- 1 Public Transport
- 2 Hitchhiking in
- 3 Hitchhiking out
- 3.1 West towards Reading, Swindon, (The South-West), Bristol, Devon, Cornwall South Wales M 4
- 3.2 Southeast towards The South East, Maidstone, Folkestone (Channel Tunnel), Dover (Ferries to Europe) M 20
- 3.3 Southeast towards The South East, Hastings, Royal Tunbridge Wells A21
- 3.4 Northwest towards Oxford, High Wycombe, Warwick, Birmingham, North Wales M 40
- 3.5 North towards Luton, Milton Keynes, (The East Midlands), Northampton, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds M 1
- 3.6 North towards, Stevanage, Peterborough, East Midlands, The East, Newcastle, The North East A 1 (M)
- 3.7 Northwest towards Cambridge, London Stansted, Norwich, The East, East Coast M 11
- 3.8 Southwest towards The South West, Basingstoke, Salisbury, Southampton, Porstmouth, Dorset, Bournemouth M 3
- 3.9 Southwest towards Woking, Guildford, Porstmouth, Worthing A3/A 3 (M), & A24
- 3.10 South towards Brighton M 23
- 3.11 East towards The East, Essex, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Southend-on-Sea A/12
- 4 Airports
- 5 Transiting Greater London
- 6 Sleep
- 7 Eat
- 8 Internet
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|Population:||8.623 million (2015)|
|Meet fellow hitchhikers on Trustroots|
London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It's worth knowing that London is HUGE (third biggest city in Europe). Traveling inside London takes much longer than reaching it from outside, especially during rush hour.
See the specific article for Transport for London on nomadwiki.
Here are a few important points:
Distances inside London are huge, so it's quite probable you'll be using public transport inside the city (if you manage to navigate inside London by hitchhiking, please tell us about it!) If you're not just going in and out, get an Oyster card - it's much cheaper and you can use it for any public transport (even river buses!). The information TFL provides is very extensive; Here is where you can find the fare between any two places.
Traveling cheap: Public transport prices can be high and depends on the zones between which you're traveling, day of the week and time in the day. You can try to get as close to your zone as possible (distance is not important - only zone numbers matter). E.g if you're going to Bethnal Green in zone 2, it would be better to reach zones 1 or 3 than 4 or 5. Use map or google the station to see which zone it's in. A bus (or tram) will always be cheaper than other transport (they have a fixed price of £1.5, and your second ride within an hour is free).
Planning journeys: Use the Citymapper app - it usually works better than Google Maps and also shows prices.
Negative balance: If you don't have enough money on your Oyster for the next ride, you can still take the Tube/train - as long as you have some amount of money, you'll be able to pass, but will end up with a negative balance. If you're leaving London, this probably doesn't matter, so you don't have to bother charging for your last ride. Keep in mind that the train system is separate from the Tube/Overground/DLR, so if you're taking the Tube and then the train, you need to have a positive balance upon leaving the Tube.
Megabus have cheap services to several cities around the UK - in some cases it might be cheaper to use these than to get to/from the hitchhiking spot outside the city (unless you're willing to walk for several hours).
London has a motorway ring-road, the M25.
Your options are:
1. Get dropped off on or near the M25 and use the public transport to get wherever you need.
If you are coming from the west and your driver is heading south on the M25, ask to be dropped off at the first junction on the M25: Heathrow Terminal 5. Get off at the roundabout at the end of the motorway spur and walk to the terminal building. The Piccadilly Line Underground starts here. If they are heading north, see the description for getting to Uxbridge Underground station below.
If you are coming from the southeast on the M20, ask to be dropped off at the A20/M20/M25 roundabout. From here you can take the B2173 road 2km to Swanley train station. Alternatively, if they are heading further north, get dropped off at the M25/A12 junction and walk ≈3km west to Harold Wood station.
If you're coming from the north and your driver is heading towards the M4/M3 direction, try to persuade them to do a slight detour off the M25 to junction 1 of the M40 (roundabout with A40). From there, it's a ≈2km walk to Uxbridge Underground station. Otherwise, get off at the last services (Toddington) before the M25 and look for a lift going inside the ring road.
