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(Exactly) How to Get from the London Airports to the City Center

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People often want advice on navigating through the London airports after they have exited into Arrivals, but because of all of the different terminals and airport layouts, the best thing to do is print out the airport map from the airport website that you’re traveling into beforehand, and most importantly, know ahead of time what you’re looking for so you can read the signage and ask airport staff to help you navigate to it.

For instance, at Heathrow Airport, are you looking for the tube?

Or are you looking for the Heathrow Express?

Are you looking for ground transportation to catch a prebooked transfer?

Are you looking for a bus stop?

Know which route you are using to get from your London airport to Central London, and then have laser focus to keep an eye out for signs pointing you that way.

At the end of the day, if you get lost in a UK airport, it will just take a quick conversation with an airport staff member to get you pointed in the right direction.

In airports that have quite a few terminals like Heathrow Airport, you will also want to note down which terminal you have arrived into and which one your transportation departs from (which you can find out in the next section).

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How to Get from the Airport to Central London

How to Get from London Heathrow Airport to City Center

Getting from London Heathrow to London is one of the easiest journeys as it’s the best connected.

Heathrow numbers its terminals: 2 & 3, 4, and 5.

Terminal 1 was closed in 2015.

Prebook an Airport Transfer

If you don’t feel like dealing with your luggage on public transportation, you can always book an airport transfer with Addison Lee ahead of time.

This is often the cheapest option over Uber or a black cab.

They will meet you in the arrivals halls with a sign with your name – fancy.

If you are more comfortable ordering an Uber using the app, you can do that as well.

When you book your Uber, it will tell you the designated meeting point based on your Terminal, and you can also find the list of them here (scroll down to Designated Pick Up Area at LHR).

Take the Tube

You can access the London Underground from any Heathrow Terminal, as there is a stop for Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and a separate one for Terminals 4 and 5 (but they all connect to the same line)

You can purchase an Oyster card at the airport station and it will only cost £5.10 one way during peak times.

There are a ton of people who use this route, so you won’t be the only one on the tube with your luggage.

The tube line that runs to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line, and then you might need to switch to another line later on to get closer to your accommodation.

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Heathrow Express

The Heathrow Express is a train that takes you from Heathrow Airport to London Paddington Station.

It takes about 15 minutes and can cost as little as £12 one way if you book in advance (though the closer you get to your date of travel, the price can go up).

You can buy tickets online, or buy them at the Heathrow Express station (signs will point you in the right direction once you clear customs and immigration).

Heathrow Express stops at Terminal 5 and Terminals 2 & 3.

If you come into Terminal 4, you can take a free connecting service to get you to the Heathrow Express stations at the other terminals.

The Heathrow Express is great if you are staying somewhere around Paddington, but you will have to navigate from Paddington to wherever you want to go, so check to make sure the tube (Piccadilly Line) won’t drop you closer to where you need to go.

National Express Bus from Heathrow Airport to London

If you are on a strict budget and are flexible on waiting around for a bus, you can book a bus trip via the website National Express from Heathrow Airport to London Victoria Coach Station.

The pros is that this only costs about £6.00, so much cheaper than an Uber or Addison Lee transfer, but the downside is that the schedule is not as frequent as the tube, these buses have other stops before they get to Heathrow Airport which means they run the risk of being very late depending on traffic, and you have the annoyance of public transportation combined with the annoyance of getting stuck in traffic.

This is not a popular way to get to and from the airport for most visitors, but is an option and is completely safe if you feel like your budget won’t stretch and you don’t want to take the tube for some reason.

The main National Express bus station is between Heathrow Terminals 1 and 2, though if you come into another Terminal, you can book a ticket which has you having to get on one bus from your Terminal to the main Terminal 2 & 3 bus station and then switching onto your actual bus.

There are also varying levels of tickets you can purchase online ahead of time, from non-refundable to ones that allow you to get on any bus 12 hours before or 12 hours after your booked time in case your flight gets changed.

