Some people find the idea of trying to navigate through London by van as the ultimate nightmare. Huge foot traffic with pedestrians stepping into the streets, vehicles honking, buses pulling out unexpectedly and so on. And although it’s a good idea to avoid driving in central London particularly at peak times, the reality is not that grim. And while London can be scary to drive in, by following certain rules and tips you’ll be navigating the city in confidence.
London has a well-developed public transport system which often offers the quickest way, therefore utilise it whenever possible. All drivers must wear seat belts and passengers must wear them where fitted. For international drivers remember that in the UK vehicles drive on the left!
1. Do your homework before taking off
There is a good amount of journey planners available online which have made travelling in any part of the city (including driving self drive van hire) a lot easier to prepare for. Google maps is particularly good tool (available even on mobile devices) that can help you plan the best possible route for your drive across London.
Doing your homework and planning your journey upfront will help you avoid situations when you freeze in fear every time you see a junction with more than one possible road to follow.
2. Check live traffic updates for London frequently
The government’s Highways Agency provides live traffic news. Check those frequently so you can avoid problems on the roads in London while travelling to or from the city. Google maps is again a fantastic tool to stay updated with local traffic. You will need to switch on the traffic data in the settings. Alternatively, most of the radio stations provide live coverage you can listen to even while driving a van.
3. Scrap the distractions
If you are unsure about your current location, got lost or simply don’t feel confident about driving under certain conditions which could make you feel nervous about driving in London, then get rid of anything that is a distraction.
That means turning off the radio, putting your phone on silent and removing all moving objects from your view. London is often portrayed as a difficult city to drive in – but it does not need to be like that. Stay focused and pay attention to details. It might look a bit overwhelming from time to time but if you relax and drive carefully then you will be just fine.
4. Motorbikes and scooters in London
If you are planning to hire a self drive vehicle in London and consequently drive it, you should be aware of higher motorcycle and scooter commuter numbers in the city. Pay attention to narrow, busy roads that can often be congested in particular.
Scooter riders might happen to approach and overtake your van from both sides, therefore extra attention is required. Note that scooters are used by locals, students as well as corporate commuters and often carry learner’s designations.
5. Important rules and regulations
Here are some important driving rules and regulations for you to revise before your journey:
- When driving in the UK (including London) you have to drive on the left hand side of the road and overtake on the right
- Seat belts should be worn in all seats of the van if they are fitted, that applies for minibuses too
- In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine
- Use of mobile phones or other devices whilst driving is strictly prohibited
- Motorists must use headlights or fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced to around less than 100m
6. Speed Limits
The standard speed limit for motor vehicles in the UK as follows:
- In built up areas: up to 30 mph (48 km/h)
- Outside built up areas: 60 mph (96 km/h)
- Motorways and dual-carriageways: up to 70 mph (112 km/h).
Note that the speed limits can be varied by signs.
Do not forget that there is a congestion charge in central London. This toll is charged to anyone who drives or parks their car in central London on weekdays (Monday to Friday excluding public holidays) between 07.00 and 18.00. The congestion charge is an £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the charging zone. The easiest way to pay the charge is by registering for Congestion Charge Auto Pay. There are a range of exemptions and discounts available to certain vehicles and individuals.
8. Fuel requirements and planning
You may find yourself allocated a diesel vehicle by your van rental company. Remember to fill up with diesel and not petrol – most rental companies charge heavy excesses for recovering you if you accidentally fill your car with the wrong fuel.
Fuel prices vary quite dramatically therefore make sure you have the the right budget ready for your journey when it comes to your tank. You will find that filling stations attached to supermarkets offer very good fuel pricing. Additionally use many available calculators online to plan your fuel requirements.