A Guide to Transportation in London
Traveling to London soon, but new to this amazing city? Host Family Stay has created a guide to help you gain an overview into what options there are for transportation both to/from the City of London, but also when traveling around Central London on a daily basis. We have provided the average journey time, the price, and additional information and links to help you with choosing the right kind of transportation to suit your needs.
Arriving in London: Getting to and from Heathrow Airport
Apart from London City Airport, Heathrow Airport is the most centrally located airport closest to London. It’s approximately 16 miles from London Victoria and has good transportation links - both affordable ones and more pricier ones.
The fastest route to take between Heathrow Airport and Central London is made by choosing the Heathrow Express. There are non-stop trains to Paddington, Zone 1, every 15 minutes from terminal 2 and 3 - and that’s how short the commute is as well! The train also runs from terminal 4 and 5 but with less departures per hour. You can find ticket information here.
Journey time: 15 - 20 minutes.
Price: Buying a single ticket at the ticket office will cost you £25.00 (peak time) and £37.00 for a return.
The most cost efficient way to get to central London is by taking the tube. The Piccadilly Underground line runs from all terminals, and the total journey time into Central London by the tube can take up to one hour. You can use your contactless credit or debit card to pay for this fare!
Journey time: 50 - 60 minutes.
Price: A standard ticket bought at a ticket office will cost you up to £6.00 for a single and £12.00 for a return - if you want to save a bit you can tap in with your Oyster or contactless card debit or credit payment card and travel for £3.10 - £5.10 at a single fare and £6.20 - £10.20 for a return!
Transport for London (TfL)
Transport for London is operating trains from terminal 2 and 3 into the central part of London and West London. From terminal 4 and 5 you can take a free shuttle bus in order to reach terminal 2 and 3. The TfL rail trains depart every 30 minutes and the price is fairly reasonable compared to the price of the Heathrow Express - and you can use your contactless credit and debit card here as well.
Journey time: Approximately 25 minutes.
Price: £10.20 for a single fare during peak times and £10.10 during off-peak times
What are peak and off-peak hours?
On most train services around London it pays off to plan the hour of travelling, and by avoiding peak hours you can expect less busy trains and more value for your money.
Peak time: 06:30 - 09:30 and 16:00 - 19:00 Monday to Friday.
Off-Peak: At all other times except from the peak time stated above.
Tip: Check if your ticket is available to buy as an off-peak fare every time you buy a ticket at a machine in London, you could save a few bucks!
More information on tube and rail fares, peak and off-peak fares is provided here !
National Express Coach
From £6.00, you can take the National Express Coach to London Victoria Station and many other stations in Central London. The journey time is a bit longer than taking the train, but if you’d like to be assured a seat and have free Wifi then this is definitely the most comfortable way of travelling into Central London. The bus departs from terminals 2,3,4 and 5. Tickets must be purchased in advance!
Journey time: 40 - 80 minutes
Price: The price for a single fare starts at just £6.00! You can also buy a return or an open return ticket online, the prices start from £12.00.
The taxis at Heathrow Airport are available outside each terminal making it a convenient and comfortable travel method for you. Journey time takes roughly an hour due to the traffic in London. If you prefer privacy and maybe even a little nap before arriving to your destination then this is the perfect choice for you.
Journey time: Approximately 60 minutes
Price: £45.00 - £70.00
Getting to and from Gatwick Airport
Although Gatwick Airport is roughly 32 miles from London Victoria by car, there are other various types of transportation to and from this international airport. Additionally there are also many connections suitable for you if you wish to visit cities located on England’s South Coast.
The Gatwick Express takes you into London in only 30 minutes and these trains run every 15 minutes from the Gatwick Airport Railway station. If you book online you are eligible to 10% off on your tickets whether it’s a single or a return fare.
Journey time: 30 minutes
Price: If you buy your ticket at the ticket office, it will cost you £19.90 for a single fare and for a return it’ll be £36.70.
Southern & Thameslink Services
Every 15 minutes you can hop on one of the trains that are run by Southern. The journey time to London Victoria is roughly 35 minutes and you can buy a ticket at the station or simply use your Oyster card or your contactless debit or credit card.
