Flying into London for the first time can be daunting. The capital is a sprawling metropolis of over 1,580 square miles with thousands of transport links reaching all corners of the globe.
For those with minimal English and no experience of the city, it can be difficult to know exactly where to go when you finally exit the plane. Considering London has six airports with multiple terminals and runways, finding your way isn’t always easy.
Fortunately, London’s city and airport planners have made travel between its airports extremely cheap and simple. This week, we’re going to talk through each of the different ways you might fly into the city and give you the low down on travel between London’s airports and the capital.
Let’s kick off with London’s biggest international airport, Heathrow.
With 5 different terminals, Heathrow can be a little intimidating at first glance. However, as the city’s most important international airport, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate. At only 16 miles from the very centre of the city, it’s perfectly situated for easy access via the London Underground.
Heathrow is located at the southwest corner of the Picadilly line, giving access to terminals one, two and three, and four and terminal five. Check out Heathrow airport’s Which Terminal page to find out where you’re flying into.
If you have a transfer booked at Heathrow to another destination, check which terminals your planes arrive at and depart from. You can use the Picadilly line to travel between them or the handy flight connection busses that Heathrow provides.
If you’re simply heading straight into the city, follow the red circle of the London Underground when you arrive and take the lifts down to the station on the basement level. The tube trains arrive every 10 minutes and will take you to Westminster in around 50 minutes.
London City Airport
London City Airport is a regional airport located in the Royal Docks in the Borough of Newham, about 6 miles east of the City of London and 3 miles east of Canary Wharf.
It is a smaller airport mostly used by the financial industry due to its proximity to London’s financial quarters, the City and Canary Wharf. Many buses can take you there, but the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is also very easy, similar to accessing Heathrow with the tube.
Important, London City Airport is within the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, so if you come by car, you may need to pay the ULEZ charge.
London’s second-biggest airport is based directly south of the city, about 27 miles out. It’s made up of two separate terminals – the North Terminal and South Terminal – conveniently linked by an inter-terminal shuttle. You can check which airlines are served by which terminals in advance on the website here, but it’s quick and easy to travel between the terminals, so don’t worry too much.
Just like Heathrow, Gatwick is well-linked to London’s city centre. You can take the Gatwick express train directly from the airport to London Victoria station. You can take the underground line from there to any part of the city. Tickets cost just £16 on the day and are even cheaper if you book in advance.
Stansted airport is known for its budget flights and is a little further out of the city than Heathrow and Gatwick.
It’s a little under 40 miles to London’s north but remains easily accessible by car, coach and rail. With only one terminal, it’s easy to get around too. We recommend booking a ticket on the train from Stansted Airport to London Liverpool Street, which is situated in the northeast of the city centre.
It takes only 50 minutes and costs around £18 when buying a ticket on the day. However, if you’re looking for a budget option, you can try the Stansted Express coach, which will take you into Paddington, Baker Street, Marble Arch or London Victoria.
Situated northwest of London, Luton is known for its low-cost, short-haul flights across Europe and North Africa. It’s closer to the city centre than Stansted, but not by much, and transport links are just as convenient. You can take a direct train from the Luton train station to Blackfriars Station or London St Pancras in the centre of London.
You’ll need to hop on the free shuttle bus from the airport to Luton Airport Parkway train station to catch the train, which comes every ten minutes. Tickets cost around £17.50, and the journey takes around 45 minutes.
The exact location of Southend Airport is a mystery to many native Londoners, let alone travellers visiting the city for the first time. It’s the smallest of all the city’s airports but remains well-connected to the town centre via train to London Liverpool Street. The airport is about 50 miles east of London, between the city and the ocean. It’s a lovely airport to fly into, as visitors get to look down on the ocean as they come into land.
The train journey from the airport lasts a little over an hour but costs only £16 if you buy a ticket for the day. The airport train station is a two-minute walk from the terminal; just follow the sign of London’s overground rail network – two red lines crossed by a third wiggly line.
If you’d like to learn more about the best ways to get around London, please don’t hesitate to email us at Evan Evans Tours via our contact page. Alternatively, you can look at our great range of London tours.