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The borough (district) of Kingston-upon-Thames lies south of the River Thames and is part of the Greater London conurbation. Originally an ancient market town protected by Royal Charter, it’s the most attractive and historic district in the area and is a great place to stay for visitors exploring London. Its traditional market square is home to the Old Town Hall, and on the opposite bank of the Thames is one of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, the Tudor period Hampton Court Palace.
Who to Book With
Several well-known international car hire firms have offices in the area, including Enterprise and Alamo, although car rentals can also be arranged at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, the main air arrivals hubs for the capital. The most practical and economical way, whatever your pick-up point, is to book online in advance to ensure the vehicle of your choice at a price you’re willing to pay.
Best Time to Go
Due to its location within easy public transportation distance of London’s main attractions, Kingston-upon-Thames is a year-round holiday destination, although it might be best to avoid midwinter if chilly or overly wet weather is not your cup of tea.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents must be presented when you collect your hired car:
- A valid UK or EU photo driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Another photo ID such as a passport
- The credit card used for the booking
- A printed rental confirmation if possible
Driving in Kingston-upon-Thames and in London’s central districts can be a problem due to excess traffic, especially during rush hours. Parking in the central area of the city is almost impossible, is extremely expensive and a congestion charge applies, although parking in Kingston can be less stressful. Self-drive is best kept for touring the many attractions on the edges of the city, and saves time and money over travelling by train. Petrol is pricey, but petrol stations are easily found and usually take card payments. Drink driving here is a serious offence, with heavy fines and a possible loss of license for a year or more. Motorways are free to use, with speed limits of around 110kmph (70mph), and urban road limits in built-up areas are 48kph (30mph).
Public transportation south of the river is not as plentiful as north of the river as there are fewer Underground stations, but Kingston and other centres of commuter population have overground rail services to the city centre. Buses to the city are not an option, due to traffic congestion, but can be useful for travelling around the immediate area as they’re far cheaper than taxis.
South West Trains is the rail service provider for Kingston-upon-Thames and its adjacent districts, with direct but expensive rail services to London’s central area. Special offer fares and days-out tickets can be had on the website, and it’s worth checking and booking online as part of your holiday travel plan.
Bus services in Kingston-upon-Thames are provided by Transport for London, with the website giving useful traffic updates, weather reports, timetables and a congestion charge payment portal as well as journey planning modules.
Although London’s famous black cabs will take passengers as far out as Kingston-upon Thames, the fare is likely to be prohibitive and there are a number of mini-cab firms in the district who’ll do the job for less. Taxi register.com is a useful website with a long list of local cab companies able to be booked online or by phone.
From nearby Royal Bushy Park to a day out at Windsor with its magnificent Royal Castle, self-drive will help make the most of your stay in one of several Kingston-upon-Thames hotels. Richmond Park is a short trip away and is one of London’s most spectacular green lungs.
Bushy Park - This lies just to the north of the great Tudor complex of Hampton Court Palace, and is the capital’s second largest Royal Park at over a thousand acres. Its history is linked with that of the palace, as Henry VIII used to hunt here, and the entire park has a riverside rural character uniquely set close to the heart of London.
Richmond Park - A slightly longer drive away, this is a European conservation area, National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as well as one of London’s loveliest get-away-from-it-all spots. Herds of deer roam its acres and historic Pembroke Lodge was the childhood home of Bertrand Russell.
Windsor Castle - One of England’s favourite visitor destinations is the impressive, and enormous Windsor Castle, first raised in 1066 by William the Conqueror. The complex overlooks pretty Windsor town, just a short drive from Kingston via the M4 or M3 motorways. Its sheer size is mesmerising, as is the fact that it’s Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite residence. Visitors can explore the State Apartments, the Semi-State Rooms, St George’s Chapel and the exquisite Queen Mary’s Doll’s House.