You’re meeting up with friends in the city centre. Maybe you’re going shopping or you have tickets to a gig at a central venue. Maybe you’ve recently gotten your licence and just want to drive around alone for the first time.

What’s making you anxious? Chances are, everything! Maybe the traffic, maybe roundabouts or simply using the clutch. But one thing that’s nervewracking even for experienced drivers is parking in cities.

The feeling of regret you get after realising you’ve jumped at a chance to parallel park on a busy road but there’s no way you can fit into the space. The sweat dripping down your forehead when you’re trying to squeeze into a small car park space with a handful of cars queuing behind you.

We’ve all been there. So, if you tend to worry about parking in tight spaces or overall having to park in a city, check out our tips to park safely and successfully without breaking a sweat.

1. Practice – over and over and over again!

Nobody loves parking when they first start taking driving lessons. Trying to fit into a space between two cars, when you’re not used to handling a car in the first place, can be terrifying. So what do they make you do in driving school? Practice, practice and practice!

The only way you can get better at parking is by practising. So by all means, don’t let yourself get too uncomfortable and start avoiding parking. Go out with a more experienced driver and learn, use empty car parks to practice or pay for extra lessons – do what it takes to prepare for the real thing.

2. Master different types of parking

When you practice parking, don’t forget there are different skills needed to squeeze into different types of parking spaces.

How to do parallel parking

  1. Take a moment to evaluate if your car can actually fit into the space you’re looking at. What you need is usually about a third of your car’s length of extra space.
  2. Indicate and pull up next to the car in front of the space – all you need to do is to align your mirrors to get this right.
  3. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the left and start reversing. It’ll take you a few times to know how quickly you need to loosen the wheel.
  4. Keep reversing and turning, using your mirrors to check your position in relation to the kerb and the car behind and in front of you. Don’t forget watching out for cars passing you too.
  5. When you’re close to the kerb, centre your wheel and adjust the position of your car.
  6. Some people find it helpful to cut this down into stages, like above, and some people learn the best by using their intuition and just giving it a go.

How to do bay parking

You probably don’t need to break this down into steps, it’s much easier to bay park than parallel park! Make sure you take enough space to turn into the parking space within the white lines; this often requires turning your car away from the space first before turning in.

Follow the lines and straighten your wheels properly before you come to a stop. It’s completely acceptable to reverse back or more forward to adjust your position – just make sure you use your mirrors to look for other road users.

3. Plan it

Just like you’d plan a night out, which restaurant to go to or what movie to see, plan your journey and where to park. If you’re heading to an event, check the directions on their website to see the closest parking spaces.

If you’re planning to wing it, get to your destination a bit early and be on stand-by to snatch any opportunity of free space (this is why you need practice beforehand!).

Or you might want to use an app to look for the best place to park your car without wasting your evening looking for a spot. There are many apps to use now, like Parkmobile, Parker or Parkopedia.

4. Prepare to pay

The most painful thing about parking in cities is usually the cost. Some parking spaces might be free or you might need to pay through a parking meter.

The cost of parking varies a lot between cities. London is known to be expensive – it can cost you up to £20 for just 2 hours. Most on-street parking in Newcastle costs about £3 for 2 hours, whereas in Liverpool you’ll get away with £1 per hour on some car parks but pay £8 for 2 hours in others.

On-street parking is priced differently based on emission levels in some cities. Time restrictions also often apply, typically requiring payment from 8.30am to 6.30pm from Monday to Saturday.

5. Find other ways

If you don’t mind walking or taking public transport for part of your journey, just find a parking spot further away (which often is easier). It’s handy if you know the area – perhaps there’s a much less busy street or a free supermarket car park from where you can walk or catch the bus.

Don’t forget about theft – parking in the street often makes you more vulnerable. Car part thefts are on the rise and, especially with high SUVs or 4x4s, parking between other cars or walls can stop thieves from getting access to your parts underneath.

Always be mindful of where and how you park your car. When you’ve found a spot, double check your surroundings – make sure you’re not blocking a driveway or a gate, don’t use bays reserved for people with disabilities and don’t double park.

You’ll usually find the parking rules signposted so read them properly to avoid getting a parking ticket.

Simply hate parking? There’s all kind of technology helping us drive nowadays so if you absolutely hate parking, choose a car with parking assistance. Some of the latest cars will just park for you!