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Harlow Guide

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Harlow is a town in the far west of Essex, bordering the county of Hertfordshire. Once one of the original ‘New Towns’ of post-war Britain, designed by the famous architect Sir Frederick Gibberd, a tailor’s son who went on to design most of the civic builds of the country during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Harlow town is known for its incorporation of beautiful green spaces amongst cleverly thought out residential and commercial areas. Getting around Harlow by car is simple, as is getting out of town. Harlow is just four miles from the M11 and eight miles from the M25.

Who to Book With
There are several companies to rent a car from in Harlow, including the top firms of Enterprise, Europcar and Hertz. It is best to book online in advance to get the best rates and the widest choice of vehicles.

Best Time to go
Harlow hosts a new annual arts and cultural festival every May. This has proved popular and attracts artists and festivalgoers from all over the country each year. Accommodation prices can go up during this month, and beds can become sparse. Otherwise, visiting Harlow at any other time of the year is very easy going.

Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:

- A British or EU driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Secondary picture ID, such as your passport
- The credit card or payment details of your booking
- A printed confirmation of your booking

For more info read our FAQ's.

Since Harlow is a New Town, designed in the 1950s, well into the age of the motor car, navigating the streets is very straightforward. An inner ring-road surrounds the town, starting from a roundabout by the train station then coming round at six points, each with its own roundabout. Fourth Avenue slices through the town from east to west, forming a ‘T’ with Haydens Road that runs to the hospital.

There are several places to park in Harlow, with most car parks located off the ring road or Fourth Avenue. NCP operates a car park near the Watergarden Shopping Centre (off the ring road), charging £3 per hour for off-peak parking (after 9:30), or double during peak times. There is additional parking at other locations in Harlow, including by the railway station.

See our guide to the UK for more information on driving here.


Harlow is well connected to London and the rest of the country. Train travel from London is cheap if booked in advance. Harlow is also extremely close to Stansted International Airport, and local buses make the short journey quick and affordable. There are also several taxi firms operating in and around Harlow, although these are less cost-effective than public transport or self-drive options.

Harlow has good access to the national rail network. There are regular services to Cambridge (45 minutes) and London (30 minutes). You can check the details by visiting the National Rail Enquiries website. Harlow is also on the Stansted Express train line, connecting the airport with London Liverpool Street Station. However, this costs more than the regular commuter service.

Taxis are a convenient way of getting around Harlow, albeit expensive for the distances travelled. All taxi firms are willing to take you on the 25-minute journey to Stansted Airport. You can call ABC Cars for a quote on 01279 441 320.

There are buses covering Harlow town centre and the surrounding suburbs. Many only operate from Monday to Saturday, although the routes 59 (to Chelmsford) and the Greenline route 724 (to Heathrow Airport) operate on Sundays too. The 510 route to Stansted Airport operates 24/7. Fares within Harlow are £2.00 for a single journey or £3.00 for a return ticket; fares are accordingly more expensive for destinations farther away. Check the Network Harlow website for timetables and ticket prices.


Harlow is in a great part of the country from which to enjoy some exploration. It is situated between London and Cambridge, and you can reach either in less than an hour. On the drive to the centre of London, there are plenty of sights to stop at, such as the Olympic Park and the Docklands. Before you cross the M25, you can take a drive around the protected parklands of the Lea Valley and soak up the history at Waltham Abbey.

Recommended Drives

Lee Valley Regional Park - This beautiful Park provides a scenic drive just to the west of Harlow. Take Water Lane westwards out of town and then turn south at Dobb’s Weir. Cross over the river at Waltham Abbey and return on the circular route, not forgetting to stop at the historic Norman era church for a look.

London - Thanks to the rapid M11 motorway, you can be in the centre of London in just 50 minutes. The great city and capital of the UK needs little introduction, although one of the benefits of driving to London from Harlow is that you will pass the magnificent Docklands development, from where you can enjoy good views of the O2 dome. The A12 you will also passes the inspirational 2012 Olympics complex.

Cambridge - Travel north on the M11 and you will reach the historic and learned city of Cambridge. Harlow is nicely placed about half way between London and Cambridge. You can return to Harlow using the more scenic A10 trunk road for a change from motorway driving.

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