Driving in London, London
Entering London by car has its challenges (stay off the bus lanes!); parking your car is the next one.
Be aware that parking in the streets is limited and in most cases reserved for locals. But when it is allowed look for a parking meter. Free parking is very rare.
I live in the outer suburbs of London and drive a 44ft tour coach around the city centre (and the rest of the UK) for a living. Here are my reasons why hiring a rental car in London is a really bad idea.
1... Professional drivers like myself don't take their own private car there.
2... Petrol/Gas costs about US$9.50 per gallon.
3... You will use gallons of petrol/gas driving around in circles trying to find a parking space.
4... If you do find a parking space it may cost up to £10 or US$16 per hour just to park.
5... Overstaying in a parking space can incur a fine of £80, doubled to £160 if it's not paid within 14 days.
6... The rental company will charge your credit card to cover the costs of any inadvertent traffic or parking offences you may commit.
7... Being from overseas does not you make you exempt from the rules.
8... CCTV cameras are everywhere and record all traffic offences.
9... The congestion charge applies from 0700 to 1800 Monday to Friday and now costs £11.50 per day just to use a "private" vehicle in central London.
10.."Gatso" speed cameras will record every speeding offence, (See number 6) even though the average speed on London's roads can be slower than 5mph. 100's of years ago when some of the roads were built for horses and carts it was 7mph.
A car in central London will be a very expensive hindrance. Locals don't drive there unless they are getting paid to do it or have no other choice..Public transport is excellent.and by far the best option to see and visit the things you came to London for in the first place without giving yourself a massive headache.
Apart from the rather obvious comment that you could use public transport or walk, there are a number of ways that you can legitimately avoid Uncle Mayor Ken's little wheeze.
If you drive a bus (more than 9 seats), are disabled (and registered as such) or drive an electric car then you should escape without a problem. Remember the charge only operates on weekdays.
If you are driving a foreign car to London, then beware, as agreements have been signed with a collection agency to trace cars in about 20-odd countries.
If you are on German or Danish plates, then you should escape because of Data protection legislation working in your favour. The French too (typical) should escape, due to the high costs of collection in France. Serial offenders may have a problem however.
Taxis are exempt and most minicabs are. On no account allow a minicab driver to 'con' you on this one.
A few interesting quotes for you as well :
'It is quite clear that some defence is needed against the reported activities of Mr Ken Livingstone'
Margaret Thatcher, July 1981
'I love meetings and plottings. I didn't get where I am today without plotting'
Ken Livingstone, October 1997
'I've got no reason to believe that if he found himself in the mayor's chair he wouldn't continue to extrude half-arsed ideas'
Neil Kinnock, January 2000
Are you nervous about taking your baby or child on a plane trip? You aren't alone, most parents are nervous about it. We have moved with Iris and Sam Tarragona Corfu by plane this holiday and drove some distances by car on the island itself and we learned a few things that hopefully will help you.
Bring books, old favourite toys and new surprise toys. Do remember that balls are not a good idea as they can end up anywhere! Our best buys were definitely books, especially sticker books are great! They can peel the stickers off, are glossy, have thick pages to turn easy, have bright colours and come in endless subjects. They're a nice break from the other books your child might be tired of, too. Put aside fears of setting poor eating habits, and bring on the snacks! We told Iris: “Welcome to the world of boredom eating."
If your child is big ask for earplugs as soon as you board the aircraft. Make use of them for take-off then save them for landing as the crew may not have any fresh ones left by then. Also let them eat candies, this helps the kids tremendously if they don't know how to pop their ears.
Toy bars meant for stroller use are a big help in the car, as they often feature toys plus a snack cup, and are big and easy for you to grab from the front seat for refills. During the car trip it’s always a good idea to play a game and sing some songs. It sounds rather easy, but it does work!
We only have one last statement! Just do it! Don’t be afraid that it might go wrong. We have learned this, because we have been travelling with Iris from the beginning. She was only 6 weeks young when we had our first short vacation and stayed in a hotel. Iris has been used to it rather fast and (maybe because of it) has always been an easy kid to get along with.
Be VERY careful where you park in London. There are some places that cost several pounds an hour just to park on the street. Always look for the time plates fixed to lamp posts, they will tell you where and when you can park, make sure you are in the right place or your vehicle will be towed away at great expense to yourself.
