No one wants to waste time traveling from the airport to their destination. Especially after a red eye flight, you just want to get to your hotel (or maybe you need to head to the office).
The Heathrow Express advertises itself as the fastest way to Central London, but is it the best option from Heathrow to London? That depends as there are several factors you need to take into consideration before you decide.
If you are wondering if the Heathrow Express is worth it, let me share more information about the Heathrow Express based on my personal experience.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.
- What is the Heathrow Express?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ride the Heathrow Express?
- How to Save Money on Heathrow Express Tickets
- Pros of Heathrow Express
- Cons of Heathrow Express
- Is the Heathrow Express Worth It?
- Heathrow Express Alternatives
- Heathrow Express FAQs
- Does Heathrow Express run 24 hours a day?
- Is Heathrow Express suitable for kids?
- Where can you catch the Heathrow Express?
- Do you have to buy Heathrow Express tickets in advance?
- Can I use contactless or Oyster Card to pay for Heathrow Express?
- Is the Heathrow Express step-free?
- Do other London airports have express trains?
- Should I take the Heathrow Express?
- Expert Tips for Taking the Heathrow Express
What is the Heathrow Express?
Heathrow Express is the fast train that runs between London Heathrow Airport and London Paddington. It only takes 15 minutes from Terminals 2 & 3, with an additional 6 minutes needed for the journey to Terminal 5.
For Heathrow Terminal 4, you will need to get off the Heathrow Express at the first stop (Terminals 2 & 3) and catch the free transfer service to Terminal 4. Connecting trains depart every 15 minutes and with a travel time of 4 minutes.
How Much Does it Cost to Ride the Heathrow Express?
The pricing for Heathrow Express tickets is a bit complicated.
The cost of a ticket on the Heathrow Express depends on how far in advance you buy them, whether you buy a single (one-way) or return (round-trip), the class of travel, and the time you travel (peak vs off-peak). There are also discounts for families, frequent travelers, railcards, and adults traveling together.
You can get a single ticket for the Heathrow Express for as low as £5.50 if you buy your ticket online here more than 90 days in advance (subject to availability). This is about the same as the cost of a tube ticket (using an Oyster card or contactless payment), but the problem is you may not be planning your trips that much in advance.
Note: This special discounted advance fare is now available during the week, not just on the weekends.
If you are not able to book that far in advance, you could expect to pay up to £25 for an Express Class single (one-way ticket) or £37 for an Express Class return (round-trip). Business First Class tickets can cost up to £32 for a single or £55 for a return. The price will vary based on how far in advance you book.
While you can use contactless or oyster cards to pay for Heathrow Express tickets, the best prices are the ones you will get online here.
How to Save Money on Heathrow Express Tickets
The best way to save money on Heathrow Express tickets is to buy them 90 days in advance here, but there are other options for those that are not planning that far ahead.
For Families with Kids: Children 15 years and younger, can travel for free in Express Class when accompanied by a paying adult. They can also travel for free by themselves if they have proof of air travel (i.e. a valid flight booking or boarding pass) and photo ID.
For Two People Traveling Together: Book online in advance here and you can get 25% off for two adults traveling together. An Express Class Return for two adults is only £55.50, saving £18.50.
For Three or More Adults Traveling Together: Adult families and groups of friends can save 1/3 when 3 or more adults travel together and book an off-peak express saver ticket online in advance here.
For Frequent travelers: Buy Carnet tickets here, where you can get 6 for the price of 5 or 12 for the price of 9. These are all single journey tickets and are valid in either direction.
*If you want to save money on flights, check out Dollar Flight Club.
Pros of Heathrow Express
It’s an easy and quick ride on the Heathrow Express. From my experience the trains have never been too crowded (especially compared with the tube).
You may spend almost as much time waiting for the train as the ride itself. While the tube does come more frequently it seems like forever before you reach Central London.
With the Heathrow Express, you don’t have to worry about any stairs or steps which can be a big deal especially for those traveling with leg injuries or a lot of luggage.
The trains all seem like they are brand new. The seats are comfortable, and the cars are air-conditioned with plenty of luggage space. There is an on-board TV, power sockets by the seats, and free Wi-Fi throughout the train. You can even use your mobile phone when the train is in a tunnel.
If you don’t mind splurging more, you can travel in Business First Class. You will get even more legroom, your own table to work from, and free newspapers/magazines. Although in my opinion, the ride is not long enough to make Business First Class worth it.
Cons of Heathrow Express
The cost is definitely the biggest con of taking the Heathrow Express. If you don’t book in advance it can be very expensive. Those traveling for business may not be bothered if the company picks up the tab.
The other issue is that the Heathrow Express takes you to Paddington Station. For some this may be convenient, but many will still need to take the tube (or bus or taxi) to get to their final destination.
