Sure, driving in London can be a little daunting at first. But with a little preparation (and maybe a good cup of tea), you’ll be zipping around the city like a local in no time. So put on your best British accent, pour that cuppa in a travel mug, and let’s get started!
Driving in London is not as bad as people make it out to be
There are plenty of signs and roads are well-maintained
Contradicting popular opinion, driving in London isn’t all bad – there are signs aplenty, so navigation is relatively easy, and the roads are well-maintained too. For those brave enough to make the switch from Underground to driving above ground, driving in London can almost be considered a leisurely activity; it might not offer serenity or scenic views, but it’s certainly far from being an absolute nightmare.
Don’t let the thought of driving on ‘the wrong side of the road’ scare you. I’ve lived in London since 2015 and I am yet to drive the wrong way down the road. Although I have had a few close calls over the years!
There are signs everywhere, especially at intersections that help remind you of which lane you should be in and which way you should turn. Londoners love a sign. Oh, we love to beep too! So don’t be put off if you hear black cabs beeping at you or others around you. Eventually, the noise will just feel like London’s traffic music… or something like that.
Right. First Things First: Congestion Charge
What is the Congestion Charge?
Transport for London has widened its congestion charges to all London Boroughs (ULEZ). This is because none of the boroughs passed the Government clean air tests. The charge is £15 per day if you pay in advance. You only have to pay once even if you leave and enter a congestion zone more than once on the same day.
If however, you go over midnight, you will then have to pay another £15. The charge was originally introduced to reduce traffic and improve air quality.
What is the Congestion Charge Operation Hours?
You will have to pay a congestion charge Monday to Friday 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Saturdays and Sundays are reduced to 12:00 noon to 6:00 PM.
Driving in London: Finding Parking
The hardest part is probably finding a place to park!
Driving in London can be quite an exhilarating experience, as the hustle and bustle of the city bring something that you just don’t get outside of a large city. Unfortunately, it also can bring some challenges, such as tight streets and busy traffic. The biggest difference for me is the size of the cars. You’ll quickly notice that because the roads are a lot smaller, the cars, vans, etc seem to also be of smaller size.
Actually, now that I think about it- It’s very rare to see massive trucks in the streets of London. Unless they’re lorries or vehicles that are delivering materials to building sites.
One of the biggest hassles is finding a place to park! It can seem like a mission impossible to locate a spot that’s not cramped or outrageously priced – hopefully, you come armed with plenty of patience and a contactless card to pay at the machine.
Lucky for you, if you’re visiting parks or tourist hot spots such as the museums, big shopping centres, or arenas, etc. there are also big car parks nearby. Plus, if you go on their websites they will often tell you about where the nearest car parking is or what you can do.
The Excel Centre in London for example, has a large car park. However, it’s so much easier if you book ahead as often these spaces fill up. Especially if there is an event on that day! So my biggest piece of advice would be to always check online before you travel and always know where available parking is.
Likewise, you can download parking apps such as ‘Parkopedia’ or ‘Just Park’ which when you put in your location, will tell you nearby parking spots that you can hire for a few hours or the whole day. The best part, they’re usually people’s driveways so your car is secure and it’s easy for you to return to your car throughout the day if you need to.
Free Parking in London
Another top tip is that there are actually quite a few neighbourhoods in London that have free parking on Sunday. Most of London’s neighbourhoods are permit parking only however, on Sundays you can usually find a few spots tucked away on the residential streets.
If you want to plan ahead, just look online to see if there is free parking on a Sunday in the neighbourhood you are going to.
For example, if you are travelling to Kensington, google parking restrictions in Kensington, London. Then go to their website where they will have the most up-to-date information about parking in Kensington.
Avoid Bus Lanes
Speaking from experience, you really don’t want to get caught parking or driving in a London bus lane. I once pulled over in a bus lane to sort out my Google Maps and I ended up getting a whopping £80 fine in the post! Sometimes there are cameras at bus stops and in bus lanes and you really cannot go in them.
Driving in London & Being Honked At
Beep! Beep! Londoners are used to seeing all sorts of vehicles on the road, so don’t worry about being beeped (honked) at. Trust me when I say, Londoners have seen it all before! From scooters to double-decker busses, you name it and they’ve driven past it already.
So, even if you make a few wrong turns or accidentally drive the wrong way down a one-way street, don’t worry about being peeped at. Just take a deep breath, remain calm, reverse and turn around. Chances are if you’re driving in London you will see someone who either goes down a one-way street the wrong way or drives up on a curb and cuts a bus off. The options are endless.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post though, if you read all the traffic signs it’s actually quite difficult to end up on the wrong side of the road.
Chances are anyway that the locals are just offering you friendly advice to say, ‘Hey! You’re going the wrong way!’ After all, they view themselves as the experts at driving in London.
All in all, Driving in London is an Experience – Good Luck!
All in all, driving in London is an experience that you won’t soon forget. From the mix of narrow lanes and multi-lane motorways to the iconic double-decker buses and avoidance of congestion charges, navigating the busy city can be daunting – but incredibly rewarding if you’re up for it.
There are plenty of GPS tools designed to make your drive easier, my favourite being ‘Ways’ and ‘Google Maps’. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of them as you make your way through this vibrant city. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for cyclists and other drivers, mind your speed limits (there are traffic cameras everywhere), and take a deep breath whenever you need it! All things considered, good luck – you’ll do fine.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about driving in London. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be, but there are definitely a few things to be aware of. Just keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine. Thanks for reading and have fun driving around London.