Car Hire in London
Leave your Oyster card at home and travel ‘round London in style. Whether you’re visiting London for work or for fun, you can really make the most of your trip when you’ve got your own set of wheels. See sights like Big Ben, The Shard and Tower Bridge while avoiding the jam-packed trains of the underground. Our guide to hiring a car in London will help you to find the perfect vehicle for your trip.
Where to hire a car in London
You’re spoiled for choice with car hire in London. There are hundreds of pick up locations dotted throughout the city, whether you want to pick your vehicle up as soon as you arrive or whether you want to pick up your car in a central location. All five of London’s major airports (Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, City, and Stansted) are home to a range of car hire companies, and there are further rental agencies in key areas of the city. Whether you’re looking for a low emission city vehicle or a more luxurious executive car, there are plenty of specialist hire agencies to choose from.
Driving in London
Central London is busy throughout the day, so you should be prepared to encounter traffic. The roads are at their busiest between 6am-10am and 5pm-7pm. There’s also a mini rush in London’s suburbs from 3pm-4pm, as parents hop in their cars to pick their little ones up from school.
London was one of the first major cities to introduce a congestion charge. The charge applies between 7am-6pm from Monday to Friday, and is charged at £11.50 per day. In most cases it’s the renter’s responsibility to register and pay the congestion charge (this can be done online, either in advance or until midnight on the day. The charge increases to £14 if you pay it the next day). Your rental company may have a unique policy, so get in touch if in doubt.
Although London does have some excellent bike lanes, most of the time bicycles do share the road with other vehicles. Keep an eye out for inexperienced cyclists on “Boris Bikes”, public bikes available for rent in the middle of the city.
Parking in London
Pay and display parking bays are available throughout the city, and are in action from 8am until 7pm from Monday to Friday. Costs during the week are £1.20 for 15 minutes, £4.80 for one hour, and you can stay in one bay for a maximum of four hours. At the weekend, pay and display restrictions are in place from 8am to 11am on Saturdays at a £2 flat rate or £1.20 for 15 minutes. You can pay with coins (£2, £1, 50p, 20p) at the meter or use the PayByPhone smartphone app. Outwith these hours parking in bays is free.
There are lots of major car parks in Central London. Some are owned by hotels, others by companies like NCP and Q Park. Harrods has its own car park, perfect if you fancy a day of high-end shopping in Knightsbridge, and there are car parks beside the city’s major train stations.
Great day trips from London
This fantastic theme park is a great option for families with kids aged 2 to 12. There are great rides, fun shows, and lots of creations made from everyone’s favourite toy. The park is just over 26 miles from central London, and should take an hour and 15 minutes to reach.
Brighton & Hove
Sunny days are ideal for exploring the bohemian seaside city of Brighton & Hove. It's 52 miles south of London (about two hours in the car), and is a dynamic destination for a day trip. Do some quirky shopping in The Lanes, watch tightrope walkers practicing on the pebbled beach, or enjoy a good old fashioned British day out on Brighton Pier.
Escape the city and enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes in the south-east of England. This area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is peppered with hiking trails, market towns, and famed beauty spots like the Devil’s Punch Bowl. While it’s a great place for a wander, taking your car means the opportunity to see more of the area. Best of all, the Surrey Hills are just 36 miles from central London: a 1 hour and 20 minute drive.
This information is correct as of April 2015.