Where best to park in London?

Where to park in London - Travel for a Living

Faced with the question of where to park a car in London last summer, my initial reaction was ‘WHY?’

I mean, why would any sane person consider taking their car into London? Even though I am living just outside London, I will avoid driving into London at all costs. Instead, I will rely on public transport whenever I can. So why would anyone willingly drive over to the UK to then park in London?

In the questioner’s defence, there was a logic explanation behind the question. They weren’t just visiting London for a couple of days. Instead, the family of five was driving over from Germany, spend the first couple of days in London, then continue to Cornwall. OK, that made a lot more sense.

But the question got me thinking. Where would be the best place to park in London?

Growing up, we would regularly visit my grandparents in Sussex. And we would often include a day trip to London in our holiday itinerary. In all fairness, we would take the car to London as well. But that is 30+ years ago, when it was a lot easier to drive into London and park somewhere. And even then, we would often just park the car somewhere on the outskirts and take the tube into central London. 

These days, driving in London has become a lot more complicated. There aren’t just the exorbitant parking charges to be taken into consideration. You will also have to consider the congestion charge, LEZ and ULEZ zones as well as toll charges. Sounds complicated? Well, let me try and give a little overview on those charges before telling you where best to park in London.

(any prices quoted are correct April 2024)

London Congestion Charge

In an attempt to reduce the number of vehicles in central London, the Congestion Charge was introduced in 2003.

You won’t have to pay Congestion Charge if you stay further out, but pretty much all of Zone 1 is covered: the City of London, Marylebone, Soho, Westminster, Lambeth and parts of Bermondsey. 

If you enter any of those areas in the chargeable hours (Monday to Friday 7am to 6pm, Saturday + Sunday 12 to 6pm), you will have to pay for the day. And it does not matter, if you enter just once or drive through central London the entire day.

The daily charge is 15 GBP (if paid in advance or on the day). It goes up to 17.50 GBP if paid within the next three days. 

These days, fully electric / no emission vehicles are exempt from paying. However, come Christmas 2025 and even those fully battery-operated vehicles will be required to pay the congestion charge.

The easiest way to pay the congestion charge is by setting up an account on the TFL website. You can then add funds to your account upfront and it takes the money off automatically if you drive into the Congestion zone. 


But the Congestion Charge might not be the only charge you’ll face when driving into London. There is also the LEZ (Low Emission Zone) and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone). 

If you are driving into London with a standard sized vehicle, the LEZ probably does not apply to you. It currently is only payable for vans and diesel vehicles between 1.2 and 3.5T, as well as minibuses up to 5 tonnes, if they don’t meet Euro 3.

However, if you fall into one of those categories, it can very quickly become very expensive for you. As the LEZ ranges between 100 GBP and 300 GBP per day. 

The ULEZ applies to

  • all petrol cars that don’t meet Euro 4 standards.
  • Diesel cars that don’t meet Euro 6 standards.
  • Hybrid cars that don’t meet Euro 4 or Euro 6.

Same as with the Congestion Charge, electric vehicles are exempt from the ULEZ.

The ULEZ costs 12.50 GBP per day.

Both the LEZ and the ULEZ apply to the entire Greater London area (pretty much up to the M25 ring road). They are both payable 24/7 (with the only exception being Christmas Day).

Dartford Crossing

Lastly, there is the Dart Charge. A toll that needs to be paid during certain times of the day, when using the Dartford Crossing. 

For cars, motorhomes, passenger vans and minibuses, the charge is 2.50GBP each way (reduced to 2GBP if you have an online account). The charge is higher if you cross with vans or trucks.

If you travel through the night, the Dartford Crossing is free of charge, the Dart Charge only applies from 6am to 10pm. Which is lucky for us, when heading down to Folkstone in the early morning to board the Eurotunnel LeShuttle. We are usually early enough that we don’t have to pay. 

Same as the Congestion Charge and ULEZ / LEZ, you will need to pay the Dart Charge online. There are no toll booths at the entrance of the bridge or tunnel. 

