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So you’re wondering whether you should take a Taxi, Tube, or other express train to get from Heathrow to central London. Here’s a quick answer to your question: I recommend the Tube far and above any options.
The reason is that using the Tube from London Heathrow is ridiculously cheap and easy.
First, it’s easy to find your way to the Tube as there are plenty of signs in the airport pointing to the “Underground.” You’ll take the elevator or stairs down a couple of levels and then you’ll arrive where the platforms are and where you can purchase your tickets or Oyster card. From that point, you simply follow the herds onto the train, jump on the Piccadilly Line and you’re off to Central London!
Using the Tube to get from Heathrow to London is also very cheap. An adult fare from Heathrow to Central London (during non-peak hours) only costs £3! Three pounds! And you thought London was expensive, right!? And even if you go during peak hours it’s £4.70. Now this does assume that you do a pay-as-you-go method by using on Oyster Card. Still, by simply buying your single fare ticket is only £5.70!
Tube vs Taxi
Compare that to a taxi where the going taxi rate for a Black Cab from Heathrow to central London is £45-85 (usually closer to the £80 than the £45). You can also look into private transfers from the airport.
So as you can see you’re likely to save on average about £55 by taking the Tube! With that said, the Tube can pose some problems.
The biggest problem is that if you’re lugging around tons of baggage it could be a pain bringing all of that stuff up and down stairs and trying to find room on the Tube. The Tube isn’t usually that packed when you first hop on from the airport (except for Sundays; avoid Sundays!) but it will virtually always get packed as you approach central London.
When I first moved to London I had to travel around with big suitcases and a duffle bag and it was pretty miserable on the Tube. Some trains have designated spaces to put your luggage but a lot of times these areas are taken up by passengers and you’re kind of just on your own in terms of finding room for your bags. When the Tube is packed and there’s hardly any room this can really suck (if you’re packing light, however, this is not a big issue). If you are the type of person that abhors these types of situations then I think the cab will be the better option for you. However, if you’re the very budget-conscious type then you’ll likely struggle to justify spending over 10x the amount of cash to get the same distance.
Tube vs. Heathrow Express
Another option is the “Heathrow Express.” Upon arriving at Heathrow you’ll see signs and perhaps even people trying to sell you Heathrow Express tickets. This is an express train that runs every 15 minutes from the airport to Paddington Station. It take about 15 minutes to get to Terminals 1, 2, and 3, and 21 minutes to get to Terminal 5. (Terminal 4 is served by a shuttle from Heathrow Central). The Express Train is quicker than the Tube but also more costly. The cheapest rate is £21, so you give up a savings of at least £15. Also, you have to remember that you have to get around from Paddington to wherever your destination is and will have to incur further charges adding to your total cost. Thus, I choose the Tube over the Heathrow Express each time.
Tube vs Heathrow Connect
There is yet another train option called the Heathrow Connect, which is a little bit slower than the Heathrow Express (30 minutes versus 15 minutes) but it is also cheaper. The Connect also runs less frequently at only 30 minute intervals. The Connect does not go to Terminal 4 or 5 and you’d have to jump on the Heathrow Express at Heathrow Central (free of charge). A ticket on the Connect costs £9.90 for a one way ticket and thus presents the second cheapest alternative for getting from Heathrow to the London but again you have the added costs of getting around on the Tube if that is necessary.
Therefore, with all things considered, I recommend the Tube above all other options. If you’re bringing tons of luggage with you then yes you may want to consider a taxi cab but if you’re a budget traveller then the Tube is the best option for you!
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.