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Europe > United Kingdom > Bristol

See: Why rent a car in Bristol ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Bristol ?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Bristol ?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Bristol car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Bristol with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Bristol ? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Bristol , but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Bristol is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Bristol ? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Bristol between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 3/10

Non car score:7/10

Balance: 2

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


Why? Visiting Bristol using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Bristol ?

  1. A hire car will give you access to visit many more places in South West England. If you are flying in for a slightly longer break, then Bristol’s network of flight routes makes it the best arrival point for exploring Devon and Cornwall, as well as nearby Avon and Somerset.
  2. Public transport to and from Bristol airport really isn’t that great — apart from the half hourly express bus service to Bristol city centre, and a link with Weston-super-Mare, very few other public transport options are available. To get anywhere else, you will need to connect via Bristol Temple Meads station, or Bristol bus station first. There is no direct coach link from Bristol airport to Bath.
  3. Getting from Bristol airport to Cardiff by public transport is a nuisance, and there is no view to appreciate if you take the train through the Severn Tunnel. You can enjoy a much more dramatic view from either of the Severn Road Bridges. Note — if you are doing a driving tour into South Wales from Bristol, you can avoid paying the toll by driving out through Ross on Wye, and back over the Severn Bridges, as it is free to travel from Wales back into England — of course, we don’t recommend this diversion just to avoid the toll fee, but if you are heading in this direction anyway, this is the best way to go.
  4. A car will make it much easier to enjoy nearby Cheddar Caves and Gorge and Wookey Hole Caves.

Why not? Visiting Bristol without a car

Why don't you need a car in Bristol ?

  1. Bristol was rated by Dorling Kindersley as one of the world’s top 10 city to visit in 2009 — so there is plenty to see in the city itself, without needing to venture out much further.
  2. Bristol is a superb city to walk around, there is no need to even use buses to enjoy most of what the city has to offer.
  3. Our top recommendation would be to walk out to Brunel’s Clifton suspension Bridge, and enjoy the stunning views this affords. Although you can drive across the bridge, you can appreciate it much more (and avoid the toll of course) by walking across.
  4. Don’t forget to visit the Clifton Observatory and caves when visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
  5. Beautiful Bath is just a short hop from Bristol, and this is an easy and enjoyable train ride.
  6. Better still, why not cycle between Bristol and Bath, and enjoy the first cycle route set up by Sustrans.

Ratings: How does Bristol compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Bristol ? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Bristol , and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Bristol ? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Bristol (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Bristol ? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Bristol airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Bristol car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 4

2021 - 2

Average score - 3



Further information:

So ultimately, where do you need to hire a car in Bristol? This isn’t just about saying you don’t need a car in Bristol city centre, but you should get one outside it – quite the opposite! One of the great driving experiences in the city would be to take your hire car across the Clifton Suspension Bridge (although you can of course just walk it). Outside the city, Brunel’s rail network also opens up some amazing pleaces to see both from the train and as destinations to reach. On top of this, the Bristol and Bath cycle path, combined with the Two Tunnels route and canal routes in Bath creates a genuinely world-class cycling network, a description we would apply to very few other places in the UK. All of this adds up to making Bristol a very solid “no car” city in our books – but what do you think?


Do you or don't you need a car in Bristol ?

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