We don't like driving round London - there's heavy congestion in the centre and tempers can often get overheated. Traffic regulations are designed to swell the coffers of local councils, not ease congestion.
The old 1980s system of making the centre impossible to navigate, with one way streets (this was a serious policy - the annoyance factor) has not been relieved. Parking is often impossible - it's calculated that 20% of all cars in London at any one time are looking for somewhere to park.
Parking regulations differ from borough to borough and many get towed or clamped unwittingly around the borough boundaries. At night (the definition varies across London) parking is free except on double yellow lines, and there's no need to feed the meters, though YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CHECK THE REGULATIONS BEFORE LEAVING YOUR CAR - even Londoners regularly get caught out. You can't stop, even for a second on areas designated as 'red routes' or urban clearways, and there are always traffic wardens or licenced clamping units on the prowl.
A recent investigation highlighted many abuses by the parking control attendants - whose real job is earning money: sometimes they just jot down random numbers of cars as they go past on the street and issue tickets.
If you're abroad there's little you can do about it in the way of appealing later when the car hire firm charges the ticket to your credit card. That said, about 80% of appeals are upheld (and we've won plenty) - but the process is slow and cumbersome; most people end up caving in to avoid the bother. That's what they're banking on.
Parking in the centre of London is about 5 times as expensive as Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills....
Car hire is OK for trips outside of London, though there is very poor signposting in the suburbs - we suggest tubing out to a car hire firm well away from the centre. Don't even think of driving between 15:30 and 21:00 on a Friday, we've often got so stuck we've abandoned the car and come back after 2000, it's deadly.
The congestion charge has reduced the traffic in the centre a lot (but buses still move along Oxford Street at slower than walking pace) and made cycling a bit less hazardous. It costs £8 a day to drive in London weekdays from 0700 - 0600. One wrong turning can result in the charge being levied as your number plate is picked up by cameras. There is a 'safe route' through the centre, via Victoria, HydePark Corner and Marble Arch, but pay syrict attention to the signposting!
You can pay at many newsagents (where the red C sign is displayed) and unless you do by 2200 the same day the price goes up. There are lots of mistakes (people getting fined £80 when they've paid their charge already) and it's likely to affect the tourist who won't stick around to sort them out.
The central zone is roughly the circle line - there's plenty of information on the transport for London website. If hiring a car make sure the charge is included if you collect it from within the zone, or hire from a base outside the zone. If/when the money raised starts improving the public transport that could raise the public's support for the scheme. It has resulted in higher prices inside the zone and the closure of many smaller businesses faced with higher rents - eg in Soho. All the usual car hire companies operate here and are listed on our A-Z page. If you're new to driving on the left then take the time to get a little practice in a sidestreet first - tempers can get frayed very easily. Also invest in an A-Z map of the city, as finding your way around can be very difficult, with strange one-way systems, and deliberately unlabeled routes. Or hire a satnav...