Public Transportation and Driving in London
With its more than eight million inhabitants and a total area of almost 700 square miles, London is Europe's largest city and an important travel, business, and financial hub at global level. Given its size, first-time visitors to London may find the prospect of getting around this huge metropolis daunting, to say the least.
Whether you are in London temporarily or on a permanent basis, visiting on business or for leisure, there is some vital information that can make your stay in the city less intimidating.
Transportation in London: key facts
As it would be expected from a city of this size, London's transportation network is vast and continues to grow year after year.
When all forms of transportation are taken into account, the total number of commuters that travel to London every day exceeds the 800,000 mark. In terms of public transportation, more than 2 billion bus journeys are made within the city every year, another billion journeys take place in the underground, and a further 800 million are done using rail services. As for private transportation, journeys made in privately owned vehicles still account for more than 40 per cent of the total number of journeys that take place within London.
A brief guide to using public transportation in London
Visitors and residents can use a range of public transportation options to get around the city. These include underground, buses, river and water bus services, tramways, and trains. Public transportation accounts for 33 per cent of all the journeys made within the city of London.
The single most useful tip when it comes to saving time and money in your journeys around London involves getting an Oyster card, which provides reduced fares in buses, local trains, light railway, trams, river boats, and the underground, and which can help significantly reduce the amount of time spent queuing at ticket booths in some particularly busy stations or during rush hour. Oyster cards are available from London Underground ticket windows, selected newsagents, the Transport for London website, major train stations in the city, and at Gatwick and Stansted airports. You'll find more London travel and tourism businesses on the Actual London website.
Driving in London: what you need to know
London's complex network of ring roads, dual carriageways, and hundreds of minor roads presents a challenge both to residents and visitors. Although car ownership numbers have been following a downwards trend over the past three years, there are still nearly 3 million privately owned cars in the city.
Those who still do not have a driving license but are considering getting behind the wheel must consider a number of things. First of all, a valid driving license is required by all drivers. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is in charge of issuing licenses. Provisional licenses can be obtained from the DVLA by any UK resident aged 17 and above. To obtain a license, you must provide proof of identity, proof of address, comply with the DVLA's eyesight requirements, and pay the relevant fee, which currently stands at £50. Processing times range between two and six weeks. Drivers who hold a provisional driving license must display "L" plates at all times on their vehicle and are not allowed to drive on their own until they obtain a full driving license.
Full driving licenses require the successful completion of a theory test, a hazard perception test, and a practical driving test. It is recommended that you take professional driving lessons, especially if you plan to drive in London. There is a variety of driving schools based in the British capital offering a range of courses to suit your schedule, from weekend and evening lessons to crash courses. Click here to find a driving school near your home or place of work.
New drivers can benefit from taking an additional Pass Plus course, a 6-hour long practical training course that can help new drivers improve their safety skills behind the wheel.
If you obtained your full license a few years ago but have not driven a car for a while and are now faced with the prospect of driving in London you may feel a bit nervous. In circumstances like these, taking a refresher driving course might be a wise decision. These courses can help improve your confidence as a driver and ensure that all aspects of your driving skills are up to date. And you will certainly need confidence and accurate skills in order to drive in London.
Parking restrictions apply from Monday to Saturday. Always look for the relevant "Pay & Display" sign and ask local residents if in doubt, as fines can reach £120.
Lastly, all drivers of private vehicles must be aware of London's congestion charge scheme, which requires drivers who enter designated areas in central London to pay a £10 fee. Congestion charges only apply from Monday to Friday between 7am to 6pm, and they can be paid online, by text, at designated shops (usually newsagents) or by telephoning Transport for London. Penalties for non-payment range from £60 to £120.