Westminster council are now charging for motorcycle parking too, cheeky monkeys! They encourage you to leave your car at home, use a form of transport that doesn't cause congestion then they charge you for that too. You can object to this outrage by visiting this site: http://www.notobikeparkingfees.com/
To use a car in London is to be avoided at the best of time. From 07.00hrs to 18.30hrs you will have to pay a congestion charge of £8.00 per day. Then you will have to pay for parking which in the centre will be £4.00 - £10.00 per hour. The best way is to get an Oyster card. These are widely available from all stations and selected outlets.
A useful place to park is on the red routes on the edge of town where there are some free parking bays available (There are not too many of these) to park for a day. Then take the tube or bus around.
Cons; Knowing where these available bays are since they are not listed publicly. Also make sure you are parked properly in the proscribed bay otherwise you will get a ticket (£120.00).
To hire a car in London you must be over 21 and have a valid driver's license. Highways are marked "M" and the M25 is the major ring. It is difficult to drive in the city but on long trips to the surrounding areas are easier. Take the tube to an outer town and hire a car there.
Photo 2 shows a car with the map built right in!!
Don't try to drive in London, even with the map all over the outside of your car.
Seriously... we were interested to see these little electric cars. My husband converted a Ford Escort to electric at home and drove it to work for 5 years, so electric cars are of interest to us. When I was there in 2007, I saw another of these little THINK cars.
We were on a bus and the transporter carrying these cars was going faster than the bus (which had to stop and pick up passengers) so I had to be satisfied with this picture with a less than optimum view of the car.
The press release says:
"..40p for a full tank, free parking and no congestion charging
Charging the TH!NK city overnight costs around 40 pence and is done by plugging the car into any 240v domestic socket. This means that it costs less than 1.5p per mile to run, a huge saving versus a conventional petrol or diesel engine. "
" Parking a TH!NK city in London has an additional bonus as some London boroughs, including Westminster with its 8,000 parking spaces, allow electric vehicles to park for free. Another advantage is that under the Mayor of London's plans for a congestion charging zone in central London, electrically-propelled vehicles will be eligible for a 100 per cent discount from the charge. "
Unfortunately, these vehicles are not available on short term rental.
"The monthly leasing cost, including full servicing, is £325 (excluding VAT). There is no initial lump sum down payment, and the leasing plan runs for a total of three years."
Parking. It's possible but it's a nightmare! The rules change not only from borough to borough but also from street to street!
You can NEVER park on a double yellow line.
You cannot park on a single yellow (and this means tyres on the line) except on a Sunday and sometimes on a bank holiday - unless there is a sign that prohibits it!
There are painted parking spaces which may be pay and display - check first that they are pay and display at the time you are wishing to park - some alternate during the day between public parking and residence parking only! Also, read the ticket - some HAVE to be placed on the LEFT of the windscreen only!
... and the list goes on - basically just check the little parking notices (usually located high up on a nearby street lamp or something similar) You can usually get a general idea from how others have parked... but you cannot obviously rely upon this.
Zebra crossings -(the good, old black & white stripes across the road). If a pedestrian has placed a foot on the road you HAVE to stop. However, we tend to be very polite about zebra crossing and if somebody is obviously going to cross we usually stop in advance of their foot touching the road.... and it is kind of frowned upon not to!
In town, speed limits are 30mph... if you can go that fast. There are a lot of vehicles on our roads and in an attempt to reduce the numbers we now have the huge, money making congestion charge scheme in place, which has recently, this year, been extended and will no doubt continue to extend! The CC is charged at £8 per day. You can buy your congestion charge daily, monthly or annually. Monthly gets you 3 days free and is about £130. You can also buy annually which provides a few more " free days" but you need to do the maths - annually really only works if you are going to drive into the zone every day and never take a holiday etc... I do monthly but on ocassion have to purchase the odd day - this way I find I am not buying days I don't use!
There are signs about, on the roads, to tell you how far away from the zone you are etc... Do not fear - you do not need to have paid the charge before you enter the zone - as long as you pay up by the end of the day. It's expensive and personally I begrudge it but there is no avoiding it and for more and detailed information you can go to : http://www.cclondon.com/
Bus lanes are usually on the left but that doesn't always follow. There will be signs above the bus lanes which inform you of the lanes hours of operation. DO NOT drive in the bus lane if it is within these hours - there are usually cameras which may be perched on top of buildings or even in the back of buses - you WILL get fined!
Motorbikes are looked out for to the right whilst cyclists are looked out for to the left!
There are cycling lanes on some roads but not all. There are even cycling boxes at some traffic lights too.... It is great that we have so many cyclists on the road but there is no road proficiency test for them and as a result we have a fair number of cyclists who have absolutely no road knowledge.... an awful lot of cyclists do not understand a red light means STOP!
