Eden ProjectI’m just back from my “credit crunch” holiday of the year. For the last week, I’ve been visiting Cornwall and North Devon whilst the British weather maintained its unpredictability and gave us one of the best weeks this summer in late September!

The first part of the holiday was spent in Penzance and one place you have to visit is the Minack Theatre. We were not fortunate enough to see a show but just visiting this amazing theatre that sits on top of a cliff at the waters edge was enough. We also visited the Eden Project which is an amazing botanical concept, brought to life in a reclaimed clay pit, just outside St Austell.

From Penzance, we travelled up the North Cornwall coast, via Padstow, Tintagel and Boscastle and spent the rest of the week in Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast. We made the most of the good weather and spent most of our time cycling the Tarka Trail and walking the coastal paths around the area.

One recommendation I would give is to go to the Quay in Ilfracombe. This modern bar/restaurant is owned by the artist Damien Hirst and sits slightly out of place amongst the souvenir and fish and chip shops next to the harbour. However, it’s worth the visit if you’re in the area as the food is delicious and the décor is beautifully done (as you would expect from an artist!!).

If you need to hire a car while you’re in the area, Avis has offices at Exeter Airport as well as in Plymouth and Truro.

Have any of you visited the area? Do you have any recommendations for where to visit? Or have you taken the opportunity to holiday in the UK this year? Let us know.

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If I was a learner driver right now I think I would’ve balked at the end idea of having to endure an additional assessment on my driving test. But if I knew that this assessment could help me save 15% on my fuel costs then I might be a little more enthusiastic.

Well according to The ETA, that’s how much fuel newly qualified driver’s stand to save with the Driving Standards Agency introducing a new green assessment to the UK driving test. Thankfully for prospective drivers, the assessment will not deliver a fail for inefficient driving but it will help provide tips and advice to help new drivers adopt a more fuel-efficient driving technique.

I think that’s a really positive step by the Driving Standards Agency and my only disappointment is that I did not get to benefit from this assessment! If you’re interested in any tips for efficient driving then we do have some blog posts on:
- Saving money on fuel by driving well
- A new tip to reduce your fuel consumption

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Passengers waiting at the airport with hand luggageThose of you who fly regularly may be familiar with this. I was reading an article on the ABTN commenting on the confusion over the size of hand luggage allowed on a flight. The problem, it notes, is that the Department for Transport sets a guide to security requirements. The problem being is that it is just a guide.

This has led to variations in hand luggage policies by airport and airline. For example most airports allow two bags through security. But at Liverpool and Luton airport you’re allowed only one. The size of hand luggage allowed can differ also with the Department for Transport setting a maximum size of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm per bag. Yet many airlines impose policies that are less generous on luggage size and to add to the confusion these policies are usually not the same between the carriers. The same applies to the weight of the bag with the Department of Transport suggesting that, if it can be lifted into the locker, then that’s ok. But I’m sure anyone who travels on regularly will know that many airlines are more restrictive on weight.

There are calls to make these policies more definitive to ensure consistency between airlines. But while this consistency is lacking be sure to check with your airline on any security and luggage restrictions before flying.

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We’ve received quite a bit of feedback on the blog since we launched our new Home Delivery service. We’re really pleased with the positive reception it has received so far and thank you to all the people who have voiced their opinion.

We have noted your feedback regarding the premium price in London and taking this information on board, we have decided to revise our pricing. In future, Home Delivery will cost just £10 each way for areas serviced by our locations in Earls Court, Euston, Park Royal and Tower Bridge. For all other central London locations (Mayfair, Waterloo, Charing Cross, Marylebone, Paddington, Liverpool Street and Victoria) the price of Home Delivery is £15 each way. As before this price is available up to 20 miles, where additional miles are charged at £1 per mile.

To book your Avis car rental with Home Delivery visit www.avis.co.uk/homedelivery, or call our Central Reservations team on 08445 818181. As always let me know if you have any further feedback!

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The Avis UK teamOn Saturday the Avis UK team were crowned champions of Europe having won the Avis We Kick Harder football tournament in Frankfurt, Germany. It was no easy ride with us having to defy the England team’s terrible history with penalties, winning both the final (against the Swiss team) and the semi-final on spot kicks – a fixture that saw us banish those heart-breaking memories of World Cup ’90 and Euro ’96 by beating one of the Germany-based team. The UK team (pictured left) included (back l-r) Tony Smith, Carl John, myself, Prajesh Kanadia, Chris Wickson, (front l-r) Simon Wickson, Pritesh Patel, Paul Neale, Nick Eaton and Damien Ohandjanian.

I would like to make a special thank our sponsors Autoclenz, Speedstart, Sapphire Garages and Flybe. Without you we wouldn’t have even made it there! I’d also like to thank our friends from Avis Germany who organised the tournament. See you again next year!

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Smart carThe press is full of reports on the current economic climate at the moment but one story that particularly caught my eye was that of the new car market experiencing an 18.6% decline in sales in August. Unsurprising given restricted credit and tightening pursue strings. But what was also interesting is that one car who is benefitting despite the decline is theSmart car.