OK, now that I’ve given you plenty of reasons, why parking in London isn’t the best idea, let’s look at the options available, if you do have to park somewhere.

Where not to park in London: in Central London

Unfortunately, London does not have any Park & Ride parking on the outskirts, like other cities have.

So yes, driving into Central London would be one option. But it would be a very costly one. Just to give you an idea of how much it will cost for you to park your car in central London, I checked some of the prices for you.

  • Bloomsbury Square (near the British Museum):

8 GBP / hour, 38 GBP / day.

  • The Cavendish (just off Piccadilly):

10 GBP / hour, 60 GBP / day.

9 GBP / hour, 48 GBP / day.

  • Westfield Stratford:

3 GBP / hours, 20 GBP / day

As you can see, parking anywhere in central London will become quite expensive fairly quickly. And don’t forget, all of these car parks will incur additional charges. Congestion Charge (with the exception of Westfield Stratford), LEZ and ULEZ as applicable.

Where best to park in London: at the end of the Line

To avoid exorbitant parking charges in central London, I would recommend you park somewhere further out and take the tube into London. The closer you get to the end of the tube line (the Waterloo and City Line aside), the more likely you will find car parks there that allow all day parking for a fixed fee.

Personally, we have used the car parks at Cockfosters (end of the Piccadilly Line) and Epping (end of the Central Line) before, as those are the closest to where we live these days. But depending on the direction you are coming from, you could also try other end of line stations, like Upminster (end of District Line) or Morden (end of the Northern Line).

To give you some examples of the costs for parking your car at a London tube station: 

the car park next to Epping station (zone 6) charges 7.50GBP for the entire day and you can leave your car for up to 7 days (36 GBP for the entire week). 

Cockfosters (zone 5) charges 6 GBP per day (3 GBP on Sundays).

If you are coming from the South, the car park at Morden (zone 4) only charges 5 GBP per day and 2GBP on Sundays.

But is a tube station the best place to park in London? Well, they are convenient and give you instant access to public transport. But they also come with downsides. Usually, these car parks are first come first serve and you cannot reserve a spot upfront. Meaning that you will just have to hope that there is a parking spot available. 

If you are planning a one-day trip to London, parking at the end of a tube line might well be the best option for you. 

Where to park in London - Travel for a Living

Where to park your car in London: at the airport

This might sound weird. Why would you park your car at the airport if you are not actually flying away. And especially if you think that airport parking is known for being notoriously expensive. Well, hear me out. I am not saying that the airport is the best place to park your car if you are only in London for a couple of hours. But if you are planning to spend a couple of days in London, airport parking might be your most convenient option of where to park your car in London. 

Heathrow Airport has several parking options for all their terminals. And the earlier you pre-book your parking spot, the cheaper it is. Each of the Heathrow Terminals offers several parking options. From short stay car parks directly by the terminal to the long-stay options with shuttle busses. Or even valet parking, where you just dump your car at the terminal, and it will be parked for you. Terminal 5 even offers ‘Pod Parking’, where you park your car near the terminal, then take one of the automatic pods to travel to the terminal. 

In our experience, the long-stay car park is usually the cheapest option. And it takes less than 10 minutes to get from the car park to the terminal by shuttle bus. Once you arrive at the terminal, you can then get the tube into London.

Booked in advance, a full week parking at the airport will cost around 100GBP (it is sometimes worth checking several times, we have parked for as little as 70GBP for a week in the past). Which is more expensive than parking at the end of the line tube stations. But personally, I would feel less worried about my car staying at the airport car park for a longer period. Especially if I left some additional luggage in the car. 

Plus, the airport is outside central London, so you don’t have to worry about any of the additional charges (not even the Dart Charge, if coming up from the South Coast).

Where to park in London - Travel for a Living

Hope you find this little guide of where to park in London helpful. Do you have any experience with parking in London? Any more suggestions of where best to park in London? 

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