Getting to London, United Kingdom

Julia Opl Picture
Jeremias Padilla Picture
by Julia Opl, Jeremias Padilla
updated 7 months ago

The city of London welcomes you. With six airports connecting them to the world (flights from $30) and routes for trains (from $96), buses ($18), and cars connecting them to Europe, London covers all its bases. Ride from the airport to the city start at $7 by train, $14 by express trains and buses, and $62 by taxi. Once in London, moving around on their world famous double-decker buses (from $2) and underground service (from $3.30) allows you to access most of the city. Taxis start at $3.45 but the bill quickly goes up. Renting a bike starts at $3 per day or a car from $46.

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The Tricky Part

  • Oxford Street vs Oxford. Many tourists find themselves lost due to this confusion. Oxford Street is one of the most important spots for shopping and walking around, and famous for its Christmas decorations. Many buses will take you to Oxford Street, but if you are trying to reach the city of Oxford you will need a long distance bus from a station like Victoria Coach Station -in front of London Victoria Station- which often furthers the confusion because the "Oxford buses" for Oxford Street also depart from London Victoria (not the Coach Station).
  • Keep an umbrella at hand. Even if the day looks sunny that may change a couple of hours later. It can even rain and be sunny at the same time! But if you do not have an umbrella at hand when the "spit rain" drizzle starts you can get one from the multiple street vendors.
  • The City of London is huge and together with all the boroughs makes long walking distances. The public transport will be your best option when moving around from place to place. Even the museums are massive and it can take hours to just finish viewing one wing.
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Safety Concerns

Unfortunately, London has seen an increase in armed and unarmed crime in the last three years.

It is certain the most populated areas are heavily guarded and the Metropolitan Police has strengthened security and vigilance, but in the South and East areas of London some neighbourhoods are considered dangerous given the crime rates.

The areas of Hackney, Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Canary Wharf, West India Docks, Newham, and Southwark currently have a high crime rate.

Other Logistical Complexities

  • London Cabs are VERY expensive. Currently the most expensive taxi fares in Europe.
  • Everything starts closing at 5PM and by 6PM most businesses will be closed. Pubs and restaurants tend to be open until 9PM at the latest during weekdays. You best option for a late meal will be at a 24 hour fast food.
  • Outlet adapters are a must. The UK has an unique outlet shape, different from the rest of Europe and the US. You will be able to get these upon arrival in the airport or at any supermarket.
  • The idea of 'social' classes is quite ingrained in the collective mindset, reflected on shops and stores. Some supermarkets are considered 'posh' (for upper middle class). This means the goods in these supermarkets will be more expensive but more varied compared to 'average' or lower cost supermarkets; something similar happens with other types of shops and with pubs too.
  • Please be respectful when referring to the Queen or the Royals. They are important figures in this society and highly regarded by most citizens.
  • Note that the use of some public bathrooms in train stations will require a small fee of about £0.50 (fifty pence) for using them.
  • Be very mindful of the traffic. In the UK people drive on the left, so it is essential to look both ways before crossing the street.
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Getting to London

London has a total of SIX airports. Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), Luton (LTN), London City (LCY), Stansted (STN) and Southend (SEL). Each one serves a special role and connect to domestic and international destinations. They surround the City of London, with LCY in the middle. Trains and shuttles are connected to all of them, offering accessible rides to and from the city.

As for long distance trains, the EuroStar high speed train connects London to the continental part of Europe (frequently Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam). It arrives to St. Pancras Station in London.

There are a total of twelve major stations in London.

  • Cannon Street
  • Charing Cross
  • Euston
  • Fenchurch Street
  • Kings Cross
  • London Bridge
  • Liverpool Street
  • Marylebone
  • Paddington
  • St Pancras
  • Victoria
  • Waterloo

The busiest stations being Waterloo and Victoria (in that order).

There are two coach stations: Victoria Coach Station, right next to Victoria Station; and the Green Line Coach Station.

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By Air, the compromise option

  • The largest airport is London Heathrow (LHR). This is the main airport for all international flights outside the European Union. It receives millions of passengers per year and it is one of the busiest airports in the world. All the major airlines will arrive to Heathrow, as it receives flights from all around the world. It has a total of five Terminals.
  • Second to Heathrow is London Gatwick (LGW). It has two Terminals and it also serves as an international airport. It is the main hub for British Airways, EasyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and most charter and low-cost flights.
  • London Stansted (STN) manages most of the flights for budget airlines within Europe. It is the main base for Ryanair.
  • Luton (LTN) is the main base for EasyJet and Wizz Air, which have flights to several European and African cities.
  • Southend (SEN) is a smaller airport that only operates Ryanair flights to Spain, Widerøe to Bergen and Wizz Air to Bucharest.
  • London City (LCY) airport is in the middle of London, only 4 miles away from Canary Wharf. Most flights within the UK and Northern Europe arrive and depart from LCY.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from London Heathrow?

