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Just on the northern edge of London’s sprawl is the town of Watford, the largest of the communities in Hertfordshire. The tidy downtown core is a very pleasant place to walk around, with a number of attractions like the Palace Theatre and the Harlequin Shopping Mall. For travellers who want to be near London but don’t want to stay in the congested capital, Watford is an excellent alternative. It has good lodging and amenities, and with a car, it’s easy to move around the area thanks to excellent motorway and road connections.
Who to Book With
Most of the major UK car rental companies have a presence in Watford, particularly around the train station and industrial centres near motorway junctions. Booking early online will almost guarantee lower rental prices and a better vehicle selection, especially if you rent from one of the neighbouring London airports like Luton or Heathrow.
Best Time to Go
A mild marine climate dominates the weather in Watford. Rain falls evenly throughout the year, and temperatures range from a tolerable 9?C in winter to around 23?C at the peak of summer. Any time between May and September will provide comfortable temperatures for a visit to Watford.
Need to Know Essentials
Most car hire offices will want to see these documents when you collect your car:
- A valid EU or UK driving license or an International Driving Permit
- A second photo ID
- The credit card from the online booking
- A printed confirmation sheet
Most of the highlights in Watford are within walking distance of each other, but a car does come in handy for excursions outside of the town centre. The M25 and M1 motorways hem in the city to the north, providing easy driving access to the rest of southern England and the Midlands. The commercial downtown street network tends to be very congested, but traffic flows well on the outskirts.
All streets around the town centre are part of a controlled parking zone designed to help residents with permits park near their homes. Street-side parking is very hard to find here, but several car parks handle the influx of drivers well. The best bet is to park the car and enjoy the walkability of downtown Watford.
Watford is extremely well connected to London and beyond by trains, buses and roads. All of London’s four airports also have good transport connections straight into Watford as well as numerous car rental outfits to choose from. In town, taxis provide the easiest transport option, and there’s even a London Underground station on the edge of town.
Trains and Tubes
The West Coast Main Line runs right through Watford Junction station, providing excellent rail access to London as well as to northern England and beyond. The London Overground covers a suburban loop through town that stops at Bushey Station and Watford High Street Station before continuing on to London Euston. You can also hop on the London Underground just outside of Watford at Cassiobury Park to reach the entire Tube network of subway lines.
There are plenty of taxi firms operating in Watford, helping travellers get from the public transport stations to their final destination. It’s tough to hail a cab on the street, but they can typically be found waiting for fares at the train station, Tube station and major commercial hubs like the Harlequin Shopping Mall. It’s even easier to call a local firm like Cassio Cars and have them pick you up any time of day or night.
There are many different bus companies providing transport in and around Watford, although the city does not fall under London’s Oyster Card system. Hertfordshire’s Intalink collaboration of buses and trains ensures excellent bus services throughout this area. Fares are very reasonable and include a handy day pass ticketing option.
The obvious destination for a daytrip from Watford is London. The capital is easily reached by public transportation, however, so save the car for trips in the other direction. There are countless historic towns in the area, such as St Albans and Aylesbury, which can be reached with ease by car. Just hop on the M1 or M25 and you can be miles away from the big smoke in no time.
St Albans - One of the coolest towns around Watford. Its Roman roots are still evident in preserved walls and mosaics, but its medieval cathedral and abbey church are the real historic icons. As a bonus, St Albans has one of England’s largest concentrations of traditional pubs per capita.
Aylesbury - This is a vintage English market town that still holds a colourful daily market right in the centre. It makes for a superb daytrip from Watford, both for its pedestrian downtown and the leisurely drive through the pastoral Aylesbury Vale countryside.
Oxford - England’s oldest university city, and offers so much more than just academia. This charming and engaging town has a beautiful historic core, a lovely river, museums, parks and more than enough distraction to fill a day or two. It’s an easy cruise from Watford and tempting enough to warrant an overnighter.