2. Hitch into London from the last services on your motorway before the M25 (the driver will usually know which one this is). Then try to find a ride that bring you close enough to your destination. Check "public transport" for navigating the system efficiently and cheaply.
See the transiting around the M25 section below if you just want to bypass London.
Hitchhiking out of London is pretty tricky, but not impossible - the big problem is getting onto a motorway is a bit of a challenge, once you're on the motorway, stick to the petrol stations, hitching entrance ramp to entrance ramp is quite difficult, especially in the big cities.
West towards Reading, Swindon, (The South-West), Bristol, Devon, Cornwall South Wales
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Simon strongly recommends, when hitching West out of London and onto the M4, to try to avoid accepting a ride to anywhere before Reading Central. A few of the earlier junctions are hitchhiking nightmare spots - junction 8,9 for Maidenhead and 10 for Reading East are two of the worst junctions for hitchhiking in this area of the country because of the m4 then turning into another motorway for a few miles, thus taking you well off your route. Reading Services is great though, and well worth encouraging your driver to take you the extra few miles to.
Option 1: M4 Motorway Junction 1 (Chiswick Roundabout)
1. Take the District Line Underground to Gunnersbury (zone 3) or train to Kew Bridge. (Alternatively, the Overground at South Acton doesn't have barriers, but is a kilometer further away.) Both stations are on the Chiswick High Road (A315 - one west and one east of the roundabout) along which you walk 500m to Junction 1 of the M4 where you will see the Esso petrol station that is on the corner of the slip road onto the motorway heading west. There is a bus lay-by nearby with a sign saying M4 west.
2. Take bus H91 from Hammersmith Bus station in the direction of Hounslow West and get off at Chiswick Roundabout/Gunnersbury, and you are already at the bus lay-by hitching point.
Last verified: July 2017 - Simon hitched from this spot and got a lift within 5 minutes to Reading Services. Have hitched it a number of times before and always had a lift within half an hour, so would highly recommend.
Cost of public transport: £2.80 (off peak) from Zone 1. (Bus fare £1.50)
Option 2: A4 leading to M4 (or M3)
Heading for Cornwall, it is much easier hitching the M4 and changing to the M5 in Bristol than trying to hitch the M3 through Dorset. Take District Line Underground to West Kensington (zone 2). Turn right out of the station, there are traffic lights 10m away. Turn right and there is a lay-by where you can stand. The advantage of this spot is that all the traffic must stop here frequently for the lights and much of it is going to either of the motorways. (It's also cheaper to get to). I never normally wait more than 30 mins here.
Cost of public transport: £2.40 (off peak) from Zone 1.
Option 3: Motorway service station Heston
Take Piccadilly Line Underground westbound and get off at Hounslow West (zone 5). Turn right from the station exit and walk 800m west along Bath Road to just past Henleys roundabout where there is a BP petrol station. Right at the exit of the petrol station is a footpath heading north. Walk ≈650m and where it splits, turn right 20 metres until you reach Armytage Rd. Turn left onto this road and continue north for another ≈200m, cross over Cranford Lane and then continue north again for another ≈350m along Phoenix Way until it bends to the left. Just past the bend, you will see a short path on the right through the bushes/trees onto Heston service station.
It's not an overly busy services but enough traffic to justify getting out here and cutting out all the local traffic in the centre. Use a sign as there is also traffic heading onto the M25 both south and north.
The public transport cost to get here is a few pence more expensive than the other option, but definitely worth the investment. Last verified: January 2017
Cost of public transport: £3.10 (off peak) from Zone 1
Southeast towards The South East, Maidstone, Folkestone (Channel Tunnel), Dover (Ferries to Europe)
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Option 1: Mottingham
Take the train from Charing Cross Station (Zone 1) to Mottingham Station (Zone 4). It passes through Waterloo East (Zone 1), London Bridge (Zone 1), New Cross (Zone 2) and Lewisham (Zone 2) stations on its way to Dartford or Gillingham. Alternatively, take the Jubilee line to North Greenwich, and from there, the 161 bus to Mottingham. When you come out of the train station, walk 100m south along Court Road to the intersection with Sidcup Road (A20). At the traffic lights turn left, where you will see a Shell petrol station.
