Are you planning a trip to London and are flying into London Heathrow? If you are a first-time visitor, Heathrow can be a little overwhelming. After all, Heathrow is the second busiest airport in Europe. Definitely best to come prepared. No worries, I’ve got you covered with the best way from Heathrow to central London.
When planning a trip to London, it is important to remember that London doesn’t just have one or two international airports. No, London has a whopping six airports: London Heathrow being the biggest and probably best known. But there is also London Gatwick, London City, London Stansted, Luton and London Southend. Whether I would consider them all London airports is a different matter. Officially they are. And they are all connected to central London in one way or another. But convenience, cost and speed vary greatly.
Let’s just focus on Heathrow Airport for now. And on the best way to get from Heathrow to central London.
I will do my best to answer the most common questions about the best way from Heathrow to London:
Can I use public transport to get from Heathrow to London?
Is it worth taking a cab from Heathrow to London?
How much does a cab from Heathrow cost?
What is the cheapest way to get from Heathrow to London?
What is the fastest way to get into London from Heathrow?
Do I need to prebook tickets to get from Heathrow to London?
Heathrow is connected to central London in numerous ways. You can take a cab, several busses, take the London Underground, the Elizabeth Line or the Heathrow Express. Each of those options will vary greatly in terms of speed and price. So, which is the best way to get from Heathrow to London? There probably is no definitive answer here. But I’ll give you the pros and cons for each of the options and let you decide for yourself.
Is Heathrow Airport actually in London?
Before we look at the best way to get from Heathrow to London, let’s provide a little background.
Although London has six international airports, only two can really be considered as being IN London. The most central one is City Airport, located 10 kilometres (6 miles) east of the City of London in the Borough of Newham.
Whereas London Heathrow is located to the West of London. Still within the town boundaries (just), but a whopping 23 kilometres (14 miles) from Central London. In the westernmost London borough Hillingdon.
Taking a cab from Heathrow to central London
A cab is probably the most convenient option when flying into Heathrow. No need to worry about anything. Just sit down and relax until you arrive at your destination. But convenience comes at a price. As Heathrow Airport is a little out of the way, a cab ride into Central London can easily set you back 80 – 100 GBP, depending on where you are going. For me, a cab from home (just north of London) to Heathrow Airport is only an option for very early morning flights or very late arrivals. As a cab ride to Heathrow sets me back a good 150GBP (for around 60 miles), this is a cost to factor in. To be honest, for private flights, I am more likely to drive to Heathrow with my own car and park in the long-stay car park for the week. Which generally comes cheaper. But which isn’t really an option if you are flying into Heathrow as a visitor.
When heading into central London, it is also worth considering that a cab can get stuck in traffic, when travelling during rush hour. So, it might be the most convenient, but not necessarily the quickest way from Heathrow to London. And for sure not the cheapest option from Heathrow to central London.
Taking the tube into London
As Heathrow and City are the only airports actually in London, they are also the only two directly connected with central London via the tube network.
London Heathrow has 3 tube stations: Terminal 2 & 3 (some signs might still mention it, but there is no such thing any more as Terminal 1), Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.
When travelling from Heathrow to London, you can simply hop onto the Piccadilly Line and get into Central London in around 30 to 45 minutes (depending on which station you are trying to get to). There will be a tube into London every few minutes. Usually every 10 minutes from Terminal 5, a bit more frequent from Terminal 2 & 3.
As you are probably using an Oyster card or contactless card for your London trip anyway, there is no need to buy an extra ticket, just tap your card to enter and exit the tube. I promise, I will explain more about Oyster cards, contactless and travel card options in a separate post, if I ever get round to it.
Heathrow is in zone 6. A single trip from Heathrow into zone 1 (central London) would be 5.60GBP (using Oyster or contactless) or 6.70GBP if buying an actual paper ticket.
Which makes taking the tube into London one of the cheapest options.
Best way to get from Heathrow to London: Elizabeth Line
The newest kid in town, the Elizabeth Line was opened in May 2022. The Lizzy Line, as it was lovingly dubbed, is somewhere between a tube and a train. As a high-speed connection, it was dug across London for the past decade.
The Elizabeth line will go further outside London than the normal tube, but in the central London locations, it is linked with the standard tube network. And there is no need to buy any extra ticket for it. The fares are the same as for the tube. So, if you are using an Oyster or contactless card, you will pay the same for the Elizabeth Line as you will for the normal tube.
As the Elizabeth Line has less stops, it will get you into central London considerably quicker. From Heathrow Airport in the West to Liverpool Street Station in the East takes just 38 minutes. From Heathrow to Paddington takes around 26 minutes.
Taking the Heathrow Express
The Heathrow Express does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides an express connection between the airport and central London. From Heathrow to Paddington station only takes 16 minutes. But speed comes at a cost. A flexible single ticket costs a whopping 25 GBP, a return ticket 37 GBP. The price can come down to as little as 5.50 GBP per journey, if you book your tickets well in advance (and I don’t just mean two weeks before, more like 4 to 5 months early).
With the addition of the Elizabeth Line, the Heathrow Express has lost a bit of its popularity. Despite the steep price, it was a popular choice before, especially with business travellers. But the Heathrow Express is still the fastest connection between Heathrow and Central London.
Taking the bus into central London
The cheapest way to travel from Heathrow to London is by bus. A single bus ticket only costs 1.90 GBP. But taking the bus takes time. As the bus will have many stops along the route. And when travelling with lots of luggage, it can get very crowded, as the busses aren’t really built for luggage.
So, which is the best way from Heathrow to London?
There is a right or wrong answer here. Depending on where in London you are going, one option might work better than the other. My personal favourite is the tube or Elizabeth Line. Not the cheapest option, but reasonably priced and relatively quick.
What do you think? Which is your favourite option to travel to London, when flying into Heathrow Airport?