European Trip Review: Getting To and From London Airports

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European trip to London and Dublin: Planning

US Airways Envoy Suites to London

Getting To and From London Airports (this post)

Gatwick to Heathrow:

Once we landed at London Gatwick after our overnight flight from the East Coast, all we wanted was a little more sleep. We knew there would be some delay in getting to the hotel since we were landing at Gatwick, but our hotel for the night was near Heathrow (since we were flying out of Heathrow for Dublin the next morning). We decided to take the National Express bus from Gatwick to Heathrow. We could have opted for taking the train through London and then back out to Heathrow, but frankly were a bit too tired to do anything more than just sit and have someone deliver us where we needed to be.

The National Express bus runs about 100 times per day, and was £25 each for a one-way. If there were more of us traveling that day, it would have been £17 each for three people or £15 each for four or more people. We also could have opted for a taxi, but I have read that can be upwards of £98 for the approximately one hour journey between airports, so that was a bit pricy for our taste.

There were a total of about four of us on the bus to Heathrow, so there was ample room to spread out. The bus was clean and departed on-time. However, it was snowing outside and we got stuck in a massive traffic jam due to a car accident. It took us about three hours to get from Gatwick to Heathrow as a result, so thank goodness we weren’t trying to catch a connecting flight anytime soon.

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Heathrow Hotel Hoppa Bus:

Once we got to Heathrow we were dropped off at Terminal 5 and caught the “Hotel Hoppa” bus to our hotel for the night, the Sheraton Heathrow. We had to wait about 15 minutes for that hotel bus…which did start to get a bit cold. You need to pay attention as different Hotel Hoppa buses serve different hotels. Unlike in the US, there are no complimentary airport shuttles for most of the airport hotels at Heathrow. So, be prepared to pay £4.50 one-way for the Hotel Hoppa bus or £8 for a round trip ticket. . Up to two children can travel for free with a paying adults. There are some other city buses that folks use to save on the Hotel Hoppa, but we didn’t opt for that this time. It is a little silly to have to pay about $12 USD round trip to get to your airport hotel, but London isn’t cheap, so if $12 is make or break, I suggest a different destination…or just stay at the Hilton London Heathrow since it does have a complimentary shuttle from Terminal 5, or the Hotel Sofitel which is connected via a walkway to Terminal 5.

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Heathrow to Central London:

After our Dublin trip we returned to Heathrow and needed to get to our hotel in central London. Again you have many options. The least expensive option is to take the Piccadilly Line. I believe a one-way fare into central London is around £5 and it should take less than an hour to get into central London, but it isn’t substantially less than an hour depending on where you want to go. We didn’t take this route on this trip, but used this method on previous trips.

This time we wanted to try something different so we took the Heathrow Express Train which advertized on-board internet and a less than 15 minute journey into Paddington Station. It cost us a hefty £20 each for a one-way ticket, but you can get round trips for two people in advance for just £50 total. Children under 5 are free and children 5-15 are £10 each way.

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The train was extremely fast and very clean, but the on-board internet worked for maybe a minute on our journey. I would not hesitate to use it again if time was tight and Paddington Station was convenient for where we wanted to go next. I’m not sure if it is worth the premium otherwise, but we had a good experience.

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On our final return to Heathrow to fly home to the US we had a last minute change of flight plans that required us to kick it into overdrive to get to the airport. So, we just grabbed a cab from the hotel that ended up costing us about £85. That is extremely expensive (about $130 USD), but we were in a rush, and there was no traffic early on a Sunday morning. I wasn’t timing the trip, but I would guess it took about 40 minutes or so from the Andaz Liverpool to Heathrow door to door. If we were worried about traffic, then we might have been better off taking the Express Train back to the airport from Paddington.

