Let’s look at some of the budget options open to you for getting to London by air!
If arriving from Europe, the best tip is to fly in with one of the low-cost airlines. There are many, many of these airlines offering routes between various European cities and London: Ryanair and Easyjet are probably the most well-known, and they have flights from all over Europe to London. WhichBudget is a good website for tracking what budget airlines fly to London and from where, whilst Kayak is a great site to compare flight prices (and more besides) on.
London has five airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton Airport and London City Airport. If you’re a long-haul traveller you will almost certainly land at either Heathrow or Gatwick. Many of the low-cost airlines operate from Stansted Airport, whilst some, such as Easyjet, run their flights from Luton Airport as well as Gatwick Airport. The airport websites have full details about travel options from the airports to London, but here we’ll present some of the best and most budget-friendly options.
Getting to London from Heathrow Airport
The most cost-effective way to reach the centre of London from Heathrow Airport is by Underground. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 share a station (although Terminal 2 is currently being rebuilt), whilst Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 each have their own station. All three of these stations are on the Piccadilly Line and your journey to central London will approximately take an hour. A single ticket from Heathrow (stations are in Zone 6) to central London (i.e. any stop in Zone 1) costs £5.50 (as at March 2013).
Coaches take about an hour from Heathrow to Victoria Coach station, although there are also faster services (at quieter times of day) that only take 40 minutes. This can be a cheap option – book in advance, and a one-way ticket is only £6. See the National Express website for timetables and fares. You can also book services for other destinations in London, although these all require a change at Victoria Station.
You can also take a Heathrow Express train to Paddington station. Tickets (as of March 2013) cost from £25 for a single, £39 for a return. Trains run every 15 minutes between 5am to midnight. Sure, the Heathrow Express is faster than the Underground, but we would still really, really recommend getting the Tube – which is around three times cheaper! The Heathrow Express also only takes you to Paddington Station, from where you will most likely have to continue your journey, whilst the Piccadilly Line cuts right through the centre of London. However, if you do really want to take the Heathrow Express, we recommend purchasing your ticket (online) in advance – this will cut the ticket price down to £20 one-way, or £34 return.
Getting to London from Gatwick Airport
Probably the easiest way of doing this journey is to take the Gatwick Express train, which travels direct (and non-stop) to Victoria Station with a journey time of 30 minutes. Tickets cost from £19.90 for a single, £34.90 for a return (as at March 2013). Trains run every 15 minutes between approximately 5.20am to 1am. LONDON BUDGET TIP: If you book your tickets online, you get a 10% discount.
There are also cheaper train services that may be more useful to you, depending on where you are trying to reach in London. First Capital Connect have services to London Bridge, Farringdon and St Pancras. A one way ticket can cost from £8.90 (as at March 2013) and the journey time is between 30 – 50 minutes. Note that this fare requires some flexibility – not all trains are eligible for this type of ticket. You can look up train fares and timetables online, as well as being able to buy a ticket.
Southern run services from Gatwick also to Victoria and London Bridge. This services makes stops at other stations before reaching central London, so journey times are longer. A one way ticket can be as cheap as £8.80 (March 2012) depending on which train you take. LONDON BUDGET TIP: Buy your ticket online to receive a discount.
There are also (less frequent) coaches from both Gatwick terminals to Victoria Coach station in London. Coaches leave about every hour and take about 1 hour 30 minutes. See the National Express website for timings.
Getting to London from Luton Airport
Trains run from Luton Airport Parkway station (there’s a free shuttle bus to there from the airport) to St. Pancras station, with stops also at West Hampstead, Kentish Town, Farringdon, City Thameslink (in the City), Blackfriars and on to South London. Services are run by First Capital Connect and a one way costs from £9.40 (March 2013).
Easybus offer a minibus service from Luton Airport to Underground stations in central London (including Baker Street and Marble Arch, as well as near Victoria station). Tickets prices depend on how far in advance you book; they can be from as little as just £2 one-way.
Getting to London from Stansted Airport
The easiest option is to take the Stansted Express train from the airport to either Tottenham Hale station or Liverpool Street station. Trains run from 5.30am to 12.30am, with a frequency of 15 minutes (30 minutes early in the morning and late at night). Taking the train all the way to Liverpool Street station will land you directly in London; it might be more convenient to take a train only to Tottenham Hale station and change here for the Underground (Victoria Line) if this helps you reach your final destination. Tickets from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street cost £23.40 one-way or £32.80 return. LONDON BUDGET TIP: Buy tickets online to take advantage of some special offers, such as 26% off two return tickets bought together, or four or three people only paying for two.
Getting to London from London City Airport
London City Airport has its own DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station which is adjacent to the actual airport terminal. Using the DLR service is by far the best way of reaching central London. It is advisable to take a DLR train to Bank station and then change onto an Underground train (Circle, District, Central and Northern lines) for your onward journey.