Getting Downtown From London Airports

If you are coming to London by plane, most probably you will be arriving in either Heathrow (24 kms or 15 miles from London) or Gatwick (40 kms or 25 miles). Some planes are also coming to Stansted (80 kms or 50 miles) and the London City Airport (16 kms or 10 miles).

You can take taxi from each of the airports, and it will be the most convenient option to take, although a bit expensive. It is highly recommended if you’re traveling with somebody else and can share the cost (about £50 by black cab).

There are regular bus connections between each of the airports and the city, with numerous stops in central London and in its most popular accommodation districts.

If you expected to be able to use the famous London tube to get you from the airport straight to your hotel or B&B, then you may be a little disappointed because only Heathrow has its own underground station. In fact, there are two tube stations at the Heathrow end of the Piccadilly Line. The first one is serving Terminals 1-3 and the second one is for Terminal 4. You will certainly enjoy your first ride on the tube train, but it may be overcrowded, especially around 5-7 PM. It will take you about 40 minutes to get to Central London from Heathrow. If you will be going to a hotel in the Notting Hill Gate or Victoria Station areas, then get off at Earl’s Court Station and take another line – the District Line.

As much as you may enjoy fast moving of the tube train, it may be somewhat difficult (or even impossible) to change the trains at the Earl’s Court or any other station as a bit of walking and stair-climbing and passing through the turnstiles (revolving gates) will be involved. If such is your case, then you can take a bus run by Airbus. They have about 30 stops around Central London and the buses operate between 6 AM and 8 PM every day. The fare is very reasonable (£6) and it will get you downtown in about 60-90 minutes depending on traffic and location of your hotel. Airbus has pickup areas at each of all four terminals (look for “Airbus” or “Buses to London” signs). While at the airport, go to the Travel Information Centre operated by London Transport and get there free pocket-size Tube Map and “Travelling in London” booklet that you can study during your trip from the airport. When you reach your hotel, you will know almost everything you will need to know about the tube lines, stations and bus lines that will take you to the popular London attractions.

The fastest way to get to town is to take the Heathrow Express train that goes to Paddington Station (15 minutes, £13 per person).

The best way to transfer from Gatwick Airport to Central London is by train. You can choose either the Gatwick Express or SouthEast train, both going to Victoria Station every 15 minutes daily between 5 AM and midnight and every 30 minutes during the night. The Express is a bit faster (30 minutes versus 40 minutes) and more expensive (£9.50 vs. £8.20), but it really does not matter which one you will take, as the difference between them is hard to notice. Bus service from Gatwick is only between 6:30 AM and 5:30 PM; the buses go to Victoria Coach Station. The trip lasts 75 minutes and costs £7.50.

Stansted is a fairly new, modern airport that you may be using if you are coming to London by a charter flight or from a European country or UK destination (e.g., with a popular carriers easyJet and Ryanair). It is located quite far from Central London, but you can take the Stansted SkyTrain and get to Liverpool Street Station in 40 minutes. The train runs every half hour and a single ticket costs £10. You can also take a bus from Stansted, but your trip will be much longer – about 90 minutes (depending on traffic).

London City Airport is the only airport located within the London city limits – in Silvertown. It is handling flights similar to Stansted (mostly European commuter flights) and it was voted the ‘Best UK Airport’. There are three ways to get to Central London from London City Airport: a/ (recommended) take the Docklands Light Railway via Canning Town into Bank, which is on the Central Line (21 minutes journey); b/ take the Docklands Light Railway directly to Canning Town, where you can pick up the Jubilee Line into Central London (time – 7 minutes into Canning Town and approximately 18 minutes into Westminster); c/ take the Docklands Light Railway to Canary Wharf, via Poplar (21 minutes).

London Tourist Tips

London is a great city, especially if you have all the right tips for your trip. Here are some of the most useful.

Seasons are important. If it’s winter, you need to take lots of warm clothing with you because London can get very cold at that time of year.

During the summer you should take a raincoat and an umbrella because it rains a lot during this season. The English summer has got a bad reputation for a very good reason. If you live somewhere relatively warm you should pack several warm items just in case, as the weather can turn quickly.

Do you want to hire a car? You need to know that in England people drive on the other side of the road. This has been the cause of many accidents involving foreigners.

Don’t forget when you drive through London that many of the roads are toll roads, you should check your map before driving. Some streets and districts in the center are pedestrian only or one-way, which is difficult enough for locals, so you can imagine what it’s like for tourists.

Check before you fly to find out where your airport is in relation to your final destination. Many of London’s airports are quite far away from town and you should know how you are going to get into town before you leave.

Make sure you bring a lot of money as London isn’t cheap when you want to go to the tourist sites and shops. Also, you should change your money at home because many money exchanges in London will try to scam you.

As long as you are prepared, you will have a marvelous time in London as it is an amazing city with many historical buildings and a fascinating past.