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How to reach central London from Heathrow Airport

After a long flight, you just want to get from the airport to your hotel in the easiest (and, ideally, the most cost-effective) way possible.

With an airport as vast as London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) — the biggest and busiest flight hub in the United Kingdom — achieving that goal can seem daunting even though it’s only 16 miles from central London.

There are several options for getting from Heathrow to the city center, depending on your flexibility, the amount of luggage you’re carrying, your budget or your time constraints. You can choose between taxis, the Tube, Uber, dedicated train services and even the bus.

Here are the best options for traveling from Heathrow to London — along with how long they take and other pros and cons — so that you can start your trip off on the right foot.

London Underground (aka the Tube)


Heathrow is on the London Underground’s Piccadilly line. To spot it, simply look out for the dark blue line on any Tube map.

The popular service — run by the Transport for London (or the TfL for short) — connects the airport to plenty of central city locations. Often, you won’t even need to transfer once you’ve made it to the city center.

If you’re looking for the cheapest option to get you from Heathrow into the city, this is likely it. However, it may not be the most comfortable if you are carrying lots of luggage or traveling during peak commuter hours — especially during summer.

Depart from: Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5; the latter two have Underground stations in Zone 6.

Possible destinations: The Piccadilly line directly serves Hammersmith, Gloucester Road, South Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Holborn and King’s Cross St. Pancras, among other stops. The first and last stops on the line are Uxbridge (Zone 6) and Wood Green (Zone 3).

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When does it run? Typically, you can expect Tubes to run from all terminals from around 5 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.; nighttime services from stations in Terminals 2, 3 and 5 run on Fridays and Saturdays. You can check the timetable from all stations here.

Transit time: This will obviously vary depending on your final destination. As a guide, it takes approximately 50 minutes to reach Piccadilly Circus from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 or an hour to reach King’s Cross St. Pancras.

Estimated cost: Single journeys from Heathrow to destinations in Zone 1 (such as Piccadilly and King’s Cross) cost 5.60 British pounds ($7.09) if you pay contactless or with an Oyster card. Buying a ticket to central London at a machine will cost around 6.70 pounds (about $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 pounds (around $2.60) during peak times and 3.40 pounds (around $4.21) at off-peak times.

Paying for your trip: You can pay as you pass through the gates or by buying a ticket. The most convenient method is to use your contactless payment card by touching it on the yellow card readers found at Tube entrances and some platforms.

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.

You can also tap in using a prepaid Oyster card, which is available to buy at all Tube and Overground stations, plus most Elizabeth Line stations, for 7 pounds (about $8.69); they’re also available at some newsstands and visitor centers throughout London.

After purchasing an Oyster card, you can add money to the card using the ticket machines found inside Underground stations. You can then purchase daily or weekly travel cards covering various zones.

Alternatively, you can buy paper tickets from the ticket machines at each Tube, Overground and Docklands Light Railway station. One-way, return, daily and weekly travel cards are available.

Some stations also have staffed kiosks instead of ticket machines; you can ask for advice here on the best tickets to buy or routes to take.

Related: The best lounges at London Heathrow — and how to get inside

Elizabeth Line

An Elizabeth Line sign hangs at the new Paddington station. TFL

A relatively recent addition to the TfL network, the Elizabeth Line opened in 2022. It is one of the fastest and cheapest options for traveling into central London from Heathrow Airport.

While not as cheap as the Tube, the Elizabeth Line trains are newer, roomier, air-conditioned and equipped with Wi-Fi. It’s not quite as fast as the Heathrow Express (more details below), but it is more affordable.

Depart from: Terminals 2, 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. You can see the full map on TfL’s website.

There are no direct services between Canary Wharf and Terminal 5 except for some early morning and late evening services; instead, you must go via Paddington or transfer at Terminal 4. Trains arriving at Heathrow from Canary end at Terminal 4.

