Car rental London
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Why rent a car in London?
One of the great cities of Europe and the world, London is a place that everyone should experience at least once. Both historic, modern, diverse and yet maintaining a unique local character, its neighborhoods, buildings, and attractions can be explored for days. Getting a rental car is your best bet to see as much as possible.
Top ways to enter London
- London Heathrow Airport. The largest in Europe and among the top 10 in the world, Heathrow Airport feels like a city in its own right. The airport is located just west of London.
- London Gatwick Airport. Offering flights to and from destinations all over Europe, as well as North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, Gatwick Airport serves nearly 50 million passengers every year. The airport is in West Sussex county about an hour’s drive south of London.
- London City Airport. The only international airport serving London that’s located inside the city’s boundaries, London City Airport is a base for British Airways and is also served by a handful of other airlines.
- London Stansted Airport. A huge base for Ryanair and also served by a number of other low-cost carriers, flying to Stansted is often the cheapest way to reach London. The airport itself is about an hour’s drive northeast of the city proper.
- Luton Airport. Often also branded as London Luton Airport thanks to its proximity to the capital, but located in the neighboring city of Luton, this airport is served by nine different airlines.
- By rail: If you’re arriving in London by train, you can conveniently pick up your rental car at many of London’s train stations. London Bridge, Croydon South, Hammersmith, Victoria, and Paddington are just some of them.
Useful city facts
London has a temperate oceanic climate and is warmer than most of the other large cities of the United Kingdom. The average temperature is 18.7 °C (65.7 °F) in July and 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) in January. Despite its reputation for being very rainy, London actually has less precipitation than Lisbon, Rome, New York City, and Sydney.
London is made up of 32 boroughs or local authority districts. 12 boroughs are within Inner London while 20 are in Outer London. The most populous London borough is Croydon in South London.
Top destinations and activities
- Buckingham Palace. The home of the Royal family and, for many, the number one landmark of London, Buckingham Palace is only open for tours during the summer months, but even if you visit during another time of year, it’s magnificence can be observed from outside.
- British Museum. London has countless world-class museums, such as the National History Museum and Tate Modern, but the British Museum is probably the crown jewel of them all, both for its immensity and for the awesome quality of its exhibitions. From the history of the inhabitants of the British Isles to Ancient Greeks and Romans to equally impressive civilizations outside Europe, it really covers human history in its fullness.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral. Arguably the most famous Anglican church in the world, St Paul’s Cathedral is located on the site of a much older church dating back to AD 604. Rebuilt after the great fire of London in 1666, nowadays the cathedral provides an especially impressive sight when illuminated after dark.
Traffic and parking tips
- The United Kingdom drives on the left-hand side of the road.
- On-street parking is usually heavily restricted. Never park on a white, double yellow or double red line (stopping on motorways and next to red lines is illegal).
- You are not allowed to use your mobile phone while driving, unless you use a hands-free system.
- Unless specifically indicated otherwise, the speed limits are 112 km/h (70 mph) on motorways, 112 km/h (70 mph) on dual carriageways, 96 km/h (60 mph) on single carriageways and 48km/h (30 mph) in residential areas and areas with street lightning.
- In England and Wales, the legal alcohol limit is 0.08% for both experienced and novice drivers. Do keep in mind, however, that in Scotland the legal alcohol limit is 0.05% for both experienced and novice drivers. Exceeding the limit can lead to large fines, a suspended license, or even imprisonment.
- The insurance and documentation of the car needs to be in it whenever you’re driving.
- If you’re the driver, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
- The emergency numbers are 999 and 112.
Currently there is only a single toll road in the United Kingdom, the M6 toll. You also have to pay a toll for using a number of bridges and tunnels, as well as for entering the central areas of London and Durham (a city in North East England).
As an alternative to the M6 around Birmingham, the M6toll is a 43 km (27 mi) long portion of the road, also known as the Birmingham North Relief Road (BNRR), that relieves congestion on the M6 itself. There are toll gates where you can pay by either cash or credit card. As of March 2019, the price is £6.40 for using the toll road from Monday to Friday (from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.), £5.30 for using the toll road on Saturday or Sunday (from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.), and £4.10 for using the toll road at night time on any day (from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.). Find out more on the M6 Toll official website.
Find out more about toll roads in the United Kingdom on the European toll road website.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Windsor Castle. Claiming to be the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, this royal residence is nearly as important as the Buckingham Palace. Besides its important inhabitants, it also houses beautiful artworks by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Canaletto. Unlike Buckingham, Windsor is open for visitors throughout the year. The castle, located in the town of the same name, is about 40 km (23 mi) west of London.
- Stonehenge. The prehistoric ring of stones has been standing since the Bronze Age. Its meaning still hasn’t been fully deciphered, which only adds to its mystery. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is in Wiltshire Country and can be reached from London in about two and a half hours.
- Cambridge. Home to one of the world’s most famous universities, Cambridge is also a surprisingly green and cozy city. Befitting a great academic center, it also houses a large number of amazing museums, from the Folk Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to the University Museum of Zoology and the Polar Museum. With only 60 miles (90 km) to cover, it makes an ideal day trip from London.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular rental car in London is the Peugeot 108, although many travelers also pick the Ford Fiesta and the Volvo V40. The most popular rental car types are mini, intermediate, and economy.
- Manchester. Embracing its industrial past rather than trying to avoid it, Manchester is a unique and vibrant cultural center. Come here for its beautiful historic buildings, unique neighborhoods, great museums and art galleries, and two world class football clubs. Manchester is less than four hours drive north of London.
- Edinburgh. The capital of Scotland might not be quite as immense as its English counterpart, but what it lacks in size, Edinburgh more than makes up for in charm. A city with a truly unique historic feel, Edinburgh is about seven hours drive north of London. That might seem like a long drive, but you’d be crossing all of England where there are countless opportunities for stopping along the way. And besides, the final destination will be worth it.
- Paris. The capital of France is sometimes considered London’s rival, so why not play along and compare the two? Regardless of which one you prefer, Paris is an amazing destination for its atmosphere, history, and cuisine, and can be reached in less than six hours.
How can I save money on my rental car?
There are many things you can do to get a good car rental deal in London. Start with:
- Compare rates of different rental car providers
- Book your rental car well in advance
- Plan your route before you go
- Know your fuel and mileage requirements
- Visit on the month when the rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting London is the cheapest in February when renting a car is about 39% cheaper than the yearly average and about 60% cheaper than renting in May.
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