Transportation Options from London Heathrow Airport

When passengers disembark from their flights to London, they first need to clear passport control and collect their luggage. But after that, they must figure out how to get to their onward destination. Most arrive without having researched the various transportation options from London Heathrow to central London or the rest of the United Kingdom. If you have a friend or relative that will pick you up, then you're all set. But for those that must navigate to their destination on their own, we've prepared a summary of the many integrated local and national public transportation options to whisk you away to your final destination.

London Black Cab
Image byAndreas Tusche/Wikimedia
  • Black Cab - Of course, there is the iconic London Black cab, which can take you door-to-door. It costs up to £85 for a single trip and can take approximately 45 minutes to travel between the airport and central London. Despite the price tag, you can save if four passengers are in the same travelling party. Most cabs can seat up to five passengers provided that there is sufficient space for luggage.  Avoid travelling to London on a cab during peak hours as you will be charged more and be stuck in heavy traffic.
  • Mini Cab - One can save even more by booking a minicab in advance. Minicabs cost about £35-40 for a single trip and there is a slight discount for a return trip. Minicabs usually only accept cash in local currency, though a few may take Euros or US Dollars at their discretion. Prices can vary widely if you wish to travel using a cab to other parts of the UK, in which case it is recommended to reserve a minicab.  Although some mini cabs can be hailed on-the-spot, Transport for London advises that this is dangerous. However, you can google minicabs or transfer services from Heathrow Airport to get the necessary phone numbers for reservation or book online. If you are worried about long distance call charges, you can book them when you arrive in London through a pay phone or purchase a local mobile phone sim card.
Heathrow Express Train Interior
Peter Skuce/Wikimedia
  • The Heathrow Express - The fastest way to reach Central London is by train. It will take approximately 15-25 minutes depending on which terminal you are travelling from to get between the airport and London's Paddington station.  If you are flying in to London Heathrow using Philippine Airlines, Malaysia Airlines or Etihad, take note that you will need to take a shuttle train from Terminal 4 to Heathrow Central, which serves terminals 1, 2 and 3. From there, you can wait for the main Heathrow Express train on the same platform. It costs £21 for a single ticket in Express Class but if you are leaving the UK via Heathrow Airport as well, it is recommended to purchase a return ticket as the total fare would only be £34, representing a savings of £8. Business First Class is provided at £29 for a one-way journey and £52 for a return trip. In this class, you get a wider seat, extra legroom, a table, and complimentary newspaper. You can also use the Heathrow Express free-of-charge for travel between terminals provided that you remain in Express Class. If you have a railcard, you can use it here. But in this case, you will need to buy your tickets at a manned ticket office. Complimentary WiFi is also provided throughout the entire train. Though it may seem rather expensive, it is considerably more affordable if there are only one or two passengers, especially if your hotel is within walking distance to Paddington station. Consider that you may need to take a taxi to your hotel from Paddington station but you will still save time anyway.  It is also worthy to note that there are no ticket barriers between the Heathrow Express platforms and the rest of the station at Heathrow or London Paddington stations, but ticket inspectors have a keen eye for fare evaders.  You can purchase a ticket on-board but it will be extremely costly to do so.

Heathrow Express Train
Andrew Butcher/Wikimedia
  • Heathrow Connect - This is another train service that is not as fast as the Heathrow Express. It uses the same platforms as the Heathrow Express at Heathrow Central but only runs once every half hour.  It takes approximately 27 minutes to get to Paddington station with several stops in between.  It costs £9.90 for a single trip but railcard discounts are applicable.  If you are going to get off at an area found in West London such as Ealing Broadway, the Heathrow Connect can be useful.  Ticket barriers are in place at Paddington station.