Last verified: Cost of the train to Mottingham was £5. (edit- Prices must have gone down!) Me and and my girlfriend hitchhiked from Mottingham spot and a lorry picked us up in 15 minutes and took us to the start of M20. There we waited about 20 minutes in a motorway entrance, and got a drive by another lorry all the way to Folkestone service station. There a car picked us up after 5 minutes and took us with them on the ferry and all the way to Brugge in Belgium.
The best ride to accept from Mottingham is one that brings you directly into the South-East along the M20 and past the M20/M25 junction, most likely to the Maidstone Services. Many drivers have said that many hitch-hikers happen to stand and hitch at the M20/M25 junction, but the police might be more likely to pick you up.
Cost of public transport: £2.80 (off-peak) from zone 1. (Mottingham train station doesn't have barriers...)
NOTE: The most classic method departing London in the direction of continental Europe begins in Mottingham. Most traffic is local, thus it is best to ask people whether they are going onto the M25 ring road. If yes, they will passby the BP @ Swanley as described in option 2. The next major service station after Swanley is after the M25 called Maidstone Services on the M20 Junction 8; be sure to find a ride that exits at junction 8 as the main exit for the town of Maidstone is junction 7. This is the last major service station located before Dover and it is recommended to find a ride directly onto the train or ferry from here. Edward101277 has hitched across the channel many times from Maidstone, with waits ranging from 30 seconds to as long as 6 hours.
Option 2: BP petrol station on Swanley Bypass (A20)
Take a train from London Victoria to Swanley. Some trains will go directly there, otherwise change at Bromley South. (There is also a direct train from St. Pancras to Swanley, but it cost £8.80 (peak) in Nov 2015, so might as well just get a megabus if you're going to pay that much). From the station, cross the tracks with the pedestrian bridge to Everest Place, turn right on St. Mary's Rd to the roundabout at London Road. From here, turn left (north) along London Road/ Maidstone Road for 2.6kms. Here you'll find a hole in the fence on the left leading to a BP petrol station with a McD. It's a longer walk than to the Texaco mentioned below but managed to get a lift there in 15 minutes at 22:00 asking people (September 2013). It seemed most traffic was M20/M25, but might of been the time of night. This is perfect for getting to Maidstone.
Last verified: November 2015
Cost of public transport: One train ticket from zone 1 (approximately £3.50 off-peak) or take the train from Elephant & Castle in central south-east (no barriers) towards Seven Oaks for a free ride.
Option 3: Texaco petrol station, Swanley
Same directions as for Option 2 above, but this time, walk into town from the station, and head to the London Road going south towards M20. On the way there is a Texaco petrol station that seems quite busy. Further down (where I hitchhiked, August 2012) there is a big parking space, with a greasy spoon van if you're hungry or in need of a cup of coffee. The road takes you straight down to the motorway.
Last verified: TBF hitchhiked from the Texaco station in Nov 2015 and got a ride to Maidstone in about 20 minutes. Make sure that you get a ride going to Maidstone Service Station, because it's after the town so someone going to the town of Maidstone won't pass the service station. If you do get a ride just to the town of Maidstone, there is a good lay-by for hitchhiking on the roundabout that leads to the on ramp to the M20, but you'll have to thumb a ride because there is nowhere to ask people. It works with a sign saying "M20 4 miles" to get to the service station.
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Option 4: Motorway service station Clackett Lane (M25)
1. Take the train from London Bridge to Oxted. Walk southeast along Station Road to Westerham Road (A25). Turn left (east) and walk 3.5km till the junction with Clackett Lane. Turn left here and walk 1.6km along Clackett Lane to the entrance to the service station (heading East) just after you pass over the M25 motorway bridge.
2. Take the train from Victoria to Bromley South. Then take bus 246 south in the direction of Westerham Green and get off at Pilgrims Way. Walk west along Pilgrims Way and then Pilgrims Lane for ≈1.4km until you reach Clackett Lane. Turn left (south) and walk for ≈1km until you reach the entrance to the service station heading East (before crossing over the motorway bridge).
Last Verified: April 2015
Cost of Public Transport: You can reach London Bridge by overground from a station without barriers and skip the fare.
