London Airports Guide: What you need to know

London. Five airports, really?

If you’re looking to fly in and out of London then this post is for you!  It has all you need to know about flying in and out of London, as well as those nasty little surprises (additional costs) we generally don’t consider when booking your flights.

London, as mentioned above, has five major airports: London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton and London Stansted.

thewelltravelledman london airport guide

Where you live, the airline and final destination will absolutely have an impact on which airport(s) you’re likely to use the most. Everyone also has their own preference on getting to and from the airport, whether it be public transport, taxi, hire car or driver. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there is an option for everyone.

This post will focus mainly on Heathrow Airport, but if you’re looking for information on the other London Airport, scroll down for some info and helpful links!

Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow (LHR) is located around 24km west of Central London and is the UK’s main international airport.  From Central London, Heathrow is actually quite quick and easy to get to.

Photo: otareviews.com

Photo: otareviews.com

Train options:

The Heathrow Express runs every 15 minutes between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport and is a direct train. The journey time between Paddington and Terminals 2 & 3 is only 15 minutes.  If you’re travelling to Terminals 4 or 5, it is just a few extra minutes. If you’re travelling after 21:55 from Paddington to Heathrow, the service reduces to half hourly.

For us, getting to Heathrow Airport was almost always with the Heathrow Express. It was a no brainer.  It might be more expensive, but guaranteed trains every 15 minutes for the most part of the day is one less thing to worry about. A number of times I check the train status and there are delays on the tube and I think to myself, thank goodness I’m on the Heathrow Express!! The trains are comfortable, air conditioned and are never too cramped and there is dedicated space for luggage.

You can buy your tickets online, or through the Heathrow Express app where your tickets are safely stored. We like to plan in advance, so always pre purchased our tickets online for a cheaper rate. For up to date prices for the Heathrow Express, visit their website.

The Heathrow Connect is something NOT to be confused with the Heathrow Express. It isn’t an express train, it takes around 25 minutes and runs only every 30 minutes to and from London Paddington. Although it is cheaper, I would still recommend the Heathrow Express. You can see more on their website.

The Underground would be an option if you’re not short on time and not travelling in peak hour. You can take the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Airport, but you need to ensure you jump on the right train as not all of them stop at all Heathrow terminals. Trains usually arrive every 10 minutes but the journey time takes around an hour. This is an option if you’re not in a hurry, not travelling in peak hour and don’t have heaps of luggage.  It is the most cost effective route, but I can’t stress enough, with suitcases, at peak hour you are likely to not fit on the train when it stops… you don’t want that sort of stress when you’re getting to the airport! You can check out the Transport for London (TFL) website to look at journey times.

Buses can often be popular with those staying at hotels. If this is something you’re considering, check out this website for more information.

Taxis/Cars are a fantastic option if you have a little extra to spend and want to get to and from the airport with minimal fuss. However, I wouldn’t recommend a taxi if you’re travelling in peak hour.  The roads are too busy so the chances are the train will be a much quicker option for you. If you’ve pre-booked a car to pick you up or drop you off, be sure to let them know how much luggage you have. You need to know it will fit in the car they are providing, and if need be, book a larger car to fit your luggage in (for example if you’re taking skis or large suitcases)

You can book a private minicab to pick you up.  The prices are fixed price and must be pre-booked through their website.

If a personal chauffeur service is something you’re interested in, there are plenty to choose from.  The official Heathrow Airport chauffeur service can be booked online.

Car Hire is another alternative. Sometimes this is the most convenient mode of transport.  To read more about hiring a car at Heathrow, visit their website. You also might find our blog on renting a car in Europe helpful!

Getting around Heathrow Airport can be a bit daunting given the multitude of terminals! Click here for a London Heathrow Terminal interactive map!

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport (LGW) is located around 45km south of Central London and is the second largest airport in the UK.

Photo: vizts.com

Photo: vizts.com

From Victoria Station, you can pick up the Gatwick Express which is a non-stop train to the airport in just 30 minutes. Visit their website for information and ticket prices. Because Jenna worked at London Bridge, we often caught a direct National Rail train from London Bridge to Gatwick Airport simply because it was more convenient.  You just need to keep an eye on those direct trains – a lot less fuss than changing trains!

Getting around Gatwick can also be a little tricky given the two terminals.  Click here for interactive maps.

For more detailed information on LGW, visit their website.

London City Airport

London City Airport (LCY) would be our favourite airport of them all! It is located only 9.5km from central London and is easily accessible by the tube and DLR.

Photo: eghamcars.com

Photo: eghamcars.com

Because of its convenience, flight prices in and out of LCY tend to be a bit more expensive and the flights usually only cater for short-haul travel within Europe and New York. The airport is nice and small and makes for a stress-free airport experience.

For a terminal map of LCY, click here.

For more information on getting to and from LCY, visit their website directly.

London Luton Airport

Luton (LTN) would be the airport we spent the most at behind LHR. It is a base for the low-cost airlines such as EasyJet, Wizz Air etc and is located 56km north-west of London. We lived at West Hampstead which is conveniently in the north-west as well so we could jump on a National Rail train directly to Luton Airport Parkway station, and from there you jump on a shuttle bus to the airport (included with your ticket) and it would only take us around a half hour.

Photo: www.visitlondon.com

Photo: www.visitlondon.com

For detailed information about the terminal at Luton, click here.

To read more about getting to and from LTN, visit their website.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport (STN) is probably my least favourite airport.  It is apparently the third busiest airport in the UK and is located 65km north-east of London. The reason for us not liking Stansted Airport is it was simply too time-consuming getting home to north-west London late on a Sunday night. However, if you’re living in an area close to that side of London, then you can look at the Stansted Express which is 47 minutes from Central London.  You can visit their website for a timetable and pricing.

Photo: hotelsbrit.com

Photo: hotelsbrit.com

For a terminal map for Stansted, click here.

For other information on Stansted Airport, visit their website.

Do you have travel insurance?

Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.

Alternative accommodation

If you’re looking for alternative accommodation to either save some money or share with friends or family, click here for information on Air B&B ($50 discount on your first booking), hotel price comparison websites etc.

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller

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