Heathrow Terminal 1-3 London Underground Station
Image by Simply south/Wikimedia
  • The London Underground - With the exception of the local bus, this is the cheapest way to get between Heathrow and Central London but it is also one of the slowest. It takes about 40-55 minutes on the Piccadilly Line at a cost of £5.70 if using a paper ticket, but this can go as low as £3 if you use an Oyster Card or contactless Visa or Mastercard during off-peak hours. Three stations serve Heathrow Airport on the Piccadilly Line. There is one station for Terminals 1-3, one for Terminal 4, and one for Terminal 5.
  • National Rail - Heathrow is not served by National Rail directly to take you to other parts of the UK.  Instead, you will have to either take the Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect service to Paddington and catch a train there (though Paddington station predominantly serves the West Country and Wales), or take a Rail-Air bus link to other stations.  These Rail-air bus links serve Reading (for the West Country and Wales), Watford Junction (for Birmingham, Manchester, north-west England and Scotland), Woking (for destinations south west of London) and Feltham (for trains to Richmond, Camberley, Bracknell, London Waterloo and Clapham Junction).   
  • Local Buses - This option is best recommended if you are proceeding to an area close to the airport. During the late night and overnight hours, the famous red buses take over tube services. A single ride costs £1.45 but it takes more than an hour to reach the heart of Central London.
National Express Coach
Image by Dave Root/Wikimedia
  • National Express - National Express is the predominant coach service that serves Great Britain. With National Express, you can get to any point in England, Wales and even Scotland. Given that there is no National Rail service that directly travels between Heathrow and other parts of the United Kingdom, National Express coaches would be your best bet to travel directly to a UK city outside London.  It costs as little as £6 to get from Heathrow Central to Victoria Coach station in Central London.  Travel time is similar to a taxi at 40-45 minutes if going to central London.  Keep in mind that you will have added costs of a taxi, bus or tube ride if your hotel is away from the Coach station.  Naturally, it would take considerably longer and be more expensive if headed to other parts of the country.  There are separate busses each serving Heathrow Central (Terminals 1, 2 and 3), Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.  Passengers arriving via Philippine Airlines will have to use the stops 13 and 14 at Terminal 4.  If a passenger arrives at Terminal 4 or 5 but the National Express does not have service between either terminal, then you can take the Heathrow Express between either terminal and Heathrow Central for no extra cost to access a wider array of National Express coach services.
  • Domestic Flights - This is not necessarily a cheap option but it can be an affordable one if you book this well in advance for the best price and to guarantee space. It is strongly advised that you only use this option if your final destination is in Scotland or Northern Ireland.  Although a London-Manchester flight is only 45 minutes, there is also the cost, time spent at the airport, and hassle of security clearance to consider among other factors. British Airways is one of the major carriers providing domestic flights out of Heathrow. If you want a low-cost flight, you will need to head to Gatwick, Stansted or Luton Airport. Travel from Heathrow to these airports can easily take an hour or more. If you are just connecting to a domestic flight at Heathrow, then simply follow the signs to make a connection but you will need to clear passport control first before connecting (you need to clear passport control anyway).  
  • Car Hire - Major car rental companies like Hertz and Avis have major operations to cater to passengers at Heathrow Airport.  They have desks at the arrival area.  You can book your car online and have the option to either pay ahead of time on the website or at the desks.  You usually need a credit card to preauthorise a certain amount.  If you're leaving from another UK airport or intend to drive the car to the European continent or the Republic of Ireland and leave the car in either place, you can also arrange for that.  Your Philippine driving licence is valid if you intend to be in the UK for less than 30 days, but take note that the steering wheel is on the right side facing front and traffic yields to the left.  It is unadvisable to drive if your trips principally involves London: not only because of relatively heavy traffic but because of the expensive congestion charge which you will have to shoulder by going to the city centre.  Car hire will be better to use for trips to more rural parts of the UK.

7 comments:

  1. One other useful bit of information:
    A service called Airport Cars is available that allows one to book a car and pay for it in advance. The fee when I used it was UKL39, which beats the taxi fee of UKL50, and the service was good. The service can be used for round trip bookings, too, and is available at all of London's airports.
    Airport Cars can be contacted at www:https.airportcars.co.uk

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