Getting from Heathrow to Central London

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  • Tom Otley

    How to get from London Heathrow to the city centre – by car, train, bus or bicycle.

    Heathrow airport is 20 miles (32 kilometres) to the west of Central London. The airport is well connected and your options include taxis, buses, trains, the underground, and car rental.

    Heathrow has four terminals – Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5 (Terminal 1 closed and was used for expanding Terminal 2).

    Choosing the best option involves a combination of factors including price, time, location (where you want to get to) and convenience (how much luggage you are carrying, how many of you are in your party and how mobile you all are).


    Both the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect are quick options, but they terminate in the Paddington area of London. If your destination is some way from there, extra cost and time may mean a slower option (such as the underground) may be more convenient. For the West End (of London), areas such as Green Park, Oxford Street and Park Lane are more quickly accessed via the Piccadilly Line (see below). You do need to check whether your destination is on the Piccadilly Line, however. Changing between lines on the Underground is not easy with luggage.
    The Transport for London website has a wonderful tool allowing you to put in your stating point and end point and it will give you travel options and travel times.

    The Heathrow Express has a large amount of luggage space, which is helpful. Space is often much more limited on the underground, in particular on the journey to Heathrow from Central London (especially in the morning or evening rush hour). As just mentioned, changing lines is not easy with luggage.

    Heathrow is connected with Central London via the underground (the Metro).

    London’s underground system has a number of different lines which have names – not numbers (eg: Central, Circle, District, Metropolitan) and different colours when you see them on the map.

    Heathrow is connected with Central London via the Piccadilly Line (dark blue on the map).
    Transport for London website

    The Piccadilly Line is part of the night tube with trains running on average every 10 minutes between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5. No service on the Terminal 4 loop, or between Acton Town and Uxbridge.

    There are two train services which run from Heathrow into London – Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect. The services run into Paddington which is on the London Underground system (it is slightly to the west of central London).

    Heathrow Express is the fastest, with a travel time of only 15 minutes when it runs from Terminal 2 and 3. There is an additional 6 minutes to Terminal 5 and a free transfer service to Terminal 4 departing Terminals 2 & 3 and taking 4 minutes (plus waiting time). The first train departs Paddington at 05.10 Monday – Saturday and 06.10 on Sundays.
    Heathrow Express timetable
    Ticket prices are Express Saver single fare £25 if travelling during peak times (7am – 10am or 4pm – 7pm, Monday – Friday) or £22 if travelling during off-peak times. Returns are £37 throughout the day. Tickets are cheaper when bought online and more expensive when bought on the train.
    Heathrow Express
    Discussion: Sly practice from Heathrow Express

    Heathrow Connect is a stopping service to London Paddington departing every 30 minutes and calling at local stations in west London (Hayes & Harlington, Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway). A single fare to London Paddington is £10.20

    Heathrow Connect

    Is Heathrow Connect the worst train transfer service…?

    National Express has over 200 services each weekday to and from Heathrow Airport from 154 pick-up points.
    For full details see
    National Express – Heathrow
    Many services are direct to the airport’s terminals, other services from around the UK involve a change at Victoria Coach Station before onward travel to Heathrow.

    Note that if you want to use public transport to go somewhere other than London, there are various options including using coaches and buses to connect with the national rail network at Feltham, Reading, Woking and Watford Junction. You can buy a combined coach and train ticket to cover your whole journey. More details on rail and air bus links.

    Taxis/ minicabs

    For anyone meeting someone from a flight they must use the Short Stay Car Park. Waiting is not permitted on the departure forecourt according to the Heathrow Traffic Regulation Orders. Details of this are at
    Driving to Heathrow
    It’s not a good idea to ask your driver to pick you up in the drop-off point. They will probably get moved on, causing delay to your pick-up, they might also cause delays to people who are genuinely being dropped off, and they may get fined, which of course leads to a conversation as to who should pay the fine!

    For minicabs and taxis, there is an Authorised Vehicle Area where they are supposed to wait (for instance, if your flight is late) and then proceed to the Short Stay Car Park, pay, and then either wait there for you, or come into the airport and hold up a sign with your name on it (or someone else’s if you are famous).


    Heathrow regulates Uber drivers (and other car share services)

    Instructions to passengers are here

    Where to meet your driver at LHR Airport

    T2 | Level 1: Row L | Wait for your driver at Short Stay Car Park 2

    T3 | Level 3: Row A | Wait for your driver at Short Stay Car Park 3

    T4 | Level 1: Central Lifts | Wait for your driver at Short Stay Car Park 4

    T5 | Level 1: Row A & F | Wait for your driver at Short Stay Car Park 4

    Getting between the terminals
    It is possible to move from one terminal to another at Heathrow for free using the Underground, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect.
    See the following
    Travelling between terminals at Heathrow

    For more discussion, see
    Heathrow to London (& Rtn): Review of public transport options


    Don’t know what the end use of this is but in general looks sounds. In the Underground section, it might be wise to add something about Oyster ticketing (including use of contactless bank cards) as well. Also, the Piccadilly line is dark blue rather than purple! [The Metropolitan line would usually be understood as the purple line.]

    You could also mention that cheaper advance-purchase online tickets are available on the Heathrow Express (the largest discount if bought 90 days in advance).

    In ‘Getting between the terminals’, it could be mentioned that this is free on Underground, rail as well as bus (though free Underground travel requires use of an Oyster). In this context, I’m not sure mentioning the Hotel Hoppa makes any sense unless a separate section on hotel access – albeit also noting the free local bus option to locations in immediate vicinity of the airport.

    Tom Otley

    The intention is to have it as an online resource in a new “Guide” section, and also publish parts of it in the magazine, so any feedback or comments such as this are very useful and will be incorporated.
    Thank you for taking the time.