While we are talking about transportation related issues – I do want to point out that in almost all cases I was able to pay with a regular old US credit card with no chip and pin or chip and signature technology.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was our primary choice as it charged no foreign transaction fee and gave us 2x points on travel related expenses (which usually includes most forms of ground transportation).  The only exceptions were the Hotel Hoppa bus that just accepted cash, and when we tried to buy a ticket at a Tube station when we weren’t able to use our credit cards or the pounds we had pulled out from the ATM.  That was pretty annoying, but the fix is to just have an Oyster Card with money on it (which I purchased from a machine at Heathrow on our previous trip to the UK).  Otherwise, our normal old US credit cards did work for us, but we had cash available as a back-up.

While I have been to London a few times now, I certainly don’t consider myself to know everything there is to know about getting to and from the airports, so please chime in with your additional suggestions in the comments section!

 

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Comments

  1. You should have taken Uber from central London to Heathrow instead of a cab. It can be as cheap as 60 pounds, depending on where you start in London, in a nice black car.

  2. I love the Heathrow Express and take it all the time when I’m going to London for work; however it’s really not worth the cost if it’s my own $$ and I’m on a personal trip. The tube (Picadilly line) is just fine and doesn’t really take that much longer (can be as little as 45 minutes non-rush hour). I don’t recall the cost but I think it’s around 5 or 6 GBP. Plus you have a ton more options as you don’t need to get yourself to Paddington to catch the Express (which of course adds to the cost of the Express train).

  3. If you have more than a backpack and a carryon the tube is not a good option. so you are genrally down to a cab or the express and a cab from paddington depending on where your hotel is located. if the hotel is 20minutes or less from paddington it is cheaper and faster to go that way.

    three in a cab with a bunch of luggaage is a challange so if there are 3-4 in your group i have heard a car service is often the best option.

  4. I took the tube from Heathrow (Picadilly line) with a change at Hoburn to the Andaz Liverpool Street and each time it took one hour. I bought a travel card that you can reload so the total round trip on the tube was about $14.

  5. We took the tube to heathrow at morning rush hour with 5 people (3 adults, 2 kids), 3 suitcases, 2 carryon bags and a stroller. You’ve just gotta be fast and organized to get everyone on. Often taking the tube is more convenient to where you are located than getting to paddington first.

  6. When taking the tube into and around London, the best and cheapest method is to buy an Oyster prepaid card (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14836.aspx). You can buy them with a credit card at a machine in the Heathrow terminal station (but only 1 per day) or at the ticket counter in the same station (as many as you want). The wait to buy one can sometimes be long, but once you have the card, it is much more convenient to use for your travel (just tap on the reader at the turnstile). Also, the fares are lower than if you pay by cash each time with daily maximum caps if you make many trips. There is a £5 deposit required for each card (plus whatever prepay amount you want on the card originally), but at the end of your trip, you can return them at the tube ticket counter at Heathrow and you get your deposit and any unused balance back.

  7. Hao, I embarrassingly have to admit I have yet to hop on the Uber bandwagon. I so rarely need a car that I just haven’t done it. On my list though and thanks for the tip!
    Patrick, it is much more expensive, that’s for sure!
    David, agree.
    Michael, good tip. Thanks!
    Jamie, eek that sounds stressful! Glad it worked out and I agree getting to Paddington can be a pain from some locations.
    romsdeals, I like to call it “fancy on the cheap”. 😉
    Phil, absolutely!

  8. In London there can be a big difference between a ‘black’ cab and a private hire cars which work on a fixed rate rather than on the meter. Your hotel can always call you one or you can just look up for local companies on the internet (or at the front door of virtually any restaurant. For getting to and from LHR or Gatwick it can be dramatically less the black cab rate (say 40 instead of 80 pounds.

  9. @Cathy – thanks for the tip re batransfer.com. I’m headed to UK in the summer and their rates are much cheaper than the car service I’ve been using before

  10. In February, I was in London for a day before 9pm connection to bangkok and chose to buy one way peak hour tube ticket @ £5.5 to central London and buy another off peak one day ticket (unlimited use anytime after 9:30am) @£8.0 for rest of the day including return trip to Heathrow. This inexpensive option takes 50 minutes to Piccadilly station.

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