Spending a week in Worcester (UK)
March 22, 2007 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Spending a week in Worcester (UK, that is) for work and I have some questions.

(I live in the US)

I am flying into Birmingham on a Thursday morning. I was planning on getting a rental car and driving to my hotel in Worcester. Is this a bad idea? I think can handle driving on the left side, but I have only done it for a day and it was about 10 years ago in a low traffic area. Is driving in the UK difficult for an American? The only reason I feel I need the car is because I will be there over the weekend with nothing to do and I assume I will need a car to get around. Is this correct? I have heard cabs are very expensive over there. Can I legally drive there with a US drivers license? Should I just forget about the car?

While I have my weekend to kill in Worcester, what do I do? What cool restaurants, pubs, sites, shopping, etc. should I see?

Any other helpful advice?
posted by internal to Travel & Transportation around Worcester, England (10 answers total)
Hint number one: it's not pronounced "Wur-ses-ter". (I'm a Brit living in the US, and I get endless amusement listening to Americans asking for Worcestershire sauce...)
posted by littleme at 7:35 PM on March 22, 2007

Seriously: everything will be expensive, with the exchange rate the way it is right now. If you rent a car, make sure it's an automatic, since you don't want to worry about driving a stick and dealing with the whole wrong-side-of-the-road thing at the same time.
posted by littleme at 7:38 PM on March 22, 2007

I would take the train. Why pay for the rental, the petrol and the parking for a week when you only need (and may not need at all) a car for two days?

If you are desperate to get out of Worcester at the weekend, then rent a car locally on Friday.

Worcester is a great little city but, as it's also on the train line, you can always pop a few stops up the line to check out somewhere new or head into Birmingham at the weekend if you want to. All those paces are linked to in the Wikipedia entry.

Personally, I'd rather take a boat trip on the river, see the cathedral, and lounge around some pubs, but that's just me. The city's tourism site is quite good, and will also let you create a tourism plan.

London taxis are very expensive. Local cabs are quite cheap, relatively speaking.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:13 PM on March 22, 2007

Yes, you can drive the car on your licence.

However, even though Worcester is in the middle of nowhere, driving in the UK is totally as different to driving in the US as possibly imaginable. For a start, all the lanes (even on major roads) are a lot narrower, all the streets are narrower, performing U-turns without doing a 3 point turn is usually next to impossible, etc. This makes it a real head f**k. I'm more relaxed driving in heavy LA traffic than even in a quiet area of the UK.. and I'm British!

So get the train there and then use cabs. Cabs are not particularly expensive, especially within a single town. Cabs to and from anywhere in my town are only £2.50 ($5). Worcester will be more, but not drastically. The money you will save on parking and rental will more than pay for this! :)
posted by wackybrit at 8:44 PM on March 22, 2007

In terms of getting to your hotel from the airport, I'd also recommend taking the train: it's simply easier all round, especially when you've just got off a long-haul flight. Check this site for times and prices. It seems that the journey from Birmingham International to Worcester will take you just over an hour, with one change (at Birmingham New Street, which is the city's main central station), and a return shouldn't set you back more than twenty bucks or so. You can even buy the tickets with a credit card through that site, but it might be better to wait and buy them at the station itself, as there may be delays on the flight and so forth, and they appear to run very frequently.
Of course, if you take the train to Worcester, there's nothing to stop you getting a rental car during the week once you're there, as DarlingBri suggests. With regards to driving more generally, I'd say that, from my perspective, there's not too much to worry about. Driving is driving; obviously each country drives in a different way, of course, but once you've got used to that for the first half hour or so, you'll be fine. If you're used to an automatic, make sure you specify to the rental company that you want one of those. Along with wackybrit's words of caution about the narrowness of lanes and roads, the only other thing to be careful with is the roundabouts, if you're not used to them.
As for the sights, the most obvious thing to suggest as a touristy-destination is Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. It's pretty tourist-heavy, even in the off season, but if that's the sort of thing that's okay with you, it's close to Worcester. There's no direct train link (you'd have to go back to Birmingham and then south again) but it's only about 30 miles away, so this might be something to do with a rental car. Another place not too far away is Gloucester, which is on either the M5 (the highway) by car, or on a straight trainline, and you can be there under an hour. It has a fine cathedral, particularly noted for the fan-vaulting in the cloister. Even Oxford is only just over an hour away by train, if you want to venture further afield. Of course, this may be a business trip, so day-long jollies may be out of the question.
As littleme also remarks, it's pronounced 'Wus-ter', or something like that. Have a good trip.
posted by hydatius at 12:37 AM on March 23, 2007

I would say get the train to Worcester, give yourself a day to see what the traffic is like and then decide whether or not to get a car. If you decide you don't want to drive, then your hotel should have details of local day trips by coach to places of interest such as Stratford upon Avon or the Cotswolds, although on a coach tour you are obviously tied to their timetable.

You can get a bus (.pdf) to Stratford-upon-Avon on a Sunday, leaving at 9.45 with the return bus at 5pm, which would give you a whole day to explore Shakespeare country at your own pace.

One of the very best places to go in that area is Warwick Castle. It's absolutely awesome. It's like what Hollywood movies think a castle should be like, except it's real. Do not miss this, it is absolutely awesome and if you are going to be there after next week you'll be in time for the new Dream of Battle medieval exhibit which starts 8 days from now, according to the website.

There's a regular train service between Worcester and Warwick, costing about £9 return (under $20). Takes about 90 minutes (definitely not a bullet train but you'll see some nice countryside on the way).

And yes, everything in England is expensive. You don't even get a free glass of water in a restaurant, or free refills of coffee (expect to pay around $3-$4 for a single cup of bad coffee).

But Worcestershire is one of the very prettiest counties in Britain and should give you a taste of what the 'real' England is like.
posted by essexjan at 2:14 AM on March 23, 2007

Hell yeah, essexjan: I forgot Warwick Castle. It is splendid indeed, with tonnes to see (but slightly steep at £16, unfortunately).
posted by hydatius at 2:42 AM on March 23, 2007

Don't forget to experience some real English culture of drinking/fighting/vomiting - available in any town centre from 11pm onwards for the very reasonable cost of nothing (even at current exchange rates!). Leamington Spa (right next to Warwick) is an excellent place to experience this.
posted by zemblamatic at 3:04 AM on March 23, 2007

Worcester is okay, but I'd adivise you to come to Cheltenham, a bit futher south, a least for a day. Much more happening.

Don't drive if you don't have to. But if you do, remember we have mostly stick shift cars. Renting doesn't have to be too expensive though.
posted by tomw at 3:25 AM on March 23, 2007

Thanks for all the help!
posted by internal at 7:46 AM on March 23, 2007

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