How you choose to get from Heathrow to London will depend on where in the capital you wish to end up, your personal preferences, and the volume of baggage you need to move.
Handling 80-million passengers every year, arriving and departing in roughly equal numbers, Heathrow airport has an excellent and varied transport network, to ensure passengers can arrive and leave as quickly and efficiently as possible.
London Heathrow is located 15 miles west of Central London and is the UK’s busiest airport. With its four terminals and two runways, it handles over 1250 air transport movements on any given day.
Airlines from 84 countries serve over 200 destinations worldwide from London Heathrow, and it is rated one of the safest airports in the world.
In this blog, to help you decide the best way to get from Heathrow to London, we’ve listed all the transport options available by road or rail, and how they might suit your particular needs.
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How to get from Heathrow to London
1. The Heathrow Express, your fastest route to get from Heathrow to London
For over 20 years, the Heathrow Express has been ferrying 16,000 visitors a day wanting to get from Heathrow to London Paddington in as short a time as possible.
Heathrow Express terminals are located in Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 5. From terminal 4, a free shuttle operates to take you to a connection terminal in around four minutes.
Operating 150 services a day from 5.17am until midnight, it is one of the most successful high-speed airport to city routes in the world, with the journey from Heathrow to Paddington Station in Central London taking just 15 minutes.
Single ticket costs £25 but significant savings of up 75% can be made if you pre-book your seats, bringing the cost of the cheapest seats down to under £6/person.
Are you travelling with family? Children under 15 travel free with a paying adult or on production of a valid flight ticket or boarding pass.
Depending on your final destination from Paddington, you can then catch a Tube (Underground), bus or taxi from the station to complete the journey to your hotel.
More info: https://www.heathrowexpress.com
2. TfL Rail, cheaper than Heathrow Express
Initially called Heathrow Connect, in 2018 the system was transferred to Transport for London, and utilised to help the thousands employed at Heathrow and Central London commute to work without needing a car.
Using the same terminals and rail-road as the Heathrow Express, TfL stops at most stations along the route, and consequently, journey times to get from Heathrow to London Paddington are double, at around 30 minutes.
The service also runs every 30 minutes instead of every 15 minutes on the Express, but to compensate, you will find fares on TfL are generally cheaper than on the Express.
The TfL stops at Heathrow Central for terminals 2 and 3 and terminates at terminal 5, with a free shuttle to and from terminal 4.
The service starts running at 5.15am until midnight and from Heathrow Terminal 5, stops at Heathrow terminals 3 and 2, Hayes and Harlington, Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway, Acton Main Line and London Paddington.
Being part of the integrated London Transport System, tickets for the Heathrow Express, TfL and London Underground are interchangeable, and you can use Oyster cards, zone 6 travelcards, paper tickets or contactless payments.
Single ticket costs £11.10, less than half the price of the Heathrow Express.
More info: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/tfl-rail/
3. London underground, the cheapest way to get from Heathrow to London
London’s underground system is a frequent, fast and cheap way to get from Heathrow to London Central.
The airport is served by three Tube stations on the Piccadilly Line, at terminals 2 and 3, terminal 4 and terminal 5.
With trains running every few minutes from 5.12am to 11.45pm, you can plan your route anywhere across Central London, alighting at the station nearest to your final destination.
The complete journey to Piccadilly Circus from Heathrow takes around 50 minutes. Due to high hotel density, two of the more popular routes from Heathrow to London are Heathrow to Kings Cross and Heathrow to Victoria, changing from the District Line.
However, if you’ve never used the London Underground before, and are travelling with large cases or young children, an alternative mode of transport may be the better option.
The Underground can get horrendously overcrowded, especially during rush hour. The additional stress of trying to change stations while lugging large cases and small children around is probably the last thing you need after a long incoming flight.
Consider the Heathrow Express, TfL, or road transport to get to your hotel, and use the Tube when travelling light, out and about sightseeing.
To keep costs down, you can order an Oyster Card to be delivered to your home before your journey, or purchase one from Heathrow Airport’s Tube stations.
Single ticket costs £6, with Oyster Card in Peak hours costs £5.30 Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930 and £3.30 at all other times including public holidays.
More info: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/tube/
Read also: Where to stay in London
4. National Express Coach, good if your final destination is in the Victoria or Earl’s Court areas
Using luxury coaches with air conditioning, onboard WC and washing facilities, National Express are the cheapest transfer option after the London Underground to get from Heathrow to London Victoria Coach Station or Earl’s Court.
The journey from Heathrow to Victoria Station will typically take between 50 and 90 minutes, depending on travelling time and traffic conditions, and one-way tickets start from around £6.
However, you may need to deal with a degree of inconvenience to benefit from the lower travel cost. National Express is not a dedicated Heathrow Airport service, so consequently, coach timetables are not tied in with flight arrival and departure times.
This means you may have to wait 30 minutes before continuing your onward journey to London. Also, save for a limited number of routes, National Express uses only Heathrow’s central bus station, near terminals 2 and 3.