As well as trains operated by Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern trains also run 4 times per hour. Some of the destinations include London Bridge, Farringdon, St. Pancras International and London Blackfriars. Conveniently, paper tickets and contactless payments are accepted here too!
Journey time: Between 30 and 45 minutes
Southern: For a paper ticket bought at the ticket office, a single fare to Victoria Station is £16.70 but if you choose to use your Oyster or contactless credit or debit card, the fare will only be £14.50 during peak times, and £8.50 during off-peak. A return ticket is £33.40 if you buy a paper ticket and £29.40 if you choose to use your Oyster Card or your contactless payment card.
Thameslink: At the ticket office it’s £9.70 during off-peak and £12.50 during peak times. If using your contactless card you will have to pay £8.30 during less busy times of travelling and £15.10 during peak times. Surprisingly, it is £2.60 cheaper to buy a paper ticket during peak hours than it is to use your contactless - so have that in mind if you are planning to travel at busy times!
National Express Coach
The National Express also have coaches that will take you to multiple locations in London. The journey time is rather long, but you will be comfortable in your own seat and have access to Wifi!
Journey time:Approximately 110 minutes (1 hour and 50 minutes)
Price: From £5.00 for a single ticket and from £10.00 for a return.
EasyBus to West Brompton
The EasyBus is a slightly cheaper alternative option in comparison to the National Express Coach.
Journey time: The length of the journey is about 70 minutes
Price: Starting from £4.00 for a single and £8.00 for a return ticket.
Getting a taxi from Gatwick airport is convenient but pricey, and not recommended if you have a busy schedule.
Journey time: Approximately 90 minutes - longer time of journey if there is a lot of traffic!
Price: £40.00 - £70.00
Getting Around in London
Going sightseeing in London is exciting but being new to London and not knowing much about the wide range of ticket and transportation types can leave you confused - so here’s a quick and simple overview of the most affordable ways of travelling in London!
If you are travelling on buses in London and you use your Oyster or a contactless credit or debit card the price of a single fare will be £1.50. It is worth knowing that no matter how long your journey is on one bus, the price will never be more than that!
Price: Single ticket is £1.50 if paid with an Oyster card or a contactless payment card. The Hopper Fare allows you to make unlimited bus or tram journeys within 1 hour for £1.50 - it also includes train and underground services if you make use of this between your Hopper fares!
Taking the Tube in London is convenient but can be a hassle, especially during at peak times due to commuters getting to and from work. The underground railway that opened in 1863 is in fact the world's oldest railway service and it handles up to 5 million passengers journeys per day! If you want to read about more facts on the underground system in London, check out the TFL website.
Price: A single fare in zone 1 and 2, with a ticket, will cost you £4.90 whilst using your Oyster or a contactless card will only be £2.90. Travelling in zone 1 - 3? The single fare is the same for a paper ticket and £3.30 when using the Oyster card or a contactless payment method.
If you are planning to commute a lot in zones 1 - 4 and don’t want to buy an Oyster Card or do not like the idea of using your payment card, then choosing a Travelcard is a better option.
Price: A day ticket that is valid anytime and will cost you £12.90. You can also buy a 7 day travel card which will cost minimum £35.10. This card is valid in zone 1 and 2. For £41.20 you can use TFL in zones 1,2 and 3. Finally, you can travel as much as you like between zone 1 and 4 for just £50.50.
Oyster & Contactless Payment Card
If you are looking to save money and travel to many different areas of London, then using an Oyster card or a contactless payment card is the ideal choice.
Price: The daily capped price is only £7.00 in zone 1 - 2 and £10.10 in zone 1 - 4.
Rent a bike!
The weather here in London is lovely around summer time, and what better way to enjoy it than by cycling across town?
The Santander Cycles, which is London’s public bike-sharing scheme, has over 750 docking stations and over 11,000 bikes! To hire the bikes you must have a bank card, a contactless payment card or the “Santander Cycles” app for Android and for iOS and register for “pay-as-you-pedal”. Transport for London has made a list with hidden-gem cycle routes in London - have a look if cycling in London would be an adventure for you!
Price: The first 24 hours cost only £2 pound, and the first 30 minutes of each journey is free, so if you are looking to make many stops throughout your day, this is the way to go!