London. Photo credit: VisitBritain.com.
If your first reaction to the thought of driving in London is to run a mile, just take a minute to consider the advantages of hiring a car and exploring the city at your leisure.
We all know the capital’s roads are busy, but with so much to see all around you, you’re unlikely to mind getting stuck in a traffic jam!
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of car hire in London:
Plan your route
One thing you absolutely must do is plan where you are going to go – and make sure you’re clear about the route you intend to take. The large junctions can be confusing and London drivers are notorious for always knowing where they’re headed, so make sure you’re clear on what you’re looking for and how things are sign posted.
It’s a good idea to get your passenger to navigate for you, so you can keep your eyes on the road while they look out for signs and direct you accordingly.
Don’t stress about taking the odd wrong turn, simply find somewhere safe to turn around and go back the way you’ve come. If you’re really stuck, ask for directions!
Parking charges in central London can be astronomical, so it’s well worth doing a bit of research to find out about any reasonably-priced car parks in the district you’ll be visiting.
Be aware of any restrictions, like spaces for permit holders only, and if you use a metered spot, make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to your car before the ticket expires.
What about the congestion charge?
The good news is that the congestion charge only applies in certain districts of the capital from Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm, so if you’re planning a weekend drive into the city, you’ll be free to go where you please without having to worry.
Saturday and Sunday are likely to be a bit more peaceful on the roads anyway, as you won’t be fighting with all the commuter traffic that’s present during the week.
Visit the Transport for London website if you want to double check which areas are affected and whether you’ll be liable for the charge.
Where should you go?
Now we get on to the fun part of driving in London – where you can go and what you can see! The city is teeming with historic attractions, fascinating museums, vibrant galleries and world-famous landmarks.
One of the best places to go if you want to visit some of the most popular places in the city is Embankment. You’ll be able to drive alongside the Thames and view its stunning bridges before crossing them yourself.
Start out at Battersea Bridge and, if you stay on the northern side of the Thames, you’ll be able to travel alongside the river for the majority of your drive. There are 13 bridges along this stretch of the waterway, giving you plenty of iconic landmarks to admire.
Park up and browse the exhibits in the Tate Britain for an hour or two before continuing with your journey. Cross the river at Lambeth Bridge for excellent views as you approach Westminster on the other side of the Thames. You can re-cross the river at the next bridge, from where you’ll be able to see the London Eye. Stop here and, as well as the impressive wheel, you can also visit the London Aquarium.
Follow the Victoria Embankment along the river’s curve and you’ll also pass St Paul’s Cathedral and the towering skyscrapers of the Square Mile before you reach Tower Bridge.
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