You can also buy tickets from the Terminal 2 & 3 bus station, but not from the driver so don’t just hop on expecting to pay.

People walking through airport with planes in the background
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How to Get from Gatwick Airport to London

Gatwick Airport is the other large airport in London – I fly out of here more often due to direct flights being offered to my home city and have a lot of experience traveling in and out.

Gatwick Airport has two terminals – North and South.

Prebooked Airport Transfer

Just like Heathrow Airport, you can book a prebooked airport cab transfer through Addison Lee if you want someone to help you with your bags and take you directly to your hotel or AirBnb.

Uber

You can also book an Uber, and find pick up areas for Gatwick here.

Gatwick Airport Express

Gatwick Airport is not connected to London via the London Underground, so trains are your major options if you don’t want to do an airport cab transfer.

A Gatwick Express ticket runs at about £17 if you buy in advance online (one way), and it goes from Gatwick Airport (South Terminal) to London Victoria station in 30 minutes.

If you arrive in the North Terminal, you can take a free shuttle to the South Terminal.

Once you reach London Victoria Station, you could then hop on the London Underground or get a cab to your final destination.

You can also buy tickets on the Gatwick Express on the day in the airport for a more expensive price.

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Other Trains from Gatwick

You can also get other trains from Gatwick (also going from the South Terminal Train Station) going to various stations like London Bridge, London Blackfriars, and London Farringdon that run about £12 (and will take a bit longer and have more stops).

To investigate the best train route to your destination, you can use Trainline.com, or go to Google Maps, plug in the address of your hotel, then click on the public transportation button (looks like a bus) and it will give you some options and the choice to buy tickets on those services.

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Buses from Gatwick Airport

There are two regular buses that run from Gatwick Airport, though buses are not the most popular way to get to central London from Gatwick and if you did choose this option, it would be mostly for budget reasons as transfers are usually less than £10 one way and can be as little as just a few pounds.

The first option is a National Express that runs from both terminals and takes you to London Victoria Coach Station.

You can book this online ahead of time on the National Express website. These are large buses that are roomy inside.

The other option is an EasyBus, which takes you to West Brompton Underground Station, which is not too central but rather on the outskirts of Central London.

You can book this through the easyBus website.

The EasyBuses are small minibuses, not large ones, so you’ll be quite packed in.

I wouldn’t recommend taking a bus unless you are absolutely strapped for cash, as, again, you will be dealing with delays due to traffic (both of buses arriving to you on time to pick you up and then the time you actually get to your stop in Central London), and Gatwick is even further away from Central London than Heathrow, so there is more of a chance for delays.

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How to Get from London Luton to Central London

London Luton is a one runway airport with one terminal, and the name “London” in it is a bit misleading as it’s decently far away from central London!

It serves flights from Europe and domestically, so you might be flying to here if you are coming to London after another stop in Europe rather than on an international flight from the US, Canada, Australia, etc.

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Prebooked Airport Transfer

Just like all other London airports, you can book a prebooked airport cab transfer through Addison Lee if you want someone to help you with your bags and take you directly to your hotel or AirBnb.

You can also book an Uber, and find pick up areas for Luton here.

Trains to Central London

While Luton Airport does not have a train station, it does have a shuttle that takes about 10 minutes to the nearby train station to get trains into Central London.

This is the quickest option, usually, at only about 25 minutes (not including the shuttle).

You can get the shuttle from the Luton bus area which is right outside the exit when you walk out.

Trains from Luton Parkway Station (the main Luton railway Station) stop at a few different central London stops, but the one that will work for most people is its stop at Kings Cross St. Pancras, which is in the heart of London and has great onward tube and bus connections to wherever you may be staying.

You can buy tickets when at the airport or from Trainline.com.

Make sure to get a ticket from Luton Airport if you want the shuttle bus included, or if you buy it from Luton Parkway Station, you can buy tickets for the shuttle bus separately at Luton Airport.