It’s the clearest sign yet that people are realising the potential cost saving of downsizing. And interestingly I read that they are launching an electric version of the Smart car in 2010. To date your choice of electric car has been pretty much limited to the G-Wiz, a car not exactly famed for it’s looks or robust build but, due to it’s practicality and fuel savings, can be seen regularly on the streets of London. The Smart car is equally practical so offering an electric version seems a shrewd move particularly given the current economic climate.

Personally, while it’s not the sexiest car around, I’m quite excited about a car that offers practicality and significant fuel savings but it is not going to raise a few glares (for the wrong reasons). As always, I’m interested in your opinion on this. Are you looking to downsize? And will you be (or have you been) looking to alternative fuels (diesel, hybrid, electric, etc) to cut your fuel bill?

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Open roadWith continental Europe just on our doorstep we are in a privileged position to have such easy access to the mainland, providing a variety of diverse and exciting cultures and beautiful landscapes within a relatively short distance. A while ago Xavier wrote a post about some of the rules for taking a car outside of it’s country of origin. Well today I thought I’d write some tips and information for those people specifically looking to access mainland Europe by car, starting from their home in the UK.

For drivers, the ferry provides a great way into mainland Europe and there are a number of UK ports with routes into Europe including Portsmouth and Hull. But the cheapest way to access Europe (and which I think is the best starting point) is Dover to Calais, a route that both Sea France and P&O Ferries serve.

For those drivers who plan to make their way into Europe by car via the ferry there are two options, both with varying costs and levels of convenience involved:

1. Transport your car in to mainland Europe by ferry – The cost of going on a ferry by car starts at £35 each way. It is worth bearing in mind that, if you are in a rental car that you collected from an Avis UK office, then you will need to take Continental Cover. This cover costs from £88.13 for 1-7 days driving on the continent and goes up to £158.62 for 22+ days driving. With this you are covered to drive in Belguim, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Italy (including Sardinia and Sicily), Liechenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Baleriacs and the Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. A condition of this is that car is returned to the UK on completion of the rental but the package does cover a good breadth of Europe and of course Avis Roadside Assistance is available across Europe. If you require Continental Cover then please advise the Avis rental office at least 2 days in advance.

2. Cross the channel by ferry as a foot passenger – And then rent a car from Calais. A foot passenger costs from just £10 each way and, in addition to this saving, you will not need Continental Cover on your car hire. However, there are more restrictions on where an Avis hire car collected in France can be taken and these include Andorra, Luxembourg, Austria, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Spain (Mainland), Finland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy (again the vehicle needs to be returned to it’s country of origin). Also, there is the question of getting to Dover. You could leave your car at the Port of Dover where parking costs £12 for the first 24 hours and £6 per day for each subsequent day. Alternatively, you can get the train to Dover Priory where a cheap day single costs from just over £24 from London Charing Cross. Clearly, there are cost savings to be made with this option but it is not necessarily the most convenient.

Avis has offices at both the Dover and Calais ports. Of course if speed and convenience is the way you want to go then there is always the Euro Tunnel from Folkestone to Calais where prices start from £49 to £149 depending on your length of stay.

Well there are some ideas about how to start your European tour. Now I would love any suggestions on recommended routes! Last year my American cousin started his European road tour from Calais, drove north through The Netherlands (Amsterdam of course!), went east across Germany, then looped round through the Czech Republic and came back through Austria, Switzerland and Italy before heading back up towards Calais (to make his way back to Heathrow for his flight home). All of this in just 4 weeks!

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You have to ask yourself, how interesting is traffic? Most people would say “not very” but for the author Tom Vanderbilt, his answer might be different as he’s managed to write an entire book about it. And considering the amount of time everyone spends in traffic, the subject probably has more relevance to our lives than you think.

The book Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) examines people’s driving behaviour from all over the world and shows how governments and councils have tried to influence it. He looks into how we use our cars, how we act in them and how we share the space with other road users.

For instance, did you know:

• 2.7 per cent of jams after a crash are caused by people stopping to stare.
• The average daily round-trip commute in almost every country in the world is 1.1 hours.
• One out of every 10 road traffic accidents in the world occurs in India.
• The average American spends 38 hours a year stuck in traffic.
• One in 50 crashes in America is caused by ‘vehicle factors’ rather than driver behaviour.
• Roads in America are underused more than 90 per cent of the time.

Tom Vanderbilt argues that driving in traffic is one of the most mentally taxing things any of us does. Apparently, scientists have tried to build robots capable of doing it but the volume of sensory data is too much for the most sophisticated artificial brain. However, it can be argued that we’ve hardly mastered the art as in the UK alone, about 3,000 people die every year in traffic accidents. Just look at Rob’s post “A reminder of the importance of Road Safety”, about the M42 crash to see what can happen.

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At Avis, we really do try harder. We pioneered blogging in the car rental world and we aim to make our blog much more than just an information source. You can use our blog to ask questions or tell us what’s important to you when you hire a car. We try harder because we care what you think, so we really do value your feedback.

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