Let’s say you are trying to go to Liverpool Street Station (where we catch our trains to Norwich). If you take the Heathrow Express, the ride to Paddington takes 15 minutes, but then you need to take the tube to Liverpool Street which is another 25 minutes.
The total time would be around 45 minutes including waiting for trains. This route includes changing trains in Holborn (which includes stairs). You probably end up saving about 20-25 minutes compared to taking the tube the whole way from Heathrow.
Some may feel that the time savings and having to switch to a different train don’t justify the additional cost.
Is the Heathrow Express Worth It?
Yes in some cases. If you are traveling on business (i.e. your expenses are covered), are able to get a cheap ticket by booking in advance, or need to go to somewhere around Paddington Station, the Heathrow Express is a fast and easy way to travel from (or to) Heathrow.
Those that have waited to the last minute and can’t get the discounted tickets, may want to think about using a different public transportation option. Alternatively, you can book a car to take you to London here, if you have lots of luggage or a large group it might be the best way.
Heathrow Express Alternatives
If you want to take public transportation from Heathrow to London but think that Heathrow Express isn’t right for you there are other options.
The Underground’s Piccadilly Line has stops at all Heathrow Airport terminals and goes straight to many stations in Central London. Depending on your final destination, you may have to transfer tube lines to get there, but you probably would have to do that on the Heathrow Express as well.
It may take a bit longer than the Heathrow Express but you don’t need to buy tickets in advance to get a reasonable price. You will probably have to deal with a more crowded train which may be a pain especially if you have a lot of luggage. Wifi on the tube is unreliable.
National Express Bus
National Express offers affordable buses from Heathrow to London Victoria Station throughout the day. The journey can be as quick as 35 minutes. If needed, you could get a taxi or tube from Victoria to your final destination.
The buses offer a comfortable ride with free Wifi. Each ticket also allows you to bring up to two 20 kg suitcases and one item of hand luggage.
You do need to purchase tickets in advance here to get the best price.
The Elizabeth Line (A section used to be called TfL Rail)
The long awaited Crossrail project is not quite complete but the Elizabeth Line opened in sections in May 2022. When it is finally complete it will take passengers from Heathrow all the way to Shenfield or Abbey Wood.
Currently, if you want to take the Elizabeth Line further east than Paddington, you will need to get off a switch to another train. It sounds easy, but it is a bit of a walk all the way to the other side of the station. If you want to go further than Liverpool Street towards Shenfield, you need to change again.
It’s not quite as fast as the Heathrow Express to Paddington as it does make a few stops (Hanwell, Southall, West Ealing, etc) but it is faster than the Picadilly line to get to Central London. It’s the same price as other tube lines too, but you do get to enjoy nice new clean trains.
You don’t need to buy tickets for the Elizabeth Line in advance. You can tap in (like other tube lines) or use an oyster card.
Once the Elizabeth line is all connected (date is still TBA), this will be the best way to travel to and from Heathrow. Until then, it might be worth dealing with the annoying change at Paddington or in some cases it may be easier to take the Picadilly line depending on your final destination.
Heathrow Express FAQs
Here are some answers to common questions about the Heathrow Express, feel free to ask additional ones in the comments.
Does Heathrow Express run 24 hours a day?
No, but it does run from about 5:00 am to a bit before midnight. Trains start a little later on the weekends. Please check the schedule for your date of travel here.
Is Heathrow Express suitable for kids?
Yes. It’s probably easier to travel on Heathrow Express than the tube with kids as it will be less crowded and kids under 15 can ride for free.
Where can you catch the Heathrow Express?
Heathrow Express has stops at Terminals 2&3, Terminal 5, and Paddington Station.
Do you have to buy Heathrow Express tickets in advance?
No, but you will get the best price if you book ahead here.
Can I use contactless or Oyster Card to pay for Heathrow Express?
Yes, but you will get the best price by booking online here as early as possible. The cheapest rates require you to book 90 days in advance.
Is the Heathrow Express step-free?
Yes. Keep in mind though that it only goes between Heathrow and Paddington. To get to other places in Central London, tube routes may include steps.
Do other London airports have express trains?
In addition to the Heathrow Express, there are the Stansted Express adn Gatwick Express. There are no express trains for Luton or London City airports.
The Stansted Express travels from Liverpool Street Station to Stansted Airport. Read more about how to get from Stansted to London.
The Gatwick Express normally goes between Gatwick and London Victoria Station, but as of February 2022, it is not running due to effects of the pandemic. Get more information about traveling from Gatwick to London.
Should I take the Heathrow Express?
If you are not worried about the expense (or you can book more than 90 days in advance), the Heathrow Express is a lovely way to travel between Heathrow and Paddington Station.
Have you taken the Heathrow Express? I would love to hear about your experience.
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Last Updated on August 2, 2022