Parking a Car in
Sooner or later, you'll have to park
your car. Here's how and where to do it.
Cars park close to each
other, facing in both directions, and very close to the kerb
in Britain, where parking spaces are always at a premium.
Part of our series on
Driving in Britain.
Links to other pages at the bottom.
Britain's history makes for
narrow winding roads in many towns, and with very few places to
When you do find a parking place,
you'll have to be careful to park correctly, and to observe any
parking rules and restrictions.
You'll probably have to brush up on your parallel parking
skills, but other than that, you should have no problems.
This part of our multi-page
feature on driving around Britain will help you when confronting
the unavoidable need to stop driving and park your car.
Parking in Britain
We get spoiled in the US with
nice wide parking spaces and plenty of them. We can simply
drive straight in to the space, and then easily back out and leave
If someone parks too far to
one side or another there is probably still enough room to squeeze
in next to them, and if there isn't, well, there is probably
another empty space nearby so it isn't very serious.
All of this is very different
in Britain. Parking spaces are much smaller with much less
spare space between parked cars. And there are not as many
spaces to be found.
This means you have to be very
exact and very considerate in your parking. If you're not
carefully in the middle of your space, go back and forward again
and align better.
If you park very carelessly,
you run the risk that someone might deliberately scratch or
otherwise damage your car. With rental car companies
becoming increasingly obsessive at checking returned cars for all
dings and scratches, it might be a costly penalty for a bit of
laziness on your part.
Be Prepared to Park Further Away
In the US, you're probably
familiar with drivers who will block the parking building waiting
seemingly for ever to get a park closer to where they wish to be,
even though there is a visible parking space just ten or twenty
cars further away.
Other drivers will endlessly
circle the area closest to where they want to go and shop, without
considering more available spaces that are further away.
In the UK, due to the probable
shortage of parking, you need to be more willing to accept
whatever is available, wherever you can find it. Don't waste
valuable time searching for non-existent parking spaces right
outside where you wish to be - accept the strategy of finding
parking anywhere reasonably nearby.
A bit more walking - assuming
you are reasonably physically fit - is not a bad thing at all and
will show you a bit more of Britain, which is, of course, the main
reason you are there in the first place!
Central Parking Facilities
Even relatively small town and
villages may have officially designated central parking
facilities. Sometimes they may even offer free parking,
other times they will require you to pay.
These are typically on the
edge of the town/village in smaller towns, but may be anywhere in
larger towns and cities. Look for signs directing you to
these parking facilities.
In larger towns and cities,
you may find signs showing you the directions to multiple parking
lots, and they may even have digital displays showing the number
of open parking spaces remaining in the lots (or the word 'Full'
if that is the case), giving you very helpful guidance about where
Not So Central Parking Facilities
Some of the larger towns and
cities may also have Park and Ride facilities on the outskirts of
the central business area.
Parking in one of those and
then taking a bus in to the center might be a much easier way to
park and get into the city center, particularly if you are
planning to spend much of a day. Buses usually operate
Doing this saves you the
hassle of fighting the traffic in to the city center, and will
almost certainly save you appreciably in parking costs as well.
It might take a bit more time, but it could well be a fun
experience taking a local bus, and spending a bit more time in
return for a lot less frustration is probably an excellent
Finding Car Parking
We often find that in busy
towns where no parking is apparent on the main streets at all, if
you just drive one or two streets away from the main street, you
may find plenty of unrestricted parking.
You just need to get away from
the main arterial roads and the main areas where other drivers
will be looking for parks.
Although you might have to
walk three or four or five minutes further, surely that is better
than driving around and around in frustrating circles not finding
a park closer in, and for more than the few minutes extra of
walking you end up doing.
Much more parking in Britain
is of the parallel parking alongside the kerb type. You'll
sometimes find you have no choice but to do this.
There are two and a half
things to think about.
First, park with your kerbside
wheels literally within a very few inches of the kerb. You
don't want your car to be the one sticking the furthest out into
traffic, because if it is, you risk at best having your outside
mirror knocked off, and at worst, more severe damage to the side
of your car.