All 5 terminals are serviced by the Piccadilly tube line (subway) every 15 minutes. The fare is £5.10. Take into account that this tube line tends to get very busy and finding a comfortable spot after a long journey might be difficult.

The Oyster card can be used to pay for the Piccadilly tube. Oyster cards can be topped up with credit which you can use to pay all public transportation services in London (the tube, overground rails and buses). You can purchase an Oyster card next to the exit of any terminal.

There is also the Heathrow Express connecting directly to Paddington Station (West London). This connects to Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. It runs every 20 minutes. This train is quite expensive with a fare of £10.20 per ride. However, it is possible to book the train in advance at their website for a better fare.

The National Express bus service is also available and it will take you from each of Heathrow's terminals to Victoria Coach Station. Given the traffic, the trip can take about 60 minutes.

The London black cab can be quite expensive. Fares are £45 - £70 depending how far into London you're going. Cabs can take up to five passengers.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from London Gatwick?

The Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink trains reach this airport.

It is important to pay attention which of the trains you are boarding. Tourists are prone to boarding the incorrect train with a ticket for a different line.

These trains are most convenient if you are going to Southern London or further.

Given how busy the airport is it's recommended to purchase them online from their website

Taxi cabs are available. The fee for this service to central London is £60.

The company easyBus offers affordable bus rides to Victoria Coach Station and Waterloo Station. This price is as low as £1.99 if booked in advance.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from London Stansted?

You will find the Stansted Express train every 15 minutes. It connects directly to Liverpool Street and has a stop at Tottenham Hale. A one way ticket is £19.40

As for coaches, you will be able to use the National Express which connect to Stansted hourly every day. The price per ticket is £9.

Cabs between the airport and central London cost around £98.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from Luton Airport?

The National Express coaches depart from Luton and have 30 destinations in London. You will most certainly find one which drops you near your accommodation. It is recommended to pre-purchase your ticket at the National Express official website.

A cab from Luton to central London is £60.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from London City Airport?

It does not have a station itself. The closest train access is the Docklands Light Railway. You will reach Central London (Westminster) in 20 minutes. There is also the Jubilee Line to Canning Town. Both of these can be paid with the Oyster card for £2.

Given how congested the city gets, it is not recommended to use a cab as it can cost you £40.

How do I get to the area where I'll be staying at from Southend Airport?

The Greater Anglia train is available for this airport and it connects to London Liverpool Street. This can be purchased in the airport at the ground level. The ticket is £6 if booked in advance at the official website.

The only coach service is the X30. The fare is £16.50 and it runs hourly.

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By Bus, the frugal option

Manchester

The National Express has this ride covered. Prices start from £13 and takes 4 hours to reach London.

The route starts at Manchester Coach Station and ends at London Victoria Coach Station.

Amsterdam

BlablaBus offers an overnight bus to London. The Amsterdam City Center - Sloterdijk to London Victoria Coach Station takes about 11 hours 30 minutes to reach London. Runs once daily and prices start at £20.

FlixBus also covers this ride. From Amsterdam Sloterdijk to London Victoria Coach Station. It is the 814 Bus and takes 12 hours to arrive. Departs twice a week. Prices start at £30

Paris

Eurolines FR bus 450 takes 9 hours 15 minutes to reach London from Paris Gallieni Station. The bus departs every 4 hours and the price starts £15.

FlixBus N700 also services this ride. The ride duration is 9 hours 30 minutes and departs twice daily from Paris, Paris (Bercy Seine) to London Victoria Coach Station. Prices start at £25.

Glasgow

Megabus UK and National Express have this ride covered. Megabus M11 will take you from Buchanan Bus Station to London Victoria Coach Station. Tickets start from £30 and departs once a day. The total ride time takes around 10h 30 minutes.

National Express also covers this ride. It departs twice a day and prices start at £18. It departs from Glasgow's Buchanan Bus Station on Buchanan Street, and it will take you directly to London Victoria Coach Station.

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By Train

Manchester

There is a direct train line from Manchester City to London. You can board the train at the Piccadilly Station to London Euston Station. The service is operated by Avanti West Coast towards London. Prices start at £70 and depart every 30 minutes.

Amsterdam

EuroStar connects a large number of European cities across the country and even reaching the British Isles. From Amsterdam Centraal take the EuroStar to St. Pancras International in London. The full ride takes 5h 10m. The train departs 3 times a day. Prices start at £130

Paris

The EIL 9019 EuroStar train from Paris Nord takes 2 hours 30 minutes to reach London St. Pancras Station. It departs twice daily and prices start at £110.

