Heathrow Airport is London’s busiest, yet it is located 16 miles outside the city. You don’t want to waste your vacation time or dollars on traveling from London’s Heathrow to Central London. There are several different transportation options you can choose from Heathrow. It can be confusing, so in this post, I will explain the different alternatives, their pros and cons, and pricing to help you decide the best way to get from Heathrow to London.
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Planning Your Journey From Heathrow to London
It’s a good idea to decide how to get from Heathrow to London in advance. Planning ahead allows you to take advantage of promotional prices. You can save money by booking your way from Heathrow to London in advance. Plus, it’s one less thing to worry about when you are tired after your flight.
If you are planning a trip, you also might find my free printable travel checklist helpful.
Ways to Travel from Heathrow to London
In the table below, I summarize the different ways that you can get to London from Heathrow Airport.
|Heathrow Transportation Option||Cost*||Journey Time||Frequency||Operating Hours||Best For||Booking Link|
|Heathrow Express||£22 one-way for each adult, £37 round trip for adults to Paddington Station||15 minutes from Terminals 2 & 3 (a few extra minutes for Terminals 4 & 5)||Every 15 minutes||Approximately 5 am - 11:30 pm||Speed||Book Heathrow Express Tickets Here|
|Tube (London Underground)||£6.00 for a single journey from Heathrow to any tube station in London|
Rate is discounted with a Visitor Oystercard
Included along with unlimited tube travel on London Travelcard £13.10
|40 - 60 minutes to Central London||Trains depart every 3-20 minutes (depending on the time of day)||5am-11.30pm (On Friday and Saturday the Tube operates 24 hours for terminals 2,3 & 5 only)||Budget||Book Single or Round-Trip Tube Ticket Here.|
Buy London Visitor Oyster Card here.
Buy London Travel Card here.
|National Express Bus||£6.00 one-way or £11.00 roundtrip to Victoria Station||Ranges from 40 minutes to 2 hrs 35 minutes||Hourly at quiet times and up to four times an hour during the peak travel times||Approximately 4 am – 10 pm, depending on Terminal, 7 days per week||Budget with lots of luggage||Book National Express Bus Tickets Here.|
|Private Taxi or Van||Various depending on your final destination in Central London, prices start around £50||Varies depending on traffic and final destination 40 minutes - 2 hours||On demand||24 hours a day||Groups 3-4 people||Book Private Taxi or Van from Heathrow Here.|
|Uber||£39 to £80||Varies depending on traffic and final destination 40 minutes - 2 hours||On demand||24 hours a day||Weird travel times||Book through Uber App.|
*Prices noted are in GBP and are the discounted rates you can get online. If you wait to purchase tickets once you get to Heathrow, prices will be higher.
Options for Traveling from Heathrow to Central London
There are five different ways you can get to London from Heathrow. I want to share my personal thoughts on the LHR transportation options based on my countless trips to London. All have their own pros and cons. There is not necessarily one best way from Heathrow to London, it depends on your priorities.
London Heathrow Express
When I first started traveling to London for work, my favorite transport option was the Heathrow Express. My work was footing the bill, so I wasn’t worried about the cost. It’s 15 minutes from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station and the train runs every 15 minutes. I was also impressed that the trains were so modern, comfortable, and had free wifi (which wasn’t that common in those days!).
Since I would be traveling by myself with a lot of luggage, I appreciated that the Heathrow Express trains had step-free access. Once I got to Paddington, I would grab a taxi to my office on the Strand so that I would not have to deal with stairs on the tube. The taxi would be another £25-£30.
If you decide to take the Heathrow Express, it’s easy to find your way. After you get your bags, you will see signs directing you to the Heathrow Express (and several people selling Heathrow Express tickets). The train has both First and Standard Class so make sure you get on the right car based on the ticket you purchased. The conductor will check your tickets during the journey on the train from Heathrow to London. Once you arrive at Paddington Station, you can follow the signs to transfer to the tube or grab a taxi. You can connect to the Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and District lines.
