Tuesday, July 28, 2009

London to Heathrow Airport and back - what are your options?

Heathrow+Airport+to+London+citySummer's here and the holiday that you have so looking forward to is finally here! Or even better still, you're thinking of dropping by London for a couple of days. Either way, most international flights touch down at Heathrow Airport and you wonder what are your options getting to and fro the airport from London.

Well, assuming that you are heading towards Central London, you are in luck as there are quite a number of options available depending on whether you are running on a tight schedule conscious or facing budget constraint. Anyhow, here is a list of options that you can consider, from the cheapest to the most expensive.

London Underground (or the Tube)

The dear old Tube is the heart of London and never far from the Londoner's mind. When in London, do what the Londoners do, stick to the good o' Tube and you will never go wrong. Once you arrive at Heathrow Airport, ask for directions and go get yourself an Oyster Card. With a fully refundable deposit of £3 and you can top up with whatever amount you are comfortable with, all of which fully refundable at the end of your trip. For more information on this head towards Transport for London.

A trip from Heathrow Airport (Zone 6) to Central London (Zone 1) will set you back by a mere £3.80 during peak times and £2.20 during off-peak. The catch is that you'll have to endure an hour's (assuming there's no breakdown) of rumbling vibrations and stuffy ventilation. Be forewarn that the Tube stations with their multitude of staircases are not exactly friendly to visitors lugging huge suitcases. Never fear though, for I have compiled some tips on how to survive the London Underground.

National Express Coaches

One of the most extensive trains and coaches network in the UK, National Express, offers relatively affordable airport transfers to and from various stops in London. A return ticket goes for around £9 depending on the timing and whether you're holding on to any concession. 

The time taken for the trip, again depends on whether it's peak hour in London, is between 45min to just over an hour. Other than its relative low cost, luggage space in the bus storage compartment is ample. If you aren't in a hurry and don't mind taking a long bus ride, this is the option for you. Get your tickets from the National Express website.

Heathrow Connect / Express

If you are feeling a bit generous, opt for the Heathrow Connect instead. Priced at £7.40 (single way), it departs from London Paddington station (also a Tube station) at regular intervals. It'll bring you to Heathrow Airport in just under 30 minutes with a couple of stops in between. For more information, visit their website.

Alternative, for some extravagance, go for the Heathrow Express. Also departing from London Paddington station, this speedy train takes to Heathrow in 15mins. Priced at £16.50 (single way), it costs more than twice as compared to the Heathrow Connect ticket. The time saved compared to the Connect is actually much more than 15min; the frequency of the Express trains is far higher than the Connect - I once waited for a good 20min for a Connect train, not exactly the situation you want to be in if you are late for checking for your flight. For more information on Heathrow Express, check out their website.

Addison Lee

Addison Lee is a chauffeur service based in London. All their vehicles are currently equipped with satellite navigation so you can pretty much depend on them to get you to your destination via the shortest route.

The best thing about Addison Lee is that it is a flat fare service and its services can be booked in advance with no additional charge. To get a fee quote visit their website. All you need is the postcodes of where you wished to be picked up and your destination. In fact, I rely on Addison Lee for travelling within London as well during the wee hours when the Tube cease its operation. The drivers have been rather reliable thus far. As a value added service, Addison Lee will also send you a confirmation sms when the booking is confirmed with the license plate of the vehicle that's coming to pick you up. Also check out the comparison of the major London cab services.

London (black) Cab

For those who doesn't really thrive on planning ahead but would like to be transported right to your doorstep, consider flagging down a London Cab at Heathrow Airport. This is strictly for those who has absolutely no clue and has cash to burn for London Cabs run on meter and boy, these meters are among the most efficiently run meters you would ever encounter. I know of someone who flagged down a London Cab at Heathrow Airport and it cost her a whopping £120 (excluding tips) to Central London!

Regardless of which option you end up choosing, it's usually a trade-off between comfort, cost and time. However, going for cab services doesn't necessarily mean that you will get to your destination faster - for you'll have to contend with London's notorious traffic jams as well.

Have you used any other services to and fro Heathrow Airport? What are your experiences with them?

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SheR. said...

The first time I landed in Heathrow, we arranged for a private cab to bring us to Surrey. I think about 40 quid. For private cabs, you need to haggle and decide on a price before you get on.

FĂ«anor said...

If you ask at the information counter at any of the terminals, they'll give you a bunch of numbers for registered minicabs. These are much cheaper than black cabs, of course.

C K said...

I don't suppose you can recall the name of the cab service you have engaged? Addison Lee charged me 40 quid from Heathrow to Central London when we first arrived but I guess the rate has increased since then.

These minicabs, do they require sharing with others? Or are those minibuses? I know that Dot-to-Dot offers minibuses.

Just curious, how do you normally get back from Heathrow?

drcrab said...

£40 seems quite reasonable. My chauffer (hahahaha) charges us about double, but then again, we are about 2 hrs from Heathrow, and that's 1-way (since he'll sometimes have to come back 'empty-handed'.

C K said...

£40 was like two years back. A trip across Central London cost me around £12.60 now so I would imagine that Heathrow-London will be much more than just £40.

What's the service that you're currently using? Addison Lee as well?

drcrab said...

never heard of Addison Lee - guess he doesn't ply our route! No, mine is a 'company' one. I use him both for work reasons (work pays) or personal (I pay). He'll take me to France too if necessary, or up to Scotland or whereever. As long as he gets paid, he'll take us! :) Very professional - next time if parents come will probably send him to pick them up!

C K said...

Erm, Addison Lee is a cab service, not a person.

lol, no wonder you referred to yours as a chauffuer!

Joanne said...

Hi CK, I emailed you on this topic a week back. Just to get back to you, I took Flightlink Chauffeurs in the end : http://flchauffeurs.com/

They were very good and I highly recommend it for anyone travelling in groups.

It doesn't hurt that they are run by a familiar company - Comfortdelgro.

C K said...

Hey, thanks for the update. I didn't realise that you were in fact looking for a minibus and not a cab.

May I know how much it was from Heathrow to your airport? Thanks in advance!

Joanne said...

Hi CK,

Really sorry for the late response! Anyway, I would take FL even if I were traveling individually - I'm sure they cater for that too.

It costs us 95 GBP for 7 people with multiple drop off / pick up points :)

A really good deal for extremely good service. We were driven in a Mercedes and the driver was on time, all suited up and really polite.

Plus their emails responses are prompt.

Joanne said...

To add on, we were traveling from Heathrow to Canary Wharf. I believe the company is based at Canary Wharf so this is a good service for business travelers who stay in that area.

C K said...

Hey Joanne!
Glad to hear from you again. Hope that things are well over at your end.

95 quid does sound like a great deal for 7 people. Can I assume that you'll need at least 7 to book the entire minicab? Otherwise, you'll have to wait for the bus to fill up, no?

Oh, happy CNY in advance. Cheers!

Joanne said...

Nope, it is just like a taxi service. You specify ahead the no. of people traveling and they arrange an appropriate car for you. No sharing of the ride with strangers.

Ours was already reaching the max no of passengers they could take. I believe they have saloon cars for individual travelers / smaller groups.

Happy CNY to you too :)