Portsmouth is a city in Southern England, best known for its significance in the country’s long maritime history. You only need to take a look at the city’s most popular attractions to appreciate this well-known fact. At the city’s dockyard, visitors get the chance to see King Henry VIII's Mary Rose and Lord Nelson's famous warship, the HMS Victory. Daytrip options abound from Portsmouth as well. You can hop over to the Isle of Wight or head inland to the English countryside. Either way, driving your own car is the way to go.
Who to Book With
Within Portsmouth itself are several international car hire brands, such as National, Alamo, Europcar, Enterprise, Sixt, Budget, Avis and Thrifty. The first three all have their offices at The Hard in Portsmouth’s city centre, close to Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station. It is wise to plan ahead and compare car rental rates online prior to travel in order to afford yourself the best prices in Portsmouth.
Best Time to Go
Portsmouth enjoys slightly more pleasant weather year-round when compared to the rest of the country. The seasons are milder here, with snow showing up very rarely in winter and summers remaining quite hot. A summer holiday here is a great idea, as rain is least likely to appear during this season.
Need to Know Essentials
Picking up your car at the depot will require you to show the following:
- UK licence (or International Driving Permit if not a resident)
- The credit card used in the booking
- Secondary ID (to confirm identity of the renter)
- Booking confirmation
For more info read our FAQ's
When driving to Portsmouth, take the M3 from London, turning east onto the M27 just before Southampton. Alternately, you can take the A3 for a more direct approach. Portsmouth has a specific city speed limit of 20mph. Because the main part of Portsmouth is an island, routes going in can be congested during peak hours, so it’s best to plan ahead and avoid arriving at these times. On-street parking and car parks are plentiful here. Parking on street costs about £1 per hour.
You can check our guide to UK driving for more information.
Visitors are free to walk around the main part of the city, as the principal attractions are quite easy to reach on foot. There is always the train, of course, as Portsmouth is serviced by three stations. Taxis can be also hired for travel to and from places within the town and around Hampshire. There is also a fairly extensive bus system, although this is mainly used by residents.
As with all cities on the UK rail system, Portsmouth train tickets can be bought at any of the major train stations for those arriving by rail. A ticket will cover all train operators in your journey, unless stated otherwise. Those who prefer to buy train tickets prior to arrival can do so via the official websites of the train operators. If travelling around Havant and Southampton by bus, it is worth considering getting a day pass, costing £3.70 for Portsmouth and £4.80 for the entirety of Hampshire.
Portsmouth has three railway stations connected to the National Rail network. Portsmouth Harbour Station is used by those heading to the Royal Dockyard, Portsmouth & Southsea Station is used by those shopping in the city centre, and Fratton is used by those heading to Fratton Park football stadium. A ticket from London costs about £23, while there are trains onward to Southampton for around £7, and to Brighton for around £14.
The main taxi company here is Aquacars, which possesses a fleet of around 600 cars. Other companies include City Wide Taxis and Gosport Cabs. Portsmouth is relatively small, so fares should not be that expensive. Several taxi ranks can be found around town, or bookings can be made over the phone.
National Express has many buses from major cities outside Portsmouth. Buses from London costs £14. Several bus lines run in Portsmouth, covering the city and the surrounding areas as far as Havant and Southampton. Those planning to use the buses several times in one day can purchase a day pass, which costs around £4.
England’s maritime history comes alive perhaps none more so than in Portsmouth. The Royal Dockyard is the main attraction in this town with monuments like the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory as mainstays. You can also head over to the Royal Marines Museum for some dramatic displays on the history of the Royal Marines. Drive around Portsmouth and beyond to see what else this area has to offer.
The Isle of Wight - A small island on the English Channel across the Solent from Portsmouth. Several vehicle ferries regularly cross this body of water for those looking to visit the Isle of Wight. The island has several nice beaches, secluded coves and breathtaking cliffs, as well as family-friendly parks and restaurants.
Winchester - A cathedral city north of Portsmouth, and can be reached on a short drive. This is a great place to visit, especially for those interested in history, as Winchester has been an important settlement since pre-Roman times. It was even the country’s capital at one point. There are a number of churches, castles and gardens worth a look in this historic city.
Emsworth - The perfect place for those looking to enjoy a more relaxed holiday. This little fishing village offers a relaxed atmosphere, and visitors can enjoy touring the town square’s pubs and restaurants or the bustling harbour. If visiting in September, make sure you catch the Emsworth Food Festival.