Save money by purchasing your Heathrow Express tickets online in advance. You can now use a Visitor Oyster Card or an Oyster Card to pay for the Heathrow Express but it will be more expensive than buying in advance. If you want to upgrade to first class, you can pay the difference in fare with an Oyster Card too.
Note: For Terminals 4 & 5, allow a few extra minutes for the Heathrow Express.
Now, when I travel to and from Heathrow I use the tube. The London Underground is definitely the cheapest way to get from Heathrow to Central London. Plus, you are not limited by one station like when you take the Heathrow Express or the National Express Bus. The Piccadilly tube line (dark blue on the tube map) goes straight to Heathrow, but you can transfer along the way if you need to and reach the 270 different stations across London.
It’s also nice that you don’t have to deal with any car traffic but there are a lot of stops on the London Underground and you may have to deal with stairs. For the amount of money you save, I think the minor hassle is worth it. If you pack light, it will make the journey easier.
You are probably wondering how much a journey from Heathrow to Central London costs on the tube. Unfortunately, it is not a simple answer. The pricing for the tube is not as simple as it is for the NYC Subway. There are several different zones, plus peak and off-peak pricing. If that’s not confusing enough, as a visitor you have five options for how to buy your tickets:
- Buy one single or round trip journey – This is the most straight-forward way and ideal if this is the only time you will be using the tube. If you plan on staying in London for longer, it is probably not the best value option.
- Buy a Visitor Oyster Card – The Visitor Oyster Card gives you access to the cheapest rates on the tube. You can also use the Oyster Card to travel on DLR, Bus, MBNA Thames Clipper, Emirates Air Line, and more. This card must be ordered online before you arrive in London, and then gets delivered to your address (worldwide). You purchase it with a balance and can top up as needed. It also comes with over 40 special discounts. Note: There is also an option to purchase a Visitor Oyster Card when you buy the London Pass.
- Buy an Oyster Card at Heathrow Airport – You can also buy an oyster card at the Heathrow Underground Stations. This gives you access to the same rates as the Visitor Oyster Card, but does not have the other special discounts.
- Buy a London Travelcard – The London Travelcard includes unlimited travel within the London area for each day that you purchase it. If you are going to be using the tube (or other included public transportation options) a lot, this will save you the most money.
- Pass as You Go with Contactless – With this option you can get the save discounted rates as the oyster card. You basically use your credit card (or phone if using Apple Pay) like you would an oyster card. Unfortunately, this does not work for some cards issued outside the UK. Get more information about this payment method here.
If you are staying in London, you will be using the tube to get around the city. Most of the time it is the fastest and most efficient way. The most complicated thing about the London Underground is the pricing because it varies depending on how far you are going, your payment method, and the time of day. Don’t worry it’s not difficult to use. It’s well sign-posted and there is staff to answer any questions that you may have. You can use Google Maps to figure out the best route. Be sure to download an offline map so you can use it when you don’t have access to data. Also, remember to keep your card or ticket throughout the journey as you will need it to exit the station.
Note: When the Crossrail Project is complete (scheduled for late 2019) the Elizabeth line will make this journey from Heathrow even faster.
Heathrow to London Bus
National Express runs a direct bus from London Heathrow to London Victoria Station. During peak times there are buses about every 15 minutes, but if you arrive during a quieter time, the bus runs about once every hour. From Victoria station, you can transfer to the Victoria, District, or Circle tube lines or catch a taxi to get to your final destination if needed.
The journey may take a while, but it is a cheap option and you don’t have to worry about carrying your luggage on the stairs. The coaches feature comfortable leather seats, air conditioning, and bathrooms.
You can save up to 40% if you buy online versus when you arrive at Heathrow.
