London: The Cheapest Way to Heathrow—Train, Tube or Car?
Every traveler has been there: You touch down in an unfamiliar city and feel immediately discombobulated. Getting out of the airport, sleep-deprived, with all of your luggage in hand is one thing—then you’re faced with the sometimes gargantuan task of figuring out how to get into town. Some of us jump in a taxi—and pay dearly for it.
Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect
Without a doubt, the Heathrow Express express train is the fastest—and most comfortable—way into the city. Heathrow Express departs every 15 minutes from the airport and takes just 15 minutes to reach Paddington station in the city’s West End. (The trains also leave Paddington every 15 minutes going the other way.)
To save yourself even more time, you can buy a ticket online before you leave the U.S. and have the actual ticket sent to your mobile phone—a bar code in the text message will be scanned when you board the train. Plus, another bonus starting this month: Free Wi-Fi on board! What could be better?
Well, the price, for one. A one-way ticket on the Heathrow Express costs a whopping £16.50 online (or £18 at Heathrow); a round-trip ticket will set you back £30 online (or £32 at the station).
A slightly cheaper option is the Heathrow Connect train. It takes slightly longer to reach Paddington (25 minutes), but the price is only £7.90 for a one-way ticket and £15.80 for a return if you purchase online. Watch which train you board—both the Heathrow Express and the Heathrow Connect stop at the same platform at the airport.
The Tube to Heathrow
Heathrow, mercifully, is also served by the Piccadilly line on the Underground. (Why can’t La Guardia be this well connected?) With an Oyster card, which you can buy at the Heathrow Tube station for £3 pounds, the cost of a one-way journey into central London is just £3.80.
The only major drawback is the travel time—allow yourself at least an hour to get to or from the center of the city; sometimes, the journey can even take an hour and a half. Another annoyance: Parts of the Tube are routinely shut down on weekends for maintenance, meaning you may have some difficulty reaching your final destination if it’s not on the Piccadilly line.
Car Service to Heathrow
This is the biggest secret in London when it comes to Heathrow connections. It’s actually how I suggest most of my out-of-town guests go to the airport at the end of their stay—it’s far less trouble than trying to figure out the train schedules and worrying about being late for a flight.
There are numerous car service companies in London that will take you to any destination of your choosing for a flat rate (no tipping necessary). Most companies charge around £30 per trip from central London (anywhere in Zone 1) to Heathrow, which is actually cheaper than purchasing two one-way tickets on Heathrow Express.
It’s simple to find a company if you have a cell phone that works in London. Just text the word “home” to the Transport for London’s information number (62967) and within minutes, you’ll receive a message with the numbers of several car companies near you.
If you aren’t that technologically savvy, fret not. Try calling Bloomsbury Cars, a reliable company that I’ve used before, at 020-7631-1334. They’ll pick up passengers from any location in Zone 1 and charge £30 per trip to Heathrow. The journey usually takes less than an hour.