Southeast towards The South East, Hastings, Royal Tunbridge Wells A21
|Hitchwiki could use your help to complete this article. You can help by expanding it.|
|Help providing the information with the one available for the M20|
Northwest towards Oxford, High Wycombe, Warwick, Birmingham, North Wales
M40 is different from other motorways originating from London, as it starts quite close to M25 as a continuation of the dual-carriageway A40.
Option 1: M40 Junction 1
Take a Piccadilly or Metropolitan Line to Uxbridge (Zone 6). Exit the station onto High Street and turn right. Walk until you reach Harefield Road - turn left there, and then right at the next big roundabout. From there follow signs to M40 - you will eventually get to junction 1 slip road, and you can hitch-hike from there (there's also a nice spot at the traffic lights). You might need to cross parts of the road where vehicle will already be flying at motorway speeds - stay safe!!!
Confirm with the driver that he is going straight onto the M40, and does not turn onto M25 (London Orbital). Also beware that Junction 2 is not very easy to hitch-hike on (see M40 article).
Option 2: A40 Junction (Hangar Lane)
Take the Central Line tube (West Ruislip branch) to Hangar Lane (zone 3). As you exit into the main hall of the tube station, have a look at the local area map and find the exit for the westbound A40 slip road. Keep walking along the slip road, and then A40. There are two good places to hitch from:
1. A bus stop just past the junction with Lynwood Rd. It has a long lay-by, which is a good place to hitch from as long as there's nothing parked there. Legally, it's a "non-stopping except buses" lay-by.
2. The other place is half a mile further on, a little lay-by with no restrictions. I (Lnx) have not personally hitched from there, but it looks like a good spot and has an advantage of being open to the entire A40 (the Lynwood Rd bus stop has a separation between the incoming slip road and the main carriageway, so you can only be picked up by traffic emerging from North Circular Road, or Lynwood Road).
Last verified: 26th January 2008
Option 3: A40 Junction (Hillingdon)
Take the Piccadilly or Metropolitan Line tube to Hillingdon (zone 6). As you exit the tube station and go to the end of walkway, turn right and walk until you reach the big traffic light-controlled crossroads of 'Long Lane' and 'Western Avenue' (NOT the A40 Western Avenue). Cross the road, then turn right and continue to the roundabout, whose primary exit is the slip-road to A40. Stand on the grass next to of the hatched area - the hatched area is a good and legal place for a vehicle to stop. The area is also well-lit which makes it a perfect place to hitch at night.
It is advisable to have a sign saying "Oxford" or something, as a lot of traffic leaves M40 at junction 1a to continue on M25.
There is also an Oxford Tube coach stop in Western Avenue/Freezeland Way nearby. If you happen to get really stuck (which I think you won't - I waited only about 12 minutes for a ride on an evening during a post-Christmas season) and only need to get to Oxford, this might be an alternative.
Last verified: 28th October 2010. I took this advice to travel from London to Oxford in October 2010, and it worked very well: I didn't reach the roadside until 21:00, so the world beyond the streetlights was utterly dark, but still got a ride within half an hour. A good spot to travel Northbound from London.
North towards Luton, Milton Keynes, (The East Midlands), Northampton, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds
Option 1: Motorway service station London Gateway
Take Northern Line tube to Edgware, and then walk 2.5km: Turn right out of the station onto 'Station Road'. Follow the road along, it turns into 'Hale Lane', keep going, then turn left onto 'Selvage Lane' and keep going, you will then go over a bridge over the M1 and come to a big roundabout 'Apex Corner'. Go down into the subway under the roundabout, and come out on the A1 ('Barnet Way), just by the petrol station. Turn left just behind the petrol station onto 'Ellesmere Avenue', this road runs parallel to the high way. Keep walking until you come to a road on your left with a big sign with three symbols, one of which would translate as 'no access to anyone except authorised vehicles' and clearly goes under the motorway. Walk down it and you come to London Gateway Services.
Last verified: March 2016 - Takes a long time to get there, but got a lift in 20 seconds past Luton. May 2016 - waited 30 minutes at the exit; good place to hitch. December 2016 - Took only about 20 minutes at the exit.
Cost of public transport: £3.10 (off peak) from zone 1.
