We’ll start by saying London is big, like 607 square miles big, with a population of almost 9 million. Yes, really. This means it’s not as simple as hopping on a train and getting to your choice of London accommodation in ten minutes. Well, it can be easy, but it can also be pretty complicated unless you’ve got all the insider info; that’s what we’re here for. London has multiple airports, so we’ve broken this guide into sections covering each one, so you can easily skip to the airport relevant to you. Here’s our guide on how to get from your London airport to the city centre.
First, download a London transport app…
First, make sure you have Citymapper or Google Maps downloaded; this is the best way to plan your route, but adjust your arrival date and time as early or late arrivals will have significantly fewer options. Your journey time can be pretty quick or painfully slow, depending on where you’re staying, so choosing the right travel option is essential.
Image Courtesy of Heathrow Airport
How to get from Heathrow Airport to London
Heathrow is the biggest airport in London, and there are multiple options for getting into the city from each terminal, which means it has travel options to suit different budgets. When travelling from this London airport to the city centre, you have a few options: a coach/bus, a train, the London Underground and a taxi.
Coach and bus
Coach is the longest way to travel into the city centre but also the cheapest, and they’re the best option if there’s a train or tube strike on your travel days.
National Express and Megabus are the most well-known companies that regularly run from Heathrow; some even operate 24 hours a day. We recommend booking your coach tickets in advance.
If you’re catching the coach from Terminals 2 or 3, hop on one at Heathrow Central Bus Station, located between the terminals above the London Underground station.
Or, if you’re at Terminal 4, outside the arrivals level of the terminal building, at bus stops 12 to 17, and a short walk from the London Underground and Elizabeth line stations.
If you’re at Terminal 5, you’ll find the coach stop at bus stops 9 to 15, above the London Underground, Heathrow Express and Elizabeth line stations.
There are also London buses that you can catch from the Central Bus Station, which is within walking distance of Terminals 2, 3 and 5, though some routes also call at Terminal 4. Keep note that cash is not accepted on Transport for London buses. Instead, you can use a Contactless or Oyster Card, which you can read more about in our article about paying for transport in London. You’ll see public bus options pop up on Google Maps if it’s an option for your journey.
The London Underground – The Piccadilly Line
The Underground, or as Londoners like to call it, The Tube, can get you into the city centre in less than an hour. Heathrow is on the Piccadilly Line, and trains frequently run from all three stations in terminals 2/3, 4 and 5, and it’s one of the cheapest ways to get into the city. You can tap your contactless card, buy an Oyster card or purchase a ticket, but the latter will cost you more.
The Heathrow Express train is the fastest and most reliable way to the city centre. It only takes 15 minutes from terminals 2 and 3, plus an extra three from terminal 5. It runs four times an hour between the airport and London Paddington, and you can get a ticket for less than twenty pounds if you book it in advance, but it’s also fine to buy them at the airport, you will just pay more, around £25, making it the most expensive option for travelling into the city.
The newly-opened Elizabeth line is also a great option; it can get you into the city in under 45 minutes and runs every half an hour, but this will cost you a little over ten pounds. Take a look at our article about how to pay for transport in London to find out the best way for you.
Taxi is the most convenient way to get into the city from Heathrow Airport. You can jump off your flight, pop your bags in a pre-booked airport taxi and be on your way. But it’s also the most expensive and can take longer than public transport depending on how bad the traffic is. You could jump in an Uber (wait times can vary), or if you want to be super prepared, book a pre-booked ride through our reliable taxi partner, which operates with hand-picked, fully-trained drivers, arrival monitoring and they’ll greet you in the terminal once you’ve grabbed your luggage.
How to get from London Gatwick Airport to London
Gatwick is London’s other major intercontinental airport, and while it’s nowhere near London, there are many options for travelling from Gatwick Airport into the city. If you don’t plan on getting a taxi or coach, it’s a good idea to have an Oyster or contactless card ready to go, so you can hop on the train and be on your way as soon as you touch down.
Bus and coach
You can reach London Victoria or Earl’s Court from Gatwick by bus/coach, where you can then hop on the Underground. This is the slowest form of transport into the city, but it’s also the cheapest, costing as little as £7 depending on when you book and the route you take.
You can catch a bus at almost any hour of the day, and they operate from the lower South Terminal forecourt and outside International Arrivals at Gatwick’s North Terminal (don’t worry, you’ll see lots of signs pointing you in the right direction). You’ll find National Express ticket desks in both the North and South terminals, or you can book in advance and likely save a little money while doing so, costing from £7 to £28, depending on the time you book and the route you take. Megabus also operate services from Gatwick Airport and can be booked in advance or purchased at the Megabus ticket kiosk machine in the South Terminal, costing from £8 per ticket.
Trains are quick and not very expensive, from Gatwick to many London hubs, and the station is right in the south terminal, so it’s straightforward to access. Southern trains run four times every hour to Victoria, travelling via East Croydon and Clapham Junction with a journey time of 35 minutes. There are also Thameslink services to London Bridge, London Blackfriars, Farringdon and St Pancras International, which operate four times an hour, taking around 30-45 minutes. To figure out which station is best for you to go to, use Google Maps or Citymapper and then when you’re at the station, check the board to see which train is going to that station next. It’s easy, and there’s lots of staff around to help.
