Heathrow is quite far from central London, but it's still pretty straightforward to get into the city. Considering London's notorious traffic, the train is really the best option.
Heathrow Express train
The Heathrow Express is one of the world's best airport connections and will get you to central London (Paddington Station) in a speedy 15 minutes from Terminals 2 and 3, 19 minutes from Terminal 4 (including a four-minute free shuttle to Terminals 2 and 3) and 21 minutes from Terminal 5. It leaves around every 15 minutes (less often off-peak) from:
Terminals 2 and 3: Mon-Sat 05:12-23:48 and Sun 06:05-23:53
Terminal 4: Mon-Sat 05:23-23:41 and Sun 05:53-23:41
Terminal 5: Mon-Sat 05:07-23:42 and Sun 06:00-23:48
Paddington back to London Heathrow: Mon-Sat 05:10-23:25 and Sun 06:10-23:25
• Morning Peak 06:30-09:30
• Evening Peak 16:00-19:00
Tip: You can save a lot of money by buying your ticket 90 days in advance (paying as little as GBP 5.50 one-way at the weekend). Also, if you use this route a lot, buy a Carnet 12 ticket, giving you 12 trips for the price of nine, or a Carnet 6, giving you six trips for the price of five.
Cost: One way: GBP 22 (off-peak) or GBP 25 (peak) when bought online (GBP 27 on board). Return: GBP 37 (GBP 42 on board). Peak times: Mon-Fri, 7-10am and 4-7pm
Buying tickets: Online with one click through FLIO or at the station
Location: Terminal 5 and Terminal 2-3 stations (from Terminal 4, catch the shuttle train to Terminal 2-3)
It's a longer trip, but it's convenient and a lot cheaper to take the London Underground, locally known as the Tube, directly into the city. This is the best option if you're going to West London, as the Heathrow Express doesn't stop anywhere en route. Bear in mind, you may have to carry your luggage up and down the stairs in the Underground system. If this is going to be a problem, check Transport for London (TfL) for stations with lifts and escalators: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/avoiding-stairs-tube-guide.pdf
Journey time on the Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus is around an hour. Trains leave from around 05:45-00:30. (Check the LHR website before traveling)
Tip: It's worth buying an Oyster top-up card if you're staying in London for a while. You'll save money on regular fares and it covers the bus network, too. In fact, the card (GBP 5) can pay for itself in just a couple of trips. Buy one at the airport or have it posted to you before you travel.
Cost: GBP 6 one-way (travelling from Heathrow (Zone 6) to Zone 1); with Oyster Card: GBP 5.10 (Mon-Fri, 06:30-09:30) or GBP 3.10 (other times)
Buying tickets: Vending machines or manned kiosks in the stations
Location: Three stations: Terminals 2-3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5
If you have time and money or are staying near Heathrow, you can take a famous (and famously expensive) London black cab. The journey will take around 42 minutes but can take longer in rush hour.
Cost: Around £45-70
Location: Taxi ranks outside each terminal
LATEST TRAVEL INFORMATION
For the latest updates about traveling to and from Heathrow, check out the airport's Twitter feed: twitter.com/heathrowairport
London Heathrow Airport lies 23km from central London, and is the busiest of six airports serving the city – and the fifth busiest in the world. It's pretty large and sprawling, and can be crowded, but is well-signposted and fairly navigable thanks to its shuttle train.
It has four terminals in separate buildings:
Travelling between terminals
You can walk between all terminals, but distances can be long. Terminals 2 and 3 are beside each other and easily walkable. For the others:
Terminal 2 is relatively compact and A gates can be reached within 5 to 10 minutes.
If your plane departs from B gates, you need to use a walkway which can take up to 25 minutes.
T2 is in our view – like the other new terminals at Heathrow – one of the best terminals in the world.
It offers good-value shopping with UK electronics retailer Dixons, fashion outlets and great food options that are unheard of in other parts of the world.
The architecture is low noise, there are no announcements.
There's a Lufthansa lounge, a lounge for Aer Lingus, and the independent Plaza Premium lounge to choose from.
Downside: long walks. It is a long walk from Heathrow Express to the terminal, and if you're so unlucky that your flight departs from the B gates, you will have to walk an additional 15 to 25 minutes.
Be aware that Terminal 5's B and C Gates are in separate terminal buildings from the A Gates.
You get there by an underground train. Always use the lifts, which are faster than the escalators.
The airport provides free 'Power Pole' charging stations. These are located throughout all of the airport’s four terminals, before and after security, and can be used 24 hours a day.