Second, when you finish your
parking maneuvering, be sure to leave reasonable amounts of
distance between your car and both the car in front and the car
behind. Make it easy for them to drive out of their space if
they return before you.
And the extra half thing to
remember? What goes around comes around. If you leave
equal amounts of space in front and behind, you are also giving
yourself a safety buffer in both directions, meaning it is less
likely that even if someone else boxes you in at one end of your
car, you'll still have some precious room at the other end to be
able to get your car out of the space again.
Parking on Either Side of the
You'll quickly notice that
people will park their car on either side of the road, facing
either the 'right way' or, if on the other side of the road,
facing the 'wrong way'.
This is legal and there's no
reason why you shouldn't do it too.
In theory, all parking
restrictions should be clearly signposted and visible from where
you are parking your car. This is usually fairly observed,
although this doesn't mean there will be a sign right adjacent to
where you park your car. It might be 50 ft down the road, so
look for signs all around.
You'll also see single and
double yellow lines and sometimes white lines, along the side of
The white lines are generally
advisory, pointing out places where parking is officially approved
There are also zig-zag white
lines leading up to pedestrian crossings. These are no
A single yellow line indicates
that there is restricted parking allowed at some times of the day
(usually business hours) and less restricted open parking allowed
for the rest of the day.
A double yellow line means
parking is prohibited, all the time.
Sometimes - particularly in
London - you might also see red lines on the side of the road.
No surprise for what they mean - no parking.
Parking Fees and Parking Fines
It is increasingly difficult
to find free parking in most towns and cities, and you probably
should resign yourself to the need to pay for parking.
Parking rates are clearly
posted wherever they are in effect, and the only couple of things
to consider are checking the hours when parking is free rather
than chargeable, and, as a related concept, noting that sometimes
there is flat rate parking, eg, for evenings.
Parking is usually enforced
quite strictly, and don't think just because you are an out of
country renter, you'll be able to escape the penalties if you
don't pay your parking and your parking fine. The parking
company will fine the rental car company, it being a car owner
liability, and then the rental car company will dip into your
credit card without seeking your prior approval for the full
amount of the fine plus a mammoth 'handling fee' on top.
Free Parking Rules
you do find a free parking area, be sure to understand the rules
and restrictions that may apply.
For example, you might be
allowed to park for up to two hours, but then you might be
required to not return for at least eight hours before parking in
that area again.
Another rule could be you can
park for free, up to an hour at a time, but not between the hours
of perhaps 4pm and 7pm.
Note also that the parking
rules can vary completely from one side of the street to the
other. One side might have no restrictions on parking, ever;
the other side might have very restrictive parking rules.
Hotel Car Parks
A word of warning and advice.
Not all hotels include car parking facilities immediately adjacent
to their hotel building.
Some hotels have limited
parking only, and others have no parking available at all.
This can make a huge
difference in the comfort/convenience of your hotel stay. If
you are traveling with a car, you'll want to clearly understand
the type of parking available at the hotels you'll be staying at,
and you might well choose not to stay at hotels that don't offer
For More Information About
Driving in Britain
Our Driving in Britain
series has four main pages plus two additional pages about other
important issues to do with driving in Britain.
The pages are :
An Introduction to Driving in
Britain - tells you the basic essentials to do with driving in
Driving Techniques and
Issues - about one lane roads and motorways (freeways), speed
limits and enforcement.
Miscellaneous Considerations when Driving in Britain - All
sorts of other things, ranging from the price of petrol to drink
driving and seatbelt rules.
How to Drive
around Roundabouts - for information about driving around the
roundabouts that are prevalent in Britain (and elsewhere too).
We also have a page about
How to Drive
on the Left (Other) Side of the Road which sets out some
helpful tips and pointers for how to make this as easy as
And, not so much about
driving, but still an important aspect of driving, see also our
page about where and how to park your car
in Britain (this is the page you are currently on).
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20 May 2011, last update
02 Jul 2017
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.