Most international flights that land in London either land at Heathrow or Gatwick. Heathrow is the most popular airport in London, but it also the largest, so it is easy to be overwhelmed. You need to know how to get from Heathrow to Central London before you arrive in London to avoid stressing about figuring it out when you land.
There are some airports where you can wait to figure out how to get to your hotel until you land, but Heathrow is not one of them.
There are 4 ways to get from Heathrow to Central London. This post will only discuss 3 of them because the fourth option is not practical. All 3 methods of getting from Heathrow to Central London have their pros and cons. You may find that one option will fit your travel style more than the other 2, so you should choose whichever option makes you feel most comfortable.
The fourth option that won’t be discussed in depth is to take a taxi. This option isn’t advisable because it is extremely expensive and not very quick. It takes almost as much time as options 1 and 3 and is slower and more expensive than option 2.
You should choose one of the 3 options below to get to Central London and not even look into taking a taxi. It simply isn’t practical.
1. The Underground
The London Underground is a great option depending on where you stay in London. If you are staying along the Piccadilly line, the Underground is the best way to get from Heathrow to Central London. You won’t have to transfer, so it is very convenient. You will have to transfer if you aren’t staying along the Piccadilly line, but transferring is very easy even if you have bags to haul around.
The Underground is the most cost effective way to get to Central London from Heathrow airport. It only costs £6 if you purchase a standard ticket or £3-£5 if you use your Oyster card.
The downside to taking the Underground from Heathrow to Central London is that it takes a long time. It can take over an hour, and this may not be what you want to be doing right after a flight- especially if it is a long-haul international flight.
The Underground is very busy during peak hours, so you may want to consider what time you will be travelling into London when choosing if the Underground is right for you.
You May Want to Take the Underground to Central London If:
- You are on a tight budget
- The hotel you are staying at is along the Piccadilly line
- You don’t have a time constraint
- It is not during peak time
You May Want to Take a Different Transportation Method If:
- You have to transfer multiple different times to get to where you are staying
- It is during peak time and the Underground will be extremely busy
- You have a tight schedule and need to get into the City quickly
- There is a person is your group that has mobility that won’t be able to stand on the Underground if necessary or can’t walk through the the stations or climb stairs if necessary
2. Heathrow Express
The Heathrow Express is a fast-paced train that goes directly from central Heathrow to Paddington station. Central Heathrow is considered terminals 2 and 3, so if you land at a different terminal, you will have to first go to central Heathrow then board the train.
The Heathrow Express only takes 15 minutes and is by far the fastest way to get to central London! It is quick, efficient, and comfortable.
This transportation method is great for people who are in a rush or are staying near Paddington station or along the Underground lines that services Paddington.
You are able to get on the Circle & District, Bakerloo, and Hammersmith and City lines at Paddington. If you are staying along any of those lines, you should consider taking the Heathrow Express.
The downside to the Heathrow Express is the price. It can cost up to £25 if you don’t purchase tickets in advance! That is a serious cost and is something you should consider before choosing this option. The price does decrease if you purchase your tickets in advance.
The lowest standard ticket price is £12, so you are only spending double what the Underground would cost. That is an easier price tag to handle than £25 so be sure to purchase your tickets online 90 days in advance if you know you want to take the Heathrow Express. It will save you a lot of money!
You May Want to Take the Heathrow Express to Paddington If:
- It is important you get from Heathrow to Central London quickly
- You don’t have a ticket budget and can spend the extra money
- You are staying near Paddington or along an Underground line that services it
- Someone in your party has mobility issues. There is ample space to store your luggage of the Heathrow Express and enough seats that you won’t have to stand
You May Want to Take a Different Transportation Option If:
- You don’t have a time constraint
- The Heathrow Express is not worth the extra expense
- You would have to transfer multiple times on the Underground to get to where you are staying
3. National Express Bus
The third option is to take the National Express bus to Victoria Station. This is the least popular option, but it is still a great option. It costs £6-£10 depending on whether you purchase your tickets in advance or not. The price is comparable to taking the Underground, so it is another great option for travellers on a budget.
The bus drops you off at Victoria station, which is along the Piccadilly line. It is a great alternative for people staying along the Piccadilly line close to Victoria. The bus is a stress-free option. Your bags are under the bus, so you don’t have to worry about them, and you know you will have a seat and not have to stand.
The National Express, on average, takes approximately 10 minutes less than the Underground to get from Heathrow to Central London. This, of course, depends on the traffic. The bus can take much longer if there is a traffic jam or accident.
One of the downsides of the bus is that it leaves as designated times, so you may have to wait around a while until the next bus departs.
If you are purchasing tickets online, you should build time into your schedule to account for getting through immigration, picking up your luggage, and walking to where the buses depart. You should book your bus time for 45-60 after your plane lands to allow for this.
You May Want to Take the Bus to Central London If:
- Your hotel is located near Victoria station or along the Piccadilly line
- You enjoy the ease of not having to worry about your luggage and relaxing on the bus
- Seeing the scenery is appealing to you
- It is okay if you are delayed due to an unforeseeable delay on the roads
You May Want to Take a Different Transportation Option If:
- You need to get from Heathrow to Central London quickly and can’t risk a traffic jam delaying your arrival
- Your hotel is not along the Piccadilly line, and you would have to transfer multiple times on the Underground
- Someone in your party gets sick on buses
How to Get the Best Ticket Price
Once you have decided how you are going to get from Heathrow to Central London, you should figure out how to get the best deal on your transportation.
You should get an Oyster card if you are taking the Underground. The Oyster card can be purchased at Heathrow before you get on the Underground. You get a discounted rate when you use the Underground, and it can be used throughout your entire stay in London. Even if you aren’t taking the Underground from Heathrow to Central London, you should still get an Oyster card for your time in London. It will save you a lot of money!
You should purchase tickets in advance and purchase roundtrip tickets if you take the National Express bus or the Heathrow Express. There is always a reduced fare when you purchase a round-trip ticket, and tickets are normally cheaper the further in advance you purchase them.
It is worth spending a few minutes to figure out the most cost effective option for whatever mode of transportation you choose. It can save you a lot of money- especially if you have multiple people in your group. As stated earlier, you can save £13 on Heathrow Express tickets just by purchasing them 90 days in advance. That’s a huge savings!
All 3 methods of getting from Heathrow to Central London have their pros and cons. The Heathrow Express is the quickest and most expensive method. The Underground and bus are comparable in both time and expense and come down to your preference.
You should take into consideration what type of travel experience you want to have and what your priorities are. You can’t go wrong with any of the options, but there will be one that is more suited to you.
The location of your hotel should be a factor in what transportation method you take. You won’t save much time if you take the Heathrow Express to Paddington then have to spend 30 minutes on the Underground to get to your hotel.
Alternatively, it may be worth the extra money to take the Heathrow Express rather than the Underground or bus if you are staying near Paddington. You will save a lot of time, and it will be a lot more convenient than having to transfer on the Underground.
There is a lot to consider when choosing what transportation method is best for you. You should take the time to figure out what method is best for you, so you have a good experience and don’t have to haul your luggage around too many Underground stations.
It is really easy to get from Heathrow to Central London, but it is something you will want to figured out before you land in London. It will save you a lot of stress to have everything sorted before you land and tickets purchased in advance if need be.