Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
After a long flight to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), you’ll probably want the easiest possible plan to get to the hotel and relax before taking in the United Kingdom capital’s world-renowned landmarks.
Heathrow is in Greater London. It’s roughly 16 miles from Central London, where you’ll find the London Eye, the South Bank of the River Thames, the shopping haven of Covent Garden and the famously frenetic Oxford Street, as well as plenty of luxury and points-friendly hotels.
There are many ways to reach Central London and elsewhere in the city from Heathrow, including taxis, the Tube, a dedicated train service called Heathrow Express and the new, unmistakably purple Elizabeth Line. The best option to get from Heathrow into London depends on what you’re looking for — a low price, ease, speediness, or ample space for luggage.
Here are the best options for traveling from Heathrow to London, so you can start your trip off on the right foot.
London Underground (aka the Tube)
Heathrow is conveniently located on the Piccadilly Line, one of several Tube lines that make up the London Underground. The popular service — run by Transport for London — connects the airport to plenty of Central London locations. So, you may not have to transfer once you’ve made it to the city center.
Taking the Tube from the airport is likely the cheapest option. However, it may not be the most comfortable if you’re weighed down by myriad heavy suitcases, or you’re traveling during peak commuter hours.
Depart from: Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, 4 and 5 Underground stations.
Possible destinations: The Piccadilly Line directly serves, among other stops, Hammersmith, Gloucester Road, South Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Holborn and King’s Cross St. Pancras.
When does it run? Typically you can expect Tubes from all terminals from around 5 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.; nighttime services from Terminals 2 and 3 stations and the Terminal 5 station run on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the timetable here.
Transit time: It depends on where you’re headed, but from Terminal 5, it takes approximately 50 minutes to reach Piccadilly Circus or an hour to reach King’s Cross St. Pancras.
Estimated cost: Single journeys to destinations in Zone 1 (such as Piccadilly and King’s Cross) cost 5.60 British pounds ($7) if you pay contactless or with an Oyster card. Buying a ticket to Central London at a machine will cost around 6.70 British pounds ($8.29) per person. Children under 11 travel free with a fare-paying adult.
If you’re going outside of Zone 1 (such as to Hammersmith, in Zone 2), then you’re looking at a smaller fare of 2.10 British pounds ($2.60) to 3.40 British pounds ($4.21) depending on travel time.
Paying for your trip: To pay for your tube journey or get a ticket, you have several options. The most convenient method is to pay using your contactless card by touching it on the yellow card readers found at Tube entrances or before the platforms.
You can also tap in on the yellow card readers using a prepaid Oyster card. You can buy them at all Tube, Overground and most Elizabeth Line stations for 7 British pounds ($8.69). They’re also available at most newsstands and visitor centers throughout London. Once you’ve purchased your Oyster, you can use the ticket machines inside Underground stations to add money to the card for individual journeys or a daily or weekly travel card covering various Zones.
Note the card readers aren’t always connected to gates and are sometimes free-standing. Keep an eye out for them. If you don’t tap in and out at the start and end of your journey, you’ll get charged for traveling through Zones 1 to 9.
Alternatively, you can buy paper tickets from the ticket machines at each Tube, Overground or DLR station. These tickets allow for one-way and return journeys or daily and weekly travel cards. To use the tickets, insert them in the signposted areas on the gates as you head to the line you’re traveling on.
Some stations will also have a staffed kiosk that you can use instead of ticket machines; you can ask for advice here on the best tickets to buy or routes to take.
Opened in 2022, the Elizabeth Line (also run by TfL) is a swift option for traveling into Central London from LHR. It strikes a nice balance of price and efficiency. While not as cheap as the Tube, the trains are newer, roomier and air-conditioned, and they have Wi-Fi. Like the Heathrow Express, these trains stop in Paddington, but there are other destination options, too. It takes a bit longer than the Heathrow Express, but it’s also more affordable.
Depart from: Terminals 2 and 3, 4 and 5 railway stations.
Possible destinations: The Elizabeth Line travels direct from Heathrow to Abbey Wood — serving Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, and Canary Wharf. See the full map on TfL’s website here. There are no longer direct services between Canary Wharf and Terminal 5 except for some early morning and late evening services. Trains arriving at Heathrow from Canary terminate at Terminal 4.
When does it run? Times vary by terminal and whether you’re transiting on a weekday or weekend. Typically, the first trains leave between 5:15 a.m. and 6:05 a.m., while the last trains leave the airport between 11:46 p.m. and 12.13 a.m. Find specific timings here.
