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London trip

Is it a good idea to drive to London to see the sights? Where would the best place to park? We are visiting in September but heard driving into the city would be a nightmare.

Posted by
27436 posts

Is there a reason you want to drive? Mid week or weekend? Where are you driving from? Where in London do you want to go?

I'm there regularly but I need a little info in order to help.

Posted by
29 posts

We will be driving from Brackley. I want to see the Tower of London and whatever one can do in a day or two trip. Also looking for a cheap hotel, (yeah right, I know) and do they have parking at the hotels?

Posted by
3428 posts

Most London hotels that I know of, that have parking, charge a huge daily parking fee. Don't bring the car to London. Take bus or tain and use the tube/buses once there. London is also a great city for walking.

Posted by
10957 posts

My suggestion would be to drive to King's Sutton, the closest train station to Brackley, park your car there, and take the train in. You can also either drive to Milton Keynes (larger town) or Luton Airport and park there. Then take the trains from there.

Driving to London is a pain with all the traffic, parking is a bear, and if you enter the congestion area without a permit, you'll get dinged with a fine.

Posted by
970 posts

Pamela, as others have said, don't do it. Too difficult, too expensive, too much hassle. Plus, driving is very often the slowest way to get around London.

Assuming you will be renting a car, plan to return it somewhere outside London where you can comfortably take a train into the city, and then a cab to your hotel. If you are worried about lugging baggage onto a train, well... that's another good reason to pack lightly. (Auto rental offices are often located very close to railway stations, too. That might help determine a place to return the care.)

London is a city of 10 million or so, and the central heavily touristed part of the city is confusing to navigate. Buses and the Tube will be full for much of the day. There's a reason.

Posted by
8293 posts

Where would you be driving from to begin with, and have you heard about the "congestion charge" for driving into London?

Posted by
473 posts

The best place to park would be the car rental return lot well outside of London. Then take a train to London. Driving in London would be nothing but a hassle. Especially with the excellent public transport system that London has. That's why an decent guidebook as the closest Tube stop listed for every sight in London.

Posted by
993 posts

Is it a good idea to drive to London to see the sights? The short answer is No. The long answer is noooooooo. I know people who would park at the airport and take public transport into Town.

Posted by
588 posts

Take the train or bus. Do not drive. No not park. You are wasting time and money plus the energy of the stress. Cheap hotel? Check out the Premier Inn. Nice chain, good locations, and reasonable.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks everyone for your help. What about driving outside of London. Here in Maryland we don't use the train or bus. Some do for work if they have to go into the District of Columbia. But I don't know anyone who travels by train or bus. Its going to be interesting!!

Posted by
10344 posts

Pamela: Probably better that you get accurate advice, so that your husband knows what to expect. I can't remember anyone on this site recommending driving in London. A few travelers have done it, but don't generally admit it :), and don't do it again.

Based on what you've said, if your husband has no experience driving in the UK, and you start him off driving in London, well, it's not going to be a good way to start your trip.

In London, people here walk, take taxis, take the Tube, or buses.

Outside of London, some travelers choose to drive. However, some US and Canadian travelers without experience driving on the left side and shifting gears with the left hand (rental cars are virtually all manual gear shift in the UK), do find driving there to be, well, not the relaxed and obvious choice that renting a car is in the US or Canada.

Posted by
970 posts

Pamela, driving outside London is not a problem. In fact, it is one of the most enjoyable things I've done in the UK.

You need to know that lived for about 20 years in D.C.'s Virginia suburbs, and for a few years just west of London. While driving in D.C. is certainly no fun, and good practice for driving in London, both London itself and the surrounding metro area are considerably larger than their D.C. counterparts. Add in the fact that the street patterns of the touristed parts of London were laid out centuries before the auto was invented.

Truth is, as bad as driving in London can be, parking will almost certainly be worse. If you are imagining driving, say, to Parliament or the British Museum, and driving around the block to find a parking space, forget about it.

On the other hand, outside the London metro area, driving can be pretty enjoyable. The UK classified roads as Motorways, 'A' roads, and 'B' roads. Motorways are comparable to U.S. Interstates. Fast, limited access travel, but you don't see much and they are boring. The 'A' roads are typical 2-4 lane highways. The 'B' roads are small, often single-track (i.e., single lane) roads that meander through villages and farm fields.

I recommend using the Motorways to make good time between major destinations if you are in a hurry. Otherwise, slow down and take the 'A' roads and the 'B' roads. You won't regret it. Arm yourself with some good maps (Ordnance Survey maps are perhaps the best.) Don't worry about getting lost. Every road goes somewhere, after all.

Posted by
251 posts

We loved traveling on the Tube! Very easy and fast. We bought a 3 day Travelcard and told the kids not to lose them!

Posted by
3428 posts

Pamela,
We have been to the UK more than 40 times. We NEVER drive there (or anywhere else in Europe for that matter) The public transporation is excellent and easy to use. In the UK trains go most (not quite all) places you want to visit. In London, the Tube and the buses and walking will get you everywhere and they are VERY VERY VERY easy to use. As a plus, you get to interact with the locals.

Posted by
3283 posts

If you are not yet convinced about the inadvisability of driving into London, let me elaborate a bit on what j.c. about the roads being laid out centuries before the advent of the auto. Another consequence is that street names can change every few blocks. Since they aren't laid out grid- fashion, you don't know if you've gotten onto the wrong street, or the name is different. There are also lots of one-ways and dead-ends. It's actually a bit of a challenge to navigate on foot. We lived in London for a year and never, ever would have dreamed of driving into the center.

Posted by
29 posts

We will NOT be driving in London. Thanks for all the advice. We are hoping to stay at a B&B that was recommended. We will be returning my car before we stay in London. Now I can look for restaurants. What is Clotted Cream anyway? Thanks everyone. I'm sure I will have more questions in a day or two.
Pam

Posted by
970 posts

Heh, clotted cream is a heart-attack inducing concoction made by heating unpasteurized milk and scraping off the cream that forms on the top. It's at least 55 percent fat, and tastes wonderful on a scone with some strawberry jam.

Posted by
993 posts

Clotted Cream is a gift from the Gods. I love to watch the expression of peoples faces the first time they try it...