Flying into London: Heathrow vs Gatwick
Updated: May 6, 2022
As part of our London blog series, we wanted to share with you guides on travelling into Central London from all six London’s airports to help your journey and take as much stress as possible.
Unlike other major cities, London is complicated with six airports. We understand you might be thinking “well, London is a major tourist and business destination, so surely it needs six airports, right?”. Well, Paris and New York both have three each…
This blog is specifically about Heathrow and Gatwick – the largest of London’s airports.
If you’d like a quick overview of all six airports, read Our Guide to London's Six Airports.
If you’re flying from Europe or North Africa via budget airlines, read here for Stansted & Luton.
If you’re flying for business or another alternative from mainland Europe, read here for London City & Southend.
Just by the way (and I’ll say this for all), I’m not going to be adding rental cars into these travel possibilities. I can’t say this enough – London, much like New York or other major international cities, is not a city for driving. I will add taxis into this.
And also – really, really try to avoid travel with your luggage into Central London between 7:30-9am. This is prime rush hour and you’ll be at the mercy of Londoners who will be in more of a hurry than you - London is a busy working city with loads of commuters.
Now, let’s get to it: Heathrow & Gatwick!
Heathrow is the largest of London’s airports and one of the busiest in the world, located on the outskirts of London to the city’s west. Heathrow has four terminals, so check which you’ll be flying into before arriving to help you travel into Central London as seamlessly as possible.
The London Underground (aka the tube/metro) – our favourite!
Conveniently, Heathrow is on the Piccadilly Line (the navy line) of the tube. This will take you into the heart of Central London in 45 minutes and will cost £5-6 per journey. Plenty of space for luggage and, at the start of the line, you’ll be guaranteed seats too! You can buy a ticket with an Oyster Card (London Underground’s tap-in tap-out card) – you can also use your contactless credit card too.
Top tip: When booking your hotel, check out its nearest tube stations. In Zone 1, you’ll always be a 10-minute walk from a tube station wherever you are. If you have lots of luggage, then I’d recommend getting a hotel close to the Piccadilly line so the journey to and from Heathrow is seamless! 90% of tube stations will have an escalator or elevator if your travelling with luggage, particularly if you’re in Central - otherwise, you may be carrying some literal heavy baggage!
Trains run regularly to Paddington station. There are two types of trains you can get:
Heathrow Express: 15 minutes, £22.
TfL Rail: 28 minutes, £11.
Top tip: Get the TfL Rail instead – it’s great and is half the cost for only 13 minutes longer. The Heathrow Express is known to locals as a rip off.
You can get a National Express coach from Heathrow to London Victoria Coach Station taking 45-55 minutes (traffic dependent), costing between £5-7.50 one-way. I’ve seen even cheaper (as little as £1!!) before 8am for people flying into London early.
You can get the N9 bus from Heathrow Central Bus Station – and Heathrow Terminal 5 – for just £1.50, terminating at Aldwych in East London.
There are plenty of black taxis around the area if you really wish – a 45-minute journey will cost £50+. However, these taxis are metred, so you’re at the mercy of the traffic. If it’s heaving, your taxi cost could rise to £90 one-way!
Yes it will drop you directly to your hotel, however if you’ve booked a place close to a tube station, you can take the tube and save a huge amount of money that could be put toward souvenirs, food or a nicer hotel/AirBnB!
Two Passports’ Choice? Easy – get the tube. Signs throughout the airport help you get to the tube station easily and it’s cheap.
The UK’s second largest airport, Gatwick is Heathrow’s younger brother; large, but doesn’t serve as many routes. Gatwick is 30 miles/48 km South West outside of London.
There’s a train station inside the airport and regular trains run to both London Victoria and London Bridge. Both in the heart of the city, these are easily serviced by tube lines.
To London Victoria: 30-35 minutes, £12 (after 9:30am) rising to £17.60 one-way
To London Bridge: 30-40 minutes, £12 one-way.
You can get a National Express coach from Gatwick to London Victoria Coach Station taking 2 hours (traffic dependent), costing between £7-10 one-way.
If you’re staying in West London, check out the Easy Bus, from only £1.95 one-way, taking 75-minutes.
If you’re willing to splurge, or will split with others, a black taxi will take you into London for around £100 one-way.
Two Passports’ Choice? Get the train! Cheapest option and takes least amount of time.