Hi my lovely readers!
London must be one of the most visited cities in the world. Millions of visitors grace the streets every year and sometimes it feels like there are more tourist in the streets of London than locals!
And of course, it is obvious why so many people come every year. London has literally everything: culture, history, it is a culinary heaven, nightlife, the Royals and the list goes on.
Visitors can fly into one of the five London airports, yes really five! There is Heathrow in the West, Luton in the North, Stansted in the East and Gatwick in the South. And of course right in the middle of the city is London City Airport. The choice is yours!
In this post I want to provide you with a rough overview and some guidance on how to get into London from the five different airports!
Heathrow is the biggest and busiest airport of them all, with easy connections into the city centre. You can pick between the following modes of transport to get to your hotel:
- Heathrow Express
- London Underground
Heathrow Express takes you right to London Paddington in just 15 min. It is the fastest way to reach London and trains run frequently more or less every 15 min. Ticket prices vary, but expect to pay around £40 +/- for a return ticket. You can buy tickets easily at the airport or in advance online through the Heathrow Express website.
The second and cheapest way to reach the city is to take the London Underground. From Heathrow, you can take the Picadilly Line (the blue line) into Central London. The Picadilly Line also connects to varies other London Underground Lines so you can interchange easily.
Before you use the tube, you are required to buy an Oyster Card. This is the main transportation card/ticket used in London or you can pay with a contactless credit or debit card. Although for tourists I would recommend using an Oyster Card, check out my guide to Getting Around London – Oyster Card for some guidance.
There are also local busses departing from Heathrow, but these are mostly used by locals, I use them 🙂 to get back home as they do not go into Central London. However, if your hotel is located outside the town centre and closer to the airport, this may be an option. The fare is only £1,50 and you can use as many busses within one hour of touching in as you like.
Lastly, there are several coaches such as National Express that take you into the city. These are great when you arrive or leave very early or late as these run almost 24/7. However, traffic is really bad in London so plan in some extra time in case the traffic is jammed.
Personally, I always take the tube as this is the most convenient and cheap way more or less of getting to the airport.
Luton mainly serves routes within Europe and the UK that are serviced by low cost airlines. It can be reached by:
- Bus and Coach
Trains run to/from several key locations in London such as London St. Pancras International, London Blackfriars and London Bridge, just to name a few. The journey from Luton Airport Parkway Station to London St. Pancras International takes around 35 min. Tickets can be bought from National Rail as an example.
The train station is not connected directly to Luton airport though. You will have to take a shuttle-bus to reach, which takes around 10 min. The fare for a one way train ticket can start from around £11,00.
The other option to get into London is by bus or coach. Many providers such as Green Line and National Express have frequent services and it takes around 50 min – 1 hour to reach Central London. The coaches stop in several locations, for example Baker Street or London Victoria. Tickets are around £15 +/- single way depending on when and how far you travel.
The other popular airport to fly into, specifically from European countries is Stansted. This airport can be reached by:
The Stansted Express offers regular train service into London. It is the fastest option, taking you directly to Liverpool Street Station in 47 min. Trains run every 15 min and a single fare ticket can start from around £15+/-.
Another popular choice of getting into the city is to take the coach. The coach station is just located outside and in front of the airport terminal, a short 2 min walk away. Many providers take you to key central locations as well as train and underground stations such as London Paddington, Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool Street and Kings Cross/St. Pancras.
I personally have used National Express, Easybus and Terravision a few times. I find National Express and Easybus more reliable though as I had problems once with Terravision and as a result missed my flight.
Gatwick is the second biggest airport for London and if you are coming from far abroad it is most likely that you will either land in Heathrow or Gatwick.
The airport has been connected to the Oyster Card network in recent years, which makes it even easier to get into London by train. The modes of transportation that you can chose from include:
The easiest way to get to/from Gatwick is by train. The airport is not far away at all and you can get into London Victoria without any changes in around 40 min using the regional trains. There are only a few stops in between, which makes it a fast journey overall.
The trains from Gatwick go via Clapham Junction, which is one of the biggest interchanging rail stations in London. From there you can change to other trains that go to London Waterloo for instance as well as the London Overground.
The other train option is Gatwick Express. This is the non-stop service from Gatwick to London Victoria and takes 30 min. Trains run every 15 min. Anytime return tickets are starting from around £35 +/-.
As already mentioned, Gatwick is connected to the Oyster network now so there is no need to buy a separate train ticket anymore. You can touch in and out using the Oyster Card.
Of course, the same applies as for the other airports, you can also take a coach. This option is little cheaper, but of course takes much longer and you would only be saving maybe around £5 each way.
LONDON CITY AIRPORT
Last but not least we have London City Airport, located close to the London Docklands in the eastern part of the London.
City Airport is rather small and flights go to Europe and UK destinations as well. Flights tend to cost a bit more from City Airport, I guess due to the premium location of the airport and its close proximity to the ExCel Centre, which is popular with business people and day visitors.
As this airport is in London, you can reach it easily by:
- DLR (Docklands Light Railway)
The DLR runs from Bank Station as well as Tower Bridge and operates in the east of London. You can take the DLR to the airport and get of at the station London City Airport.
Depending on where you are staying and what time of the day you are travelling, it might be easier and often necessary to take the bus.
To check journey and running times for busses and the DLR, the TFL Journey Planner is a good tool.