Friday, December 16, 2011

Arrived At Heathrow? Welcome To London

Heading to London Heathrow? The easy part is finding a flight. The tricky bit is getting from Heathrow into London itself. Take a few minutes to check out the options.

The London Underground (a.k.a. The Tube) is a good option if you're comfortable with public transport. On the plus side it is cheap. There are also a few negatives. First of all, check your hotel's address and see if it's near to a tube station, and if so, what line. If you're near the Piccadilly line that's good, but you still need to deal with the fact that the Underground was designed for commuters with briefcases, not travellers with kids and two pull-along suitcases. If you're arriving at peak time - i.e., 7 through 10am, or 4 through 7pm - be prepared for lots of crowds and jostling. That could be an unpleasant experience; if you have a family group with you, consider other options.

It's London, after all, of course there's a bus. And if your hotel is near Victoria Station, maybe this is even the best option. The bus picks up from Terminals 1, 2 and 3; from Terminals 4 and 5 there's a free train link. Three to six buses run every hour, it's a cheap option at £4 per person, and the trip to Victoria takes about an hour. Some people can hack riding the bus, and some can't. If you're staying near Victoria Stations, this may work for you.

Airport licensed London taxi might be the best option for a group of three or four, but don't forget you need to fit your luggage in there as well. The fare depends entirely on your hotel's location. The benefit of this option is it's door to door; the downside is you may hit traffic and sit on the motorway for an hour when you'd rather be in your room and taking a shower. There are well-managed taxi stands at each terminal, and cabs are plentiful so you'll be off and going quickly without having to lug your bags and children up stairs and down passageways.

A shared London airport transfer from Heathrow is a decent alternative to a London taxi and public transport options. It's good value at around £19 per person, so it's perfect for one or two people travelling together; three or four might be better off in a cab. You do have to put up with the annoyance of stopping at other people's hotels. Of course another way to look at this is you get to see some more of London at no extra cost. There are well-located desks at Terminals 1, 3 and 4; and a meet and greet service at Terminal 2. Like the taxi option this will take about an hour, but then add the extra 15 to 30 minutes drop everyone else off.

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