Technically, Stansted is a London airport but it’s over 30 miles away from the city. If you booked a flight into Stansted, it’s still a bit of a journey to get to London. Luckily, there are several transportation options to choose from.
The last thing you want to worry about once you land is figuring out how to get from Stansted to London. It’s best to know the options in advance so that you can plan ahead.
In this post, I will share the various Stansted Airport transportation options along with the pros and cons of each. This will help you decide on the best way to get from Stansted to London.
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COVID-19 Update: As of June 8, 2020, all passengers arriving in the UK (with the exception of those coming from Ireland) must comply with a 14-day quarantine. Everyone is also required to wear a face-covering inside the terminals and on any public transportation. Public transportation services have been reduced and you are encouraged to avoid if possible. During this time, it is best to take a private car or taxi.
About Stansted Airport
Stansted is the third largest (behind Heathrow and Gatwick) of London’s five airports. It is actually located northeast of the city in the county of Essex, closer to Cambridge than London. The airport serves over 27 million passengers a year. Most of Stansted’s flights go to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and many are operated by budget airlines, like Ryanair. The airport only has one terminal but a new arrivals terminal is scheduled to open in 2020. You can read more about the future plans for Stansted here.
Ways to Get from Stansted Airport to London
The good news is that there are several different ways of getting from Stansted Airport to London and they are all straight-forward. The bad news is that even the fastest option will probably take you about an hour. You cannot take the tube directly to London from Stansted. Traffic can also cause delays when traveling by road.
The table below contains a summary of the Stansted Airport Transport options. More details about each transportation method are provided below.
|Transportation Method||Journey Time, Frequency||Price||How to Book|
|Stansted Express||47 minutes from Stansted to London Liverpool Street, Trains run every 15 minutes from approximately 4:00 am – 11.30 pm||£18.10 one way, £29.20 return|
(discounted tickets for children)
|Book your Stansted Express ticket online here.|
|National Express Bus||1 - 2 hours, depending on destination and traffic|
Buses run every 15-30 minutes, 24 hours a day
|varies based on booking method, destination and other factors but can be as low as:|
£12.00 one way, £17.00 return
(discounted tickets for children)
|See section below with details on National Express bus booking options|
|Taxi/Car Service||1- 2 hours depending on destination and traffic, available on demand 24 hours a day||£80 and up||Click here to book with Suntransfers.|
|Uber||1- 2 hours depending on destination and traffic (read more below about why I do not recommend this option), available on demand 24 hours a day||£80 and up||Uber App|
Train from Stansted to London
In general, the train is my preferred method of transportation because you don’t have to worry about traffic, which at times can be a nightmare around London. Stansted Airport has its own train station, which is located only a couple minutes walk from the terminal, making it an easy option.
The Stansted Express is the fastest way to get from Stansted to London. It takes 47 minutes from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street Station in London and runs every 15 minutes. The trains run from about 4:00 am – 11.30 pm depending on the direction of travel. The Stansted Express also stops at Tottenham Hale where you can catch the tube to other parts of the city.
Compared to a taxi, it takes about half the time and it’s significantly cheaper. You also get free wifi, electric sockets to charge devices, and unlimited luggage. When you travel from Stansted to Liverpool Street (or vice versa) you don’t have to worry about carrying luggage up and down stairs because both stations have step-free access. Those that like to be pampered can splurge on a first class ticket. I have always traveled in standard class and felt comfortable.
While you can get tickets at the airport, it is cheaper to purchase in advance and get a return (roundtrip) ticket. You can buy your Stansted Express ticket online here. Be sure to check if there are any schedule changes during your travel dates.
Bus from Stansted to London
The National Express Bus is the cheapest way to go from Stansted to London but it will also take the most time. There is coach service (check routes here) to 22 stations in central London every 15-30 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s convenient that you can take the bus to some stations on the western side of central London like Victoria and Paddington without having to transfer to the Tube.
Depending on where you want to go in London (and the traffic conditions), the journey could take anywhere from 50 minutes to two hours. The buses are comfortable with leather reclining seats, air-conditioning, and bathrooms. You are allowed to take two medium suitcases (under 20KG) and one piece of hand luggage per person. More baggage can be added for an additional fee.
How to Book the Stansted to London Bus
Book a return (round-trip ticket) to get the lowest price. If you aren’t sure when you will be heading back, choose an open return. There are actually several ways to get bus tickets to go to London from Stansted:
- The most expensive and simplest way is to buy the tickets from the driver on the bus. Please note the bus drivers can only accept cash. Also, keep in mind there are limited seats on the bus and the pre-booked customers will get priority.
- To get the cheapest bus tickets, book online in advance here through Visit Britain. They will send you a voucher needs to be exchanged for single journey tickets. You can do that the National Express ticket desk at Stansted (open 24 hours a day) or in London at the National Express office located at Colonnade Walk, 125 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SH (nearest underground station: Victoria) between 9:00 am and 5:30 pm, seven days a week. When redeeming the voucher, it’s best to also prebook the return journey.