Glasgow

Avanti West Coast services this route. It takes about 4 hours 30 minutes to reach London Euston Station. The train departs hourly. Prices start at £160. The train departs from Glasgow Central.

Photo by Kutan Ural on Unsplash

By Car

Manchester

The ride by car takes around 3 hours and 45 minutes. From Manchester take A6 to A57, then M6 until M42 and M40 to Western Ave/A40 in Denham. Follow A40 to London.

Amsterdam

It is possible to reach London by car from Amsterdam

Take Herengracht, Stadhouderskade/S100 and S110 to A2 in Amsterdam-Oost. Continue on A2. Take A27 to E40 and A16 to D215 in Peuplingues, France. Take exit 40 from A16. Continue on D215 to the Eurotunnel. Cross the Eurotunnel between Calais and Folkestone. Crossing the Eurotunnel or "Chunnel" -a portmanteau for Channel Tunnel- which will require that your car is placed into a train and crossed. Prices for this service start at £141 for one way per car.

Once back up from the tunnel, you’ll be in the UK. Get on M20. Follow M20 to A2. Take the exit toward London, Bexleyheath from M25.

For additional information you can visit the Chunnel's website.

Paris

Get on Bd Périphérique from Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, to Quai de Bercy. Take A16 to D215 in Coquelles. Take exit 40 from A16 and continue on D215 to the Eurotunnel. Crossing the Eurotunnel or "Chunnel" -a portmanteau for Channel Tunnel- which will require that your car is placed into a train and crossed. Prices for this service start at £141 for one way per car.

Once back up from the tunnel, you’ll be in the UK. Get on M20. Follow M20 to A2. Take the exit toward London, Bexleyheath from M25.

For additional information you can visit the Chunnel's website.

Glasgow

Take Port Dundas Road and Dobbie's Loan to M8. Take M74 and then into M6, finally change to M40 to Western Ave/A40 in Denham. Follow A40 straight to London.

Photo by Joe Stubbs on Unsplash

Private Transfer

Manchester

  • The price for UberX up to 4 passengers is £395 and UberXL for 6 passengers is £585
  • The price for UberExec up to 4 passengers is £499
  • A local cab for up to 4 passengers will cost £617

Mozio offers experienced drivers to cover this ride as well.

  • A sedan car for 4 passengers and 4 bags is £344
  • A private van for 8 passengers and 8 bags is £662

Paris

Please note that all the prices listed below do not include the crossing of the Eurotunnel. This adds an additional  £141

  • A sedan car for 4 passengers with the company Bolt is €641
  • Uber Green and UberX offer sedans for this same ride for a fare of €677
  • The UberVan for 6 passengers is €1,023

Mozio also covers this route. Offering private vans for 7 passengers and 7 bags, the price for the service is £792

  • A larger van for 10 passengers and 10 bags is GB£1,987

Amsterdam

  • UberX can provide this ride, offering a car for 4 passengers, at €976
  • A taxi cab service is available for 4 passengers at €1,528
  • The fare for an UberVan for up to 6 passengers is €1,752

Please note that all the prices listed below do not include the crossing of the Eurotunnel. This adds an additional  £141

  • Mozio services this ride offering a vehicle for 4 passengers. The price is  £937
  • A ride for 8 passengers and 8 bags is £1,312
  • For a larger van for 12 passengers and 12 bags, the price is £2,437

Glasgow

  • UberX offers this route with a sedan for 4 passengers, the price is £633
  • UberXL for 6 passengers is £948
  • Mozio covers this route offering a ride for 4 passengers and 4 bags for £914, and an 8 passenger/8 bag van is £1,104

The Mozio Recommendation

Taking a low-cost flight and combining it with a bus service from the airport is doubtlessly the recommended way to go.

Photo by Charles Postiaux on Unsplash

Getting Around London

London is one of the largest and most populated cities in Europe. Traffic across the streets is difficult and busy. Rush hours usually mean around two-hour delays if you're crossing the heart of London City.

In the UK people drive on the left -known as "Left-Hand-Traffic" or LHT for short- so it is not recommended to rent a car in the UK unless you're used to driving that way! Even if traffic is very organized and well signalled, those who are not used to this system will have a difficult time.

Given this situation, the best way to move around London is with its great public transport service, even if it might feel a bit pricey compared to other cities due to the currency exchange.

The way to access all of London's public transportation is via the Oyster Card which is provided by Transport for London. The Oyster card allows you to buy and top it up with credit to use on any tube (subway/metro), bus and overground (train) transportation. And there's week and day passes available, called London Pass.

The day-pass for an adult is £10 and makes an excellent option because it will allow you to use trains freely. This means that if you're planning to visit another city nearby you can use the same pass to go and come back, and you can still use it to move around London during the same day as well.

