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Driving in England- to/from London and York/Brighton.

Hello all! My best friend and I will be traveling to England this upcoming December. We are set to land in London on Christmas day. We plan to spend Christmas day in London then we would like to go somewhere outside of London. We were thinking of York hello all! My best friend and I will be traveling to England this upcoming December. We are set to land in London on Christmas day. We plan to spend Christmas day in London then we would like to go somewhere outside of London. We were thinking of York(which currently has an immersive Van Gogh installation) or perhaps venture out to Brighton. I was looking for some input on driving in the UK since it’s so different from drying in the United States! My friend and I are two girls in our 30s and are somewhat terrified of the thought of driving there. However I don’t know how easy it is to get a train or how expensive it would be to get a taxi to go around to those places. Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences about driving in the UK? Also any recommendations for York or Brighton? Thank you in advance for all of your help

Posted by
3428 posts

It is actually VERY easy to get to York or Brighton by train! York is one of my favorite UK cities. You catch a train from Kings Cross Train station and it only takes a couple of hours to reach York. We usually took a train leaving soon after 9:00am and would arrive in York around 11:00-1130ish, have an early lunch and start exploring!

Your real problem may be getting into London on Christmas day. EVERYTHING shuts down. No tube, no trains, and very limited taxis- and they will be very expensive with holiday surcharges. When you get into London, most restaurants and all shops will be closed. If possible, I'd look into changing your flights so that you arrive before Christmas Eve or on/after Dec. 27th.

Posted by
61 posts


York is a fantastic spot to visit, with plenty to do in the city, particularly if you're interested in history. Make sure you visit York Minster, which in my opinion is one of England's most fascinating cathedrals. You will also love the Shambles, York's historic downtown district.

I would recommend against driving from London. Way too much traffic and potentially confusing if you're used to driving on the other side of the road. Your best bet is to take the train (a quick and comfortable journey of about 2 hrs). Most of York can be explored on foot. Just to give a comparison, it's 200 miles from London, and would take about 4+ hours assuming no traffic, no stops, no getting lost etc.

The downside of not driving is not being able to explore the beautiful countryside. If you have time, you might want to rent a car in York so that you are mobile outside the city. Make sure your accommodation has parking.

In July we traveled London to Oxford by train, and then drove from Oxford to York and on to Durham, and then returned to London by train. I would do pretty much anything to avoid driving in London! Having said that, having a car is the best way to explore the countryside.

And good point about London being closed. It's Christmas Day and most people will be home with families. It's okay if you are already in Central London and can take a nice walk, but would be very difficult and expensive to get from the airport with no public transport. All attractions are closed, as are all shops except convenience stores and most restaurants. Those places that are open (and there are some) will charge a premium.

Posted by
1887 posts

Everything is shut down on Christmas Day as people are at home eating their turkeys! Also beware of using the trains over the Christmas to New Year’s Day holiday period as that is when major engineering work can be scheduled to take place.

The main long distance coach companies are:> &
Usually the trains will cover the longer distances is about half the time of the coaches/buses. For trains >
(Pre-booking specific trains for longer trips around 11 weeks ahead will get you the cheapest fares).

Posted by
21709 posts

You might want to come back and use the edit button to clean up this question and the other partial question you tried to post. There is a delete button just for that purpose.

...are somewhat terrified of the thought of driving there. ...... If your terrified of driving then you should not be driving. Everything is reversed and in a panic your initial reaction will be exactly the opposite of what it should be unless you are very confident of your driving ability. It is very easy to get around by train especially between major cities. Taxis are everywhere and generally reasonable especially for two.

Do think you need to rethink you schedule. England has two major days at Christmas -- Christmas day and Boxing Day which is the following day. On Christmas day just about everything is shutdown. You are going to have trouble find any pubic transit. A bit more will be open the next day - Boxing Day.

York and Brighton are well covered in most guidebooks. And look at Steves' DVDs covering these two cities.

Posted by
3551 posts

Yep use the train, relaxed and no hassles. Have fun! Car Rentals can be a pain as well as right hand drive, petrol is,pricey, parking is difficult, skip it relax with train or bus.

