on December 7, 2011
One of the best things we did whilst we were in San Francisco was hiring a Go Car. They are ridiculously garish little yellow cars that you drive around the city on set routes, taking in the major tourist sites as well as some not so familiar ones. I can't honestly remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long!===Picking Up Your Car===There is a Go Car centre near to the Argonaut Hotel in the Fisherman's Wharf area of the city, just a block from the start of the famous cable car line. Be sure to have a look at the leaflet stands in your hotel as there will definitely be one for the Go Cars. The one we picked up from our hotel actually had a 5% discount voucher on it, so it was a double bonus.We went to the centre first to make general enquiries and to see if we needed to book and the girl at the desk was unbelievably helpful. She made a booking for us to return within the hour, but I got the impression that booking wasn't really necessary and that they have enough cars to accommodate everyone even in the height of season. You need to take your driving license with you and you need a license for everyone that wants to have a go at driving. The cars are only have two seats though so if there is a group of you, you'll obviously need more than one car and you'll need a license for at least one driver per car. The are a few forms and things you have to fill in and there is the option of taking out insurance if you wish. I realised afterwards that the insurance thing is a bit of a swizz because all it does is reduce your excess from $500 to $400 - you are insured whether you take out the extra or not. Having said that, it wasn't an expensive lesson to learn because it was only $12 extra.The car hire is $30 per hour which is quite steep, but it is so very worth it! There are various set routes you can opt for and they are generally two to three hours long. Before taking the car out you simply hand over your credit card details - they don't actually take any money until you return and they charge in part hours as well so if you go over by a couple of minutes you don't pay for the full hour. I thought this was particularly good because you didn't feel the pressure of returning at a specific time, it gives you more freedom to enjoy the trip.You need to watch a short video before you take the car out. It's quite a useful video because it tells you all the essentials about using the car and what you can and can't do in it. More importantly you watch the video whilst you are sat in one of the cars so that you can actually see what buttons are being talked about and so on. The video lasts about ten minutes and this isn't charged for - the clock doesn't start until you actually set off on your tour. The last thing you need to do is get a rather attractive helmet and you are good to go!===The Car===The car is, like I said, a bright yellow thing that stands out. We found this to be both a good and bad thing. You stand out from all the other traffic and so other road users tend to give you extra room and allowance, so it takes the pressure off a little bit. On the down side, you become a tourist attraction in yourself and so draw than more than the odd look. We found that people laughed at use, waved at us and even took photos of us during our journey. I think at one point, when we were away from the car, a motorcyclist thought our helmets meant we were fellow cyclists and greeted us warmly - I'm not sure what he would have said had he seen exactly what our ride was!The car is basically a little scooter type thing encased in a carbon fibre car shell. As the instruction video tells you, it is easily damaged, so you should be wary of parking near things. The car is so small though that parking is completely easy and if you are struggling you could probably just pick it up and move it. In fact you do have to do that some of the time because the car has no reverse gear - makes you look like a real pro when you are trying to navigate a busy car park I can tell you!One other thing to bear in mind is that the car - however fun it looks - is actually classed as a proper vehicle and so must be parked in 'proper' parking spaces and if required, parking fees must be paid. It is also worth noting that you cannot cross the Golden Gate Bridge in it. To be honest I think it would take a very brave man or woman to attempt to navigate the six lanes of the bridge in what is a vehicle that is barely more powerful than a bicycle! ===The Journey===The cars are fitted with a really good satellite navigation system which is very accurate and unbelievably helpful! The satnav is audio only though and so there is a map attached to the dashboard of the car that is actually very useful. It has the main routes that you can take on it and it is quite a detailed map with all of the street names on. The satnav also doubles up as a tour guide and the narrator advises you where to go and what you can see on the way. I thought the narration was wonderful because it is designed to be the voice of the actual car and it gives it a personality. I know it sounds odd, but it really was a lot of fun and made all the difference. For instance the car would tell you take a diversion if the upcoming road was too steep for it to climb and to slow down if you were exceeding its somewhat paltry speed limit. There has obviously been a lot of research and planning gone into the navigation because everything was perfect – there was no telling us about places that we couldn’t see or sending us down dead ends. We took a two hour route that includes stopping at two viewpoints for the Golden Gate Bridge – one of which is close enough that you can park up and walk across the bridge. It also took us through the residential area of the town which I loved because it felt more authentic. It took us around the university area and past George Lucas’ film studios and finally up to Lombard Street – the crookedest street in the world. It was here that we really laughed the loudest, we rode down the higgledy piggledy street admire the views, roaring with laughter and being photographed like we were the Beckhams – it is definitely the first time in my life that I have felt like a bona fide celebrity or a tourist attraction!===Overall===I can’t recommend the Go Car tour enough – it really is a fabulous, alternative way of seeing San Francisco and the major sights. Although it isn’t the cheapest way to get around, it has got to be the best and based on an hourly rate for two people it isn’t actually that much more than hiring a bike. You can get a long way in two hours and see a lot of the things you wouldn’t ordinarily see and, above all, you are guaranteed to have a whole lot of fun!
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