Renting a car to get around in London can be an expensive option unless you plan to also see other places in the UK. Car rental costs, the congestion charge for driving in Central London, and parking fees, all add to the expense. Also, London is relatively compact and a good public transport system makes getting round easy (see our Getting Around Guide).
Renting a car
If you’d like to hire a car in London then often picking it up at the airport makes sense. All of the major car hire companies are represented at London’s five major airports and at major railway stations and key areas across the capital.
You have two main choices in hiring a car:
1. Go direct and hire a car with the car hire company. Major hire car companies represented in the UK include Hertz, Sixt and Alamo. They often run special offers and promotions.
Parking at the airport
It’s usually cheaper and easier to pre-book if you intend on parking at one of London’s airports. See companies such as Park & Gi Airport Parking have parking deals if you want to park at the airport.
Parking in London
If you are staying out of London but driving in for the theatre then make use of Westminster City Council Car Park’s Theatreland Parking Scheme. You can save 50% on your car parking charge by driving to a participating car park and taking a paper ticket upon entry. Then at the West End theatre you are attending ask the box-office staff to validate your paper ticket using their special validation machine. When you return to the car park and insert your paper ticket in the payment machine you’ll enjoy a 50% discount off the standard casual tariff. The participating car parks are: Chinatown; Pimlico; Leicester Square; Soho; Marble Arch / Park Lane; Trafalgar Square; Oxford Street. See more details of theatres and corresponding car parks here.
Car Hire Excess Insurance
When hiring a car it’s worth getting Car Hire Excess insurance to protect yourself against the excess charges you are expected to pay if the car is damaged. You can insure yourself rather than the car and choose between annual policies for unlimited car hire or day rates. Taking out independent excess insurance is cheaper than taking out a car hire company’s excess insurance policy.
Driving in London
It’s not as scary as you might think, but driving in London requires a bit of planning. The Congestion Charge zone is an area of central London that you have to pay to enter. There are no toll booths or barriers – but rather cameras patrol the zone and you need to pay the charge online or call 0845 900 1234 or pay at selected service stations or newsagents.
Parking can be expensive – although if you are going to the theatre you can save up to 50% (see Parking above).
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