Manchester Airport

Dream Vacation in England: Free Itineraries

Dream Vacation in England: Transportation

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Getting There

Most flights from the United States go to either Heathrow or Gatwick airports, which are on opposite sides of London. Which one you’ll land at depends on which airline you’re flying. At both airports you can rent a car, travel by train to London, catch a coach (we’d call them buses), or take a taxi.

Which airport your flight operates out of doesn’t matter until you’re catching the plane home. Be sure to go to the right airport. My hair dresser once told his taxi driver, “Airport.” and ended up at Gatwick when his plane was leaving from Heathrow. He not only missed his flight but had to buy another, much more expensive, ticket to fly out the next day.


On some flights from Britain, you are only allowed one piece of carry-on luggage. That’s not a purse and a laptop. That’s a purse OR a laptop OR a carry-on bag. Check with your airline before you go, especially if you are flying on to another country from London. If you plan ahead, you could probably fit a laptop plus a camera and a small purse into a 22” x 17.7” x 10” bag.

At the Airport

Both airports provide free luggage carts.

When you clear customs, your first stop should be

at a Hole in the wall to get local currency.

Ground Transportation from Heathrow


The Heathrow Express travels from 5:00 am until almost midnight between Heathrow and London’s Paddington Station. It leaves every 15 minutes, the trip takes about 15 minutes and the walk to your gate could add another 15 minutes or more, which could make the trip take over 45 minutes. A one way ticket is £16.50 (£19.50 if bought on the train). The price for children from five to fifteen is £8.20 (£9.70 if bought on the train). Children under five travel free.

The London Underground’s Piccadilly Line is only £4 to and from Heathrow and central London. It also runs from about 5:00 am until almost midnight. Trains leave every 3-7 minutes, and take 45-60 minutes to reach central London. Luggage can be a problem. The train can get extremely crowded as it gets nearer London and when you get off, there is often a big step (or gap) between the train and the platform. Getting out of the station can involve walking long distances and balancing your bags on extremely long and steep escalators, or carting them up equally long and steep stairs if the escalator is broken.

Most people will still need to take a taxi to or from their hotel and the train station.

An escalator in an Underground Station


Taxis to London cost around £40-70. If two of you are traveling together, it may be a better deal than the Heathrow Express, since you still need to catch a taxi to your hotel when you arrive at Paddington Station. It’s definitely cheaper for a group of three or four. It’s a longer trip, from 30 minutes to an hour, but you arrive directly at your hotel or terminal.

Follow the signs in the terminal to the Taxi Ranks. You’ll see a long line of taxis queueing up to pick up the next

passenger in line. We were once approached by a man, who said his taxi was parked downstairs, as we were walking to

the Taxi Ranks. That’s illegal, so we kept on walking. It’s not smart to get in a taxi cab with someone you know is

disobeying the law.


Americans call them buses. National Express operates coaches directy from Heathrow Airport to many cities and towns

all over the UK, including London. It can take from 40 minutes to over an hour from/to destinations in central London

and costs £4.

Ground Transportation from Gatwick


The Gatwick Express between Gatwick and London’s Victoria train station begins at 3:30 and 4:30 a.m., then travels at 15 minute intervals after 5:00 a.m. until about 1:00 a.m. It’s a 30 minute journey, that costs £16.90. A 30 minute service to Brighton on weekdays has recently been added.

A number of train lines stop at the Gatwick Airport station, serving cities as far distant as Birmingham, a 3 hour  and 15 minute trip.


         National Express operates coaches (Americans call them buses) directy from Heathrow to many cities and towns all over the UK, including London. It can take from 40 minutes to over an hour from/to destinations in central London and costs £4.


A non-stop coach service to London.


Taxis from Gatwick to London have fixed fares. You will be quoted the price before you get in the car. It takes about 65 minutes to central London, and costs about £77. If you’re going into central London from Gatwick on a work day, there may also be a £5 congestion charge, a tax on vehicles operating in the city that is designed to discourage driving.       


                                     © 2009 JoAnne Stewart Wetzel                                                                                   


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