Everything you need to know about driving in London

Everything you need to know about driving in London
Whether it's your first time driving in London or you haven’t done it for a while and want a refresh, there’s a number of things you'll need to consider that differ from other parts of the UK.

There are increased charges and emissions legislation to be aware of and even some different driving laws that can land the unaware with a fine, so it's worth getting to grips with these differences long before you set off on your trip.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to answer all your questions, offer expert tips and instil full confidence before you start driving in London.

Guide contents

Charges and low emissions zones

Things to look out for

Tips for first-time London drivers

Driving electric vehicles in the capital

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Charges and low emissions zones

Driving in London

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you’ve paid any necessary charges to avoid getting a fine. Certain charges and tolls apply throughout the capital and on routes into the city.

Congestion charge

Many road users will have to pay the congestion charge fee before heading into the Central London zone.

This covers areas from Marylebone across to Shoreditch and down to Elephant and Castle and Victoria.

Operating (charging) times are Monday to Friday from 07:00 until 18:00. There is no charge on weekends, public holidays or between 18:00 and 07:00 on weekdays.


You’ll also need to check your car’s Euro emissions standard to see if you’re liable to pay the T-charge which came into effect last October as part of the government’s air quality plan.

The charge has been put in place to reduce the number of higher polluting cars travelling in the capital’s congestion charge zone.

Any vehicle which doesn’t meet the minimum Euro 4 emissions standards charge has to pay an additional fee on top of the congestion charge. This is taken when you pay the Congestion Charge.

Fully electric vehicles and some energy efficient hybrids are exempt from the charges entirely.

The amount payable will increase when the T-charge zone changes into an Ultra-Low Emission Zone in April 2019. Eventually, the London ultra-low emission zone will cover a wider region than the current Congestion Charge zone.

Remember, you’ll also have to pay on your way into London if you decide to use the Dartford Crossing on the M25 or the M6 toll road.

READ MORE: Ultra Low Emission Zones: what you need to know

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Things to look out for

London is home to some of the UK’s busiest routes and junctions. Make sure you’re prepared to tackle potentially stressful situations by brushing up on the rules around on-street parking, road marking meanings and bus lanes.

Yellow box junctions

Driving in London - box junctions

It may be frustrating sitting at a junction and getting nowhere, but don’t be tempted to pull out unless you can see your exit is clear.

Drivers can be issued Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) for finding themselves in the yellow hatched box at junctions. If you end up blocking the path of another vehicle you could also pose a danger to yourself, other motorists and other road users.

Only move forwards when the path ahead of you is clear and it is safe to do so.

READ MORE: 16 Highway Code rules most people ignore

Don’t let other drivers pressure you into driving into the yellow hatched area before you are ready. Tackling the capital’s busy junctions can be nerve-racking so take your time.

Bus Lanes

Unsurprisingly there are a lot of bus lanes running throughout the city centre and surrounding areas. Make sure you’re aware of their operational hours – these are indicated before and along the route by a blue sign. Operational hours are not the same across London and different bus lane operation times vary.

If you’re caught driving in a bus lane while it’s in operation you could receive a PCN.

Don’t be fooled by other vehicles using the lanes. Motorcyclists, London taxis and mopeds are also permitted to use certain lanes during operational hours.

Red routes

Driving in London

You must not stop on designated red routes.

These are marked by either double red lines or by a blue circular sign with a red cross running through it.

Double red lines are in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You’ll also see some roads with single red lines. You may be allowed to stop on these at certain times of day for a certain amount of time.

On all these routes, any stopping places will be clearly indicated.

If you’re caught breaking the rules you’re likely to receive a PCN.


Finding a parking space in London is likely to be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re new to the area.

As detailed above – there are certain markings along the roads which signal that parking is either permitted or prohibited.

In addition to red routes, you can’t park on double yellow lines at any time.

Single yellow lines signal vehicles can park there at certain times and on certain days.

The hours of control are displayed on large signs as you enter each controlled parking zone (CPZ). There will be additional signage if any areas vary from the CPZ.

Remember, you can park within certain areas designated by dashed white lines as long as you abide by any corresponding ‘Pay and Display’ signs. You may not park here, however if these bays are for resident permit holders.

Similar dashed red line bays also appear along red routes and can be used at certain times of day such as early in the morning and late at night. Always check the signs around the bays as these times can vary significantly across the capital.

READ MORE: Can you park on double yellows? Complete parking guide

Never park on zig-zag lines in any circumstances – this is an offence and you may face a fine.

Do not assume you can park for free if there are no lines at all. Always check lamp posts and signs in the area to make sure you’ve paid if necessary, or to ensure you don’t overstay the time limit.

Some London boroughs, such as Westminster and Islington have introduced parking surcharges for owners of diesel vehicles. Always check when you park to see if this is the case.

Also in London, it is illegal to park on the pavement.

Rules of the Road

London councils also have powers to enforce other types of offences with cameras, such as ‘No left/right/u-turns’. No access or no entry signs may also have cameras patrolling the entrance area. This is the case at the busy Bank Junction in the City of London. You may see the following signs in these areas:

Did you know, you can get fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance?

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Tips for first-time London drivers

Driving in the capital for the first time doesn’t need to be scary. All you need to do is take the time to prepare beforehand and follow these tips.

Plan your route

Driving in London

Navigating London’s roads for the first time can be intimidating enough without the added worry of not knowing where you’re going.

Always do your homework before setting off and plan the best route possible.

Remember, in a busy city the most direct route may not always be the quickest. Avoid busy junctions at peak times or you could be delayed for a considerable amount of time.

If you have a Sat Nav – use it safely. Most models will let you know in advance if there are major delays on your route and will offer an alternative. Don’t be tempted to over-rely on your Sat-Nav as routes may change without your sat-nav updating quickly enough - Always obey road signs.

Stay calm

Knowing exactly where you are going will also help you to stay calm. Try to relax and have confidence in your ability to navigate congested roads – even if it’s your first time driving through the capital.

READ MORE: How to keep driving costs down in 2018

Be Aware

Driving in busy cities can present hazards you may not be used to – such as commuting cyclists, busy bus lanes and taxis pulling in and out of lanes to pick up passengers.

Avoid rush hour

It may seem obvious but avoiding driving during peak periods will help make tackling London’s roads for the first time a little less nerve-racking.

Minimise distractions

If you’re not used to driving in such conditions, we advise minimising any distractions. It’s important to turn down the radio or to make sure your phone is turned off, so you can give the road your full attention at all times.

Driving electric vehicles in the capital

Driving in London

With London aiming to become a zero-carbon city by 2050 – a network of charging points is already in place.

There are rapid charge points located throughout London which will replenish your vehicle’s battery in around 20-30 minutes.

Most of the charging points are pay-as-you-go and can be operated using a credit or debit card.

There are currently plans to have 150 rapid charging points in the City of London by the end of 2018, with at least 300 by 2020.

READ MORE: Nine big driving changes happening this year

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