Photo by chan lee on Unsplash

By Bus

The fare for using the red London buses is £1.50 and you can only pay with the Oyster card, which costs an additional £5.

These buses do not accept any form of cash, so having the Oyster card is a must. You can obtain the Oyster card from the vending machines located in all stations. They are easy to identify with the Oyster logo.

The Transport for London Website has a comprehensive timetable for all of their buses within the city.

Subway

Trains and Subways are also part of the Transport for London system and they can only be paid for with the Oyster card using the 'pay as you go' method. This means you will need to add credit to your Oyster card to.

Prices will vary depending on the zone within the city. Peak hours can also increase the price of the ride by more than £2. The lowest fare is £2.40.

We recommend checking a map of all the tube lines coverage areas and stops.

Car Rental

If you are comfortable with the driving system in the UK you may certainly rent a car. The most convenient way is to rent the vehicle at the airport you will arrive at.

Large companies such as Surprise Agency, Ace Rent a Car, Easirent, Green Motion, Budget, Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Sixt are all available.

Car rentals desks are always on the ground level of the airport next to the exit. From there they will guide you to the different rental facilities each company has.

  • On average a car in London is $46 per day for a small sedan
  • Deals may appear on rental websites such as Kayak but this is not the norm
  • A Ford Focus (or similar a compact) for 5 passengers is $147 for five days with Discover Cars
  • A Volkswagen Golf for 4 passengers is $320 for five days with Green Motion
  • An Audi A4 Avant for five days is $462 with Ace Rent A Car
Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash
Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Taxi

  • Uber, Bolt and Gett are the main apps available for ridesharing transportation within London.
  • The base fare for Uber within London is £2.50 and it adds 15 pennies per minute or £1.25 per mile.
  • It is important to note certain dates such as Christmas Day and New Year's Eve prices will have a surcharge of almost double the fare.

Cost per mile: There is a base fare of £2.50, 15 pennies (£0.15) per minute and £1.25 per mile.

Bike Rental

Transport for London has bike rental system called Santander Cycles.

The cost is £2 per day. Please note that each bike trip must not last more than 30 minutes, if not you will be charged an additional £2 by exceed this mark. The bike needs to be returned within less than 24 hours or sanctions may apply.

You can download the Santander Cycles app to easily interact with the rental.

StonehengePhoto by Brooke Bell on Unsplash
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Day trips around London

Maidstone

This city is the capital of the Kent and it is considered to be the heart of the English countryside. You will find Leeds Castle only 20 minutes away from Maidstone. Leeds is one of the favoured attractions for tourists.

The town itself is gorgeous with its cobblestone streets, ancient buildings and lots of pubs for a warm evening.

  • Train: The Southeastern train line departing from London Victoria will take you directly to Maidstone East Station. The ride takes 55 minutes and departs hourly. Prices start from £20. This is part of the National Rail service.
  • Taxi: A taxi to Maidstone in Kent is about £100 and a 60 minute ride.
  • Car: Take Fenchurch St to Whitechapel High Street and then follow the A11 road. Take A13, A102, A2, M2 and A229 to College Ave in Maidstone.

Oxford

Home to the world-renowned Oxford University, this city is a destination that shouldn't be missed if you're travelling to London. Located just three hours away and connected through train and bus Oxford is a great day trip for everyone.

Tours through the University or Oxford Castle & Prison, or even visit the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.

  • Train: Great Western Railway covers this route departing hourly from London Paddington Station. The ride takes 52 minutes and tickets start from £24. It will take you directly to Oxford Station in the heart of the city.
  • Bus: Stagecoach Oxfordshire is a company offering buses to Oxford every 20 minutes. It departs from Victoria Coach Station. It is essential not to confuse this with the local buses going to Oxford Circus or Oxford Street within London. The ride takes 1h 35m and fares start from £15.
  • Car: Follow A40 to M40 in Denham, then continue with M40. Take Exit 8 into Oxfordshire.
OxfordPhoto by Ben Seymour on Unsplash

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is the prehistoric rock monument two miles west of Amesbury in Wiltshire. It is visited by all sorts of tourists and modern druids during the Summer Solstice in July. The place itself is an archaeological site and tours are offered daily. Stonehenge is one of the most mysterious places in the world and absolutely worth the visit.

  • Train: The SouthWestern line from Waterloo Station will take you to Salisbury, the nearest town. It takes 1h 30m and tickets start from £35, departing every 2 hours. From Salisbury you'll need a taxi or shuttle to get to Stonehenge. It is only 12 minutes away from the centre of Salisbury and prices start from £20 for this taxi.
  • Car: Get on Westway/A40 from Gloucester Terrace and continue on A40. Take M25 and M3 to A303 in Wiltshire directly to Salisbury.

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