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Getting Into Heathrow after a Day Flight

We are due to arrive at Heathrow at 19:40. Is it reasonable to take the Tube into London and stay there or should we plan to stay near Heathrow the first night?

Posted by
591 posts

It probably won't take you more than half an hour longer to get into London than to an airport hotel.... continuing into London is quite reasonable.

Posted by
1939 posts

I agree with going straight to London. If you don't, you will be checking into a hotel near the airport and then the next day traveling into London where your hotel room might not be available until after lunch so you are wasting a morning by doing this. If you have traveled this far, just go the "extra mile" and get settled in.

Posted by
403 posts

My wife and I did this about a year ago. We easily breezed through passport control, walked to the platform for the Heathrow Express train (had already bought tickets online), zipped to Paddington, rolled across the street to the Indigo, a boutique hotel where we got a good deal, checked in, and were actually in our room before midnight.Now keep in mind, as far as your body knows, it is still dinnertime, so you won't be terribly sleepy. We took ambien, sacked out for a good 8 hours, and woke up the next morning with zero jet lag and plenty of energy. There is no need at all to stay at Heathrow, just head right in to town.

Posted by
970 posts

You will have plenty of time to get into London that evening. If you're arriving at Terminal 3, you should be through passport control and out into the lobby in an hour or less. A chunk of that can be walking from your gate. Follow the signs to "Arrivals". The place is a bit of a maze. Once in the queue at passport control, you can't scamper out for a restroom break unless you're willing to go to the back when you return. The Tube is cheap(ish), but, after paying for the airline ticket and the long flight, I recommend taking the Heathrow Express or the Heathrow Connect train into Paddington Station. Especially on the Express, there's more room and bins for your luggage. As you come into Paddington, the taxis queue is to your right, outside the station. There are arrows embedded in the floor pointing the way.

Posted by
143 posts

Great assistance. Thanks a lot. We will head for London on the Heathrow Express.

Posted by
112 posts

I'm not wanting to spend the extra $$$ for Heathrow Express and plan to take the National Express coach because it goes to Victoria Station which is close to our hotel and seems to be the same time or less. But I can't decide whether to book it online or wait til we get there. I would prefer to book ahead but don't want to miss the bus and have to pay extra to "amend" as they say for a later coach. NE recommends allowing at least 1 1/2 hours between plane arrival and bus time; any thoughts?

Posted by
970 posts

Dellinda, 90 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to expect to from exiting your plane to finding the NE bus. Could easily be less, might be more on a bad day. If the tickets you book ahead ahead are only valid for one specific bus departure, then I'd think it makes sense to buy them on the say. The NE bus that drops you near your hotel is certainly going to be cheaper than the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then a cab to your hotel. But, the Express does take about 15 minutes, while the bus will take an hour or so. Also, if you're planning on walking to your hotel from the where your bus drops you off at Victoria Station, get good directions from the hotel AND carry some good maps of the immediate area (from Google). It's a very busy area. It's not fun to be lost dragging your luggage. You might decide a cheap cab ride would be worth it. Just get in the queue at the station's taxi rank.

Posted by
3580 posts

This spring passport control at Heathrow was slower and more thorough than last fall. It may take longer than predicted. You can still get into London. I take the Heathrow Connect because it is easier and faster, but only if I'm going to be staying in the Paddington area. For other areas, take the Tube.

Posted by
4627 posts

19:40 is quite early; no problem getting into London. I usually take a flight that gets me into London around 10pm. Out of at least 6 day flights, only once have I not been able to make the tube (flight was delayed 2 hours). The Heathrow Express is not necessarily faster than the tube; it depends on where you stay. If you are near Paddington, take the HEX. If you are staying along the Piccadilly line (e.g. Earls Court or Bloomsbury), the tube is quicker. I normally take the tube.

Posted by
643 posts

"The Heathrow Express is not necessarily faster than the tube" That's funny. The tube takes 40 minutes into London, the HE takes 15 minutes. We took the Heathrow Express and loved it. Worth every penny. We didn't come all the way to London to spend 40 minutes on a tube train when we could be out on the streets sightseeing.

