London has five airports located East of the city (London city airport, 10 miles), Northeast of the city (Stansted, 35 miles), North of the city (Luton, 30 miles), West of the city (Heathrow, 20 miles), and South of the city (Gatwick, 30 miles). Choosing which London airport is best to fly in and out of can be based largely on the transportation options. Here’s a rundown of the transport available at London’s airport as well as some general tips:
General Tips for Travelling To & From London’s Airports
National Express performs regular transfers between London airports if you’re making a connecting flight between airports. Factor in at least three hours for these transfers.
If you’re a local rather than a tourist, have a look at Airparks for parking at the airports around London. If there are several of you travelling train tickets will definitely add up making it more cost effective to drive to the airport and park your car.
Express airport trains are usually well-equipped for travellers with disabilities. However, not all underground stations have necessary ramps and not all buses are able to provide wheelchair access.
Right at the station (or even before your trip) you can purchase London Oyster Card for use on public transport around the city.
For a backpacker budget, you can always consider hitchhiking. Hitchwiki has some useful user-generated tips for those who want to hitch out of London airports to town.
Getting To & From Heathrow
Heathrow Express (£20-25) leaves every 15 minutes and takes just 15 minutes to reach the airport, 5am to 11:45pm. Heathrow Connect (£9.50) departs from London Paddington passing through Ealing Broadway, West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, then Heathrow Central (T1, T3), where you can catch a free transfer to Heathrow T4 and T5. Journey takes 25 minutes. If you have an Oyster Card, you can get to Heathrow by tube (operating from 5:10am to 11:30pm), which is cheaper (£5.50) but also slower than the Express. National Express runs from Victoria Coach Station to Heathrow Airport from 5:45am until 9:40pm, journey takes from 40m to 1h30m, ticket costs £6. Bus N9 runs at night every 20 minutes to Trafalgar square, journey takes approximately 76 m. Standard bus fare – £1.40 (with Oyster card) or £2.40 (w/o Oyster card).
Getting To & From Gatwick
If you’re a local then driving and parking at the airport is a great idea. Gatwick parking is available from as little as £5.62 a day. If you’re not a local and won’t have a car with you, The Gatwick Express provides the fastest rail access to central London. Trains run every 15 minutes to/from Victoria Station between 4:35am and 1:35am. The journey takes about 30m. First Capital Connect calls at London Bridge, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Farringdon, St Pancras Intl. and runs every 15 minutes during the day and once an hour during the night. Southern stops at East Croydon, Clapham Junction and London Victoria. National Express provides coach service to Victoria Coach Station every 30 minutes. The journey takes about 1h 20m. easyBus runs around the clock to Earls Court/West Brompton and is significantly cheaper. The journey takes about 1 hour.
Getting To & From Stansted
Stansted Express train (£23.40) departs every 15 minutes from Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale underground stations 5:20 – 1:30 (schedule here) and journey takes 35-45 minutes. Express buses (£17) run at night from Liverpool Street. The journey takes 65 minutes. From the airport, you can find several other coach services right opposite the terminal: easyBus runs around the clock every day (except Christmas) from/to Baker street, prices start from £2 and journey takes about 1h15m. National Express operates from/to Victoria Coach station 24h several times per hour and stops at Golder’s Green, Finchley Road, St John’s Wood, Baker Street and Marble Arch. Another coach stops at Liverpool Street via Stratford, Whitechapel, Shorditch, Bethnal Green, Mile End and Bow. Prices start from £8. Terravision offers coaches to Victoria Coach Station, Liverpool Street Station, or Stratford, with prices starting from £6. Think green, hop on a bike and cycle all the way to Stansted. The airport offers free bicycle shelters at the terminal. You might want to get a map, but in general the road between London and Stansted has convenient cycling lanes all along.
Getting To & From Luton
Shuttle buses operate from the airport to the nearest train station. From there, trains run to Central London day and night, for a standard fee of £13.50. Journey usually takes 20-25 minutes. National Express runs a service to Luton around the clock for £10. Journey takes about 1h 15mins. easyBus runs low-cost express service (£2 if you book early) from central London to the airport, stopping at Brent Cross, Finchley Road, Baker street, Oxford Street, Marble Arch and Victoria St. Terravision buses depart every 20 minutes, passing through Brent Cross, Baker Street, Marble Arch and Victoria. Tickets cost £15.
Getting To & From City Airport
Docklands Light Railway will take you to the airport every 15 minutes for the same fare as a regular tube journey. Having an Oyster card will be a good advantage. For standard fares you can take buses 473 (Stratford, Silverton, North Woolwich, Prince Regent St.) or 474 (Canning Town, North Woolwich, East Beckton).