10 Tips When Driving in London

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: November 10, 2022

If you’re new to driving in London and want to know how to stay safe on London roads, this blog post will discuss ten tips for driving in London. We’ll cover everything from understanding the London road signs to dealing with traffic congestion. By following these tips, you’ll be able to drive confidently in the UK capital city!

Driving in the UK may be confusing if you don’t drive on the left side of the road, like 66% of the world. But that’s not all; there are other tips you should know before renting an automobile and driving in the UK.

1. Get to Know the London Road Signs

Understanding the road signs is the first step to driving in any new city. In London, you’ll find that the road signs are mostly in English, but there are a few in Welsh too. If you can’t read Welsh, don’t worry – most of the time, the sign’s meaning will be obvious from its shape or the pictogram.

2. Legal requirements when driving in London 

There are several things you must have in your car when driving in London:

  • Your driver’s license, of course! You can use your national driver’s license if you’re from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. Otherwise, you’ll need an International Driving Permit.
  • Your rental car papers.
  • Your passport or ID card if you’re not from the EU.
  • Proof of insurance. Your rental company should give you this, but it’s always good to have a copy in the car, just in case.
  • A GB sticker if your car doesn’t have one. You can get these at most gas stations.

While alcohol consumption is not entirely advised, you are legally allowed 35 Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and 22 Scotland. See the official government website for more information. Depending on other conditions, such as how recently you have eaten and your size and weight, even 2 pints of normal lager could put most men over the limit. If uncertain, it’s better to play it safe and abstain from alcohol completely.

3. London Congestion Charge

The London Congestion Charge is a daily fee for driving in central London, costing £11.50 daily. You can pay the charge online or at select shops in the congestion zone. If you don’t pay, you’ll be fined £130.

4. Parking in London 

You can park your car in any legal bay or on the side of the road unless there are signs saying otherwise. To park on the side of the road, you must not exceed the maximum number of hours indicated by the sign and must pay at a parking meter. You can also park your vehicle in any of the city’s off-street car parks, which usually have longer time limits than on-street parking.

5. London Bus Lanes

Bus lanes are for buses only and are usually indicated by a red line painted on the road. Driving your car in a bus lane during its hours of operation is illegal and can result in a fine. In London, bus lanes are usually operational from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Friday.

6. Road Etiquette in London 

Although Britons are often considered polite, there are a few driving etiquette rules you should follow to stay on good terms with them:

  • Use car horns only occasionally and when someone is driving recklessly to avoid potential accidents. Also, honking to tell people to hurry up is not socially acceptable behaviour. Lastly, honking in city areas is illegal between 11:30 and 7 am.
  • You can overtake on the right side only. While there’s no law against ‘undertaking’, it’s not typical driving behaviour in Britain and is frustrating for other drivers and dangerous.
  • If you can, always let other cars pass by at a junction; it’ll only hold you up for a moment.
  • Acknowledge other drivers who do you a good turn by flashing or blinking your hazard lights. It’s the driver’s way of saying ‘thank you.’
  • Whenever you see and hear an emergency vehicle approaching from behind, courtesy dictates that you pull over to the left so they can continue on their way.
  • Never follow the automobile in front of you too closely, as this is tailgating.

7. T Charge

The T-charge is an extension of the Congestion Charge and applies to vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards. The charge is £10 in addition to the Congestion Charge, bringing the total to £21.50. The charge has been implemented to reduce air pollution in London by incentivising drivers of higher polluting cars to switch to cleaner vehicles.

If a vehicle does not meet the Euro 4 emissions standards, the driver has to pay an extra fee on top of the congestion charge. This is paid when you congestion charge. Electric vehicles and fuel-efficient hybrids do not have to pay these charges.

If you use the Dartford Crossing on the M25 or the M6 toll road to get into London, keep in mind that you will have to pay a fee.

8. Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

The LEZ is a designated area where the most polluting vehicles are not allowed to drive. The LEZ covers most of Greater London, and the daily charge for driving a non-compliant vehicle in the zone is £12.50.

9. Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

The ULEZ is a designated area where the most polluting vehicles are not allowed to drive. The ULEZ covers most of Central London, and the daily charge for driving a non-compliant vehicle in the zone is £12.50. If you plan to buy a used vehicle or rent one, check that it meets the ULEZ standards. You can run an ULEZ check on any vehicle using our site. 

10. Electric Vehicle Charge Points

Electric vehicle charge points are available across London. Use the Transport for London journey planner to find charge points near you. You can also download the PlugShare app to find and navigate to electric vehicle charge points.

Final Thoughts

Driving in London can be challenging, but you’ll be fine if you’re prepared and know the road rules. Check for congestion charges and low-emission zones before you drive, and always park in a legal spot. If you follow these tips, you’ll have no problem navigating your way around London.