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Option 2: Staples Corner
Take Northern Line tube to Brent Cross (zone 3). From there you follow the 'North Circular Road' westwards for about 1km (along Tilling Road), and you get to the bottom of the M1 (don't get confused with the A1 which also passes nearby, although if this road is more convenient for your destination, you can also hitch from here). After passing the shopping centre, you should see the M1. It is possible to hitch at the first entrance you see, which is the traffic coming off the 'Westbound North Circular' (there is a bus stop just after the slip road joins the North Circular, and a small lay-by further on - both adjacent to the lane for M1). You can also hitch at the traffic lights (see spot on the map to the right) or on the hard shoulder on the on-ramp that slopes up right after those traffic lights.
Last verified: 18th August, 2014
Cost of public transport: £2.80 (off-peak) from zone 1.
- This place seems to work really well. I get the bus to brent cross and then its about a 10 min walk to this spot. However, it tends to go slightly quicker if you walk 2 minutes more around the roundabout (Staples Corner West ). You'll see a railway bridge, go under it and there is a bus stop beside a car repair place (the bus stop itself is near Adrian Avenue and is by the Western side of the railway bridge). It doesn't look like such a great place, but it works quite well if you have a sign (worked for Lnx - a 5-minute wait in the dark!). (Also worked for Boribariii, took only 5 minutes with a sign at 1pm on 06/06/2017).
- This is a very good place, however one user recommends right next to the car repair center ( on the right of it )there is entrance for the M1 Motorway which is slightly going upwards before meeting the highway. You may go up and make sure to stand atleast 100 meters away from the point where cars enter on this road from the redlight behind, since they need some time to spot you and there is plenty of space for them to stop ,if you have a sign that says M1. Worked quite well on 18th Aug 2014. If you are too close to the entrance incline they will zoom past by you so ensure you walk up a bit and give them enough distance to see you and your sign.
- Important *** : If you are getting a lift from here, ensure that the driver is driving to at least the next service station (Toddington), which is approximately 50-60 miles from this spot.
- In case you are going to Edinburgh: once you are at any of the service stations on the motorway, you will find a lot of people going in that direction, i.e. going to Leeds and further. Somewhere north of Leeds, the M1 becomes the A1(M) highway; however, ensure that once you are on this highway going in the direction of Newcastle, and then Edinburgh, you do not get out at the last petrol station before Newcastle. Get out at the 2nd, 3rd or 4th last petrol station before Newcastle, but not the last one. The second last one has a huge McD and more long-distance traffic than the last one, which has a Burger King and Costa and is just a small petrol station with mostly local traffic from Newcastle coming for petrol. A hitchhiking couple got stuck here and could not find a ride for 13 hours beyond Newcastle. So the rule of thumb here is: do not get out at the last petrol station before the city, unless it is a McD. Ensure whoever is taking you drops you off only at a petrol station and not on a country road. After Newcastle, there is only one major/decent petrol station in a town called Alnwick (pronounced 'Annick'). Try finding someone who is going to Edinburgh directly from one of the earlier good McD stations. A better alternative route to Edinburgh is to take the M1, M6, A74(M), and A707; this way, you won't have to bother about McD and Newcastle.
North towards, Stevanage, Peterborough, East Midlands, The East, Newcastle, The North East
(See information for M1, Option 2 - Staples Corner. Hold the sign saying "A1 North". There must be better places to get onto A1, though...)*
This is untested, but should work. Take the tube (Northern Line) to High Barnet, here take the 84 bus to South Mimms services, at the junction between the M25 and A1(M). One user tried this, and thinks the junction is too big, and the traffic too fast, for this to be a good spot. Another user spent 5 unsuccessful hours at South Mimms trying to get the A1(M) North, most people aren't likely to stop at the first service station on their way out of the city.
Northwest towards Cambridge, London Stansted, Norwich, The East, East Coast
Take the Central Line tube to Redbridge (zone 4). Once at the station, turn right and use the subways to cross under the A406. Once on the slip road for the A406 (extending Eastern Avenue), there is a great place for vehicles to pull over. The spot is located just next to the bridge over a canal or river. The traffic will not be coming from A406, but it really is a good place to hitch a ride. It is strongly recommended that you bring a M11 sign with you. Personal experience was that even with this sign, a few cars will stop heading towards other destinations.
