Car Parking In London

For a visitor unfamiliar with its geography, London can be a nightmarish place to find a parking space. Find out where, when and how much to our guide

For a visitor unfamiliar with its geography, London can be a nightmarish place to find a parking space.

If you do succeed, especially in central London, you may be asked to pay a handsome sum for the privilege, a pound often not being enough for even a twenty minute stay.

Fines and Payment

Avoiding payment has become increasingly difficult in recent years, as responsibility for collecting parking fines has been taken away from the police, and has become a valuable source of income for local councils. Their parking ‘attendants’ can smell an expired parking meter ticket from five miles away. The only places where a parking offence remains a criminal affair are the vital ‘Red Routes’, where traffic wardens will demand a non-negotiable £60 fine and a probable appearance at a local Magistrate’s Court!

Combined with the spread of private towing firms across the capital, these changes have made illegal parking a very risky business. Hopefully this article will be able to help you avoid these the worst of these difficulties, and help make your visit as stress free as possible.

Other Fees - Congestions Charge

The difficulty in finding an available space increases dramatically as you approach central London. Visitors to this area should also remember that between 7am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, a Congestion Charge of £8 applies to vehicles wishing to enter the area immediately surrounding the City and West End.

From 2007, the charging zone will be extended westwards to include most of Kensington and Chelsea, although from 2006 drivers will be given an extra day to make the payment.

For information on locations, exemptions, and methods of payment, see the dedicated section of the Transport For London website:

The best option is usually to park your car further out, even in Zone 2 spaces are much easier to come by, and then use public transport for the final leg of your journey. The car parks attached to British Rail overground stations often have available spaces and are easy to find.Free London Parking

After 6.30pm the majority of metered spaces become free for parking. (Always check on the meter if this is the case.) One effect of the Congestion Charge however is that this time is often the busiest for traffic on London’s main roads. Hot spots like the A501 in Marylebone and the A202 in Camberwell are especially best avoided in the early evening. Use Transport For London’s Traffic Alerts service for the latest information prior to your departure.

Trying to park for free in the West End is probably best avoided even at night, with many residential parking schemes continuing until 10pm, while others are continue to operate on a 24 hour basis. St.James’ Square in Piccadilly does offer some opportunity for free parking overnight, but the competition for spaces and enforcement of the regulations by local parking officials is fierce. Also keep in mind that some meters can start operating again as early as 7am.

Sunday Parking

Sundays present the best chance of finding a space in Central London, many residents embracing the chance to enjoy some fresh air outside the capital. Single yellow lines and metered spaces are all available for free parking, although you would be well advised to try and arrive before 11am for your best chance.Secure Parking Facilities

Secure parking facilities are ideal for those can either not afford to spend hours in a desperate search for a space, or are concerned for the safety of their vehicle. The charges, although almost always higher than those on the street, do at least discourage most drivers from filling up their spaces.

NCP Car Parks operate by far the most extensive network of secure car – parks in London, and are happy to provide a free booklet which includes maps and directions to those who call their Customer Services division on 0870 606 7850, or email

Call Transport for London

Alternatively give Transport for London a call on their hotline; staff are very helpful and will be able to diect you to the best source of information, the number for TfL is: 020 7222 1234.

Author: Peter Brett

Useful Links:

- - A guide to parking in London and the UK
- - Advice on being and dealing with London Traffic Attendants!
- - Advice on Parking in London, advisory leaflets and more from Ken's Office
- London Car Parking and Garaging - From All In London Business directory
- Parking Wardens - Discussion on All In London's Forum
- - Westminster City Council car parks
- City of Westminster Parking Hotline (24hrs): 0800 243 348
- - List of NCP Car Parks in Central London
- Oxford Circus Parking - Discussion, tips and info on parking in the area on All In London's Forum
- Hyde Park Parking - Discussion, tips and info on parking in the area on All In London's Forum
- South Lambeth RoadParking - Discussion, tips and info on parking in the area on All In London's Forum