- Alternatively, you can book directly through National Express here. It’s a little more expensive than booking through Visit Britain but it saves the step of redeeming vouchers. The price will vary depending on travel date, your age, and how far in advance you book.
Taxi/Car Service from Stansted to London
If you have room in your budget, getting a car or taxi from Stansted will be the easiest way to get to London, especially with luggage. It’s not going to be a short ride, there probably will be traffic, and it won’t be cheap. Expect to pay around £80 or more to get from Stansted to central London.
There is no taxi line (or queue as it is called in England) at Stansted Airport, so it is best to book in advance. I like Suntransfers because they offer high-quality door-to-door transfers at reasonable prices. In addition to cars, they also offer vans which can handle larger parties.
If your flight is delayed, you don’t have to worry because unlimited waiting time is included in the price. If plans change, it’s free to cancel up to 48 hours in advance (or for a small fee add the option to cancel up to the time of your transfer). Tolls and gratuities are included in the quoted price and there is no extra fee for using credit cards. Click here to check prices with Suntransfers.
If you didn’t book a taxi in advance, but still want to get one, you can order one at a desk in the Arrivals Hall. Check to see whether the tip is included, if not, 10% is considered the norm. Be wary of the unauthorized drivers who will try to offer you a ride as they may not have proper insurance.
Using Uber from Stansted
I don’t recommend using Uber in the UK. 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 I worry about using Uber is the variable surge pricing. Depending on the time that you land and the demand for rides, it could cost anywhere from £80 to £150. To me, I would prefer to book a taxi online in advance and know how much it will cost me.
Similar to the issues I mentioned at Heathrow, there also seems to be an issue with Uber drivers canceling rides at Stansted. This leads to delays and even unjust cancelation charges. You can read a bit more about it here.
The Best Way from Stansted to London
Now that I have gone over all the options, let me help you decide the best way to get from Stansted to London. Personally, I like the Stansted Express. It’s fast and reasonably priced. Those on a tight budget may prefer to save some money and take the bus. The bus could also be the best option for traveling late at night (after the trains stop). A taxi or car service could be a suitable option for those traveling in a group that can divide the cost.
Getting Around London
After taking the bus or train from Stansted to Central London, you may still need to travel to get to your hotel or another destination. Public transportation is going to be the most efficient option. Trust me, the tube (aka the underground) will save time and money if you want to do sightseeing in London too.
Consider purchasing the Visitor Oyster Card before your trip and it will be delivered to you. That’s one less thing to worry about once you arrive. You will get access to the cheapest rates on the tube. The Oyster Card can also be used to travel on DLR, Bus, MBNA Thames Clipper, Emirates Air Line, and more. You purchase it with a balance and can top up as needed. It also comes with over 40 special discounts. Click here for more information about the Visitor Oyster Card.
Traveling from London to Stansted
When traveling back from London to Stansted, you have the same options I discussed above available. Keep in mind if you choose a bus or car option there could be traffic so allow extra time so you won’t miss your flight. If you book a train ticket, pick a specific train time to get the best price and check for any schedule changes.
Transferring from Stansted to London Heathrow
It’s 65 miles between London Stansted and Heathrow airports. Don’t book travel that requires you to make that journey if you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, I recommend allowing at least six hours between flights so that you have enough time to travel to Heathrow from Stansted.
When I had travel plans that had me flying into Heathrow and out of Stansted, I decided to add a night in London to make it easier. That way I also wouldn’t have to worry if my flight was delayed.
The only direct option is bus service provided by National Express. The buses are similar to the ones used for the Stansted to London service, but this journey will take at least two hours. Keep in mind that if you are flying into or out of Terminals 4 or 5 the bus could take up to 30 minutes longer than Terminals 2 or 3. Traffic can also cause delays especially on Sunday afternoons and rush hour during the week. You can save money buying a ticket in advance. Check schedule and pricing here.
If you are not worried about the cost, there is the option to take a taxi or car service to Heathrow from Stansted. I recommend Suntransfers. They include unlimited waiting time in case of a flight delay and allow you to cancel for free up to 48 hours in advance (or for a small fee add the option to cancel up to the time of your transfer) if things change. There are no credit card fees, and tolls and gratuities are included in the quoted price. Click here to check prices on Suntransfers.
Note: There is no direct train or shared van shuttle between Stansted and Heathrow.
Getting to London from Stansted
Even though Stansted is located outside of London, there are several viable transportation options to get you to the city. I think best way to get to London from Stansted is the Stansted Express, but there is also the option to take the National Express Bus from Stansted or get a car service.
Which option would you choose for getting to London from Stansted?
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Expert Tips for Traveling between Stansted Airport and London
- Buy tickets for the train or bus from Stansted in advance to get the best prices.
- If you prefer to take a car service, try Suntransfers.
- Allow extra time for traffic if you are traveling to London Stansted Airport by bus or car.
- If you need to transfer to Heathrow from Stansted, the National Express Bus is the best option.
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