Top 4 Tips for Driving in London

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If you’re visiting London, it’s likely that you’ve got as much experience of driving in the city as a born and bred Londoner. Considering the sheer volume of traffic, especially in the centre, it is easy to understand why so many people try to avoid driving around in London.

If you’ve found yourself with no other choice but to jump in a car and experience London congestion first hand, we’ve put together some great tips for making sure you don’t end up lost, broken down, in an accident, or breaking the law in anyway.

Driving on the Left

Other than a few former British Colonies who have adopted the British way of driving, most of those travelling to the UK from abroad will be experiencing something very unusual – driving on the left hand side of the side. It can feel very bizarre in comparison to what you’re used to, so make sure you take your time and really get to know the roads.

Also, most cars in the UK have a manual transmission, so be careful of this if you are used to driving an automatic.

If you’ve arrived in the UK with your own automatic car, or if you’ve specifically hired a car with an  automatic transmission, it should make it easier for you to adapt to the roads. But, if you have found yourself with a manual car and you don’t have much, or any, experience driving one, it is likely to cause you a few problems. Take the time to go to quiet area, where you can safely practice and get used to the vehicle, otherwise you could be putting yourself and others in danger.

Right on Red or Left on Red?

The short answer to this is an absolute NO! In the UK, there is no equivalent to turning right on a red light. Over here for starters, it would be left on a red light but even still, that is a no, no. Some traffic lights have a green filter arrow which indicates that only the filter lane can move forward but, unless you want to go in the direction of the arrow, don’t enter that lane because you’ll just cause issues for everyone concerned.

If you are in the filter lane, you may move off when the green arrow or the full green light have shown. If there are any cyclists around, give them enough time to move off so that you don’t knock them off and at best just end up with an angry Londoner in your face, or worst, well, who knows…

So, in short, you need to pay absolute attention to the lights and under no circumstances should you turn left or right when the light is on red.

Finally, something else to consider are box junctions. These are a cross-hatched yellow pattern inside a box on the road. It’s important to know that it’s illegal to enter the box unless your exit is clear and if there’s police about they will pull you over for it as a bare minimum. There is though, one exception to this rule. If you’re waiting to turn right, you can stop in the box until there is a gap in the traffic or the lights change and you can move forward.

The Congestion Charge

If you aren’t already aware, Central London has certain areas that are subject to a congestion charge. This is essentially just a charge you have to pay to drive in certain parts of London. There are certain times when you won’t have to pay the congestion charge so if you’re lucky enough to be driving around on any of the following days, you needn’t worry about the fee…

  • Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Monday to Friday between 6pm – 7am.
  • Bank holidays (14 & 17 April 2017, 1 & 29 May 2017).
  • Christmas Day.
  • Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day).
  • 27 – 30 December 2016.
  • New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (31 December 2016 & 1st January 2017).

However, if you’re not out and about on any of these days, you’ll be subject to an £11.50 per vehicle charge if you pay in advance or before midnight on the day that you enter the zone. So if you enter the zone without meaning to or you get diverted for whatever reason, you have until before midnight that same day to pay the charge.

If for whatever reason you can’t pay the fee before midnight, you can still pay it up to midnight the following day but the price will increase to £14 but with the one fee paid, you can drive in and out of the zone as many times as you like between 7am and 6pm.

For more information on how and where to the pay the congestion charge in London, check out this site here which has some really useful information on it if you’re new to driving in London.

Car Health

This is something that applies to anyone who is coming over to the UK whether that be to work, live or just on holiday and will likely be driving while out here, your car’s health needs to be checked regularly, I guess it’s the same no matter where you live really. Things like your oil, check your screen wash fluid and your tyres.

If you aren’t sure how you check your car’s oil level, check out this helpful post. Now, if you run out of screen wash, it’s pretty simple to fill it back up but if you don’t know, take the car to your nearest garage/petrol station and someone should be able to help you, but that’s not a promise.

Checking your car or van tyres for that matter, is equally as important too. There is a legal limit/tread depth for driving in this country that your tyres have to adhere to and you as the driver need to be aware of this. If you’ve got brand new tyres, there’s nothing to say that they will last a certain amount of time. If you drive over here from Germany, that’s a lot of mileage on your tyres so you may need to keep an eye on the tread, especially if they’re older tyres. Check this out for more information about tyre tread depth and the legal limit.

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