Since you’re heading to London, the easiest way to pay for your train ride is by contactless debit or credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Oyster card. You can also purchase a one-time ticket, which will cost you a little more.
Just a heads up, there’s also the Gatwick Express which will get you into the city in 30 minutes. However, it’s expensive, even when booked in advance; and the regular trains mentioned above are just a few minutes longer, so, in general, we say a big NO for the Gatwick Express.
Getting a taxi from Gatwick to the city is the most expensive way to travel, depending on your location. The travel time is around an hour into the city centre, but this can be significantly longer depending on traffic and which part of the city you’re trying to get to. If you don’t mind spending more and would rather have the convenience of hopping in a car, you can secure a taxi in advance using our airport transfer partner. Whatever you do, don’t turn up expecting to be able to book an Uber straight away, they’re super hard to get from Gatwick if you can get one at all, and you might be waiting a while at the airport taxi rank.
How to get from London Stansted Airport to London
Although Stansted Airport isn’t technically in London, you can easily reach the city within an hour, depending on which mode of transport you opt for. Plus, there are a handful of options that cover all budgets and destinations, making travel into the city relatively stress-free.
Bus and coach
You can hop on a National Express coach, which will take you to any of the 38 pick-up points around the city, with 15 being in the centre and all key London tube stations, including London Paddington, Victoria, Liverpool Street and Stratford. It’s the cheapest way to travel, with some tickets costing as little as six pounds when booked in advance. The bus/coach station is only a 2-minute walk from the main airport terminal, and people are on hand to help you board the right bus.
Train – Stansted Express
There’s no London Underground Service at London Stansted Airport, but there are regular trains, including the speedy Stansted Express, which runs every 30 minutes and goes straight to Tottenham Hale and London Liverpool Street in around 50 minutes, so it’s quicker than a coach. If you have an early flight, the trains start running at 03:40 am on Monday, Friday and Saturday mornings. You can buy tickets online, at the ticket machines or at the station’s information desks, which will cost you around £22, but you’ll save the most money by booking in advance on Omio.
Although it’s possible to get an Uber at Stansted Airport, it’s unlikely, and you’ll probably be waiting for ages if you even manage to get one. Waiting for a taxi when you arrive can be a lengthy task, so your best bet is to pre-book through our airport transfer partner to ensure your journey is as seamless as possible. The airport is located just off the M11 motorway, approximately 40 miles from the city centre of London, so you can expect to be in London in around 45 minutes to an hour.
How to get from London Luton Airport to London
London Luton Airport is another one of the city’s airports, operating for budget airlines, mostly travelling to Europe. There are a handful of ways to travel to the city from the airport, but knowing all the info can help you decide which option is best suited to you.
Bus and Coach
The cheapest way to travel between Luton Airport and London is by hopping on a coach or bus, which will likely have a stop near your final destination; they stop at Golders Green, Marble Arch, London Paddington, and London Victoria. However, it’s also the slowest way to travel, taking around an hour to 90 minutes to get from the airport into the city centre, and maybe even longer if there’s traffic. National Express and Megabus run regular services and are reasonably priced, starting from around £12. But book in advance to save a little.
The quickest way to travel between the airport and the city is by taking a train. Luton Airport has no train station, but Luton Parkway station is around a mile from the airport, with regular DART shuttles running every four minutes at peak times. Thameslink trains run up to six times in one hour, operating fast services between the city and the airport, taking approximately 25 minutes to get to King’s Cross St Pancras, a central London station with Underground links all over the city. The Luton Airport Express also runs from the airport to London every half an hour and offers a more sustainable way to travel since the trains are a new fleet of electric Class 360 trains. The DART shuttle will get you from the terminal to Luton Airport Parkway in just a few minutes, where you can then hop on the Luton Express and be in London in as little as 32 minutes. You can book online with no booking fees, from £10 one-way when you book in advance, or you can purchase tickets at any station, including at Luton Parkway.
If you’ve got the cash to splash or heaps of luggage you’d rather not lug onto a train, opt for a private taxi. It’s tough to get an Uber from Luton Airport, and you might be waiting a while at the local rank, so booking a cab in advance is recommended and can be done so through our airport taxi transfer company. You can expect to travel for around an hour and ten minutes in light traffic and depending on which part of the city your hotel is in.
Image Courtesy of London City Airport
How to get from London City Airport to the city centre
London City Airport is the closest airport to central London but also the smallest, meaning there are fewer flights, and they’re often more expensive. However, travelling from this London airport to the city centre is easy if you know what route to take.
Local London doubledecker buses operate regularly from London City Airport to all over the city for a very reasonable price (under £2). Buses don’t accept cash, so you’ll need a contactless debit card, or Oyster set up, ready to tap as you board – take a look at our article on how to pay for transport in London to find out more. Hop on the 473 or 474 to access stops around the city; check Citymapper or Google Maps when you arrive to find out which one you need.
London City Airport is part of the London Underground network, even having its own stop on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), connecting you to major stations like Stratford. Trains run frequently and can be accessed using a contactless or Oyster card, which can be purchased at London City DLR Station.
Taxi is the most expensive way to travel to your destination from London City Airport, but if you have the time and the money, it’s the most convenient way. You can get an Uber or queue at one of the taxi ranks but expect to wait a little while. If you want to ensure you have transport sorted before you land, book an airport transfer using our airport taxi partner, where a driver will be waiting for you once you touch down on English soil.