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London - Driving and Public Transport
Visitors from the EEC and EEA are allowed to drive in the UK for as long as their licence remains valid. Other visitors can drive for up to 12 months with a valid licence, after which, they must obtain a UK licence and pass a driving test. More information on the Directgov website (www.direct.gov.uk/Motoring/fs/en) Driving in London is frustrating at the best of times. During weekday rush hours and Saturday mornings, traffic banked up on the haphazard, narrow road networks built in the days before cars, becomes infuriating. An additional challenge for many international drivers is that steering wheels are on the right, and cars travel on the left side of the road.
Parking has been particularly difficult in central London for many years. A congestion charge (www.cclondon.com) of GBP8 a day is in place to discourage all but residents, motorbikes, and the disabled, from driving in the zone during the week. As a result, 30% fewer vehicles now enter each day.
Dotted lines on the road often indicate parking places for residents. You can apply for a resident parking permit with your local Borough (council).
Most Londoners ride public transport to work and around the city. You can purchase discounted Oystercards (www.tfl.gov.uk/oystercard) for all forms of transport at tube stations and local shops displaying the Oyster sign.
The Tube and DLR
Riding the Underground, or Tube, is a way of life in London. Trains run under all parts of the city and are the easiest way to get around. There are 275 stations linking airports and suburbs with major business centres, tourist attractions and shopping areas. For tube maps and information visit www.tfl.gov.uk/tube. The DLR (www.londontransport.co.uk/dlr) is a modern light rail system links to several city tube stations.
Buses and Trams
Red double-decker buses are recognisable symbols of London. They offer a cheap and relaxed, if slow, means of transport along the city roads, often to areas trains do not run. Visit www.tfl.gov.uk/buses for bus fares, routes and information. London trams (www.tfl.gov.uk/trams) run between the districts of Croydon, Wimbledon, New Addington and Beckenham.
Although slow and often late, commuter trains operate between London suburbs. Major train terminals such as Victoria and Kings Cross Stations also connect to the airports, as well as bus and tube services. For information visit www.tfl.gov.uk/rail
There are thousands of Black Cabs (hwww.dialacab.co.uk), or taxis, in London. Although expensive to hire, drivers are required to pass a rigorous exam to obtain their licence, so you can be assured they know the quickest route to anywhere in the city. These cabs come in several colours, but are distinguishable by their unique shape and 'For Hire' sign above the front windscreen.
You may also telephone to book cheaper un-licenced private mini-cabs. However, the quality of driver varies greatly, and there have been reports of assaults on women.
Bicycles and Walking
More Londoners are taking to cycling and walking to beat London's traffic problems. In addition to the obvious health benefits, both options save time and money. For cycling routes, tips, and places to hire or purchase a bike visit www.lcc.org.uk
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