 door cars and even larger.
When you arrive into Edinburgh Airport, just head out towards the ground transportation signs and follow them to the rental car centre. You do have to walk a ways, past the buses and coaches, but the tunnel is covered so you don't get wet. We have included a map below with a good image of where to go once you leave the terminal area of the airport. It's about a 2 minutes walk at most from the terminal to the car hire section. Once you rent the car, all the vehicles are waiting in the parking lot of the rental companies. Exit the airport and you are on your way.
Getting the Best Rate on Edinburgh Car hires:
Renting any car in Scotland is not difficult, but finding one that you like and that is not too expensive is the key. You can get some cars at off site locations, but your best bet is dealing with the airport car rental centre. Rates vary from day to day and time of year, but you should be able to get a reasonable deal on a car rental when going to Edinburgh. I booked my car some 6 months in advance, although I did not prepay like they wanted. IF you prepay, you can save up to 20% with some rental companies. That's a risk that some people are ok with taking, I was not. Also, most car rentals in the UK are small cars - that's how they operate in such tight streets in cities. The roadways will make you feel a little confined at times and there were several near misses for me as I drove along country roads and in the cities. You will not see huge SUV's like we have in America. Expect to rent a small to midsize car as that is what they offer. Therefore, anything larger, like a minivan or full size car can start getting expensive. Throw in an automatic transmission and you are talking even more. Find "discount" and "coupon codes" online for companies like Budget or Hertz and see if you can save a few bucks. Expedia and Travelocity periodically have deals or specials, but I found going directly to the companies website (i.e. - www.budget.co.uk) was the best way to rent.
Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road - Can I do it?:
The major concern for most Americans when traveling to the United Kingdom and wanting to rent a car is wondering if they can handle driving on the other side of the road. I have done this 3 times in my life, all three times I drove just fine. It does take some getting used to and the hardest part is going through major cities (we advise against this) or even finding your way around crowded roundabouts. The freeway driving was smooth and easy, although beware that the fast lane is on the right and the slower traffic is meant for the left lane. Just remember "opposite" and you will do fine. Drivers to tend to go pretty fast on main highways - speed limit was 70 in some spots but we saw traffic going by at 90 MPH or faster. When you are out on country or backroads, the traffic is generally light and driving is much less stressful. I was successfully able to navigate Edinburgh, but with all the road closures and one way streets, avoid this section if possible. Stick to smaller towns and other areas. Parking is another issue as not everything is as well marked as what we see in the states. Look for car park signs and you should be fine. Look right when you pull out onto a street from a parking lot or when merging. With a little practice most will do fine. Book your car early since many of the automatic transmission cars get booked by us Americans. Europe and the UK run mostly manual transmission cars, so if you are not comfortable driving a stick shift, make sure you get an automatic car hire.