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Car & Motorcycle

As a visitor, it’s very unlikely you’ll need to drive in London. Much has been done to encourage Londoners to get out of their cars and onto public transport (or on their bikes), and the same disincentives should keep you firmly off the road: the congestion charge, extortionate parking fees, traffic jams, the high price of petrol, fiendishly efficient traffic wardens, wheel clampers, ubiquitous CCTV cameras recording cars parked (even momentarily) on double yellow lines or not giving way when they should, and so on.

Road Rules

  • Drive on the left side of the road.
  • Get a copy of the Highway Code (www.gov.uk/highway-code), available at Automobile Association (AA) and Royal Automobile Club (RAC) outlets, as well as some bookshops and tourist offices.
  • A foreign driving licence is valid in Britain for up to 12 months from the time of your last entry into the country.
  • If you bring a car from Continental Europe, make sure you’re adequately insured.
  • All drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts, and motorcyclists must wear a helmet.
  • It is illegal to use a mobile phone to call or text while driving (using a hands-free device to talk on your mobile is permitted).
  • Pedestrians have right of way at zebra crossings (black and white stripes on the road); allow them to cross.
  • The speed limit on most urban roads is 30mph, but there are 20mph zones (indicated).

Congestion Charge

London has a congestion charge in place to reduce the flow of traffic into its centre.

The congestion-charge zone encompasses Euston and Pentonville Rds to the north, Park Lane to the west, Tower Bridge to the east, and Elephant and Castle and Vauxhall Bridge Rd to the south. As you enter the zone, you will see a large white ‘C’ in a red circle.

If you enter the zone between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays), you must pay the £11.50 charge (payable in advance or on the day) or £14 on the first charging day after travel to avoid receiving a fine (£160, or £80 if paid within 14 days).

You can pay online or over the phone. For full details visit the website.

Hire

There is no shortage of car-rental agencies in London, including several branches of major brands such as Avis, easyCar and Hertz. Book in advance for the best fares, especially at weekends.

Fines

If you get a parking ticket or your car gets clamped, call the number on the ticket. If the car has been removed, ring the free 24-hour service called TRACE (0845 206 8602; https://trace.london) to find out where your car has been taken. It will cost you a minimum of £200 to get your vehicle back on the road.