When does it run? Times vary by terminal and whether you’re traveling during a weekday or weekend. Typically, the first trains leave between 5:15 and 6:05 a.m., and the last trains leave the airport between 11:46 p.m. and 12:13 a.m. Depending on your destination or starting point, you may find trains start slightly earlier or run marginally later. Find specific timing here.

Transit time: It depends on where you’re headed. As a guide, Terminal 5 station to Paddington takes around 35 minutes, while traveling from stations in Terminal 2 and 3 to Liverpool Street takes about 45 minutes.

Estimated cost: Heathrow claims journeys to or from the airport that start or end in Zone 1 cost up to 12.80 pounds ($15.83) per person. However, if 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 pounds ($15.44).

A journey from stations in Terminals 2 and 3 to Liverpool Street costs 13.30 pounds ($16.45). These prices only apply to contactless payments or Oyster payments. Buying a paper ticket via station ticket machines costs a small amount more — as discovered by TPG recently when we paid 14.30 pounds for an off-peak ticket from Liverpool Street to Heathrow via the Elizabeth Line.

Generally speaking, while savings are only minor, it’s better to pay by contactless or Oyster card. Children under the age of 11 travel free with a fare-paying adult.

Heathrow Express


The direct train, Heathrow Express, is the fastest option to get from Heathrow to Paddington. The trains are relatively modern and, despite the short distance between its sole stop, they also have luggage racks and plugs for charging phones — handy if you’re boarding after a long journey.

For onward journeys, Paddington is well connected to multiple Tube lines. Do note, however, that the Heathrow Express is more expensive than all other rail options.

Depart from: Terminals 2 and 3 station and Terminal 5 railway station; you’ll need to take a free connecting shuttle to the station if you land in Terminal 4.

Possible destinations: Paddington station; for an extra cost, you can add connecting Tube travel.

When does it run? It typically operates from around 5 a.m. until midnight. Trains run every 15 minutes. See the full Heathrow Express timetable here.

Transit time: It takes 15 minutes to get to Paddington from Terminals 2 and 3 or 20 minutes from Terminal 5.

Estimated cost: A single Heathrow Express journey from Paddington to Heathrow usually costs 25 pounds ($31.65) per person, but you can sometimes pay less if you book in advance. If you’re from Great Britain and have a National Railcard, you could pay as little as 16.50 pounds ($20.89).

Alternatively, you can sometimes find discounts online by searching for Heathrow Express vouchers or coupon codes.

The trains also have Business First Class carriages that start around 32 pounds ($40.51) for a single journey. This may not seem worth it given the short distance and travel time. However, Heathrow Express Business First Class ticket holders are also eligible to use Heathrow Airport’s fast-track security service — it may be worth it if you’re in a rush.

While the Heathrow Express is more expensive than other options, it can sometimes be a good deal for families; children under 15 travel free with a fare-paying adult.

If you are returning to the airport within one month of your ticket, an anytime ticket is cheaper overall than booking two single journeys, which start at 32 pounds ($40.51).

Frequent travelers can also save by buying carnets — starting at six tickets for 109.80 pounds ($138.99) for standard class or 160 pounds ($202.54) for Business First class.



If public transport isn’t your thing or you need to travel between Heathrow and central London when other transport isn’t running, you can easily book Uber rides. Naturally, this will cost more than a Tube or train ride.

Depart from: Short-stay parking lot in Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5; the app will tell you where to go once you’ve requested a ride and your driver is confirmed, depending on the terminal you’re in.

You can typically find Uber pickup spots in the following locations:

  • 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: You can use Uber to go wherever you like.

When does it run? In theory, you can get an Uber at any hour, but be wary of long waits during peak times.

Transit time: It varies depending on traffic, destination and other factors. (Pay attention to rush hour and commuting times.) As a rough guide, it typically takes approximately 50 minutes to reach Paddington by car or one hour to reach Piccadilly Circus from Terminal 5 (on a good day).

