Transportation Options from Heathrow Airport into Downtown London
I just returned from a recent trip to London (March 2009) and found that there are lots of transportation options going and coming into London's Heathrow airport (LHR). Before I left on my trip I had researched all the various ways to get from Heathrow to downtown London
. The most advertised option is taking the Heathrow Express
train which gets you from Heathrow into Paddington station in about 15 minutes time. It's by far and away the fastest mode of transportation, but you will pay for this convenience. The Express Class single ticket which you buy online will cost you 16.50 GBP (about $25 US dollars at the time of this article). I choose to take the London Tube
(also called the London Underground) for about $6.50. The Tube will take about 50 minutes to get you into a station like Victoria Station, but the cost savings are probably worth it. Years ago I took a taxi from Heathrow to downtown London and paid just under 70 GBP (over $100 dollars). There are pluses and minuses to each option and ultimately you need to choose based upon price and convenience.
Even if you do take the Heathrow Express train into Paddington, you still need to either get on the Tube and get to your final destination or hop into a Black Taxi
and be taken to your hotel or lodging accommodations. I was lucky enough that the Underground took me right to Victoria Station (I switched at the Gloucester Road stop) and I was able to walk about 100 yards to the Park Plaza Victoria hotel and didn't need a cab. The advantages to taking the Tube or the train into London is that you avoid the traffic congestion that exists in London. Why sit in a taxi during rush hour when you can avoid all that hassle and travel on an express train or via the Underground. A cab will most likely take longer to get you where you want to go and it will cost way more. The Underground is fairly easy to navigate as all signs are in English and ticket booths are operated by customer service people so you can ask questions if need be. It can be a bit of a hassle getting luggage around the Underground but that would be the only deterrent I could see. My experience on the London Underground from Heathrow to downtown was trouble free and a great experience.
London Underground from Heathrow to Downtown London:
I have made several trips to London over the years and my preference is to take the Underground from LHR into downtown. At just $6.50 each way, it's hard to beat this transportation source on price and it's really convenient. You can get on the Piccadilly line in 3 spots at Heathrow airport - Terminal 5, Terminal 4, or at Terminals 1,2, or 3. During the peak times the Tube will run every 5 minutes. It's a short walk from any terminal to the Tube station and you can buy your ticket right before you get on. To get a good perspective of how the Tube works, take a look at a map of the London Underground here
. The GIF image shows you the various stops at the airport and the connections you can make once you are on the Piccadilly line. Don't get overwhelmed by the size of the Underground, just see which line you need and focus on that color as you make your way around the system. Millions of people use it and we recommend this option when traveling from Heathrow into the downtown region. One caveat, if you don't feel comfortable carrying your luggage up and down stairs or escalators, then perhaps the Tube is not for you. There are times when you need to be able to carry your suitcase up a flight or 2 of stairs, although some stations have elevators to help passengers. Once on the Underground, you will find spots reserved for luggage. During peak times, though, those spaces might be used and you will be forced to stand with your luggage. To learn more about the London Underground system go to their official website HERE
. Buy your travel card or 3 day pass in advance to get the best value from your stay. The London Underground is broken down into zones (1-6) so make sure you get a ticket that allows travel in all zones.
If you are looking for the most direct route from Heathrow into downtown London, your best solution is to take the Heathrow Express and pay the extra rate. You get delivered straight from LHR into Paddington Station. The non-stop train service gets you there in 15 minutes and it departs every 15 minutes. The train runs 365 days a year so no worries if you are traveling on holidays. You get more space for luggage on these trains and they are very reliable. Purchase your tickets online at their official website HERE
. Keep in mind that for most people Paddington Station is not their final destination and you will have to get on the Underground or take a Black Taxi to continue your trip. Your round trip fare will run about $50 (US).
Heathrow to London Airport Transport Service:
In America we are used to shuttle services taking us from airports to the downtown regions of major cities. In London you will find a service from Dot2Dot which is a door to door shuttle that will deliver you right to your London hotel. No walking on city streets, no having to go upstairs on the Underground system with your luggage, and no trains. You will have to most likely share the shuttle vehicle with other passengers but the seats are comfortable and the price is about 1/2 of what you would pay for a taxi. The service runs 24 hours/day and there's no need to find them, a rep from Dot2Dot will find you as you arrive into the terminals. From reviews we read online the service is convenient, although you still can get stuck in the gridlock that exists in downtown London. The minibuses are allowed to use the express bus lanes throughout the city which does help. You can find them located online at Dot2.com.
Taxi from Heathrow:
Some people feel more comfortable taking a taxi and having done this once it's definitely an experience. You will pay quite a bit more and some of us question the true convenience of this transportation mode. Traffic is quite bad throughout almost all regions of downtown London and you can expect the trip from the airport to take up to 1 hour. The Black Taxis are queued outside all the terminals at Heathrow and they are easy to locate once you have your baggage. You do get taken directly to your hotel which is nice and you can see parts of the city that you may otherwise miss while on a train or the Underground. Prices range from about $65 to $100 (US) depending on the time of day and traffic.