Driving in Britain for overseas visitors - Car parking.

Most towns and some villages provide car parks as do most tourist attractions.

Public car parks are usually the responsibility of the local council who want visitors to come to their town and spend their money but many also expect visitors to pay for that privilege. It is rather like a shop charging you entry. It is nice to know, however, that there are towns and villages where parking is free.

Some larger towns have what are known as 'Park & Ride' schemes where large car parks are provided on the outskirts of the town and frequent buses travel between the car park and the town centre. This is a good idea for towns which would otherwise get very congested but you are still expected to pay for it.

There are two types of Park & Ride schemes. One where a parking fee must be paid but all passengers can travel on the bus free and another where parking is free but each passenger has to pay a bus fare. The second type works out to be the most expensive when there is more than one person in the car. As an example we can compare Wichester's Park & Ride scheme with that at Cambridge. With Cambridge's scheme parking is free but adults pay a bus fare of £1.80 each. A car carrying 4 adults will therefore pay £7.20 for their day's parking. Compare that with the Park and Ride scheme at Winchester where it would have cost them £1.50 only. (Prices correct in 2002)

Parking in the street is possible, and permissible, in many places though often for a restricted period in town centres.

Most hotels, pubs and tourist attractions invariably have their own car parks and don't normally make a charge. However there are occasional exceptions. Only one of the large hotels in Brighton town centre has its own parking facilities for example. The only option for the others is to use public car parks. When I last visited Brighton some years ago the parking charges were extortionate and I don't know if that has changed.

Car parks are provided at some popular tourist locations such as Tarr Steps on Exmoor in Somerset and a charge is normally made for this. This may seem reasonable as there are no shops to benefit at such a relatively isolated spot and it is nice not to have to cruise around looking for somewhere to park. Remember the lanes in a lot of these places are only one car's width so parking by the roadside is impossible. However compare this with Epping Forest and the New Forest both of which have many small car parks dotted around the forests and they are all free.