Last verified: March 2012
Cost of public transport: £2.80 (off-peak) from zone 1. TIP: To get to the same part of london, you can also take the Central line to Roding Valley. Here there are no barriers as you exit so if you managed to get into the underground system for free, you can get out for free. It's about a half an hour walk to the start of the M11. For getting into the underground system, you can for example get in at Finsbury Park where there are no barriers either. There are also other stations.
Southwest towards The South West, Basingstoke, Salisbury, Southampton, Porstmouth, Dorset, Bournemouth
M3 is not an easy motorway to get to, although the following worked for Lnx:
Option 1: Lay-by on A316 near Kempton Park
Take the train from London Waterloo in the direction of Shepperton and exit at Kempton Park station. Exit the station (do not go on the footbridge), cross the racecourse car park and turn right into Park Road, which goes into the slip road coming off A316. When you reach the A316 itself, walk on the pavement in the opposite direction to the traffic. You will immediately see a lay-by (chances are some lorries will be parked there). You can hitch from there. The position is not perfect, as the road is going downhill, and the traffic is traveling very fast (50-70mph).
Last verified: 27 March 2008
Cost of public transport: One ticket/travelcard to zone 6 + one ticket from Hampton to Kempton Park railway station. Kempton Park station is just outside London Transport Zones (Hampton, the previous station on the Waterloo-Shepperton line, is in zone 6), but it has no ticket barriers and the chances of meeting a ticket inspector between Hampton and Kempton Park should be quite remote.
Option 2: A316 Junction with A312
Take the train on the same line as above, and get off at Fulwell. Walk south on Wellington Road, and then turn right onto Park Road. Follow this road as it joins the A312 for about 1.5 km in total. Just below the A316 bridge, which you will see ahead of you as you follow the A312, there is a roundabout. The first left turn on this roundabout is an on-ramp for the A316. There is a bus stop and a pedestrian crossing here, and traffic is going uphill, and so is quite slow. One user waited here for about 30 minutes with a sign saying "M3".
Southwest towards Woking, Guildford, Porstmouth, Worthing A3/ , & A24
Possible site along the A3 would be located between Putney Heath/Roehampton and New Malden/West Wimbledon, New Malden offering the best opportunities
|Hitchwiki could use your help to complete this article. You can help by expanding it.|
The A24 is best reached directly in Leatherhead outside the M25, there is a on-ramp to the M25 as well
South towards Brighton
Take a train from Victoria, Clapham Junction, or London Bridge station to East Croyden (zone 6). From here, take a train to Coulsdon South. Turn left out of the station on Brighton Road and walk 600m to the roundabout. Nearly all the traffic goes to the M23 from here.
Cost of public transport: £3.80 (off-peak) (£2.70 off-peak from Clapham Junction) (June 2016)
East towards The East, Essex, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Southend-on-Sea A/12
Take Hammersmith & City Line or District Line to Bow Road (Zone 2). Walk east for ≈700m along the Bow Road to the roundabout junction with the A12. There are traffic lights here, and a McDonalds across the road. Hitch on the slip road heading north on the A12. You can get lifts from here to Ipswich or Colchester. I waited 20 minutes. It was OK. There is plenty of room for people to stop as there is a bus stop nearby.
Cost of public transport: £2.40 (off-peak from Zone 1)
Paid transport to and from airports can be expensive. Hitching can be a good alternative. The exits to the airports can also be good places to get lifts to other places. For example, if you get stuck on the western part of the M25, try to get to Heathrow, from there people are going all over the country. If you are coming from Brighton, and trying to get around London, you may get a ride quicker to where you want to go if you get dropped at Gatwick Airport than at Pease Pottage services.
Transiting Greater London
Since nearly all the motorway networks lead towards London, you probably might have to go through that urban area somehow to reach your destination. The M25 is the ring motorway that surrounds the city and connects with every possible motorway network in all directions. It's recommended to find a lift past London as it's somewhat hard to find somebody going off the M25 in your direction from any of the service stations on the M25. Be careful: there are only 3 service stations, and the entire western section has none at all. It may also be possible to head around the M25 from junction to junction. However, the only problem is that a few of the junctions are really bad in the south, and you can get really stuck as a large part of the traffic is only going round the ring a short distance. If if you do get stuck, try making a sign M25 east or west. So consider waiting for a ride that actually takes you to the road you want to be on, rather than just stopping somewhere at random on the M25.