If you arrive at terminals 4 or 5, you have the added inconvenience of getting to the main bus station for your coach.
Nonetheless, if your final destination is in the Victoria or Earl’s Court areas, and the possible additional waiting time is not an issue, National Express is well worth considering.
More info: https://www.nationalexpress.com/
5. Black Cab, comfortable but expensive way to get from Heathrow to London
London’s Black Cabs could fit the bill if you’re happy to sort out ongoing transport after landing at Heathrow.
Outside Heathrow’s four terminals, you will find organised taxi ranks, with black cabs and airport authorised taxis waiting to whisk you to your chosen hotel, depending on traffic, of course.
Every licensed black cab driver will have completed ‘the knowledge’, meaning they have passed an exam that requires them to know every street and road around the city and Greater London, and how to get there quickly and safely.
Average cab journey times into London can be anything from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on destination, time of day, and traffic volume.
Black cab fares typically range from £50 to £100, again depending on destination, time of day and traffic, and they are registered to carry a maximum of five passengers and four large suitcases.
6. Mini-cab, cheaper than black cabs
While it is only airport authorised Black Cabs allowed to tout for business on Heathrow’s taxi ranks, an often cheaper alternative is to pre-book an airport approved mini-cab.
WeKnow Private Hire is one such Heathrow approved company, and has desks on all Heathrow’s arrival concourses.
Depending on the size of your party, they will organise the car and arrange for the driver to meet and greet you at arrivals. Mini-cabs are usually cheaper than London Black Cabs, and drivers have an excellent knowledge of Central London and the suburbs.
With WeKnow, you also get the benefit of a fixed price. The cost quoted when you book is what you pay. No continuously ticking meters or additions for traffic hold-ups or route changes due to road works or accidents.
7. Shared shuttle, convenient and affordable way to get from Heathrow to your accommodation
An increasingly popular way to continue your journey from the airport to the hotel is a shared shuttle. Booked online, your professional driver will meet you, and others sharing the same vehicle, at a designated pick-up spot convenient to all passengers.
Available year-round, twenty-four hours a day, it means the cost of transferring from airport to hotel is shared by all travelling in the same vehicle.
More info: Shared shuttle from Heathrow
8. Car, NOT an option we would recommend to get from Heathrow to London
Car Hire to get from Heathrow to London has always been a popular option with visitors familiar with British roads, who need a car for business, or who want to explore not just Central London, but also visit attractions outside the city.
However, it is not an option we would recommend for the faint-hearted.
With the large number of Car Hire companies operating in the UK, a little comparison searching before your trip is well worth the effort to get the best prices, and have your vehicle booked and waiting at the airport when you arrive.
All London Heathrow terminals have well-signed car hire desks on the arrivals concourse, where you produce your documents and collect your vehicle. Most UK car hire companies accept drivers over the age of 22, although many apply a surcharge for drivers under 25.
The majority of hire cars these days come equipped with a sat-nav, and it would appear a relatively straight-forward process to load up your vehicle, input your starting point and final destination, and let AI do the rest.
The Route: the first part of your journey is reasonably easy.
- From Heathrow, follow the signs and head for the Great South-West Road
- Turn left onto Parkway (A312)
- Follow the Parkway to the Cranford Parkway Interchange and look for the M4 Central London signs
- Merge with the M4
- Stay on the M4 until it becomes the A4, Great West Road.
- From here on, you are already around the Central London area, and your route will depend on your chosen destination.
- If you follow the A4 into town, you will pass through Westminster to Piccadilly, Constitution Hill, Knightsbridge and The Mall. Many of these roads are now toll roads.
The downside. London is one of the most car congested cities in the world. Parking is a major problem, and don’t just assume your hotel has its own car park. Not all do, and parking charges can be horrendous. Be sure to check when booking.
Congestion charges also apply to many of Central London’s main roads, adding further to the cost of your car hire charges.
In addition, almost overnight, lanes of traffic cones can appear along with ‘Road Closed’ and ‘Detour’ signs, which can triple journey times and push stress levels through the roof.
Nonetheless, if a hire car remains your preferred option, you can compare prices here.
Why bother? Consider instead a professional driver, who drives these routes every day and will ferry you, the family and your luggage safely to your hotel.
9. To summarise the best way to get from Heathrow to London
If time is the most important consideration when deciding how to get from Heathrow to London Central, the Heathrow Express or TfL are the most attractive options.
If you’re a young backpacker, where cost is the biggest consideration, then purchase an Oyster card, and put London’s Underground at the top of the list.
If you are travelling with young children or large amounts of baggage, you may prefer to use road transport, but bear in mind the following. National Express will drop you at either Earl’s Court or Victoria Station, so you will need to get from there to your hotel.
Taxis and private hire vehicles will drop you directly at your hotel, where you can find the café and enjoy that much needed mug of coffee.
Finally, pre-booking online attracts considerable discounts, especially if travelling as a family or large group, so be sure to check all your options before starting your journey.