If you have the time, or can’t justify the cost of a cab, take advantage of the Heathrow Free Travel Zone.
The Heathrow Free Travel Zone (HFTZ) is a zone encircling Heathrow Airport and the surrounding area where travel on public transport is free to use. See the diagram above.
The HFTZ is subsidised by the airport, meaning that the buses are free to use, with no need for any ticket, oyster card or contactless card.
Unless you happen to work at Heathrow, the main reason for using the HFTZ is to get to your airport hotel. The HFTZ extends from the Premier Inn to the Ibis on Bath Road, and stretches down the east side to the Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow Airport and the west side to Sofitel Heathrow. Buses stop along Colnbrook By-Pass, Bath Road, Northern Perimeter Road, Eastern Perimeter Road, Envoy Avenue, Great South West Road, Southern Perimeter Road and Western Perimeter Road to serve the various hotels.
Where can I catch a free bus?
Buses serving T2 and T3 all depart from the Central Bus Station, while T4 and T5 buses depart outside the arrivals hall.
Buses that operate in the HFTZ include: 482, 490, 285, 140, 111, 423, 555, 105, U3, 7, 350, N7.
What about the Heathrow Hoppa?
Hotel shuttle buses aren’t allowed on the Heathrow premises, so the expensive Hoppa Bus Service is the other option. While it’s convenient, with buses picking up directly from the hotels and dropping off right outside the terminal, it isn’t free. Fares range from £4.50 for a single to £9 for a return ticket – for a table of fares, see hotelhoppa.co.uk
Why not just get a black cab?
Because they don’t like such short fares. They have paid to come on to airport property and want to justify (and recoup) that cost by a longer fare. You can’t blame them. It’s a long wait just to take you to an airport hotel.
Is there a catch to using the free buses?
The only caveat is that the bus routes continue beyond the free zone, with passengers liable to pay penalty fares if they (mistakenly or not) pass outside its boundaries. It’s easily avoidable – just tell the driver your destination and they’ll charge you if need be. It’s also worth noting that you have to request a stop, with buses only stopping if people are waiting to board.