Train tickets run about £13 to £17 a person depending on time of day and service.

Eurostar London to Paris train in St Pancras station
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Buses to Central London

There are two bus companies that run buses from Luton Airport to central London, National Express and Green Line.

You should buy tickets in advance for both, and they’ll run about £5 to £12 depending on when you buy them (and the closer to the trip you buy them, the more expensive it’s bound to be).

I wouldn’t recommend taking the bus as the journey into central London could take up to 90 minutes or even 2 hours at peak traffic times, however they are an option and both stop at central London locations like Marble Arch Station and Victoria Station.

You can pick up the buses right outside the exit to the main terminal.

For more information about the National Express bus, click here.

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How to Get from London Stanstead to Central London

London Stanstead is a one runway airport with one terminal.

It serves flights from Europe and domestically, so you might be flying to here if you are coming to London after another stop in Europe rather than on an international flight from the US, Canada, Australia, etc.

Prebooked Airport Transfer

Just like all other London airports, you can book a prebooked airport cab transfer through Addison Lee if you want someone to help you with your bags and take you directly to your hotel or AirBnb.

You can also book an Uber, and find pick up areas for Stanstead here.

Stanstead Express

The train that runs from Stanstead costs around £17.00 one way per person and goes direct to Liverpool Street Station in London.

This is not the most convenient station for many people and will require you to hop on the tube to your final destination, and it takes about 47 minutes.

Prices are cheaper if you book in advance through the Stanstead Express website.

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Buses from Stanstead Airport

There are two companies that run buses from Stanstead Airport – National Express and Airport Bus.

National Express has multiple different routes into Central London so you can pick the one that will work best for your destination, while Airport Bus has fewer.

Tickets run about £7 to £10 one way, so cheaper than the Stanstead Express train but with more likelihood of being stuck in traffic.

Buy tickets ahead of time for both services, knowing that if you buy them last minute on National Express, the price will be much more expensive.

Click here to check out the National Express stops, and here to look at the Airport Bus Express website.

If you can swing the cost, I would always recommend taking the train from Stanstead into London and then changing onto the tube at London Liverpool Street (or taking an Uber from there), as London traffic can be really intense and the last thing you want to do when just arriving in London is be on a stop-and-start bus through London traffic.

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How to Get from London City Airport to Central London

London City airport is a one runway and one terminal airport focusing on business travel throughout Europe, and it’s also the most conveniently located for getting into Central London.

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Use the DLR

The DLR, or Docklands Light Railway, is a wonderfully bright and airy train that is part of London’s Underground system.

London City Airport has its own stop on the DLR, and you can purchase your Oyster card here and use it on the DLR, connecting seamlessly to the tube.

You do want to check where your final destination is to map out which stop you want, but the most popular things to do are either take the DLR from London City Airport to Canning Town Station, where you can hop off and switch to the Jubilee line on the tube, or you can continue on from London City Airport to Bank Station, which has multiple tube lines that connect through it for you to finish your journey.

The DLR runs about every 7 to 15 minutes, and is open from around 5:30ish in the morning to midnight to accommodate for the vast majority of flights that will land here.

London City Airport Station is in Zone 3, so it will only cost about £2.80 to get into Central London on off peak times and £3.30 during peak hours (weekdays between 6:30am and 9:30am). 

Prebook an Airport Transfer

Like all London airports, you can prebook an Airport transfer using a service like Addison Lee who will wait for you at arrivals, or you can book an Uber.

Click here to see the Uber pickup location for London City Airport.

You can also hop into a licensed black cab outside London City Airport, though this is usually more expensive than a prebooked transfer.

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Buses from London City Airport

The buses from London City Airport mostly stay in the local area and the journey into central London via buses from London City Airport is going to be too convoluted for the average visitor, so stick to the DLR.

From tubes to buses to boats to black cabs, figuring out the most efficient and cheapest ways to get around London can be daunting if you’re not familiar with the city.

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