Belfast

By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Belfast?

Do you need a car in Belfast > Should you rent a car in Belfast UK > Belfast ( BFS )
Car: Do you need a car in 2? No car: Is it worth hiring a car in 2? Slider: Should you rent a car in 2? Should you rent a car in 2?

Belfast car hire quick facts

Cheapest rate for one week Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]

75

 #53/300

  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Belfast but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
How much should I expect to pay in the peak season? Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]

 €

170

 108/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 114 - of which 50 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

44

%

147/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Belfast public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.

25%

#160/300

  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score {coming shortly}

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.

--%

#---/300

  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Belfast good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score {coming shortly}

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Belfast

--%

#---/300

Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Belfast", "is it worth hiring a car in Belfast", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme:

Do you need a car in Belfast?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city.

Is it worth hiring a car in Belfast?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares?

Should you rent a car in Belfast?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

The Northern Ireland peace process has brought about a significant rise in the number of tourists visiting Belfast. As with most European cities, the main attractions in Belfast itself are easy to walk to, so what about places to visit beyond the city?

Do you need a car in Belfast? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Belfast?", this often breaks down to two key questions:

  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Belfast? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?

Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Belfast as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Belfast?

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments


Why should you rent a car in Belfast?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Belfast?


Do you need a car in Belfast?

  • Giant’s Causeway — this is surely the most impressive natural feature on the Emerald Isle, and is only a short drive from Belfast.
    However, scheduled (from Belfast, Coleraine or Portrush) or guided bus trips are available, so there is no need to get a hire car just to visit Giant’s Causeway.
  • Inland — the railway routes in Northern Ireland generally stay close to the coast, so to go anywhere inland, especially to visit the various points of interest around Lough Neah, you will need a rental car, or you will have to rely on slow bus services.
  • Blue Stack mountains — head across into Co Donegal for some superb scenery on Ireland’s northwest coast.

Public transport limitations

  • Limited railway lines — look at any major city in England or central Scotland, and you will usually see a network of rail lines fanning out, including local and long-distance services. There are only four railway lines heading out of Belfast. Two of these only provide suburban connections to Larne and Bangor respectively. A regional service operates as far as Derry (Londonderry), whereas the Enterprise service continues down to Dublin Needless to say, you can head out of Belfast in any direction you want in a hire car. This network, branded as Translink, is not just short on routes, frequencies outside the Belfast area are also extremely poor. For example, trains to Derry depart roughly every two hours, considerably less often than might be expected on an equivalent inter-city service elsewhere in the UK.
  • Poor public transport — although Northern Ireland has seen a lot of investment in recent years, little of this has gone on to noticeable public transport infrastructure, although the Translink fleet itself has been upgraded. No new lines have been built, and unlike many comparable cities in central or northern England, there is no form of tram in Belfast. The city remains car dependent, and it has relatively few good routes to explore by bike.

GB Railcard note

  • No railcard discount – if you are visiting Belfast from any other part of the United Kingdom, and you already have a railcard of any kind, then this will not give you any discount on the railways in Northern Ireland, as they are a completely separate network.

Why not? Visiting Belfast without a car

What is public transport like in Belfast? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 2?


  • Coastal trains — what Northern Ireland lacks in quantity is more than made up for in quality. The train hugs the coast in many areas, offering some excellent scenic views, especially between Coleraine and Derry, along Lough Foyle, and south of Newry most of the way to Dublin. My personal favourite is the train journey into Belfast from Larne Harbour.
  • Ramble by bus – you can take “Rambler” buses along designated scenic routes, giving you access to the Mourne Mountains to the south of Belfast, or the Sperrins to the west. A Rambler bus service also operates along the coastline near Giant’s Causeway. Other buses run directly in to scenic areas, such as the Davagh Forest country park.
  • Boat trips – from Ballycastle, you can take a boat to Rathlin Island, with its nature reserve. Further west and into the Republic of Ireland, you could take a boat from Burtonport to Arranmore Island. The outings themselves are car-free, however, although you can reach both ports by bus, it is still easier to get to these places in a hire car.

Beyond Belfast & Northern Ireland

  • Celtic cousins — instead of just visiting Northern Ireland, why not combine a trip to Belfast with a visit to Glasgow or Edinburgh? This is an easy rail trip, with plenty of flights available from throughout Europe at either end if you extend to the Scottish and Irish capitals. The train south of Ayr towards Stranraer is particularly scenic, and you also get to include a short ferry crossing on the Irish Sea. This now needs a bus link from Cairnryan harbour to Stranraer station.
  • Dublin and the Irish Republic. It’s very easy to continue into the Republic of Ireland by train or coach. If you are travelling by public transport, you can then head home from any airport without having to worry about one-way rental fees.
  • One-way car rental from the UK to Ireland is not usually possible.
[ratings2 num=”31″]

Conclusion — Do you need a car in Belfast? Despite some useful bus connections to supplement the handful of railway routes which are on offer, public transport options in and around Belfast are still relatively limited, and the best attractions in the region are landscapes rather than cities.

This makes our verdict lean heavily towards recommending getting a hire car.

Verdict — yes (strong)

Note — it is easy to pick up a hire car at either Belfast International or Belfast George Best city airport. If you don’t plan on getting a hire car, you’re better off flying into Belfast city airport, which is much closer to central Belfast. You can even take a short shuttle bus journey to nearby Sydenham station to start onward rail journeys within Northern Ireland. For getting to the city centre, it is quicker to take a taxi or shuttle bus. Belfast City airport has a wider network of domestic flights from the rest of the UK, whereas Belfast International has more flights from mainland Europe.

Belfast and Northern Ireland  Local transport links:


Would you hire a car in Belfast?

Have you driven in Belfast? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Belfast}?

Do you need a car in Belfast? For some or all of the time? 

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:


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