Visiting London is a dream, but figuring out how to get into the city can be a nightmare. If you need to know how to get to central London from the airport, keep reading. The only thing you need to know is which airport you’ll be landing at, then we can help you out with the rest.
First, here’s some helpful info about London airports and your transport options…
London has six major airports – London City Airport, Gatwick Aiport, Heathrow Airport, Luton Airport, London Southend Airport, and Stansted Airport. Each of them are well connected to central London (zone 1).
Trains are typically the quickest way to get from any airport to the city center, but many of the airports have less expensive options as well.
If you hop on one of the London buses, a single journey is £1.50. You’ll have the choice of using your contactless card or Oyster card, but you cannot pay cash on the London buses.
Keep in mind the London Underground (aka the Tube) prices change based on time of day. Peak fares apply Monday – Friday between 6:30am and 9:30am as well as 4:00pm to 7:00pm, excluding public holidays.
If you take the Tube, be sure to use a contactless card or an Oyster card. If you choose a single journey ticket, you’ll end up paying significantly more.
For the train and coach bus options, it may be a good idea to check their websites to see if you can save money by buying your ticket in advance.
Now that you’re “in-the-know” about some of the ins and outs of the transport options, choose your airport below to figure out the best way to get into the city so you can start checking things off your list of amazing things to do in London.
Table of Contents
- How to Get to London from Heathrow Airport
- How to Get to London from Gatwick Airport
- How to Get to London from Stansted Airport
- How to Get to London from Luton Airport
- How to Get to London from London City Airport
- How to Get to London from London Southend Airport
How to Get to London from Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Heathrow Airport is the main airport in London and one of the busiest airports in the world. It’s located about 20 miles west of central London in zone 6, and there are four terminals, numbered 2, 3, 4, and 5 (terminal 1 closed in 2015).
1. London Underground (aka Tube) from Heathrow Airport
The Tube is the cheapest and best way to get from Heathrow Airport to London. The Piccadilly line runs through all of the terminals, and it should take just under an hour to get to Piccadilly Circus. Departures happen every few minutes from around 5.10am (5.50am Sundays) to 11.45pm (11.30pm Sundays).
A single journey fare is £6.00. If you use your Oyster card or contactless card you’ll pay £5.10 during peak times or £3.10 during off-peak times.
2. Bus from Heathrow Airport
National Express coaches say they can get you to the Victoria Coach Station in as little as 35 minutes (it’ll probably be longer because of traffic). The earliest bus departs Heathrow Airport around 4:20am and the last one leaves around 10:50pm. You can catch the bus outside of any terminal, and tickets start at £6 for a one-way fare.
If you land after other transport options stop for the night and you don’t want to pay for a taxi, go for the N9 night bus. The bus does pick ups from terminals 2,3, and 5, and it will take about 75 minutes to get to Trafalgar Square. You’ll pay the standard £1.50 bus rate per trip.
3. Train from Heathrow Airport
The Heathrow Express is the quickest but also the most expensive way to get from Heathrow Airport to London. The train runs up to every 15 minutes and will get you to London Paddington in about 15-20 minutes. Trains run between around 5:00am – 11:45pm Monday through Saturday, and from around 6:20am – 11:45pm on Sunday. The train stops at terminals 2,3, and 5. A single fare during peak times is £25 and £22 during off-peak times. Returns are £37. You can save money if you book in advance on their website.
The TfL Rail is a cheaper way to get from Heathrow Airport to Paddington. You can also take it to Ealing Broadway if your hotel is on the west side of London. The train stops at terminals 2,3, and 4, and will get you to Paddington in about 30-35 minutes. The first train leaves Heathrow Airport around 5:20am (6:00am on Sundays), and the last one departs shortly after midnight. To Paddington you’ll pay £10.20 each way during peak hours and £10.10 during non-peak hours. To get to Ealing Broadway, you’ll pay £7.30 during peak hours and £6.00 during off-peak hours.
How to Get to London from Gatwick Airport (LGW)
Located about 28 miles south of the city center, Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport. Gatwick Airport has two terminals – North and South – and there’s a free monorail between the two. This airport isn’t in the Tube network, but there are plenty of trains you can take to get into the city. The trains will all leave from the South Terminal. The buses will pick you up from both terminals.
1. Train from Gatwick Airport
The Gatwick Express is the quickest way to get to central London from Gatwick Airport. It will get you to the London Victoria station in 30 minutes for £19.90 one-way or £36.70 roundtrip. Trains run about every 15 minutes. You can save even more if you book your tickets in advance on their website. The first train of the day will leave Gatwick Airport around 5:51am and the last one will leave about 11:20pm.