South Mimms Services
South Mimms services are in Potters Bar in the northeast of London and are actually just off the M25 at the junction of the A1(M). For some reason, although it's a big services, you can get stuck here for hours. One option, as ever, is to ask people where they're headed... but there are so many directions possible that it could take a long time to find someone headed your way. Standing at the exit of the services is unlikely to work, for whatever reason. Several reports of hours of waiting here mean that you probably need to try something else. If you're going towards the west, you can stand at the ridiculous entrance to the west slip road onto the M25. Although insane, you should be able to get a fast ride out. Have a big sign and someone should be able to at least take you further down the M25 to a better junction, or directly to where you're going, be it to the west or down to Sussex. Any information on going east?
Clacket Lane Services
Clackett Lane services are located in the south of London and are possibly the best place to get lifts on the M25. There is a bridge here to cross from one side to the other, which can be useful to know if, for example, you are trying to hitch from the M4 to Brighton but get a lift with someone who is going to Dover.
Take the train from Victoria to Bromley South. Then take bus 246 (timetable here) south in the direction of Westerham Green and get off at Pilgrims Way. Walk west along Pilgrims Way and then Pilgrims Lane for ≈1.4km until you reach Clackett Lane. Turn left (south) and walk for ≈1km until you reach the entrance to the service station (heading east). Continue walking along Clackett Lane for another 400m over the motorway M25 bridge to reach the entrance for the services heading west. You can see where you're going on a map here. Where it says "Clacket Wood" is the service station. There is also a street view of this area on google maps.
Clacket Lane is an excellent place to hitch to Brighton (Westbound) or Dover (Eastbound) and also fairly good for most other directions as it's a busy station. Best thing is to stand outside the main doors into the station and ask everyone that comes out if they are going your way ("excuse me, are you by any chance going to Brighton?")
There are several options when it comes to finding a place to sleep. If the worst prevails and you're without a place, you're still not too bad off. Central London is relatively safe and you probably wont be bothered sleeping outside.
Its quite possible to sleep out in London in considerable privacy despite its gigantic population of 10 million. Go North East to Trent Park (Piccadilly Line Northbound, second to last stop before Cockfosters - i.e. Oakwood Station). Find the directions for the university (Middlesex) campus and walk (or take the free bus) up the hill. Beside it and beyond the lake are quite a few miles of woodland and and it is incredibly beautiful. Jason lived here for 7 months during his final year of university. Be careful with park wardens, they eventually discovered him during the last few weeks of his studies. Build camouflage from ferns if staying for long. People are unlikely to be your greatest threat...dogs are. Dogs! A lot of people walk them here but you can find amazing places if you search hard enough. And if you search really really hard, you'll find a tree with the dates of the past dweller's residence...;)
Also, outside this station (Trent Park), there is a Greek Bakery. Behind it lie huge sacks of bread every night. Please go. Its crazy that this could possibly be wasted every night.
London used to have an abundance of squats, but it has recently become more difficult. While it is still legal to squat commercial property (warehouses, offices, shops), it is illegal to squat residential buildings (if you admit you are doing this to the cops, you might be sentenced to jail time.) For all information on squatting in the UK: the Advisory Service for Squatters is helpful for people that are planning to find a place to live and cannot really help you find a place to crash. It's located at the Freedom Bookstore in Whitechapel and is another great place to meet squatters as well as get online for free. The address is Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel, London, England, E1 7QX. (Tel. 020-32160099) That being said, there are still a good couple of squats all around London. Most squats are places where people live and go about their normal business, so don't expect too much from them. Perhaps it would be good to find some friendly squatters by word of mouth or on couchsurfing or similar. Don't worry about the negative connotations associated with squats. They generally aren't crackhouses or scabies-infested punk hangouts. People of all types squat in London and their homes are usually very nice. They are especially helpful if you're planning to stick around for a while, but can also be great if you're just passing through. Zactalk ended up with a squat to sleep in on his first night, and in Mayfair of all places! There are still some remnants of squatting communities in North London, North East London, and South London. If you want to meet some people, go to the practical squatting nights taking place every week (alternating): http://www.squatter.org.uk/for-new-squatters/practical-squatting-nights/ For more info on social centers in London, check out Autonomous London. Generally though, it has become harder to track squats down or just pop up, as there are fewer, and more and more evictions, which means less space. This should in no way discourage you, however!
