Renting a car in London is a possibility that many people consider when planning a trip to the British capital. For this, it is necessary to know what documents are necessary and plan well where you are going to go. We recommend considering the areas of London you want to drive through and knowing where to park.
First of all, I will say that I do not usually recommend renting a car in London. Going from the different London airports to the center by public transport is very simple. And once in London I recommend getting around by public transport. Going by metro from one place to another is usually faster than going by car, especially if you need to park.
But, it is true that sometimes it is convenient to rent a car in London, and that is why in this article I am going to give you some advice. I am going to explain how and when renting a car in London can be a good idea, and how to do it so that it works out.
What will you find in this article?
What do you need to rent a car in London?
To rent a car in the United Kingdom you will need to present your identification document (DNI) or passport in addition to your driving license . If you are not a UK resident, you may also sometimes be asked for a document to certify your residence address , a piece of paper with your name and address on it (such as a direct debit bill).
If you are not from the European Community you will need to present an identification document with international validity in addition to the International Driving Permit.
In any case, I would recommend checking the documents that they will ask you for before traveling. When booking the car rental online, it will tell you what you need to pick up the car.
How to rent a car in London
Once you arrive at London airport you can simply go to one of the car rental windows. But honestly, if you know that you are going to rent a car in London, it is best to book online in advance. This way you know exactly how much you are going to pay and you can choose what type of car you need.
To book online we usually use Europcar, but you can also use a comparator like EasyCar .
Rent a car in London: How much does it cost?
The price to rent a car in London varies according to the dates you need, the time you need it and the place of collection and return of the vehicle. The price can easily be around £30 a day.
One of the best ways to find out the price is by using a comparator such as EasyCar . Entering the necessary information will show the prices offered by different companies.
If you are collecting the vehicle in central London it is worth comparing different collection locations. It may be cheaper to pick up the car at a less busy station than at a main station, such as Victoria or King’s Cross.
Rent a car in London: Driving around London
Getting around London is not as difficult as many websites make it out to be, but don’t forget that it is a big city, and like any city, there is usually a lot of traffic during key hours. We have had a car since we started living here, and we have used it to cross London from one end to the other or to go downtown on occasion. And the key to moving around London, without a doubt, is the time. Don’t forget that in the UK you drive on the left!
During the week, the busiest times are from 8 am to 9.30 am, and in the evening from 4 pm to 6 pm. During weekends or holidays there is usually less traffic.
Driving from the airport to central London
Since we have a car, we always drive to the airport when we travel, and we usually leave the car in the airport parking lot. As we live in North London we have been to Stansted and Luton airports a lot. We also usually go to Heathrow airport, and we have been to Gatwick on occasion.
Driving from the airports to central London is fairly easy as long as you don’t have to cross London from north to south or vice versa. My biggest advice is that if you arrive at an airport in North London, look for a hotel in North London. Similarly, if you arrive in South London, do not stay in the North. I usually advise this even if you go by public transport from the airport to the hotel. And I think that if you are going to go by rental car from the airport to London, reserving a hotel with parking is very important. Further down in this same article I leave you a list of hotels with parking by zones.
Congestion Charge in Central London
In the very center of London there is a congestion charge (Congestion Charge). To access this area from Monday to Friday, from 7 am to 6 pm, there is a fee of £15 per day. On weekends and holidays you can circulate for free. From December 25 to December 31 there is no need to pay either.
Rental cars are not exempt from this fee, and it is the driver’s responsibility to pay this fee, not the car rental company. To pay this fee it is necessary to register the vehicle and pay the fee online, and it can be done in advance or on the same day, either before or even after entering the area in question.
The area where the Congestion Charge is applied is marked on the road, painted on the ground and with posters, but there are no barriers. Access is controlled by cameras that check the car’s license plate. If you access this area and do not pay the fee, you will receive a fine.
In addition to the Congestion Charge, the Pollution Fee applies to vehicles registered before 2006. There are also Low Emission Zones in which diesel vehicles have to pay a fee. The safest thing is that when you rent a car in London they will give you a practically new car and you will not have to worry about the pollution rate, but you can always choose a gasoline car instead of diesel to be 100% sure.
Rent a car in London: Where to park in London
As you may already know, London is divided into transport zones . In each of these areas there are usually streets with restrictions when it comes to parking. You will see that in many streets it is necessary to have a resident parking permit during certain hours of the day and in other streets it is necessary to pay to park. Sometimes there is a maximum time, not being able to leave the car for more than 4 hours for example.
This in zone 1 of London is exactly the same, but the restrictions for parking on the street are usually worse, so I would not advise taking the car to the center of London and thinking that you will be able to park on the street easily. If it is necessary to go to the center by car, I advise you to go with a car park in mind.
Recommended car parks in central London
In London there are two main companies that manage the majority of car parks: NCP and Q-park. Some of the most central car parks in London are:
- London Pavilion Road
- Carrington Street
- brewer street
- Portman Square
London shopping malls also have parking. We include Westfield at Sheperd’s Bush, Westfield at Stratford, Brent Cross Shopping Center and Canary Wharf.
