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There are a million reasons to visit Edinburgh, but before you visit, consider the following 7 reasons why driving your rental car should not be one of them.
1. Edinburgh Trams construction
2. Edinburgh Trams construction
Okay, 1 and 2 are duplicates, but it’s warranted. Begun in 2008 and planned for completion in 2011, its been started and stopped several times, nearly cancelled once, is a running joke in many of the city's guided day tours, and has a current scheduled completion in 2014. As of late 2012, construction work is now well advanced but the closure of York Place and Shandwick Place to vehicles is a serious inconvenience.
3. You won’t be able to read street signs until its too late. You may find street signs on building walls or sign posts in a myriad of sizes, fonts, and colors that were probably once quite useful when traveling by horse and carriage but amid all the cargo vans, and double-decker buses by the time you focus enough to read the sign you’ll be past the intersection. And if you try to drive slower to see better, the taxi driver in your rear view mirror will appear so close you’ll be tempted to charge him a fare.
4. What signs? Some roads appear to have been around so long that you’re supposed to know them innately. If you're not intimately familar with the roads or don't have a GPS system that's been updated in the last 30 minutes, you may find yourself circling the city centre endlessly with multiple detours at the Trams construction. And just because you may find one sign with the direction to Glasgow, don’t expect every other turn you have to make to actually get to Glasgow to be similarly signed. Just be happy that you’re temporarily heading in the right direction and keep scanning your map or GPS for something you can recognize.
5. Parking is expensive, if you can find it. If you're planning to drive in and and park overnight, you'll have a choice between expensive car parks which may not be conveniently located to your accommodations, and limited on-street parking requiring plugging of coins or cards into 'pay and display' machines and frequent moving to comply with a myriad of parking rules (provided the cars around you having boxed you in hopelessly).
6. Smarter people will point out to you why it was stupid to drive. When you finally stop to ask directions (and you will), the first response will likely be “Why did you drive into Edinburgh?” as if you hadn’t already asked that yourself. Traffic congestion can be extremely frustrating, particular in peak hours.
7. You don’t need a car in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a fantastic walking city with everything a short stroll away. In one day, you can tour a castle, gawk at $$$ jewels at a palace which is a vacation home to the Queen, see great artwork, get scared by ghosts below the city, climb a mountain, and hear great music all without straying outside Old Town and without a car. And if the day ends with a single malt or two, you shouldn’t be driving anywhere. Save yourself the hassle; leave the car and enjoy Edinburgh on foot. There are buses, shuttles, and taxis that can get you into the city quickly. If you need to keep your rental car, consider parking it outside the city centre (there are options near the airport) and rely on drivers who know the city to get you to the centre.