Do the acronyms STN and LGW when plastered all over a cheap flights site do your head in? Can’t work out whether your flight leaves from Terminal 1, 3 or 4 from Heathrow and how to get there? I know the feeling, so i decided it was high time that someone laid out the best options on how to get to each London airport.
So you make that 6:20am flight to Barcelona. Not standing in Oxford Circus with your bag scratching your head in front of the Tube Map.
IATA Code: LHR
Heathrow is London’s largest and busiest airport and is divided into 5 terminals (with one currently under redevelopment). Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are located all next to each other in a star shape, with most Star Alliance carriers (e.g. bmi, SWISS, Lufthansa, Singapore) and oneworld carriers (e.g. Qantas, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines) departing from either Terminal 1 or 3. Terminal 2 has been demolished and is currently being rebuilt, scheduled to open in the next few years.
Terminal 4 is on the other side of the south runway and houses mostly SkyTeam airlines (like Air France, KLM and Delta). Terminal 5 is the newest terminal and is made of up 3 concourses – A, B and C and is located on the far west side of the airport, between the north and south runways. It is used exclusively by British Airways.
Two repeatable, easy transport options exist, the tube or the Heathrow Express.
Leaving from London Paddington station, the great thing about the Heathrow Express is that it takes just 15 minutes to get to Heathrow. Coupled with the fact that it leaves every 15 minutes, it’s in my opinion the best way to get there.
The only cringe is that it is the most expensive way (without taking a taxi). One way costs £16.50 and a return ticket costs £32.00. Ouch.
You could take the Heathrow Connect, which costs less than the Heathrow Express and runs on the same line, but this train is nowhere near as frequent and stops at stations all through West London. In my opinion, a waste of time and it will see you waiting at Heathrow at 10:30pm on a Sunday for 45 minutes for the next one back to London (bugger that).
Underground – Piccadilly Line
The traditional way of getting to Heathrow, the Piccadilly line. This journey will take you 45-60 minutes from Central London but won’t cost you nearly as much as the Heathrow Express (approximately £10). I get all nostalgic when I take the tube to Heathrow, because it was my first impression of London when I arrived.
IATA Code: LGW
Gatwick is in Sussex, about 45 km south of London. It’s served mostly by easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates and is broken up into two terminals – North and South. The train station is located under the South terminal (the oldest terminal) and the North terminal is connected by a monorail shuttle type transport system. Three rail options are available to get you to Gatwick.
The Gatwick Express leaves from London Victoria station and costs £15.95 one way or £27.40 return. It takes 30 minutes and trains leave every 15 minutes, running express from Victoria to Gatwick Airport. A great option if you’re coming from anywhere other than South London.
Leaving from London Bridge and London Victoria stations, these services are cheaper but tend to stop at a lot of stations along the way. For those based in South London, you can get one of these trains from Clapham Junction, which takes 30 minutes to Gatwick and costs £18.40 for a return ticket. This flexibility makes Gatwick an easy airport to get to and the Southern trains service a much cheaper alternative to the Gatwick Express.
First Capital Connect
The First Capital Connect service (previously and sometimes still called “Thameslink”) runs from Brighton (on the south coast) all the way through to Bedford (past Luton) and coincidentally, via Gatwick Airport. This train stops at West Hampstead, Kentish Town, St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars stations in Central London on its way to Gatwick Airport.
IATA Code: LTN
Situated in Bedfordshire, about 50 km north of London, Luton is a highly utilised hub for easyJet and Ryanair. You’ll also find other low cost, lesser known airlines like Wizz Air flying out of Luton. Chances are if you want the most flexible dates/times for flights, you might have to get to Luton.
Like Gatwick, Luton Airport is also serviced by First Capital Connect (Thameslink). See above for the stations you can get on at and then get off at Luton Airport Parkway and take the bus transfer direct to the terminal. Journey time from London is about 1 hour and 5 minutes and a return ticket is approximately £22.
IATA Code: STN
Just outside of the M25 orbital motorway and 50 km north east of London in Essex, Stansted is another easyJet and Ryanair hub and AirAsia also fly from here to Kuala Lumpur. Two realistic options exist for getting to Stansted, one via coach and one via train.
National Express Coach
For only £8 one way (£16 return), the National Express coach is a cheap way of getting to Stansted. Beginning at Victoria and stopping at Marble Arch, Finchley Rd, Golders Green, it will get you there in just over an hour and is well positioned for North West Londoners.
Also run by National Express, the Stansted Express train leaves from Liverpool St Station and takes approximately 45 minutes. Tickets start at £20 one way and £27.70 return if booked online (more if purchased at ticket office/machine. A good option if you’re East London based.
IATA Code: LCY
City Airport is the closest airport to Central London, and was primarily constructed to serve business travellers commuting to and from nearby Canary Wharf business district. You can get short, direct flights to places like Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Luxembourg from here.
Your best bet for getting there is via the Tube and the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Either take the Jubilee line to Canning Town and change to the DLR, or take the DLR all the way from Bank. Journey time is about 1 hour and 10 minutes and will shave about £8 off your Oyster card.
With five airports, London probably has the most airports of any city in the world. When I first arrived I was blown away that ONE city could have so many airports, and the options available to getting to them all are extensive. This post aims to put all the information in one place, making it easier for you to plan your trips. All information is accurate at time of writing.