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Europe > United Kingdom > Cardiff

See: Why rent a car in Cardiff ? | 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 Cardiff ?

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 Cardiff ?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Cardiff 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 Cardiff 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 Cardiff ? 

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 Cardiff , 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

Cardiff 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 Cardiff ? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


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

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 5/10

Non car score:3/10

Balance: 6

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

General comment -


Why? Visiting Cardiff using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Cardiff ?

  • Flexibility – As with any other city, a hire car will give you the flexibility to explore beyond the built-up areas in your own time.
  • There are plenty of really superb scenic drives and walking opportunities which can be taken by heading into the valleys out of Cardiff.
  • Gower peninsular – in my opinion, the most attractive landscapes in southern Wales are around the spectacular Gower Peninsula which is just to the west of Swansea.
  • Although it is perfectly easy to cycle out to the Gower peninsula from Swansea, buses around this area are less regular. A car is certainly a much more versatile option.

Beyond Cardiff & South Wales

  • Welsh countryside – needless to say, beyond the valleys which are easy to reach from Cardiff is plenty of superb countryside.
  • For mid-wales, please see our Birmingham car hire advice page. For North Wales, we also have suggestions for public transport options from Liverpool.

Why not? Visiting Cardiff without a car

Why don't you need a car in Cardiff ?

  • Valley Railways — the southern Welsh valleys can also be explored by train using the famous Valley lines. These provide ample access for walking and cycling in these areas. However, they are all fingers branching out from the centre of Cardiff. They don’t have the ‘up and over’ flexibility that a hire car will give you, unless you take the train up one valley and back down another.
  • Swansea, Newport and Bristol. It is easy to add on a visit to the cities of Swansea, Newport or Bristol by train from Cardiff.
  • See our Bristol car hire advice for more details about visiting the south-west of England with or without a car.

Ratings: How does Cardiff compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Cardiff ? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Cardiff , 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 Cardiff ? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Cardiff (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 Cardiff ? 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 Cardiff airport have a direct rail link?

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






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

2017 - 3

2019 - 6

2021 - 6

Average score - 5



There are numerous British cities where I think public transport provides a perfectly workable alternative to a hire car for getting around. Whilst the Welsh Valley railway lines might appeal to some, I really think it is much better to pick up a hire car so you have the flexibility to appreciate central Wales at its best.

    • Note for passengers taking flights to Cardiff: Although Cardiff airport does technically have a railway station in its name, services only operate once each hour. You still need to allow for transfer between the terminal building and the station platform.
    • You might find it just as easy to take a bus direct from the airport terminal into Cardiff city centre.
    • A much wider choice of flights is available into nearby Bristol Airport.
    • Cardiff is served by regular direct trains from London Paddington, with a typical journey time of around two hours.

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