Heathrow is 15 miles from the central area where most people’s accommodation is found. Quite close by modern standards. As a result, Heathrow passengers do use taxi cabs extensively for the transfer into London.
At Heathrow the taxi ranks are outside the arrivals hall of all four terminals. It will come as a relief to many travellers that these are managed with military control. Only London’s regulated black cabs are allowed anywhere near you, you will not be pestered by touts and a controller will make sure there is an orderly queue and boarding procedure. There is always an ample supply of cabs waiting for your custom.
Fares are complex, but should be around 45-50 GBP depending on distance, time and time of day.
You can save yourself a few pounds by booking a private cab in advance on the web. The cab will park in the terminal car park and the driver will be there to meet you as you exit the customs hall.
The cheapest operators will save you around 10-15 GBP. Do scrutinise the agreements for hidden charges which soon escalate. Most common extras are a ‘Heathrow pickup fee’, a car parking charge and waiting time. Most contracts stipulate an hourly waiting charge if you do not clear customs within a set time after touch down. At Heathrow you’ll normally pass through customs with luggage in around 30-45 minutes after touch down.
Just Airports are a proven operator with some of the lowest fares, you’ll find them searching on the web.
The defacto public transport option you’ll probably end up on if you follow the flow is the Heathrow Express train. This has to be one of the most expensive train journeys in the world, mile for mile. A single fare for 2006 is 14.50 GBP, (slight reduction for return).
The Heathrow Express runs every 15 minutes for most of the day whilst flights are operating. There are two stations at Heathrow. The train terminates at Terminal 4 and then stops at Heathrow Central for Terminals 1,2 and 3. From Heathrow Central to London’s Paddington station takes just 15 minutes.
Do take care do find out where Paddington is in relation to your accommodation. Unless your hotel is in Paddington it will normally be cheaper to take a cab direct to your hotel if there is 3 or more of you.
Something the airport authorities somehow fail to communicate is that there is a cheaper alternative to the Heathrow Express, called Heathrow Connect. The Heathrow Connect train starts at Heathrow Central station and makes 5 stops on its way to Paddington, taking 10 minutes longer than the Heathrow Express. Frequency is also every 30 minutes, not 15 minutes of the Heathrow Express.
For this small inconvenience you only pay 9.50 GBP, a substantial discount to the Heathrow Express.
If you are flying into Terminal 4, the Heathrow Express is free between Terminal 4 and Heathrow Central station.
The cheapest transfer option into Central London is to use the London Underground. The Piccadilly Line runs out to Heathrow. Like the Heathrow Express there are two stations, one for Terminal 4, another central station for terminals 1,2 and 3.
Journey time is about 45 minutes into Central London and there are countless stations on the way the trains stop at. There is a train about every 3-4 minutes. There will be an Underground Station somewhere very near your destination.
The cost for 2006 just 4 GBP, easily the cheapest option. This fare is valid to any London Underground station.
The downside of using the London Underground is that invariably the carriages will become very crowded as you get into London. All Central London stations are deep underground and you will have escalators and/or steps to negotiate with your luggage.
There is a ticket office at Heathrow where you can also purchase the various travel passes for Central London that most visitors find very attractive. These give you unlimited travel on London’s bus, rail and underground network.
National Express operates coaches to London Victoria. These are very comfortable coaches with toilets onboard and a proper luggage hold. One way fare is 10 GBP, 15 GBP return.
The coaches depart from the central coach station above the railway station in the central area of Heathrow. The coach station is well signposted from Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
There are 3 or 4 coaches an hour making the journey.
Journey time varies with traffic conditions, scheduled time is 50 minutes.
Hotelink run a hotel shuttle from Heathrow. The service is a shared mini bus service. The bus takes about 10 people maximum. You may be lucky and get the whole bus to yourself, but normally you’ll share with others. The service will deliver you to any hotel in Central London. It’s a lottery how long the journey takes as the route depends on the locations of all the hotels of your fellow passengers.
Cost is 16 GBP per person. If there are more than two of you its cheaper to just get a taxi.
On flying out, all of the public transport options work on the principle that nobody wants to check-in until 05:30 or later. If that is not the case you have a problem. Your only viable option being taxi services. There is a night bus, route N9 that runs out to Heathrow every 30 minutes all night. You can pick this up at Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner and Kensington High Street. This is a normal red London bus.
If you are wanting to travel to another London Airport, National Express coaches run frequent direct services to Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. On the most popular route, Gatwick, there are around 100 services a day.