Posted by
4627 posts

I think Dave misunderstood the last part of my comment that the "Heathrow Express is not necesssarily faster than the tube". The last part of the statement was "It depends on where you stay." What I meant was that the Heathrow Express will not necessarily get you to your final destination in London faster than the tube. You need to consider the trip from Paddington to your final destination in the mix. For example, if you happen to be staying at Gloucester Road, the tube is about 45 minutes with no changes. If you take the HEX, you have to switch at Paddington to the Circle line where you have to walk down the corridor and haul your suitcase up and down several staircases and wait for the tube. By the time you do this, you will find you have saved no time over the tube and have spent a significant amount more money. Even if you switch to a taxi, you will wait in a queue and likely hit some traffic before your destination. The Heathrow Express is great if you are staying within walking distance of Paddington. Its value diminishes the further you get from Paddington. By the way, I took the HEX last month because I was staying at a hotel near Paddington. Ironically, the HEX departed about a minute late and got caught behind a local train. That 15 minute journey" took 27 minutes. To be fair, usually the HEX has been timely for me.

Posted by
143 posts

Laura, your post makes total sense. We are staying at a hotel right at Paddington but if we were headed for some other area near a Piccadilly line Tube stop then the Tube would make sense over the Heathrow Express both for time and money. If I had not acted so hastily, I would be booking a hotel near the Station where the Southampton trains depart because we are headed for Southampton after 2 nights in London (business). Oh well.

Posted by
2895 posts

John, Don't forget travel light. j.c. says: "It's not fun to be lost dragging your luggage." and Laura says: "you have to walk down the corridor and haul your suitcase up and down several staircases and wait for the tube." Keep in mind that a large amount of luggage immediately begins to be a problem. It really ruins a trip for me to be struggling through the airport and tube with too much luggage, dragging them down the street for several blocks, up stairs in a B&B, on a train trip where I change trains, etc. (Been there, done that, it's not fun.) Traveling light will make your whole trip more enjoyable.

Posted by
970 posts

That's a very important tip, Rebecca. While you may save a few dollars riding the Tube from Heathrow, people need to know that there is NO place set aside for luggage on the Tube. If you are lucky enough to find some space at either end of a car, you might also find some floor space for bags. And you'll be standing for the entire one-hour trip. Even if you only bring one carryon, it's going to be on your lap or between your legs. I've done two weeks in the UK with a single carryon: Two jeans, one dressy pair of pants, 5 shirts, two sweaters, etc. Yes, I had to use laundries (cheap) and hotel cleaners (way overpriced) but it was worth it. The cost, frankly, was less than the cost of paying baggage fees for checked luggage.

Posted by
112 posts

j.c., thanks. With HE going to Paddington and having to take another form of transportation from there I don't think it's the best choice for us. We are staying at Lime Tree Hotel which is just around the corner from the Victoria Coach Station. Although I'm sure we'll find it I hesitate to say "no problem" because in Rome when we arrived at the train station we were "only" ten minutes from our hotel...2 1/2 hours later we finally found it. The nice dinner we planned quickly turned into peanut butter crackers in our room. We rapidly transitioned from people with two or three pieces of luggage each to people who now travel with one 21" bag and a backpack each, but Rebecca's comments are challenging me to pare down even more. I pick up new tricks and ideas to save space each time we go.

Posted by
143 posts

My heavy laptop is staying home. I got a Galaxy Tab and I love it so far. Thanks so much for all the great tips here. I do intend to travel light. After 6 trips to Europe since 2003, you would think I would have learned my lesson by now. I need to write on the blackboard 100 times: I WILL TRAVEL LIGHT. Oh I can copy and paste. But that wouldn't do it!

Posted by
970 posts

For Americans, the thing about finding London hotels that are "just minutes" from the station is that the streets follow the opposite of a grid pattern. That's why a good map, or a cab, is the best approach to getting there.

Posted by
2895 posts

I would go with what j.c. has been saying; that a cheap cab ride from Paddington to your hotel would be worth it. You may be tired by that time, and to be delivered by the cab right to the door of your hotel sounds pretty good.

Posted by
1035 posts

"If you are lucky enough to find some space at either end of a car, you might also find some floor space for bags. And you'll be standing for the entire one-hour trip." At that time of night? I think she'll find a seat.