Transit time: It depends on where you’re headed. It takes about 35 minutes from Terminal 5 station to Paddington or about 45 minutes from Terminal 2 and 3 stations to Liverpool Street.
Estimated cost: Heathrow’s website claims any journey to or from the airport that starts or ends in Zone 1 costs 12.80 British pounds ($15.83) per person. Whether you use contactless payment or Oyster, TfL’s single fare finder shows a single journey from Terminal 5 to Paddington on the Elizabeth Line costs 12.20 British pounds ($15). A journey from Terminals 2 and 3 stations to Liverpool Street costs 13.30 British pounds ($16.45).
However, these prices apply to contactless payments or Oyster payments only. Buying a paper ticket via the ticket machines in stations will cost you a small amount more — as discovered by TPG recently when we paid 14.30 British pounds for an off-peak ticket from Liverpool Street to Heathrow via the Elizabeth Line. Generally speaking, although the savings are only minor, it’s better to pay for your travel by contactless or Oyster card.
Children under the age of 11 travel free with a fare-paying adult.
Heathrow Express will be the fastest way to get from Heathrow to Paddington Station. It’s a direct train, so there are no extra stops along the way. Also, there are luggage racks and plugs for charging phones, which is always handy. For onward journeys, Paddington is well connected to multiple Tube lines. The downside is that the Heathrow Express can be expensive compared to other rail options.
Depart from: Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3 station and Terminal 5 railway station. You’ll need to take a free connecting shuttle service to the station if you land in Terminal 4.
Possible destinations: Paddington Station. For an extra cost, you can change to the Tube lines Bakerloo, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City or the Elizabeth Line.
When does it run? Typically from 5:10 a.m. until around 12 a.m., though it can vary. Trains run every 15 minutes. See the full Heathrow Express timetable here.
Transit time: 15 minutes to Paddington from Terminals 2 and 3 station or 20 minutes from Terminal 5 station.
Estimated cost: Typically, a single Heathrow Express journey from Paddington to Heathrow costs 25 pounds ($31) per person though you sometimes can pay less if you book in advance. If you’re from Great Britain and have a National Railcard, this price could drop down to 16.50 British pounds.
If you don’t have a National Railcard or are not from Great Britain, you can sometimes find discounts online by searching for Heathrow Express vouchers or coupon codes you can use when booking online.
While the Heathrow Express can be a more expensive rail option, it may be a better deal than it seems for families since children under 15 travel free with a fare-paying adult.
If you are returning to the airport within one month of your ticket, then an anytime ticket may be cheaper overall at 37 British pounds ($45.76) or 24.40 British pounds with a National Railcard.
If public transport doesn’t appeal to you, or you’re landing in the middle of the night when no public transportation is operating, you can use Uber to get to and from Heathrow and Central London. Naturally, you’ll pay more than you would for a Tube ride or train ticket.
Depart from: Terminal 2, 3, 4 or 5’s short-stay parking lot. The app will tell you where to go once you’ve requested a ride and your driver is confirmed, but typically pick-up spots will be here:
- Terminal 2 — Level 4, Row H (Short Stay Car Park 2).
- Terminal 3 — Level 3, Row A (Short Stay Car Park 3).
- Terminal 4 — Level 1, Private Hire Pickup.
- Terminal 5 — Level 1, Row R (Short Stay Car Park 5).
Possible destinations: Direct service wherever you like, which can be a benefit with luggage and tired kids.
When does it run? In theory, you can get an Uber at any time.
Transit time: Varies depending on traffic, destination and other factors. (Pay attention to rush hour and commuting times.) As a rough guide, it typically takes around 50 minutes to reach Paddington by car or one hour to reach Piccadilly Circus from Terminal 5 (on a good day). This means it isn’t necessarily the quickest option during many times of the day as the Heathrow Express makes that trip to Paddington in just 15 minutes.
Estimated cost: The cost of an Uber depends on traffic, your destination and other factors. As an example, it can cost 59 British pounds ($73) from Terminal 5 to Paddington or 63 British pounds ($78) to Piccadilly Circus – both UberX rides, excluding tips.
If you’re traveling in a group of more than four or have more than a small suitcase or two, you’ll likely need a bigger car. Expect to pay more for an Uber Lux or Comfort journey.
Taxis (including black cabs, WeKnow and Addison Lee)
Beyond Uber, numerous other options exist for getting a taxi into London from Heathrow. Options include hailing an iconic London black cab at the taxi rank, pre-booking an electric car from Heathrow’s private hire transfer service WeKnow or arranging a car from a company such as Addison Lee.
