Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
Driving in London
The first and simplest piece of advice is to avoid driving in the city centre during peak hours. If you have to head into the city centre at this time, it would probably be best to park outside the city centre and take some form of public transport into the city centre.
If you do decide you want to head into the city centre during peak hours (i.e. weekdays between 7am and 6pm) then you will encounter the London congestion charge. This is an Â£8 fee for motorists (including rental car drivers) to enter the area that has been designated as the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) which is clearly signposted. You only have to pay Â£8 regardless on how much you use it within that day.
Payment is made either online, by phone or by purchasing a voucher and must be done before midnight of the day of charge. Failure to pay this fee can result in a penalty fine that can cost between Â£60 and Â£180; the odds are you will be caught as London city centre has the world highest density of CCTV cameras.
If you are driving a rental, then the car rental company will charge you at the end of the lease and you may incur an additional admin fee.
There are certain exceptions such as buses and emergency vehicles; and others such as motorbikes and alternative fuel vehicles which receive a 100% discount.
The objective of the congestion charge is to discourage people travelling by car in the city centre and to promote public transport which is partly funded by the paid fees.
Outside the city centre and within the bounds of the M25, the most popular way of getting about is by car. There is an Inner Ring Road that goes around the city centre and it's ideal for getting to the other side of the city. There's also the North Circular and South Circular Roads which cut through the suburbs and are very easy ways of getting around the city.
Parking in London
Parking in London can be quite difficult and expensive. Parking on the street may require a lot of luck, though it may help to remember you can park on a single yellow line during certain times of the day. Be sure to check the signs before you park just in case you return and find your car clamped or towed! It's never permissible to park on a double yellow line or a red line (which marks a bus lane). Restrictions apply in the centre of the city from 8.30 to 18.30 Monday to Friday and 8.30 to 13.30 on Saturdays.
Most places use the Pay & Display system where you park on the street, find a pay kiosk, pay for as long as you need (though some streets have an upper limit) and then you display the receipt on your dashboard. Be aware though that these can cost as much as Â£4 an hour!
Trying to dodge paying is definitely not recommended as the streets are well patrolled by traffic wardens who will be very quick to clamp or tow you if you havenâ€™t paid, or you have run out of time.
If your car is parked illegally, you'll be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice. The fines are generally between Â£40 and Â£50, if paid within 14 days, rising to an average of Â£100 for late payments.
There are plenty of car parks located within the city - the NCP runs around 100 car parks in London. Perhaps your hotel has its own private car park and you can leave it there while you look about town using public transport and then you can take your car out and explore the countryside.
Mairead Foley writes for www.Novacarhire.com/ where you can book car hire at airports, ferry ports, rail stations, cities and towns all over the world.