In general, I don’t recommend taking a taxi from Heathrow Airport to Central London. It will be expensive and it won’t be fast. Depending on the time you arrive, there could be heavy traffic. However, if you are traveling with a small group it could be cheaper than some of the other Heathrow to London options (like Heathrow Express) where you need to pay for a ticket for each person.
I can see how taking a taxi from LHR to central London would be tempting even if you are traveling alone. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or carrying your bag upstairs but there are better ways. If you are not worried about the cost, but have a lot of luggage, take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and grab a taxi there to your final destination.
If you decide to take a taxi, it’s best to prebook to avoid waiting in line after your flight. That way you will also know the cost of your ride from Heathrow to London before you are in the car. There are many different cab/car service companies that serve Heathrow Airport.
I recommend using Suntransfers, who offer high-quality door-to-door transfers at reasonable prices. You can choose either a car or a van, depending on your preference. If your flight is delayed, you don’t have to worry because the price quoted includes unlimited waiting time. If plans change, it’s free to cancel up to 48 hours in advance (or for a small fee you can add the option to cancel up to the time of your transfer). They don’t charge fees for using credit cards and tolls and gratuities are included in the price.
Uber to London
Yes, you can take an uber from Heathrow Airport to London, but I would not recommend it. You may remember that Transport for London threatened to not renew Uber’s license to operate because of safety concerns and other issues. The courts recommended Uber receive a 15-month probationary license in June 2018.
Another reason that worries me about using an Uber is the variable surge pricing. Depending on the time that you land and the demand for rides, it could cost you anywhere from £39 to £80. To me, I would prefer to book a taxi online in advance and know how much it will cost me.
If you do decide to take an Uber at Heathrow, there is one other thing that I want to warn you about. Drivers may call and ask you where you are going. They do this so they can decide if that is somewhere that want to go. That is against Uber policies. Drivers may also try to stall so that you cancel and they receive a cancellation fee. You can read about one example of this happening here.
What is the Best Way to Get from Heathrow to London
Personally, I prefer taking the tube because it is cheap and doesn’t take too long. Yes, it is a pain having to carry luggage up and down stairs, but it’s not that bad. There have even been a few times that a friendly stranger has offered to help.
If you are on a tight budget and don’t want to deal with carrying your luggage through the Underground, then I would recommend taking the bus and allowing extra time. Keep in mind the National Express Bus goes to Victoria Station. You may still need to take the tube, city bus, or taxi to get to your final destination.
If you are not worried about the cost, Heathrow Express is the fastest option. The Heathrow Express has step-free access so bags won’t be a problem. Once you get to Paddington, you can grab a cab to your final destination or transfer to the tube.
Traveling From London to Heathrow
When you go back to Heathrow to catch your flight, you have the same options to choose from but you need to be more conscious of time. I don’t want you to miss your flight. Remember the traffic can be unpredictable and not just during rush hour. The tube is more reliable but can also have delays. Once on my way to Heathrow on the underground, the train in front of me broke down. It caused a 30-minute delay but I still made my flight. It’s better to allow extra time and relax in the airport lounge or bar than to be stressing about missing your flight (or even worse actually miss your flight)!
Note: If you are taking the tube back to Heathrow, take the Picadilly line. Check the final destination for the train because not all the Picadilly trains go to Heathrow. There are two train options – one that goes to Terminals 1,2,3&5 and another for Terminal 4. If you take a train that is going to the wrong terminals, switch at Hounslow West.
Which Heathrow transport option do you prefer? If you have any questions about getting from Heathrow to London, you can leave it in the comments and I will get back to you.
Expert Tips for Transportation from LHR to London
- Less luggage will make your journey easier!
- The Heathrow Express is the faster option but you can save money by taking the tube or bus.
- Visitors have three options to buy tube tickets: Single Journey, Visitor Oyster Card, or London Travelcard.
- Instead of gettting a taxi at LHR, book a car service from Heathrow Airport with Suntransfers.
- Allow extra time when going back to Heathrow so that you don’t miss your flight.
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