Note that despite its convenience, Uber isn’t necessarily the quickest way to reach Heathrow from most locations.

Estimated cost: The cost of an Uber depends on traffic, your destination and other factors. As an example, it can cost 59 British pounds ($74.69) from Terminal 5 to Paddington or 63 British pounds ($79.75) to Piccadilly Circus for UberX rides, excluding tips.

Do note that groups of four or more with more than small suitcases will need to order either a larger car or multiple cars. Expect to pay more for an Uber Lux or Comfort journey.

Related: Frequent Uber or Lyft user? These are the best credit cards for you

Taxis (including black cabs, WeKnow and Addison Lee)


Beyond Uber, there are plenty of other taxi services in London. Options include hailing an iconic London black cab, prebooking an electric car from Heathrow’s private hire transfer service WeKnow or arranging a pickup 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.

If booking with Addison Lee, you’ll be required to share your flight number at booking so the driver can adjust your ride in case of a delay.

Again, this mode of transport will be more expensive than using public transport.

Depart from: The relevant taxi rank outside Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5 for a black cab; other services will specify the pickup location when you book, or the driver will meet you at the terminal.

Possible destinations: You can use this option to go wherever you’d like.

When does it run? In theory, you should be able to arrange a taxi or car transfer anytime.

Transit time: As with Uber, it varies depending on traffic, destination and other factors. Terminal 5 to Paddington will typically take around 50 minutes while heading to Picadilly Circus will usually take roughly one hour.

Estimated cost: Prices vary depending on the taxi service you opt for and traffic. Some estimates are below.

Coach (including National Express and Megabus)

From Heathrow, National Express and Megabus coaches can drop you off at Victoria Coach station. They’re usually inexpensive and often have Wi-Fi and power outlets. They can also carry your luggage in the hold. Here’s where you can find Megabus luggage allowances and National Express luggage allowances.

While cheap, buses are not the quickest way to reach central London, as times fluctuate considerably depending on traffic, time of day and other factors.

Depart from: Heathrow’s Central Bus Station between Terminals 2 and 3 is the quickest departure point for both National Express and Megabus coaches. From Terminal 4, you’ll need to take the free shuttle to the bus station. You can also board a coach from Terminal 5 (look for arrivals level stops 13, 14 and 15 for the Megabus).

Possible destinations: You can use these modes of transportation to reach Victoria Coach station, which is a short five-minute walk from the Victoria Line at Victoria station. This line stops at Green Park, Oxford Circus, Warren Street and King’s Cross.

When does it run? National Express coaches run throughout the day, with a service gap between 1 and 3:45 a.m. You can check times and prices here. For Megabus times, head here.

Transit time: From Terminals 2 and 3, National Express coaches take between 55 minutes and one hour and 20 minutes to reach Victoria Coach station. Megabus takes between 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: National Express coach rides start from 6 pounds ($7.60) per person. For Megabus coaches, a single journey starts from 8 pounds ($10.13).

Other travel options

The 285 bus from Heathrow’s Central Bus Station (serving Terminals 2 and 3) will take you to Feltham train station — it’s 16 stops away. From there, you can take a 30- or 45-minute train to Waterloo via Clapham Junction.

London bus hopper fares cost 1.75 British pounds ($2.22), and train tickets start from 8.60 pounds ($10.89) per person. The hopper fares allow you to take unlimited journeys from one hour of tapping in.

This is probably the cheapest option from Heathrow to central London, but it is a long-winded option.

There are several local bus routes from the airport for those traveling somewhere in Greater London rather than central London. View them here.

Bottom line

The best route from Heathrow to central London depends on your budget, the amount of luggage you’re traveling with and the amount of time and hassle you are willing to put up with.

The Elizabeth Line and Tube are our top picks to avoid street traffic and save money. If speed is your primary concern, then consider the Heathrow Express.

Need to get away from dragging luggage around or just want the absolutely simplest path from point A to point B? Consider an Uber or taxi.

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