Each Power Pole can charge up to eight electronic devices at once, and is compatible with UK and European plugs, as well as USB cables.
Layover in London? Don’t head straight for the West End. If the sun is shining, stow your baggage, jump on the Tube (One-Day Travelcard costs GBP 8.90) and visit Kew Gardens.
This huge Victorian-era park has a treetop walkway, tropical glasshouses and the world’s largest collection of living plants (more than 30,000).
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 09:30-18:00
Cost: GBP 15, free for children 16 and under
Getting there: From Heathrow, take the Tube (Piccadilly Line) to Hammersmith. Change onto District Line, westbound towards Richmond. Get out at Kew Gardens station. Travel time is around 45 minutes.
You'll find Heathrow's many comfortable lounges here:
Available to all:
The Aspire Lounge offers comfortable Rest Pods, a good working area with power outlets with UK, US and USB ports, free Wi-Fi, various massages and treatments, shower facilities (for an extra GBP 20.00 for 30 minutes), and a vast food and drinks selection.
Open to all travellers, no matter which airline or class of travel. Admission: From GBP 29.99 for a stay of three hours (adults as well as children).
This lounge can get very crowded. Travelers have reported not being granted access due to capacity problems as well as limited offers at the food buffets.
BA members only:
Need to move from Terminal 3 to one of the other terminals? Here’s a rough idea of how long it’s going to take you, and the mode of transport you’ll need to use (from a short walk to the train).
From: Terminal 3
To: Terminal 1: just a quick walk, 10 minutes.
To: Terminal 2: also a walk, 10 minutes.
To: Terminal 4: Heathrow Express, 20 minutes.
To: Terminal 5: Heathrow Express again, 20 minutes.
To: Terminal 5: Tube, slightly shorter, 16 minutes.
Avoid the centrally located toilets in Terminal 5, which are especially busy at peak times, by heading for the more remote ones close to the North or South end of the building. Alternatively, try the restrooms close to Gate A18.
Terminal 3 has a free, dedicated play area, the Family Lounge, with soft play areas designed for children aged 0-2 and 3-9, screens showing CBeebies, a game zone for 10-15 year olds, and a children’s quiet room. The lounge also features vending machines selling coffee and soft drinks, comfortable seating for adults and a discreet area for nursing mothers. Bear in mind that it's unsupervised, so children will need to be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Location: Terminal 3, after security, near the Ted Baker Store, about a 10-minute walk from Gate 28. To reach it using lift from the Departures lounge, follow signs for Lounge A.
Opening hours: 06:00-21:00
Located in the main Terminal 2A departure lounge (after security), near Gate 16. Stay & Play is free to use, and open from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm. Children are not supervised, so need to be accompanied by an adult at all times.
In Terminal 4 you'll find the Stay & Play area, which includes slides, soft play areas and separate baby and junior zones. It’s free to use, and suitable for children up to the age of nine. As Stay & Play is unsupervised, children need to be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Location: Terminal 4, after security, departures lounge, on the way to Gates 1-6
Opening hours: 06:00-21:00
The only place for plane watching at London Heathrow is inside Terminal 4. The 'View Heathrow' area has a 270-degree panoramic view of the southern runway, and is equipped with binoculars and flight-tracking touch screens. Great place for geeks and kids.
Location: Terminal 4, after security, next to Gate 15
Travellers returning to their non-EU country of origin can apply to have the VAT (sale's tax) refunded for the purchases that they made while in the UK. Save and collect all of your receipts and fill out the tax refund forms before arriving at the airport, and head to the Travelex desk. You can also book a VAT refund appointment for £120 in advance.
Terminal 2, before security, check-in level 5, Zone A
Terminal 2, after security, level 4, next to LEON
Hours: 05:00 - 22:00
Terminal 3, before security, check-in level, next to Zone D
Terminal 3, after security, level 1
Hours: 06:30 - 22:00
Terminal 4, before security, level 1, use the lift near Zone G
Terminal 4, after security, level 2
Hours: 05:00 - 22:00
Terminal 5, before security, check-in level 3, Zone G
Terminal 5, after security, level 2, opposite to Customs
For VAT pre-booked refund appointments: Before security, check-in top level, Zone H
Hours: 06:00 - 22:00
For the exact rules about what you can expect to get a refund on please visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-7041-tax-free-shopping-in-the-uk/vat-notice-7041-tax-free-shopping-in-the-uk
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