    Dear Tom

    Please don’t forget, National Express coaches run from Central Bus station, and maybe T4/T5 to Victoria Coach Station in London. For some travellers this may be a good option, if connecting to other coach services.

    Hotel Hoppa, don’t forget to mention that TFL buses are free around Heathrow, and Heathrow publishes a map, of free services, on their website. often quicker, with good frequency, pleasant knowledgeable drivers, and larger capacity than the Hoppa. Most hotels have a stop near by.

    Tom Otley

    Thank you. Really useful – and I had forgotten the free TFL buses. Map here

    Heathrow Free Travel Zone

    I think I should split off the whole section about getting between the terminals (and the Hotel Hoppa) to another article to keep it manageable.

    Have done – now here

    Travelling between terminals at Heathrow
    “Also, the Piccadilly line is dark blue rather than purple! [The Metropolitan line would usually be understood as the purple line.]”

    I may be colour blind! Thank you.


    Non regular travellers arriving at Heathrow and wishing to go to central London, should make sure they know where in central London they are heading to, BEFORE choosing mode of transport.

    The Heathrow / Paddington Express may get you into London fast, but unless you want to go to the Paddington area, the extra cost and speed will be offset by the additional time needed to travel onto your final destination. Tom calls Paddington “slightly to the west of London” – but the reality is, you could easily add another 30 – 40 minutes to your journey and additional costs, going from Paddington to central London. Also, Paddington to Tube transfers with luggage, can be an obstacle course.

    For the west end, districts like Green Park, Oxford Street, Park Lane, the tube is quicker point to point (40 minutes from T5 to Green Park).

    The Transport for London website has a wonderful tool. Put your stating point and end point and it will give you travel options and travel times.

    Tom Otley


    One question….

    with all these trains running from Heathrow to ‘London’ how many platforms at Heathrow are involved. I know the tube and HEx use different platforms, but overall with all the new modes of rail travel from the airport, how complex is it for the passenger to decide:

    1. which platform
    2. which option

    I also wonder how many times the HEx marketing team, who have the first chance to sell to passengers, actually provide full factual information on the fastest / cost effective way to CENTRAL London…


    I think this is a good feature because people often ask me what is the best way to travel from Heathrow to Central London is. There isn’t a simple answer.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1.I totally agree with Martyn that the question partially depends on what one means by “Central London”. I live in N1 and the Heathrow Express is of limited use – Paddington is miles away and the traffic is typically very bad through much of the day.

    2. It also depends on how much luggage you’re travelling with. The Heathrow Express has a large amount of luggage space, which is helpful. Space is often much more limited on the tube, in particular, on the journey from Central London to Heathrow. When using the underground, people also need to factor in: (i) whether their destination is actually on the Piccadilly line or whether they need to change – walking up stairs or using escalators with loads of luggage is not (in my experience) much fun; and (ii) the time of day – again, hitting Bank, London Bridge, Canada Water and various other stations at peak times when trains are packed is not easy with bags and when you’re tired.

    Possibly also worth flagging that the Piccadilly Line is part of the night tube.

    For each option, I’d set out approximate operating times, price range and ease of use with hold baggage.


    Are Uber allowed to operate at LHR? I have never needed to use them there, but regularly do in and around central London and can’t find a bad thing to say about them (from a customer perspective….).


    Uber are allowed to operate as LHR, they are just another mini cab firm. I live in north London but find their pricing for the airport to be higher than normal.

    The other challenge about uber/collections at Heathrow is where to meet your driver. Mini cab drivers (all drivers) cab be fined for picking up outside the terminals so drivers invariably meet passengers in the car park – this is causing all sorts of problems, except for the car park operator, who is collecting a lot more income…

    Tom Otley

    Thank you – I’m going to add details of Uber and private car hire and perhaps chauffeur services as well, though I suspect that might end up being a guide in itself !


    Passenger collections at Heathrow are becoming an issue, despite lots of people ignoring the attached sign. Added to which the airport authorities have vastly reduced the drop off zone space… This applied to both mini cabs and personal collections… and yes I have seen drivers being handed tickets..

    1. In the car park and meet inside the terminal

    2. Arrange a predetermined collection point, which if you are meeting a mini cab driver for the first time can be a challenge. A lot of drivers are using the space by the ticket machines on level 1. There is now usually a permanent “attendant” to ensure the area does not become clogged up.

    3. There is I believe one exception about being allowed to be collected outside the terminal. If the car collecting you is dropping a passenger off, such as a mini cab dropping off another fare, you are allowed to be collected but only at the same time


    Just traveled through Heathrow and used public transport for the first time in over ten years. My observations:

    HEx – pricey but a great service and worked for us despite needing to be in Waterloo – with 11 and 16 year olds train then cab was the preferred option. However the “don’t board – security check” is really poorly managed and communicated and can’t help thinking how much better communicated and managed it would be in say Germany! So good we used it our last evening to get into town for dinner and the Ghost Bus tour…..

    Hoppa – at least at terminal 3 is poorly signed and very poorly run. Timetable and what bus serves what hotel is not indicated and seems to vary. I gave up and got cabs. I’d read up about it in advance, printed out timetables and routes, got same from hotel and it was still a total waste of time!

    Both can be summed up as, luckily – despite being a Geordie, English is my first language and I struggled with signage and platform / bus stop announcements. The visitors from overseas that I encountered were totally lost and understandably so…


    Good to have so many extra rail links into Central London by late 2019.

    But one worries if and when there is major disruption as is being seen at Paddington right now.

    For the past couple of hours all lines out of Paddington have been shut down because of signal failures.

    The closure is expected to last for hours. This would include all LHR services.

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