Options for Traveling into London from Heathrow Airport

Imagine that you arrive at London Heathrow after a long, overnight flight on a fully packed aircraft. Then, there could be nearly an hour’s wait at passport control and a delay for bags coming off the carousel. You may be thinking that a taxi ride from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) into Central London is a good idea at this point, but it is best to know the price tag in advance.

Welcome to London Heathrow
The third busiest airport in the world is about 14 miles west of London. You are just one of 67 million passengers arriving at Heathrow every year, all of whom need transportation. So, let’s review the options for getting into Central London from LHR.

A licensed “black” taxi is the costliest option although not necessarily the fastest. While London’s 23,000 taxis are not all black these days, this term is still used to describe them. London taxis are spacious and comfortable, and their drivers are knowledgeable. However, my taxi ride to Hammersmith, West London – located on the near side of town – cost an astonishing £68 (about $105) including gratuity – on Christmas Eve. This was due to a road closure at the Hammersmith flyover; there is nothing relaxing about watching the meter tick away whilst stuck in traffic. We dragged our suitcases to the tube for our return in order to even out the score on that front.

The normal fare is about £40, more if you are going further east into Central London. Gratuities are acceptable at 8-10%, percentage-wise a bit less than in the U.S. The flag drops at £2.40 at Heathrow (about $3.70) before your journey even gets started, but there is no additional charge for luggage or passengers, up to five in all. Credit card payment attracts a surcharge of £1 (about $1.55). You can book a taxi online in advance for your arrival at Heathrow. As in all airports, avoid the unlicensed minicab touters that loiter about.

Heathrow Express
The fastest option is the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station. Trains depart every 15 minutes for the ride which is a 15-minute journey from Heathrow Central or from Terminals 4 and 5. Modern trains have air conditioning, TV, wifi, a first class option, quiet zones. Not cheap, the standard class of service one-way (called ‘single’) is £18 and a round-trip (called ‘return’) is £32. Paddington Station is near Hyde Park and Oxford Street and it has an underground, so you can travel onward using the tube. Otherwise, factor in the additional cost of a taxi from Paddington to your final destination. If there are more than two in your party, a taxi at Heathrow could be cheaper.

Heathrow Connect
This train makes five stops en route to Paddington, but charges only £8.50 ($13.10) for the one-way 26-minute journey. Departures are every 30 minutes from Heathrow Central at Terminals 1 and 3, with a connection for Terminals 4 and 5.

The London Underground
The tube connects to three terminals at Heathrow. This is the least expensive option to get into London, priced at under £5 ($7.75), with fares that vary depending upon what zone on the map you are headed for. The tube leaves about every 10 minutes and the journey to Central London is less than one hour, depending on your destination. Travelcards are recommended for those staying longer, making a number of journeys on buses and tube, or visiting a few of the popular tourist sights.

Coaches and buses
National Express run over 500 bus routes from Heathrow and also have connections to Gatwick and Stansted Airports. Some Heathrow airport hotels have a complimentary bus service, others use Hotel Hoppa at £4 ($6.20).

Cinderella’s Midnight Problem
Frustratingly, London’s public transportation services do not run 24/7. So, if you arrive at the airport too late for last train or tube or too early for the first, be aware that there are no services between approximately 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., times fluctuate with stations and the days of the week.

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