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Heathrow airport logo at arrivals hall

London – The Airports, and getting there and away

London has 6 airports – some are more central, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. It really depends where in London you’re going to. Check travel times from the airport on Google Maps before making a decision. Also, if you’re connecting in London and you only have a few hours between flights, my recommendation is to never buy tickets that land on one airport and leaves from another one, unless you’re looking for an adventure 🙂

Below there’s a summary of the 6 airports, how to get to central London and rough public transport and taxi costs. If you’re not familiar with the basics of London public transport, I recommend reading this article first. And if you’re considering taking a taxi, have a look at this post for available apps and discount codes.

City Airport

  • Probably the best airport in London – it’s the most central and aimed at business travellers, so it’s fast and pleasant. But it mostly does just western European flights, as it’s too small for the big transatlantic planes. Just 6m / 10k east from central London
  • DLR is the only public transport to go there – so just £3.30 for a single from anywhere zone 1 to zone 3
  • Taxi is a pleasantly realistic option ;-). Uber collects from nearby for £18-£24; black cabs are available at the door for £28-£41 (sample fare to Trafalgar Square)

Gatwick Airport

  • Gatwick is 28 miles (45km) south of the centre of London, outside the tube zones. 2 terminals – North and South – the train arrives at the South; shuttles transfer to North.
  • There are 3 different train companies that run between the airport and central London and check before buying a ticket, because taking Gatwick Express (the most expensive option) doesn’t mean it will be faster – it depends where in London you’re going to.
  • The Gatwick Express runs between Victoria and Gatwick. £19.90 one way, trains every 15 mins, takes 30 mins
  • The Thameslink runs between Gatwick and several major central stops – St Pancras, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Farringdon (and Luton airport!). Times vary but fairly frequent – 4 trains an hour at peak times; and usually fast – 30 to 50 minutes. Costs also vary, but £8.50 is typical off peak, or £15.50 peak single
  • The Southern goes to London Victoria, London Bridge (and minor stations Croydon and Clapham Junction). Usually a bit slower – 40-60 mins – but fairly cheap, £8.50 to £15.50 again

Heathrow Airport

  • Zone 6 west London, about 26km from the centre. Big and busy. Five terminals (though number 1 no longer exists), so your transport options might depend on where you land/leave. Here’s how they connect:
    • 2 and 3 are in walking distance of each other
    • 4 has free trains to 2 and 3, but bus to 5
    • 5  has free trains to 2 and 3, but bus to 4
  • Heathrow Express train is usually every 15 mins, takes just 15 mins to Paddington but costs £22 one way / £37 return, unless you book it over 90 days in advance – when it drops to £5.50. It pays to be organised, but for most of us, the cheaper options will have to do – especially if you’re not staying near Paddington (NW zone 1). Goes to terminals 2&3, 6 mins more to T5, free bus to T4.
  • TfL rail also goes to Paddington: slightly slower but cheaper – £10.50 and takes 34 minutes – it’s included in the daily cap, so if you keep travelling around London, you’ll only pay £13.20
  • TfL Piccadilly line tube goes through much of central London – it’ll be £5.10 one way; takes 49 mins from T5 to Green Park.

Luton Airport

  • Luton is 35 miles (55km) north of Central London. It’s small, single terminal. Pleasant facilities and recently revamped – there’s even a sunny outdoor pub terrace area, which is unusual. BUT – you have to get a bus between the train station and the airport as they’re a mile apart, which is an annoying extra schlep; it runs every 10 minutes for the 5 minute journey so allow 15 mins.
  • Thameslink service takes 25 minutes to/from Kings Cross St Pancras, costs £17.70. Fairly frequent trains, up to 6/hour

Southend Airport

  • The newest addition to the ‘London’-ish airport scene; but it’s a long way out -40 miles (64km) east of Central London. Small, pleasant single terminal airport.
  • Trains from Liverpool Street Station (or Stratford), usually about 3/hour taking 60 minutes, cost from £16.70 single off peak.

Stansted Airport

  • Stansted is 38 miles (61km) north of London.
  • Trains between the airport and central London go to Liverpool Street Station costs £19.40 one way.
  • The journey takes 45-55 minutes and runs every 15 minutes.
  • Book in advance on Stansted Express website to save sometimes up to 50%. If travelling with someone else, you can also check if the web duo offer will save you money

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