Rent a car in London: Recommended hotels
If you are looking for a hotel that you can reach by rental car from the airport, I would recommend looking for a hotel with parking. Also, to make it easier, it is still better to consider a hotel in zones 2 or 3 of London, so that the journey from the airport to the hotel is not too complicated. From the hotel to the center you can use the metro without problems, as long as you are close to a metro station.
North London – To arrive from Stansted or Luton airports
If you arrive at Stansted Airport or Luton Airport, it is best to look for a hotel in North London. Although Stansted is located further to the east of London, and Luton to the west, access from both airports to central London is very simple and direct. From Stansted Airport the M11 motorway goes to central London, and from Luton the M1 motorway.
From both airports it is very easy to get to the center of London, and it really is not difficult to get to the same King’s Cross station, but the most important thing will be the time of day.
Some of the hotels located in the northeast area of London with parking are:
Premier Inn London Archway : We have lived in this area of London for several years, and have driven from here to Luton and Stansted. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach Archway from either airport. Family and friends of ours have stayed in this hotel, that’s why we recommend it! Next to the hotel there is a public pay parking and it is zone 2 of London. From here you can easily walk to Highgate Cemetery . There are numerous restaurants and cafes in the area.
Hilton London Islington : This hotel is located in Angel which is London zone 1, and is about a 10 minute drive from Archway (hotel mentioned above). There is paid parking.
Premier Inn London King’s Cross: If we pass Archway and Angel, we will reach King’s Cross. From Archway you will notice that the traffic increases as we get closer to the center. This hotel is located in front of King’s Cross station, in zone 1 of London, and there is private parking. This is right where the London Congestion Charge zone begins, so we really don’t want to go any further into central London by car.
And some of the hotels located in North West London with parking:
The Hide London : Located in the Hendon neighborhood of London, about 40 minutes from Luton airport and 1 hour from Stansted. It has private parking. The only thing in this area is that there are not many restaurants, but it is possible to walk (or drive!) to the Brent Cross shopping center.
Premier Inn London Hampstead : This would be one of the hotels that I would most recommend, due to its location. It is located in Belsize Park, zone 2 of London, where there are several restaurants and cafes, and from here you can walk to Hampstead , one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in London. It takes about 50 minutes from Luton and 1 hour from Stansted.
Holiday Inn Swiss Cottage: In zone 2 of London, another hotel with parking that takes just over 1 hour to get from Stansted and about 50 minutes from Luton airport.
West London – To get there from Heathrow Airport
To go by car from Heathrow Airport to central London you will exit onto the M4 motorway. The journey on this highway is quite simple, and the truth is that it goes directly to South Kensington, passing through Earl’s Court, Hammersmith and Chiswick. So knowing this, I consider that these areas would be the best options to stay.
Chiswick would be the place I would recommend if you don’t want to go too far into the city by car. It is a quiet neighborhood and it will take around 20 minutes to get there by car from Heathrow. Until Hammersmith the journey should not be very complicated, it can take about 25 minutes from Heathrow. Once past Hammersmith, it will likely increase in traffic as you get closer to central London, and it can take around 30 minutes to get to Earl’s Court and a few more minutes to South Kensington.
Clayton Hotel Chiswick : This hotel is located just opposite Gunnersbury station which is London zone 3. The hotel has very good opinions, although there are not many restaurants in the surroundings, but the hotel has a restaurant and bar. It has private parking and it is not necessary to reserve.
Novotel London West : Located next to Hammersmith tube station, London zone 2. It has private parking and it is not necessary to reserve.
Holiday Inn Earl’s Court : This hotel is next to the West Brompton tube station, zone 2 of London. It has private parking and it is not necessary to reserve.
Oliver Plaza Hotel: Next to Earl’s Court tube station, London zone 1-2. It has parking, but you need to reserve.
Mercure London Kensington : Next to Earl’s Court tube station, London zone 1-2 and Gloucester Rd, London zone 1. It has private parking and it is necessary to reserve.
South London – Getting there from Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport is located southeast of London, and in my opinion, I think it is the worst airport for driving to central London. The journey from Gatwick to central London is not the easiest. As there is no highway that reaches the most central areas, it is not surprising that there is usually traffic.
The Windmill on the Common : Located in Clapham Common, London zone 2, this hotel has free private on-site parking. It takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes from Gatwick.
Premier Inn Croydon : Located between West Croydon (overground, London zone 5) and East Croydon (London tram) stations. There is public pay parking. About 40 minutes from Gatwick.
Rent a car in London: Excursions from London
Renting a car in London to make excursions to other cities in the United Kingdom is one of the frequent reasons when renting a vehicle. From London it is very easy to visit other cities, such as Stratford Upon Avon , Oxford or Cambridge . In addition , Windsor Castle and Legoland are other of the most frequent excursions from London.
In our Excursions from London section you have all the information you need.