London Heathrow Airport is one of the biggest airports in the world.
For years only Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US and Beijing Capital International Airport in China were able to boast more passenger numbers. However, over the past 12 months both Dubai International Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport in Japan have been able to overtake Heathrow.
Over the course of 2014, more than 73 million people passed through Heathrow as they came to visit London or ventured further afield. The sheer amount of flights that arrive and depart from this incredible airfield is truly astounding and if you are arriving on a long-haul journey you will more than likely be touching down at Heathrow.
Like both Gatwick and Luton, Heathrow is set quite a distance from central London. Only London City Airport, which is situated in the Royal Docks area, is in the heart of the capital. Heathrow sits in the London Borough of Hillingdon and is around 14 miles away from the centre of the city.
While many of you will already have a hire car arranged, there are superb transport links between the UK’s largest airport and the capital. The last thing you need after a long flight is to be confronted with the stressful experience of trying to get out of the airport to your hotel, so you need to be aware of what you need to do.
Once disembarking the plane you just want to get to the hotel as quickly as possible and unwind after what could have been a long journey. Here is our guide to getting from Heathrow to London with no unforeseen problems.
Heathrow Airport is served by its very own train station and boasts three different options for travel into the city or further afield – RailAir, Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect. The train station itself is for Terminals 1, 2 and 3 while there are separate stations for both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.
RailAir is designed for people staying slightly outside of London. This route runs from the airport to stations in Feltham, Reading and Watford Junction. When arriving at the various stations within the airport there is plenty of information on the platforms and the concourse while staff are on hand to provide any other advice you may need.
If you are just heading into the capital then you can hop on the Heathrow Connect service. This route takes you to London Paddington station in just 25 minutes, calling at Heathrow Central (for Terminals 1, 2, 3), Terminal 4, Hayes, Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing and Ealing Broadway. Should you be coming to Terminal 5 then it takes a little longer.
Trains run every 30 minutes and you can buy a single ticket to Paddington for £9.90 or an open return from £19.80. This provides a very simple and cost-effective way of getting from the airport to your hotel.
If you are in a hurry, or have a few extra pennies then jump on the Heathrow Express. This is the fastest way to reach central London with trains taking just 15 minutes to reach the heart of the capital. Tickets can be purchased either online or via your mobile phone, Heathrow Express takes the hassle out of airport transfers.
This non-stop service boasts a First Class section, more legroom and a selection of free newspapers and magazines. There is a wireless internet service which is free throughout the train while mobile signal is uninterrupted on the entire journey. So sit back and relax as you make your way to London.
Another option for travelling into central London is by the Underground. This provides you with a bit more flexibility as to where you need to be. So well connected is the Tube network that you can get catch a service to pretty much outside your 5 star hotels. However, it takes a little longer than either the Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express.
There are three Underground stations which serve Heathrow – one for Terminals 1, 2 and 3, one for Terminal 4 and the newly opened Terminal 5. Services from here take between 50 minutes and an hour to reach central London. Tubes run every five minutes during peak times and every nine minutes at off-peak times and weekends.
All of Heathrow’s stations sit on the Piccadilly line which calls at the likes of South Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Finsbury Park and King’s Cross St Pancras. When arriving at the station you will need to purchase a Travelcard Zone 6 if you plan on heading into the centre.
If you are unable to catch either the train or Underground service there are special bus routes that you can hop that will take you into the heart of London. These can be even more handy if you are heading to a part of London, or the south-east, that is not accessible by either form of rail transport.
Local services by London Buses, First Berkshire & The Thames Valley and other companies run buses from the airport to nearby towns and suburbs of the capital. Other places such as Watford, St Albans and Harlow are served by the 724 Green Line express bus, Croydon is accessible via the London Buses X26 while High Wycombe uses Carousel Buses.
Should you have a late flight and land after the trains and Tubes have stopped running then you can catch the night bus N9 into central London. This service terminates at Aldwych.
Heathrow Airport has teamed up with coach operator National Express to provide a shuttle-esque service between the airport and central London. The coaches set off from the bus station between Terminals 1, 2 and 3 – only a few minutes walk from the terminals themselves.
The route takes you right into the heart of the city and drops off at Victoria coach station where you can catch trains, Tubes or buses to the rest of the city or even further afield. National Express is currently the only coach provider that has a direct link between Heathrow Airport and other main cities.
It also operates a Hotel Hoppa service which visits 21 hotels around Heathrow Airport for just £4 each way from door to door. If you are in a large group and are planning to extend your journey beyond London you save an average of 25 per cent on selected routes between the airport and the likes of Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Newport, Swansea, Warwick or Wolverhampton.
Another option is getting a taxi to your hotel from the airport, be warned however as this can be a hugely expensive ordeal. Done properly you can go from arrivals to the reception of your hotel without having to pay through the nose. Over 600 taxi companies serve Heathrow Airport and the surrounding areas so you will have no trouble finding one.