Posted by
27709 posts

If you want to get around without public transport on Christmas and Boxing Day - as said above zero trains or tubes and buses on Christmas Day and zero or nearly zero trains on Boxing Day - you might have thought you could rent a car on arrival. The problem is you need to check carefully if the company you want to rent from has any open offices on Christmas.

Posted by
923 posts

Hi -

Even if the services by rail out of London are less frequent and/or disrupted by engineering works, I would still use the train to get about especially if travelling to York. Journey time from London to York on LNER from Kings Cross is around two and a half hours normally - half what it would be to drive. Also having a car in York is as much use as a chocolate tea pot and it will cost you a fortune if you have to leave it in a public car park. York is a very walkable city and a car is a positive hindrance within the city. Likewise London, where you’ll get clobbered by the ‘congestion charges’ and frankly I find traffic in London to be either static, or at the other extreme, moving so fast they’d qualify for a Formula One race! Parking unless your hotel offers it, is a similar nightmare. And, within reason, I find London to be very walkable too in the centre part.

If travelling to York book ‘Advance’ tickets (these are the discounted ones, tying you to a specific timed train, released about 11 - 12 weeks from date of travel, and do reserve a seat - the trains are usually pretty full). Be also aware that trains to York will also likely terminate in Edinburgh, so be sure to scan the ‘calling at..’ section of the departure boards at Kings Cross.

Do your research in advance of what will be open (or not) during the festive period and as others have said, sort your transport from LHR in advance and also Christmas Dinner - not much option to just turn up ‘on spec’ on the day. There are, of course, hotels at Heathrow, but it’s not a very interesting place to stay per se - if you can get to central London I’d strongly recommend it.

Hope all pans out and you have a great trip!


Posted by
523 posts

Have you or your friend ever driven in the UK, Australia etc. where they drive on the right hand side of the road? If not winter weather is not the place to start in my opinion. You have to reverse your thinking entirely it can be done and I have done it, but you have to concentrate immensely. Make use of the trains, the tube and buses, they are not expensive. Here is a link to information regarding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years: You may need to think about reshceduling your trip if that is possible or hiring a driver.

Posted by
8889 posts

We are set to land in London on Christmas day.

Why did you choose that day? Was it because it was cheap?
It was cheap because the British know you cannot travel by public transport on Christmas Day, and it is best avoided for the few days before and after. Even driving is not a good idea over Christmas.

And both York and Brighton are easy to get to by train, and a car is of little use when you get there.
London to York by train: 2 hours @125 MPH in a comfortable seat.
London to York by car: 4 hours, on a busy road.
Rail company website for London to York here:
Cost for a random date in mid-Jan (i.e. NOT over the Christmas/New Year period): from £18 each way per person.

Posted by
1063 posts

"Have you or your friend ever driven in the UK, Australia etc. where they drive on the right hand side of the road?"
Eh, we drive on the left hand side of the road!!!

Posted by
7588 posts

having a car in York is as much use as a chocolate tea pot

Quote of the day, Ian!!

Posted by
6336 posts

Driving on the opposite of the road takes but a few moments for your mind to readjust. Then again I've been driving longer than the OP has been alive so learned to drive with a clutch ( and im not referring to a small purse).

Have driven in the UK and Ireland. Nary a scratch. Simply need to get used to round abouts, sheep, lorries, teeny roads in some places, signage and you have insurance to cover everything.

Personally I'd train to York and Brighton but December is only a few weeks away so start reserving you train tickets now.

Lastly, London will be dead on Christmas day. The British take the concept of spending the day with family seriously. There will be expensive taxis and I doubt ANY car rental place will be open.

So if you've already booked look NOW to see if you can arrange a car service and be prepared to pay alot to get to your accommodation. Simple reality for arriving on Christmas day.

Posted by
3 posts

Definitely use the train for either destination. Brighton is ridiculously expensive for parking, not to mention it's really hard to find a space! The train station is a short walk (downhill!) to the city and seafront. Head for the Lanes area for lots of narrow cobbled streets with interesting shops and brilliant pubs and restaurants. There's always loads going on in Brighton, you won't be bored!

Posted by
4684 posts

London to Brighton by road is not nice, it's local roads from central London until you cross the M25 and even then quite a bit of the road to Brighton is only two or four lane. I'd definitely say get the train.