Cheap and free food abounds in London.
Hari Krishna offer free food from several locations in London at lunchtime: outside SOAS by Russel Square from 12:15 to 14:00(Monday thru Saturday), for example. Expect to queue for 30 minutes, arrive early to guarantee a fill - the food does run out. Otherwise...
If you want a free, warm meal closer to the end of the day: from Thursday to Sunday there is a food market on Brick Lane, next to the vintage market (the one with the vinyl records store). Try going there about 18:00-19:00. Most vendors will be closing their booths and throwing food away. Just go up to them and ask(it's handy to have your own container). It's mostly Asian cuisine therefore delicious.
In the UK, the term for eating food that would otherwise be thrown away, is called skipping. Lots of people do it, all from people that come from poor countries and see all the food that goes to waist, to people that are political in there way of living. Many people, especially in the squat scene live totally out of food from the bins...
Plenty of places throw out food at closing time. Always check the bags out front of Pret a Mangers and Benjy's at 17:00-19:00. If you feel up to it, you can even go inside when they are closing shop and explain that you're homeless and pick out all the food you want instead of getting it off the sidewalk. Feel no shame, you're helping to curb wastefulness! (That being said, Pret a Mangers doesn't give any food to random people, just to "charity".)
The Coffee Republic on Great Marlborough Street near the Oxford Circle and Carnaby Street is reported to put out garbage bags with totally normal food--boiled potatoes, sandwiches, etc. every evening around 20:00 on weekdays and 19:00 on weekends. The sandwich company "Eat" throw away lots of stuff everyday all over town. Have a look in there bins or outside the shops on the street. The bakery 'Paul' in Blackfriars and Paddington throw out a lot of cakes, all extremely luxurious and scrumptious. From Blackfriars station walk up the main road, and Paul's will be on your right after a few minutes. If you are into Sushi, try one of the many Wasabi places in the city when they close at 21:00 or 21:30. They always leave food outside, and there are always loads of people picking it up, but you'll get some if you're on time.
The most luxurious place to skip is always Waitrose. Places like Sainsburys, Marks and Spencers (generally difficult to skip!), Tesco and so on have a marking system on their packed food that says when the food should be thrown away and when it should be eaten before. The gap between this days are often two days and you can still have it more or less a week more depending on what it is. Most bins are secured by fences, cameras, etc. Don't mind them too much, it is rare that they'll call the cops on you as long as you don't "destroy property".
Good places to try in Hackney are E.A.T., Iceland, supermarket metros or locals and markets.
If you're going to self cater, stick to Sainsbury's and Tesco rather than the convenient Off-Licenses for better prices. If you are a bit out of Central London, you might as well look for Lidl, Morrisons, Netto or Asda. Anyhow with a decent and wise grocery, you can get your grocery for nearly a week for about 10-15 pounds at any of the mentioned supermarket with decent, fresh and healthy food (to cook). Be aware though that these supermarkets are not in any sense "ethical". They are wiping out local shops, taking monopoly on feeding us, destroying the environment and throwing away food every day that could feed hundreds of people. It's better to eat out of their bins.
If you get tired of peanut butter sandwiches or want to fill up for the weekend, try one of the many £5 all-you-can-eat Thai Buffets which are always always totally vegan! (some good all-you-can-eat start at £3,50). Go early, they get more expensive in the evening. While downtown, you can also get a '6-inch sandwich of the day' at Subway for 2 pounds.
The markets in Camden Town have cheap food around 17:00, especially in the Lock Market where, if you walk for a few minutes past all the initial food courts, you can easily find dishes of noodles for GBP 2.
In Westminster, there's a public library which you can use for free Internet access. You might need to register yourself, though, and that process (and waiting for the next available computer) can take quite some time.
Go to the Apple store (on Regent St. near Oxford Circus), ask any local around Piccadilly or Regent or Oxford street and they should be able to tell you the exact location.