London by car
Do NOT, under any circumstances, rent a car to get around London. If you are renting one to leave the city, however, read on for tips.
London is not a fun city in which to drive.
The confusing street plan. The roundabouts and one-way streets. The Congestion Charge zone. The fact that they drive on the left.
London is also not a city in which you rent a car just to get around. To North Americans unused to relying on public transit, this can be a surpirse, but locals really don't drive if they can avoid it. Traffic is confusing. Parking is nigh-impossible. Public transportation is excellent.
- DRIVE ON THE LEFT. It's amazing how, at first, you will manage to forget this 90% of the time you get back into the car. Also remember that right turns are now the tricky, wide, have-to-wait-your-turn ones. Furthermore, the U.K. has many roundabouts (traffic rotaries), and navigating those " backwards" can play mind tricks on you until you get used to them.
- Beware the London Congestion Charge. The city of London currently charges you £11.50 per day to drive in the city center between 7am and 6pm, Mon-Fri. (It's to encourge more people to use public transit.) » more
- Honestly, rent a car only to explore beyond London. This does mean (sometimes), you will unfortunately have to navigate the city streets upon departure or arrival—but not necessarily. You can just arrange to pick up your car in the first town you intend to visit beyond London (Oxford, Bath, whatever) and then take public transit (train or bus) to get there.
Just remember the experience of Clark W. Griswold in National Lampoon's European Vacation, (excellent travel documentary) constantly forgetting to drive on the left, causing traffic accidents, and getting stuck for hours in an roundabout, unable to exit. "Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!"