The Southern train also offers service to the London Victoria station, but it’s a commuter train so it makes some stops (East Croydon and Clapham Junction) that make the trip 10-15 minutes longer and it’ll probably be more crowded. There are several types of tickets you can buy for this train (off-peak tickets, anytime tickets, etc.), but you shouldn’t have to pay more than £16.20 for a one-way ticket or £32.40 for a return ticket. This train runs 24/7 with up to nine trains an hour. Book your tickets in advance here to save money.
Thameslink is another train option. It won’t stop at Victoria station, but it stops at other key places like St. Pancras, Farringdon, Blackfriars, and London Bridge. Pricing can be complicated, so I’d recommend checking out their website to make sure you get your ticket for the best price. Typically, tickets start around £10.70. This train runs 24/7 up to four times an hour.
2. Bus from Gatwick Airport
The only reason you would take the bus is if you’re really short on money. Travel time for the National Express coaches is around 90 minutes to Victoria station, assuming there’s no traffic, but prices start at £5 per ticket. Bus run 24 hours a day.
How to Get to London from Stansted Airport (STN)
40 miles northeast of London is Stansted Airport, home to many UK budget airlines.
1. Train from Stansted Airport
The Stansted Express is the quickest way to get into the city. Up to every 15 minutes, the train will depart from the station right below the terminal, and 47 minutes later it arrives at London Liverpool Street. You can also get to Tottenham Hale in a little less than 40 minutes. Trains run from around 5:30am – 12:30am. Fares should be around £17.00 for a one-way ticket and £29.00 for a return ticket, but be sure to check their website so see if they have any discounts for purchasing tickets in advance.
2. Bus from Stansted Airport
National Express can get you to a variety of places within the city (like King’s Cross, Victoria Coach Station, London Paddington, etc.), and their coaches run 24/7. Discounted fares start at £4.50 per journey.
Terravision also runs buses with fares starting at £10.00. The trip to London Victoria includes a stop at Baker Street and it will take about two hours.
How to Get to London from Luton Airport (LTN)
A major base for several budget airlines, Luton Airport is about 35 miles northwest of the city center.
1. Train from Luton Airport
The nearest train station is about one mile from Luton Airport, but a shuttle bus runs from the airport to the train station every ten minutes between 5:00am and midnight. The cost of the shuttle bus is £2.10 one-way or £3.40 for a return ticket, cash only. If you buy your train ticket in advance with your starting point at Luton Airport and not from “Luton Airport Parkway”, the shuttle price is include in the fare.
East Midlands Trains can get you to the city in as little as 21 minutes. Hourly trains will take you to London St Pancras. Their pricing is super complicated as well. It’s best to check their website for pricing and departure times once you know what time you’ll land.
Thameslink also offers a train to St Pancras International Station and it continues to several other stations in the city. Trains leave up to six times an hour. Your one-way ticket should be around £16.90 (£12.70 off-peak) one-way or £29.40 (£25.40 off-peak) return.
2. Bus from Luton Airport
The GreenLine 757 will take you from the airport to Baker Street, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, or Victoria Station 24/7. Single adult tickets are £11.00.
Terravision offers a few stops along the way before ending the journey at Victoria Coach Station. Buses run up to every 20 minutes. Journey time is between 75 – 105 minutes. On their website, tickets start at £11.00.
National Express coaches take a bit of a different route and can get you to Paddington or Victoria Coach Station. Coaches run 24/7 and fares start at £5.00.
How to Get to London from London City Airport (LCY)
Located in zone 3 and only six miles east of the city center, London City Airport is the closest airport to central London.
1. DLR from London City Airport
From London City Airport you’ll hop on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) – for all intents and purposes, the DLR is the same as the Tube. In about seven minutes you’ll get to Canning Town where you can transfer to the Jubilee line to get into the city.
You can also take the DLR to the Bank stop, which is London’s financial/business area.
The DLR train leaves from London City Airport every 8 to 15 minutes. On weekdays, it runs from around 5:30am to midnight and on Sundays from around 7:00am – 11:30pm.
2. Bus from London City Airport
If you want to take the bus from London City Airport you have two options: the 473 (Stratford, Silvertown, North Woolwich, and Prince Regent DLR Station) and the 474 (Canning Town, North Woolwich and East Beckton via Silvertown). A single journey is £1.50. The fare has to be paid by contactless card or an Oyster card. You cannot pay with cash.
How to Get to London from London Southend Airport (SEN)
Located around 40 miles from London, London Southend Airport is a smaller airport with only one terminal and less transport options.
1. Train from London Southend Airport
Head out of the terminal and hop on the Greater Anglia train. The train can take you to Stratford (for £15.10) or London Liverpool Street (£15.10). Trains run up to every 20 minutes and you’ll get to Stratford in around 45 minutes and to Liverpool Street station in around 55 minutes. Trains start running around 4:00am and stop around 11:00pm. Check their website for advance purchase discounts.
Now that you know how to get to central London from the airport, all you have to worry about now is brushing up on your British accent (unless you’re British of course, then you are good to go :)) and trying to spot some of the British royals.