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Hemel-Hempstead is an English market town with a history dating back to the 8th century and the days of Henry VIII, although realistically the town has grown to more prominence since its development as a ‘New Town’ of post-WWII Britain. The centre is just a mile away from the M1 motorway and five miles away from the M25, so the potential for exploration is endless. The town is well used to receiving visitors, since the Grand Union Canal, which begins in London, runs right through the town, providing a very scenic tourist attraction.
Who to Book With
There are several car hire firms in Hemel-Hempstead, including the top firms of Europcar and Enterprise. Most are found north of the town centre by the main industrial estate, but there are also a few in the west near the canal. It is recommended that you book online beforehand to find the most convenient location for pick-up and to secure the best price.
Best Time to go
The annual Beer Festival in September and the Box Moor Trust’s country fare in October are particularly busy times for Hemel Hempstead. Otherwise, there is no high season of note, although visiting during the summer usually results in more pleasurable weather conditions.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:
- A valid British or EU driving license or an International Driving Permit
- A second form of photo ID, such as your passport
- A copy of the credit card details used to make your booking
- Confirmation of your booking, if possible
Hemel Hempstead is conveniently located of the M1, a major motorway of Britain, with routes north or south, with the latter leading into the centre of London in 45 minutes. The M25 is just 25 minutes south of Hemel Hempstead via the M1. A useful route west and to other destinations in the UK is the A41, which then connects with the M40 motorway.
There are several places to park in Hemel Hempstead; you can view this useful map to find the most convenient locations. Generally speaking, most of the car parks are clustered around the Leighton Buzzard Road (A4146), which is also where the Water Gardens shopping centre is located.
Hemel Hempstead has excellent public transport links to London. You can catch the train service to Euston or get on a National Express coach. There are also direct coach services to the London airports of Heathrow, Luton and Stansted. Transport around town is made easy by buses and taxis, but most of Hemel-Hempstead is walkable.
Trains to London Euston terminus take just 35 minutes and leave every 20 minutes on weekdays. To save money, travel after 9:30, when ticket prices are significantly reduced for off-peak times. On the weekends, trains leave every 30 minutes and are charged at off-peak rates. Check the National Rail Enquiries website for fares and timetabling information.
There are plenty of taxis that can be called upon to get you around Hemel-Hempstead. It is always necessary to book in advance, however, as taxis cannot generally be flagged down from the curb. You can call Star Taxis on 01442 233 110 for a pick-up.
Bus services in Hemel Hempstead are operated by Arriva; you can check route information on their website. Otherwise, most places around town are walkable. There are several long-distance coaches conveniently running through Hemel-Hempstead on the National Express network. There are routes to central London, as well as to Heathrow, Luton and Stansted airports.
Hemel-Hempstead is in a perfect location to use as a base for exploring the surrounding area, as it is close to the M1, M25 and A41 trunk road. Whipsnade Animal Park provides a great day out, particularly if you are with kids. Also very close by is the ancient town of St Albans and its Roman heritage attractions. The Verulamium Museum offers an excellent day of discovery for inquisitive minds.
Whipsnade Zoo - This is located just 10 minutes’ drive from Hemel-Hempstead. It is actually the largest zoo in the UK, and a day out here provides ample opportunity to get close to some of the most exotic animals from around the world. To get there, take the M1 north for one junction, then follow the signs from the A5.
The Snow Centre - This offers the UK’s largest indoor downhill skiing experience. That’s real snow, although it is generated by a machine, and conditions are kept alpine-like by special equipment. The chance to don your skis or snowboard is not to be missed when visiting Hemel-Hempstead.
Verulamium Museum - To soak up some of the ancient culture of the area, head to the Verulamium Museum. The site houses some of the finest Roman mosaics in the country, and has several other artefacts and exhibits that provide insight into the Romans’ impact on British history.