London Congestion Zone Information for Visitors and Tourists
Many British and European visitors want to drive into and around London as part of their holiday experience. Other foreign nationals are also eager to hire their own vehicles once they have arrived at an airport or sea port. But one of the main problems for visitors wishing to drive within London is the London Congestion Charge, something that confuses and worries many of the capital's visitors, even the British ones.
However, it is not as bad as it may sound.
Firstly, the congestion zone applies to petrol driven, vehicular traffic only. You do not pay the congestion charge if you are on foot, taking a cab / taxi, taking a local bus, taking the tube / underground / metro, or on a guided tour bus, through the area.
Secondly, the charge does not cover all of London, just Central London. The areas covered are the City of London which includes the attractions of St Paul’s Cathedral, the City of Westminster which includes the attractions of Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, the West End, Theatreland, Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent's Street, and parts of the boroughs of Camden and Islington.
South of the River Thames, the areas covered are the Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, which includes the cultural area known as the Southbank and Lambeth Palace.
Thirdly, the congestion charge is not in operation at all times, just between 07.00 + 18.00 hrs Monday to Friday, with evenings, weekends and bank holidays being exempt.
Fourthly, there are also several vehicle types and certain drivers that are exempt from having to pay the charge, these include motorbikes, tricycles, electric vehicles, hybrid plug in vehicles, blue badge holders and any vehicle with more than nine seats.Others who are exempt, which may or may not apply to tourists or visitors, are local residents, breakdown vehicles, emergency vehicles, police or border control personnel and armed forces personnel and their vehicles.
The fixed, daily charge for the congestion zone is £10.00 GBP - U.S Dollar 15.84 - 12 Euros – and will cover you for the entire day, however many times you drive in and out of the zone. Foreign visitors are asked to check the daily exchange rate before payment as the above rates apply to February 2012.
The Congestion Zone is well signposted, with a large white C on a red background, see picture above right. There are also several other road signs informing you of the approach of the zone and when you are entering and / or leaving the zone.
There are several ways in which you can pay the congestion charge, which is best paid in advance. You can pay online, by text and at certain stores. For more information about the Congestion Zone, it’s payment methods and other travel details visit the London Transport website - www.tfl.gov.uk/congestioncharging
The Congestion Zone and subsequent congestion charge became operational in February 2003 and was implemented in order to alleviate the problems of air pollution in London.The system works by way of taking a picture of your car registration, known as the automatic number plate recognition system. If you drive through the area without having informed the above website and / or without having paid a congestion charge, your details will be logged and you will be sent a penalty notice. This notice must be paid within twenty eight days or the amount will double in cost. Failing to act on the penalty notice could also lead to a court appearance and subsequent fine, even if you are not a resident of the U.K.
For a list of public, electric vehicle ( EV) charging stations within London, visit my article about -
MAP OF THE LONDON CONGESTION ZONE
For a larger version of this map, visit www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl