ARRIVING IN LONDON BY AIR 

Arrival into London by air will bring you into one of five major airports: HeathrowGatwickStanstedLondon City or Luton. Most travellers will arrive at Heathrow or Gatwick, the two major international airports.  Please allow extra time to go through security and customs at the airports. There are long queues at passport control, but once you have cleared this area, it is fairly easy and quick to reach the baggage hall. Most times of the day it takes around 40-60minutes to clear customs and collect luggage. 

HEATHROW AIRPORT (LHR).
Heathrow Airport is the UK's biggest and busiest airport with flights to just about anywhere in the world with major carriers. It normally has five terminals, but Terminal 2 is currently closed for renovations. Heathrow is well connected with good transport links, but it is so big, it can be quite daunting. Check out the Heathrow Airport website before you travel. BAA (British Airports Authority) has recently launched a Twitter account, twitter.com/heathrowairport, which is manned by Heathrow staff who will give you advice whilst you are on the move.

Travelling to and from Heathrow Airport. Heathrow is well connected and has various forms of transportation. Choice of connections to and from Heathrow include public trains(Overground), the Underground(Tube) and local buses and national coach/bus services, shuttle services(shared&private) and Private Hire Licensed Car Services(Minicabs) and London Taxi ranks. Some services have to be pre-booked, some services can be sought at the airport and some services offer both options, often saving you money if pre-booked. Check before travelling.

Heathrow by Train/Railway. 
Heathrow is outside the boundaries of London, so London travel-cards are not valid from Heathrow Overground Rail Station (they are valid on the underground station). As a result the Heathrow-London route is known as the most expensive passenger rail route in the world, mile-per-mile. 

  • Underground (Tube).
    The Piccadilly Line (Underground) is the cheapest means of reaching central London from Heathrow, and also one of the most straightforward. A cash single to London is £5.30, while an off-peak (after 9:30am weekdays, any time weekend) travel-card is £8.50 and will cover you for the whole day. If you buy an Oyster Card, which requires a refundable deposit of £5, then the single fare is £4.80 peak, £2.90 peak. Journey times to central London are around one hour.
    The principal disadvantages of the Piccadilly line are that by design many Underground station have stairs or escalators and steps. Not easy with luggage. Trains can also be very crowded at peak times, generally not a problem when boarding at Heathrow, but less pleasant upon reaching central London. In addition, the Underground system, of which the Piccadilly line is a part is over a century old and lacks air conditioning (which is not the problem it would be in hotter countries, but still an issue in summer). Most central London stations, step-free access is not an option. For the savvy cash-conscious tourist however, the relative low cost of the Underground compared with other methods of travel means that they will take the Underground on routes to central London that make use of easy changes.
    The avoiding stairs guide is a big help: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/download... as it shows the stations where changing trains is easy, and also because it shows where you can exit to the street without going up any stairs. In central London stations are often very close together, so for instance for hotels anywhere near Kings Cross you will probably want to take the Underground there, exit step-free, then take a bus or taxi. Bus directions can be found here: http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/ For destinations near Westminster, including for instance Waterloo, a step-free change at Barons Court (just across the platform) followed by a step-free exit at Westminster and then a bus would be the best option.
  • Heathrow Express: (Overground)
    The most heavily marketed way to get to central London is the Heathrow Express. Fares are £18 online, or £19 at the station. Promotional codes saving perhaps 10% can be found by a Google search for 'Heathrow express discount'. A better deal is the Group Weekender fare, available on weekends, which cuts 50% off the walk-up fare for groups of four or more adults and/or children. The 50% discount is also available on child fares, which are as with all rail fares, 50% of the adult cost. A group of three would also save money using this deal but check if it's valid when only three are travelling. 
    The main advantage of the Heathrow Express is that the journey time is only 15 minutes from terminals 1 and 3, 23 minutes from terminal 4 and 21 minutes from terminal 5. Trains run every 15 minutes, which is slightly less frequent than the Piccadilly line. In addition, the Heathrow Express is air conditioned and better suited for travel from the airport than the Piccadilly Line. The main disadvantage, apart from the very high cost, is that the terminus is Paddington station, which for most visitors to London will require further transport, quite possibly on the Underground, to reach their final destination. This travel will of course carry further costs.
  • Heathrow Connect:
    The Heathrow Connect train, runs over the same route, Heathrow - Paddington, as the Heathrow Express, but has lower costs, lesser frequencies, and longer journey times (stopping at suburban stations on route). The fare to Paddington is £9.10, still more than double the cost of the Underground for the same journey. The 30 minute journey frequency, plus the fact that the train does not serve Terminals 4 or 5 (you must first catch the Heathrow Express (free) to the main station serving Terminals 1 + 3), and the still high cost of this train, make it a poor option for most visitors. However if your immediate destination is Paddington or if you are staying in certain areas of outer west London, it can be a viable transportation choice. Journey time to Paddington is 27 minutes.

Heathrow by Road: Taxis, Private Hire(Minicabs) and Coaches..

  • Taxis:  (Heathrow Ranked).
     Taxis hailed from outside Heathrow can be expensive. Fares to central London are subject to metering (by TfL), but the meter runs up at a high rate, and you should not be surprised by a £100 fare. Taxi drivers are very knowledgable about London though, having obtained the famous knowledge test, which can make an interesting ride. This said, financially it is often better, if you want to travel by taxi, to book a private hire/minicab in advance.
  • Pre-booked Licensed Private Car (& Driver) Hire: (Airport Transfer Service/Minicab)
    Pre-booked Licensed minicabs are often cheaper than taxis and more comfortable for longer journeys. You can search on-line for  "London Heathrow Airport Transfer Connections" or similar. Pre-booking (by card) is standard and saves having to fumble about finding currency at the airport. Most professional airport services will meet you inside the airport terminal, and take you directly to your destination. Price vary and you get what you pay for. Average fare for a decent (executive) airport transfer to central London ride should be around £55-£60 per vehicle (up to 4 passengers). There are cheaper services, and chauffeur services charge more.
  • National Express coaches: 
    National Express run from the central bus station (close to Terminals 1 and 3; from 4 and 5 transfer by free bus or train) to Victoria coach station in central London. A relatively unpopular choice, because they are more expensive than the underground, subject to traffic, and unlike a taxi/minicab, will not take you to your final destination.However they are still a reasonable choice if your final destination is points close to Victoria and you are landing at Terminal 1 or 3. Frequencies vary throughout the day from around every 15 minutes to hourly. Best avoided during morning rush hour, but by late evening journey times are down to only around 40 minutes (from over an hour in the morning). Fares are £6 single.

 

GATWICK AIRPORT (LGW).
Gatwick Airport is the second busiest UK airport, mainly aimed at leisure travellers. Gatwick has two terminals, North and South linked by a free monorail (shuttle). Gatwick has a good website with lots of useful information.

Travelling to and from Gatwick Airport.
Gatwick is actually located to the south of London, halfway between the city and Brighton on the coast, and is too far out to have an Underground(Tube) connection. Railway & Road links at Gatwick are good though. 

Gatwick by Train/Railway.
Gatwick railway station is immediately adjacent to the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport. If leaving/arriving at the North Terminal take the free monorail shuttle. Trains from Gatwick to London run to London Victoria station via Clapham Junction, and to Bedford calling at London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras (among others).

  • Southern railway/First Capital Connect:
    From Gatwick most travellers will take the Southern Railways train to Victoria, reached in 30 minutes (or so), or the First Capital Connect train to London Bridge in 28 minutes (or so). From London Bridge or Victoria, Tube, bus or London Taxis connections can be made to your final destination.
  • Gatwick Express:
    The heavily marketed 'Gatwick Express' service, which runs to Victoria, is similar as non-Express trains, and are faster than Southern, but much more expensive. At peak times (i.e. on the morning towards London and in the evening away from London) the Gatwick Express will be much less overcrowded than non 'Express' trains. Again from London Victoria, a Tube, bus or London Taxis connection can be made to your final destination.
    Railway tickets at 2012 fares are:
  • £9.90 single to stations through to St Pancras (via London Bridge) etc., valid on First Capital Connect trains.
  • £10.20 single for a ticket (£4.90) from Gatwick to East Croydon and then another ticket (£5.30) from East Croydon to Victoria (the single fare from Gatwick to Victoria is higher, at £13.70, so you can split it this way to save £3.50).
  • £12.50 one-day travel-card (Valid for First Capital Connect trains after 9:30 on weekdays & all day at weekends). The bonus of this ticket is that it's also valid for all tube/bus travel in central London for same day.
  • £13.40 for a ticket to East Croydon (£4.90) plus a one day zone 1-6 travel-card (£8.50) (valid after 9:30 weekdays, one day weekends), valid on all trains to London except the 'Gatwick Express' and for all tube/bus travel within central London.
  • The Gatwick Express costs £18.90 single, £16.85 if booked on-line. You can get a lower fare by buying these tickets: Gatwick Airport - Boundary Zone 6 (£8.10, or £7.70 after 09:50) plus Boundary Zone 6 -  London Victoria (£5.30) = £13/£13.40. You would need to buy these split tickets from the ticket office, not from the machine. If you wanted a Gatwick Express travelcard, then the Boundary ticket, for £7.70, plus a one-day off-peak zone1-6 travel-card costing £8.50, would come to £16.20.

Gatwick Road: Taxis, Private Hire(Minicabs) and Coaches.
Although the train is often considered the best & fastest route to Central London, a pre-booked minicab could also be considered.

  • Taxis:  (Gatwick Taxi Booth).
     Taxis taken from Gatwick can also be expensive. Fares to central London can be set fares so check the fare before taking the ride. You should not be surprised by a £100-£150 fare. Gatwick Taxi drivers are not so knowledgeable about London though, as they are licensed by Crawley Council and have not obtained the famous knowledge test which the London Taxis drivers do. Financially it is often better, if you want to travel by taxi, to book a private hire/minicab in advance.
  • Pre-booked Licensed Private Car (& Driver) Hire: (Airport Transfer Service/Minicab) 
    Pre-booked Licensed minicabs are often cheaper than taxis and more comfortable for longer journeys. You can search on-line for  "London Gatwick Airport Transfer Connections" or similar. Pre-booking (by card) is standard and saves having to fumble about finding currency at the airport. Most professional airport services will meet you inside the airport terminal, and take you directly to your destination. Price vary and you get what you pay for. Average fare for a decent (executive) airport transfer to central London ride should be around £95-£100 per car (upto 4 passengers). There are cheaper services, and chauffeur services charge more.
  • Express coaches: 
    Express coaches & buses, run by National Express, to Victoria are worth considering at £8, but they are much much slower than the train. Easybus takes 65 minutes to West Brompton/Earls Court, is worth it if you book online for £2 (but not so great at £10 on the day). Buses run every 20 minutes.
    BE WARNED! Easybus Tickets are only valid for up to 60 minutes after your booked bus, so if your flight is delayed or you are running late be warned!.  

 

STANSTED AIRPORT (STN).
Stansted Airport, to the north of London, is used primarily used by charter and low-cost airlines, with mostly short-haul European destinations. Although it has just one terminal, it is the UK's third busiest airport, although it tends to exchange positions regularly with Manchester Airport. Stansted has a good website full of useful information about travelling to and from the airport.

Travelling to and from Stansted Airport.
Stansted is located to the North East of London, halfway between the cities of London and Cambridge, and is too far out to have an Underground(Tube) connection. Railway & Road links at Stansted are very good though. 

Stansted by Train/Railway.
Stansted railway station is immediately below the terminal at Stansted and easily accessed. Stansted connects directly with London Liverpool Street to the East of London City, and other UK destinations.  

  • Southern railway/First Capital Connect:
    From Gatwick most travellers will take the Southern Railways train to Victoria, reached in 30 minutes (or so), or the First Capital Connect train to London Bridge in 28 minutes (or so). From London Bridge or Victoria, Tube, bus or London Taxis connections can be made to your final destination.
  • Stansted Express:
    The heavily marketed 'Stansted Express' service, which runs to Liverpool Street in the East of London has less stops than non-Express trains, so they are faster but a little more expensive. During the day Express trains run every 15 minutes to London Liverpool Street (46 minutes) via Tottenham Hale (32 minutes). Trains are not 24 hours and on Sundays are less frequent. 
    At peak times (i.e. on the morning towards London and in the evening away from London) the Stansted Express will be much less overcrowded than non-express trains.
    For many destinations in London it is easier to change onto the Underground (Victoria line) at Tottenham Hale. This can be quicker and easier than continuing on to Liverpool Street (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City Line). From London Liverpool Street, Tube, bus or London taxi connections can be made easily to your final destination. 
    Railway tickets at 2012 fares are:
  • Stansted to Liverpool Street £22.50 (£18.80 from Audley End, or £14.70 arriving London after noon or any time weekends)
  • Stansted to Tottenham Hale £20 (£15.60 from Audley End, or £14.70 arriving London after noon, or any time weekends)
  • Stansted to London with Off-peak all-zones Travel-card £28.40 (valid 09:15 from Stansted or later) (£22.80 from Audley End, or £21.50 after noon or any time weekends)
    (Note: If you buy tickets to Audley End you can save money on Stansted's premium rail charge)

Stansted by Road: Taxis, Private Hire(Minicabs) and Coaches.
Although the train is often considered the best & fastest route to Central London, a pre-booked minicab or taxi could also be considered as they go door to door and save loads of time and effort trying to work out interchanges and routes.

  • Taxis:  (Stansted Kiosk).
     Taxis taken from Stansted kiosk can be very expensive. Fares to central London can be set so check the fare before taking the ride. You should not be surprised by a £100-£150 fare. Stansted taxi drivers are not always so knowledgable about London though, as they are licensed outside of London and have not obtained the famous London knowledge test. Financially it is often better, if you want to travel by taxi, to book a private hire/minicab in advance.
  • Pre-booked Licensed Private Car (& Driver) Hire: (Airport Transfer Service/Minicab) 
    Pre-booked Licensed minicabs are often cheaper than taxis and more comfortable for longer journeys. You can search on-line for  "London Stansted Airport Transfer Connections" or similar. Pre-booking (by card) is standard and saves having to fumble about finding currency at the airport. Most professional airport services will meet you inside the airport terminal, and take you directly to your destination. Price vary and you get what you pay for. Average fare for a decent (executive) airport transfer to central London ride should be around £70-£100 per car (upto 4 passengers). There are cheaper services, and chauffeur services charge more.
  • Express coaches: 
    Express coaches & buses, run by various companies to various destinations are worth considering, but they are much much slower than the train, private transfer or taxi. 
    There are six routes:
    National Express - to Victoria calling at Golders Green (70 minutes), Finchley Road, Marylebone, Baker Street, Marble Arch, Victoria rail, and finally Victoria coach (105 minutes). A slow means of reaching London, but cheaper than the train, at £10 single. Every 20 minutes.
    National Express to Liverpool Street (75 minutes) via Stratford (50 minutes), Bow, Mile End and Whitechapel. Half-hourly, £8 single.
    Terravision - Stansted to Victoria non-stop in 75 minutes, £9 single, half-hourly. Stansted to Stratford (via Redbridge 33 minutes). 40 minutes, £6 single, half-hour. Stansted to Liverpool Street, 55 minutes, £9 single, half-hourly. 
    Easybus - running to Baker Street (75 minutes) every 20 minutes, £10 single, book online for fares from £2.
    BE WARNED! Easybus Tickets are only valid for up to 60 minutes after your booked bus, so if pre-booked tickets are purchased and your flight is delayed or you are running late be warned!

 

LONDON CITY AIRPORT (LCY)
London City airport is primarily a business airport serving major European destinations, it is located in Canary Wharf, home to the major investment banks and insurance companies. 

London City Airport by Train/Railway.
London City Airport has no overground or Underground railway station. London City airport is served by the Docklands Light Railway, which feeds into the tube network and is easily accessed. The DLR connects directly to the City of  London, and you can then take the Underground to other London destinations such as Westminster etc.

London City Airport by Road: Taxis, Private Hire(Minicabs) and Coaches.

  • Taxis:  (City Airport Ranked).
    Taxis hailed from outside City airport can be relatively inexpensive. Fares to central London are subject to metering (by TfL), the meter runs up at a high rate, but distances are often not that far. London Taxi drivers are very knowledgable about London, having obtained the famous knowledge test, which can make an interesting ride. At City Airport financially it is often better to travel by taxi than to book a normal private hire/minicab in advance and many London Taxi drivers now accept credit cards. 
  • Pre-booked Licensed Private Car (& Driver) Hire: (Airport Transfer Service/Minicab) 
    Pre-booked Licensed minicabs are often cheaper than taxis and more comfortable for longer journeys. You can search on-line for  "London City Airport Transfer Connections" or similar. Pre-booking (by card) is standard and saves having to fumble about finding currency at the airport. Most professional airport services will meet you at the airport terminal, and take you directly to your destination. Price vary and you get what you pay for. Average fare for a decent (executive) airport transfer to central London ride should be around £55-£65 per vehicle (up to 4 passengers). There are cheaper services, and chauffeur services charge more.
  • Buses:
    No National Express or other types of coaches are available at City Airport but there are a few local bus services. 
    Buses number 473 and 474 serve various parts of Woolwich and Silvertown from the airport terminal.

LUTON AIRPORT (LTN)
Luton is located to the north of London in the City of Luton and is used primarily by charter and low-cost airlines, servicing mostly short-haul European destinations.

Luton by Train/Railway.
The confusingly named 'Luton Airport Parkway' station is located a bus ride from the airport (£1.50 single, every 10 minutes). Trains from here are on the Bedford -Brighton line (via Gatwick Airport), and stop at St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, and London Bridge in central London. Fares are lower at weekends; consider buying a travel-card off-peak.

Luton by Road: Taxis, Private Hire(Minicabs) and Coaches.
Although the train is often considered the best & fastest route to Central London, here at Luton it is not. A pre-booked minicab or taxi is the fastest way to & from Luton as they go directly from the airport to your door and save loads of time and effort trying to work out interchanges and routes.

  • Taxis:  (Luton Rank).
     Taxis taken from Luton can be expensive. Fares to central London can be set so check the fare before taking the ride. You should not be surprised by a £80-£100 fare. Luton taxi drivers are not so knowledgeable about London, as they are licensed by the City of Luton council and have not obtained the famous London knowledge test. Financially it is often better, if you want to travel by road, to book a private hire/minicab in advance.
  • Pre-booked Licensed Private Car (& Driver) Hire: (Airport Transfer Service/Minicab) 
    Pre-booked Licensed minicabs are often cheaper than taxis and more comfortable for longer journeys. You can search on-line for  "London Luton Airport Transfer Connections" or similar. Pre-booking (by card) is standard and saves having to fumble about finding currency at the airport. Most professional airport services will meet you inside the airport terminal, and take you directly to your destination. Price vary and you get what you pay for. Average fare for a decent (executive) airport transfer to central London ride should be around £65-£90 per car (upto 4 passengers). There are cheaper services, and chauffeur services charge more.
  • Buses & coaches: 
    Express coaches & buses, run by various companies to various destinations are worth considering, but they are much much slower than private transfer or taxi and a little slower than the train. 
    The Green Line Bus number 757 runs from Luton Airport to Victoria (80 minutes) via Brent Cross shopping centre (40 minutes), Finchley Road station (52 minutes), Baker Street (64 minutes) and Marble Arch (71 minutes). The fare is £16 and runs every 20 minutes. Book online via Easybus for lower fares, from £2. Easybus also operate bus direct to Earls Court in 60 minutes. These are minibuses and the fare is £10 on the day, from £2 online. Buses run every 10 minutes or so.

 

GENERAL TRANSPORT ADVICE.

Taxis & Private Transfer Safety Advice:
Never take the offer of a Taxi or Minicab transfer from anyone stating they are a Taxi or Minicab inside a UK airport. (Even if they have a badge!) Many touts operate in London Airports, particularly at Heathrow. They are often illegal, non-licensed and unsafe vehicles driven by unskilled and unsafe drivers. Many unlicensed 'taxis' are operated by criminal gangs, fares often rise by the time you reach your destination (if you aren't stopped by the police terminating your ride on the way) and it is not unknown for individual passengers to be assaulted.
Any taxi driver, licensed or not, approaching you to offer a ride at any UK airport immediately invalidates their insurance and licensee (if they have either) and your holiday insurance too! Just say 'no, thanks'). 
Be Safe, Be Sure! There are two ways of hiring a car transfer from UK airports... Book in advance (on-line or by telephone) with a licensed private car transfer or taxi company. Check any website you book through has a physical contact address and license number showing). If you are already at the airport, take a Licensed Taxi from an authorised rank or office at the airport. If you want a private car go to the Airport Information desk for a list of licensed car companies or go on-line/directory enquiries and find a telephone number. 
If in doubt go to the Airport Information Desk available in all UK airport terminals for advise. 

Airport Parking 
It is worth shopping around for your parking around the airports. Even though some parking seems more expensive, check out where the car park actually is. If using a BAA airport - Heathrow, Stansted, (also Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Southampton) - you may pay more marginally more by booking on the BAA Airport website, but the car park and on-airport and therefore saves you hassle and time transferring between car park and terminal. You can often get a good deal by booking an airport lounge at the same time.  
Purple Parking offers parking at a wide selection of UK airports. Unfortunately it is off-airport parking (but you do get a free shuttle bus to and from the airport), and they also offer 'chauffeur' service where they can drop and pick you up outside terminal building). 

Car Hire/Car Rental
Another way to get from the airports to London is through car hire (North American term: rental car.) . But mind, driving around London can be a hellish experience, especially during "rush hour", the daily morning and afternoon commutes that, despite their name, tend to last from about 07.00 to 09.00 and 17.00 to 19.00. Car hire in the UK is expensive, but all the major rental companies operate from the airports, though most travellers will find they have no use for a car in  central London. Only consider hiring a car if you're planning to visit more rural areas. Also remember that if you rent a car, you are responsible for paying the congestion charge, £10 per day, to drive into central London. Parking is also very costly. 

International train travel
Eurostar is the only high speed international train service operating between the UK and France/Belgium.  Journey times are currently approximately 2.25hrs from central London to central Paris, and 2hrs to central Brussels (on August 2011).  Onward connections are available throughout Europe. If you are landing at one of London's airports, it's generally better to connect via plane to Paris or Brussels than to make the complicated journey to St Pancras for the Eurostar. However if you are staying a few days in central London first, the Eurostar will be a better choice than the plane.

Domestic train travel
King’s Cross, Victoria, Waterloo, Paddington and Euston stations are just a few of the main terminals for train travel, and all connect to the Underground and buses.  If you get lost, there are maps galore in all the Underground stations and you can always ask one of the knowledgeable staff members who patrol the stations.

Train times from London airports:

  • DLR from London City Airport, 22 minutes to Bank, 14 minutes to Canary Wharf.
  • Heathrow, 15 minutes to Paddington from Terminal 1 + 3; 35 minutes by Piccadilly Line to Earls Court.
  • Gatwick 30 minutes to Victoria or London Bridge.
  • Stansted 45 minutes to Liverpool Street.
  • Luton Airport - 40 minutes from Luton Airport via Luton Airport Parkway to St Pancras International Station