The latter two options provide a meet-and-greet service to help get you and your luggage straight into the car. Addison Lee also requires your flight number at booking, which means the company can adjust your ride in case of a delay. Again, this type of transfer will cost you more than rail services.
Depart from: The relevant taxi rank outside Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5 for a black cab. For another service, the pick-up location will be specified in your booking, or your driver will meet you at the terminal.
Possible destinations: Again, wherever you’d like.
When does it run? In theory, you should be able to arrange a taxi or car transfer anytime.
Transit time: Varies depending on traffic, destination and other factors. From Terminal 5, it typically takes about 50 minutes by car to Paddington or one hour to Piccadilly Circus. Although, Addison Lee estimates it’ll take one hour and 10 minutes for a journey to Paddington around 6 p.m.
Estimated cost: This will vary, depending on the type of taxi you go for, among other considerations such as traffic. Some estimates are below.
- Black cab: The meter will start running when your ride begins. TfL, which manages London’s black cabs, says a Heathrow to Central London journey can range from 52 pounds ($64.31) to 97 pounds ($120). Find out more about black cab fares here.
- WeKnow: Prices are fixed, so you’ll know what you pay when you book. A trip from Terminal 5 to Paddington or Piccadilly Circus costs 70 pounds ($86.57) to 94 pounds ($116.25) depending on the car size you need. A meet-and-greet service costs 14.99 pounds ($18.54) extra. Use WeKnow’s calculator to work out your exact journey price.
- Addison Lee: Prices are fixed, so you’ll know the price when you book. A sample Terminal 5 to Paddington journey (leaving ASAP) was quoted online as 94.32 pounds ($116.66) or up to 122 pounds ($150.89), depending on the car size needed. The meet-and-greet is included in both prices. For an exact quote, visit Addison Lee’s website and input your flight number and journey details.
Coach (including National Express and Megabus)
Coaches operated by National Express and Megabus drop you off at Victoria Coach Station. They’re usually inexpensive and often have Wi-Fi and phone charging points. They can also carry your luggage in the hold – check Megabus limits and National Express limits.
However, buses are not the fastest way to reach Central London. How long they take depends on traffic, time of day and other factors.
Depart from: Heathrow Central Bus Station between Terminals 2 and 3 is the quickest departure point for both National Express and Megabus coaches. If you leave Terminal 4, take the free shuttle to the bus station. You can also alight a coach from Terminal 5 (look for arrivals level stops 13, 14 and 15 for Megabus).
Possible destinations: Victoria Coach Station. From there, it is a short walk to the Victoria Line at Victoria Station; the line stops at Green Park, Oxford Circus, Warren Street and King’s Cross (at an extra cost).
When does it run? National Express coaches usually run throughout the day, with a service gap between 1 a.m. and 3.45 a.m. Check the exact timetable for your route here. You can find out more about Megabus times on its website.
Transit time: From Terminals 2 and 3, National Express coaches take anywhere from 55 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes to reach Victoria Coach Station, depending on the time of day you travel. Megabus lists transit times of 45 and 55 minutes for the same journey.
From Terminal 5, National Express coaches can take anywhere from one hour and 20 minutes to one hour and 35 minutes.
Estimated cost: For National Express coaches, a single journey starts from 6 pounds ($7.42) per person. For Megabus coaches, a single journey starts from 8 British pounds ($9.89).
Other travel options
You can take local bus 285 from Heathrow Central Bus Station (serving Terminals 2 and 3) to Feltham train station. It’s 16 stops away. From there, you can hop on a 30-or-45-minute train to Waterloo via Clapham Junction.
London bus “hopper fares” cost 1.75 British pounds ($2.16), and train tickets start from 8.60 pounds ($10.64) per person. This option is on the cheaper side. However, it’s very long-winded, especially since you can reach Waterloo Station from Paddington via the Bakerloo Line and the Piccadilly Line (with a change to Jubilee Line at Green Park).
For those traveling somewhere in Greater London, rather than Central London, there are several local bus routes from the airport. View them here.
The best way to get from Heathrow Airport to London depends on your budget, your amount of luggage, and how much time and hassle you are willing to invest in the journey.
If you want to avoid street traffic and save money, the Elizabeth Line and Tube are our top picks. If speed is your primary concern, it’s hard to ignore the Heathrow Express. Need to get away from dragging luggage around or just want the absolutely simplest path from Point A to B? Consider an Uber or taxi.
Additional reporting by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen, Hayley Coyle and Jordan Waller.