For laws re. children in cars & general road rules see my driving UK page!
Every man for himself! London drivers are usually on a mission. We have an extra sense which flushes out those who are not used to driving around London or who do not really know where they want to be going and if we do not get frustrated by you we will surely cut you up - particularly in rush hour - it's dog eat dog out there and if you are not on the ball, you'll find yourself eating everybody elses rubber!!!!
We hate waiting to allow cars to pass - the main reason for this is because the on -flow of cars in the opposite direction never seem to know when to stop. Stop to allow 1 or 2 cars to come through and suddenly 30 cars have passed and you are stuck, unable to get out ... and don't expect hands raised in the thanks or a quick flash of the headlights in acknowledgement of your road generosity. That is not to say some of us don't do the decent thing now and again...
London has an 'orbital' or 'beltway' motorway called the M25, separating the built up area around London from its rural surroundings. There are about 32 junctions linking it to linear motorways & roads to take you to other parts of the UK, or back into London.
The busiest part of the M25 (the western section near Heathrow Airport) has variable speed limits, enforced by cameras, which seems an effective solution to crashes caused by traffic suddenly slowing when the road is congested.
Within Greater London, the North & South Circular roads (A406 & A205) is London's main artery between the inner & outer suburbs. The North Circular is as close as Britain's linear motorway network gets into London: the M11 to Cambridge, M1 to Yorkshire & M4 to Wales (via Windsor) all start from junctions on the North Circular.
There is a daytime Congestion Charge for cars & commercial vehicles in central London, which operates on most roads south of the A501 & east of Hyde Park (THE AREA EXPANDED w.e.f. FEB.19TH, 2007. SEE ATTACHED WEBLINK). There's no real need to drive in central London (especially if you are a tourist from overseas, or on a day-trip or mini-break from elsewhere in the UK). London has 10 national rail terminals, all linked to London Underground & bus routes.
Just don't do it! It's crazy enough to try to negotiate the City streets with all the traffic, busses, taxis, and pedestrians. There will no doubt be NOwhere to park. And as of 2003 the City has introduced a "Congestion Charge". That means that 8 GBP per day (Increased from 5 GBP in 2005) must be paid by the registered owner of a vehicle who passes into the "Inner Ring Road" between the hours of 7 AM and 6:30 PM.
To enforce this charge, there have been 230 CCTV cameras installed within the zone, the bulk of which are at the entrances. These cameras are fitted with automatic number recognition and a list of license plates photographed are compared to those which have paid the daily fee. Those who haven't will be fined 100 GBP. It is said that virutally 98% of the cars passing into the zone are photographed. Those that aren't are likely to be captured by the cameras at random places within the zone. It all seems like an amazingly bulky process!
The purpose of the charge, introduced by Mayor Ken Livingston, is to reduce traffic in the City and encourage visitors to use public transit.
The old old story .... Getting lost in greater London with Chris, as usual lol.
We had been on the trip to East Ham many times, but this time, instead of going higgledy piggledy through London, through places like New Cross and Blackwall Tunnel etc, we went a 'short' way via the A406, told to us by Shah. And ended up lost and 30 miles out of the area and ending up in Hackney and Bow! hahahaha. In the end, Chris had to go and ask the way to Manor Park in East Ham at a Taxi service office full of Rastafarians. They were ok blokes and from their great directions we were soon where we should have been in the first place...... Thanks guys!!
Breakdown in The Blackwall Tunnel:
Late one Autumn afternoon, we are coming away from East Ham and driving through the Blackwall Tunnel. There is a big lorry in front of us and another tailgating us, so what happens? yep, the darn car breaks down just as we were nearing the exit of the tunnel! aaaaahhhhh! Luckily Chris knows what he's doing with cars and actually managed to get it steered and running on just fresh air and pure luck out of the tunnel before it really gave up the ghost. Once on a little side track, he soon had it up and running again, it was only a wire that had
come off of the Coil.......
When a motorway gets a name like `the worlds biggest carpark', you know you ought to avoid it unless absolutely crucial.
The 120 mile M25 orbital motorway , was meant to be the outermost of four `ring-roads' around London. The traffic jams on this route are notorious, and most users have many a gripe with it.
There had been talk lately of introducing a toll to tackle the congestion on the route, and using the money to widen it. That idea too has met with much debate, the argument agsinst that being that it could lead to havoc on the other local roads, already filled with traffic...