We are keen on the UK’s capital city. There is so much to see and do in the most populous location in Western Europe, but the driving is something unlike you will find anywhere else. London has been around for a long time and some of its traffic system seems to be more organised for the era of the horse and cart than modern road users. Of course, we have been to plenty of places in Asia which have similar problems, but what makes London stand out is the sheer pace that everybody goes at. However, we have coped with driving in London and you can, too, so here are our tips for motoring in the city.
Avoid The Rush Hour
We tried it and regretted it. If you need to get somewhere by 9am, then allow at least double the amount of time that you would normally expect. London’s roads are busy at all times of the day but especially so in the morning as Londoners commute to their offices in the West End and the City. Try to get where you are going before the evening rush hour starts at about 4pm, too. However, driving after 7pm, when things have died down, is best and you can even use some of the bus lanes that criss-cross the city then, but take care to check the signs beforehand, because not all of them allow cars.
Stick To The Major Routes
Look at a map before heading off and try to stay on the A-roads in the city. These are more free-flowing than the smaller streets which can get gridlocked. They are also easier to navigate for those who are not used to the maze of central London which is full of one-way streets and pedestrianised areas. One of the best things we found to do when navigating was to use the two ring roads which cover the suburbs of the city because these are relatively easy to drive on and get you into the right location without too much hassle. In north London, use the A406, which everyone calls the North Circular. In the other side of the Thames, use the South Circular, which is marked on road signs and maps as the A205.
Follow The Road Regulations
Cars need to be in good roadworthy condition to use the city’s streets. This means that engines must not exceed emissions limits or tyres having the correct amount of tread, for example. Tyres are of particular interest in London which has quite a few pot holes, so it is always worth inspecting a car’s tread and tyre pressure before heading into the city because suffering a blow out and having to fit a spare tyre on one of London’s busy streets would be something unpleasant, to say the least. Point S, a network of tyre dealers that spreads throughout UK allows drivers to book tyres online without any initial payment. Never run a red light or enter a yellow box junction in London prematurely, since a camera is likely to spot you resulting in an endorsement. London is full of traffic cameras which keep an eye on drivers. If you head into central London during a weekday, then be prepared to pay a fee to London’s traffic authority, Transport for London. We found it quite easy to avoid this fee by travelling there on the weekend, but it is not expensive if weekday travel is unavoidable.
Think Of Security
We find London to be a safe city but visitors should always consider their security no matter where they go in the world. When driving in London, particularly in slow moving traffic, keep your central locking on and have your windows done up. If that is not practical, on a hot summer’s day for example, then keep your valuables stored securely. When parking, try to use one of the many secure car parks that are to be found in central London. They can be more expensive than parking on the street. However, because street parking tends to limit your time, a car park is often preferable anyway.
Driving London is a challenge but it is great fun, too. A drive along the Mall is impressive with Buckingham Palace before you and St James Park on your left. A trip along the Embankment from the City towards Parliament Square is one of our highlights. Equally, a drive along Marylebone Road, which passes by the world-famous Baker Street and Regents Park, is well worth the effort. London has some junctions which have a good deal of notoriety for being difficult to manage, such as the Elephant and Castle roundabout in Lambeth and Hyde Park Corner, where six West End roads meet. Despite their reputations, such intersections are not any different to normal junctions and you just have to apply the same common sense approach to driving through them as you would anywhere else.