For me, that’s an easy question to answer: NOPE, NO SIR. I personally have no desire to drive in London, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve driven on the right side of the car on the left side of the road before, but that was in the vast, open expanses of New Zealand’s South island with nary a turn or oncoming traffic for kilometre upon kilometre. It isn’t so much that it’s difficult to teach yourself how to reverse what you’ve known previously to get around in the UK; for me it’s simply the matter that, when facing an emergency situation that requires immediate reaction, I would have the reflexes of two decades of driving experience working against me. This is an especial challenge in more central locations of London where lanes are small and congestion is large. And, trust me, the locals drive FAST. They know the streets and how to navigate them, and while they thankfully do not blare their horns like New Yorkers, their unyielding speed alone will communicate an impatience with those less savvy. Regardless, some folks want to brave the roads rather than rely on public transport, and in some cases it is necessary to have this variety of freedom. So then what?
If you’re considering shipping your existing car, the following websites may be of use in your research: How to import a car to the UK from the USA; CarShipUK; and Auto Shippers International Car Shipping. The alternative is, of course, purchasing a car once you’re already over here.
In either case, the possession of a car means having to park it somewhere, so you will need to determine what streets do or do not require parking permits. The parking regulations enforced by your particular borough should be found on its website, such as these links for Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham to give you an example.
Oh, and then…* drumroll, please *…Hurray! There’s the Vehicle Tax to consider:
I have personally found public transportation to be convenient enough for my commuting needs, and if my husband and I do need a car for a drive to IKEA for mini roadtrips to the countryside (the latter of which could be easily achieved by rail as well), we have come to rely on Zip Car. For a minimal annual fee and reasonable rental rates, you owe nothing additional for gas or insurance. Zip Cars are parked all around the city and, to add to the flexibility, can be rented by the hour. Just register at http://zipcar.co.uk/ to obtain your membership card that will literally unlock your vehicle of choice and figuratively unlock the possibilities on the road ahead.
And let’s not forget about your license to drive. Generally, you’re okay to drive on your existing foreign license for up to 1 year in the UK. For more details on licensing requirements beyond that first year, consult this website: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/DriverLicensing/DrivingInGbOnAForeignLicence/index.htm
Whatever you decide, be knowledgeable and be safe. Drive on the left side. Go on green, stop on red. Stop at zebra-stripes when pedestrians are present (also indicated by flashing lamps with black-and-white striped poles posted on either side of the street). And whatever you do, mind your speed…you’ll see for yourself how the public service announcements can be quite shockingly effective in stressing this.