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The formerly dingy and occasionally dangerous district around London’s Kings Cross mainline rail station is now a trendy, totally redeveloped centre for boutique and upscale lodgings, nightlife and shopping. Its proximity to many of London’s main landmarks and easy access across the city via Kings Cross Underground Station make the area a practical base for exploring one of the world’s favourite visitor destinations. The massive station itself and its historic next-door neighbour, the Grade 1 heritage-listed Victorian St Pancras Station, are the hub for the Eurostar express using the Channel Tunnel to France and beyond.
Who to Book With
Kings Cross St Pancras stations offer a good choice of reputable car rental companies including Nova, Auto Europe, Europcar, Sixt, Enterprise, National and Alamo. Given the high number of arrivals at the station via the Eurostar international service and regional UK train services, booking online well in advance is the best way to reserve the car of your choice at a good price.
Best Time to Go
London is a year-round destination for its major sights, Royal occasions, theatres, nightlife and extensive shopping districts, with the busiest times at Christmas, during the January and July sales and the high summer tourism rush.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents must be shown at the care hire pick-up point:
- A valid UK or EU driving license or International Driving Permit
- A secondary photo ID such as your passport
- The credit card used for your booking
- A print-out of your rental confirmation if possible
It has to be said that driving in London is stressful at best and chaotic at worst, with far too many vehicles crowding into its comparatively restricted central area. Traffic jams come as standard at all times, and parking using meters or municipal car parks is extremely difficult and very expensive. Popular districts such as Covent Garden are out of bounds for most street parking and have no alternative spaces. However, given the cost of the average journey by black cab, it’s worth taking a chance. Rules of the road include the wearing of seat belts by all and mobile phone usage is illegal without a hands-free kit. Being stopped by police and breath-tested is common, so don’t drink and drive. Petrol stations are everywhere, and take card payments, but fuel costs are high. Most of central London is under a congestion charge, payable on the Transport for London website.
Public transport in and around Kings Cross is plentiful, varying between the Underground system, extensive bus routes and London’s famous black cabs. Buses are the cheapest form of travel, but are the slowest due to traffic build-up.
Transport for London operates the Underground and bus services in the capital, and their website tells you all you need to know about routes, weather, traffic jams and problems with the various Underground lines. The closest Underground station is Kings Cross St Pancras on the Piccadilly Line, running close by many central London attractions.
Bus travel in central London is the cheapest option but can take a long time due to traffic snarl-ups. Transport for London’s site gives details of all local bus routes as well as timetables.
Although London’s black cabs are able to be hired on the streets, fares for even a short journey are expensive, and cabbies are likely to refuse long journeys late at night. Taxi Register is a useful site for its list of reputable minicab companies and their phone numbers. Never accept a journey with an unregistered minicab which approaches you on the street.
Car rental comes into its own on daytrips to attractions beyond the borders of London, although actually leaving the city will almost certainly take longer than you think. Even so, the Kent Coast, historic Canterbury, the charming towns along the upriver reaches of the Thames or even the famous seaside resort of Brighton can be reached and enjoyed on a single daytrip.
Canterbury’s ancient cathedral - This is enshrined in English history and accessed via the M2 motorway and the A2 fast road. The magnificent medieval cathedral’s main altar was the scene of the murder of St Thomas-a-Becket in 1170, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of St Martin’s Church and St Augustine’s Abbey are also worth seeing.
Georgian Brighton - Located two hours’ drive from London via the M25 and the M23. A popular spa town for several centuries, the town is home to the Prince Regent’s architectural extravaganza of Brighton Pavilion with its gorgeous, overdone Oriental interior.
Marlow - This Thames-side town in Buckinghamshire is a typical English market town with charming buildings, quaint pubs and a riverside promenade packed with boat sheds, bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect place for a lazy afternoon by or on the river, and is accessed via the M25 and M40 heading northwest.