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Advice on London-Gatwick arrival and pass-through

Since our rail connection in Britain will be significantly cheaper if I book our tickets in advance, I hope to determine when I'll likely pass through passport control and customs at Gatwick Airport next month. Will experienced Gatwick travelers weigh in on this scenario? Too cautious? Not cautious enough?

My flight is scheduled to arrive at 7:10am but as recently as yesterday landed 1 hour 45 minutes late (8:55). I'm considering booking an 11 o'clock train (Great Western RR, to Reading.) No changes or cancellations are allowed. I know if all was on schedule, I could probably make a 10am train, but I am being cautious. In a worst case scenario, is it still possible to arrive Gatwick by 9:30 or 10am, clear passport/customs, take the shuttle to the south terminal, and reach the train by 11am? We are two experienced international travelers, but never through Gatwick.

Posted by
8700 posts

While it probably won't take that long, you should allow up to an hour to clear immigration/passport control, claim your luggage, and get to the south terminal. So if all conditions were perfect, you could even catch the 09:00 train. However, life isn't perfect. While the odds of your missing the 10:00 train are pretty low, if the airline you'll be flying is known for arriving late, with a non-refundable and non-exchangeable ticket it might be wise to book the 11:00 train.

Posted by
668 posts

Your airline's arrival time is obviously critical, but once on the ground, I have never had a problem arriving in Gatwick and being out in a short time. usually much less than an hour. DEPARTING from Gatwick is another story, with long security lines, etc.

Posted by
225 posts

We did the exact same routine last summer. Arrived at Gatwick around 845 AM (on time), got through customs in less than an hour (about 45 minutes). We hopped on the train to Kings Cross which is about a 45 minute ride, and met our traveling companions at St. Pancras for lunch around 11 AM. In order to get the super-discounted train tickets, we purchased a 3 PM ticket leaving Kings Cross to give us about 4 hours of fluff time and lessen the risk of losing our ticket altogether as it is non-refundable as you mentioned.

I do have to say that having a few hours in London was a good way to unwind from the flight and get a bite to eat before our train journey. St. Pancras is really a beautiful station with lots of good places to munch some lunch.

Posted by
111 posts

Last July, I went through Gatwick, off from one flight to catch another separate flight. I went from the South Terminal to North Terminal and cleared customs, all in about 45 mins. I had no checked bags, all carry-on.

Posted by
571 posts

Thanks to everyone for your advice.
You've given me hope that I'll speed through Gatwick in good time. Just to be safe, I upgraded to a Britrail pass so I can take whichever train is available once I clear customs.

Posted by
3415 posts

Matt- BritRail passes are always a good option, in my opinion. We like having the flexibilty to change plans and travel on the spur of the moment.