Many of the international visitors that make a trip to London will find themselves landing at Heathrow Airport, one of the biggest and busiest airports in Europe. Situated approximately 15 miles west of the city centre, the first challenge for incoming travellers is to find the best way to get from the airport into the capital city itself. Fortunately, there are numerous options to choose from, varying in speed and cost-effectiveness.
For those looking for cost-effective ways to get to their budget accommodation London the national bus service offers a cheap alternative to some of the other methods of transport. Coaches from Heathrow to Victoria Station, in the centre of the city, are not only cheap, but also regular and reliable. For £5 each way, you can get from the airport to the city in just one hour and 15 minutes using their direct service which departs over 50 times per day. The coaches have also come a long way in terms of comfort and bus passengers enjoy reclining chairs, air-conditioning and plug sockets for charging electronic equipment. The drivers are also approachable and willing to lend a hand with heavy luggage. Once at Victoria Coach Station, access to the city is easy and multiple, with London Underground, over-ground trains and buses all within a few hundred metres. There are also plenty of cafes, toilets and cash machines close to the station.
The Heathrow Hoppa is another excellent bus service which operates more like a shuttle and services all the Heathrow accommodation establishments. This service operates 24/7 and offers 900 trips per day, from the airport door to any one of the 27 Heathrow airport hotels. This is great for business travellers that are just stopping over for a night and the prices are reasonable at £4.50 each way.
A popular way of travelling from Heathrow into the heart of cosmopolitan London is via the Heathrow Express. This over-ground train is the fastest way between the airport and the centre of the city, speeding you directly into Paddington Station. While considerably more expensive than the coach, with single fares varying between £22 and £25 depending on if you are travelling during peak times or within an off-peak period, it’s very quick and reliable. Furthermore, advance booking via their website can save you up to 75% of the normal fare, making it decidedly more competitive while the Heathrow Express app makes buying tickets even easier.
If you like the idea of train travel but want to enjoy the landscape passing by, then use the Heathrow Connect rather than the Express. While not a great deal slower, with a journey time of between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on your destination, the Connect is considerably cheaper, costing just £10.50 for a single to Paddington. Discounts and specials are also available and, like the Express service, there are departures from all the Heathrow terminals.
The London Underground, or Tube as it is fondly referred to, also offers a route directly from the various airport terminals into the central area of London. Using the maps on offer at the airport, it’s easy to find the nearest Tube station, from where the Piccadilly Line will transport you directly to Leicester Square, to name just one of the possible destinations. While a little more time-consuming, it’s competitively priced at just £6 but you can save up to 50% by using a Visitor Oyster card.
The Oyster card is an easy and versatile way of paying for your transport, whether it is by bus, over-ground train or Tube. Oyster cards are smartcards that you can use to pay for any public transport within the city, making it both quicker and cheaper. You can buy an Oyster card online before you arrive in the city and even using the currency of your home country. There are shops and other outlets all over the city where you can add on further credit. Alternatively, the new TfL Oyster app makes it even similar, enabling you to pay as you go, rather than having to find an outlet or queue up at a ticket machine. The app will also notify you of any potential delays so you can adjust your travel plans accordingly. Showing your Visitor Oyster card at various museums and other tourist attractions often means you can enjoy a discount or even complimentary food and drinks.
For those wanting a little more privacy during their trip from the airport, whether to catch up on work or simply to enjoy the journey, the black taxi offers a stylish alternative to the modes of transport discussed above. These famous taxis line up at the ranks situated at each of the Heathrow terminals and have fully licensed drivers and wheelchair access; they are a bit more on the expensive side, and a journey into the city will set you back somewhere in the region of £48 to £90. If you prefer your transport pre-booked, there is a wide range of mini cab services that you can book online, ensuring your car will be waiting as the plane makes its landing.
Some hotels, like the Park Grand London Lancaster Gate Hotel offer private shuttle services to their guests. The concierge team at this hotel can organise transportation to anywhere in the city and offer executive airport transfers for any number of people. The great thing about this service is its flexibility and convenience and the fact that it takes you from door to door.
As a comparatively small city, travel in London is straight-forward and offers a wealth of options depending on your budget and time constraints. The Tube is worthwhile simply for the experience and taking a classic red London bus, especially if you sit on the upper deck, gives a different perspective of London’s diverse architecture.