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We realise that the journey to London could be daunting and you are likely to want to enjoy things beyond our events. There is little to no need to hire a car, especially if you are staying in London. Here we hope to share some valuable info on how the various public transport systems work in and around London

Transport links from the Airport to Central London

You will be happy to hear access to and from the major London airports is quick, easy and affordable.

Heathrow has superb London connections to suit every passenger’s budget and requirements.

Train/Tube
The fastest link between Heathrow and central London is the Heathrow Express. Non-stop trains run to Paddington every 15 minutes, and journey time is 15 minutes from Terminals 2 and 3 (a few minutes more from Terminals 4 or 5). For a Map of key destination on the Heathrow Express please see HERE. Tickets can be purchased HERE or you can buy an Oyster card on arrival and use that (see below for detail on the Oyster Card)

Coach
If the train isn’t for you coaches run throughout the day, from £10, offering journey times of 40–80 minutes to Victoria coach station (and many other destinations). Find out more on the National Express website.

Taxi
London taxis are available outside each terminal. The cost to central London is around £50–£75 and the journey time is approximately one hour. Or, book a minicab or chauffeur in advance. Read more HERE

Transport links from the Airport to Central London

Much like Heathrow, Gatwick offers great access to Public Transport direct to London, and arguably shorter distances to walk inside the terminal.

Train/Tube
There is a single train line that runs from Gatwick to London Victoria, however there are a number of operators on the line. The operator sets the price, and number of stops for the train. All services can be seen on the National Rail Enquiries website. You can pay for your ticket on the day, book in advance & collect or buy and Oyster card at the station and use that.

Coach
If the public transport isnt for you you have a few options for the Coach. The main Coach Operator in the UK is called National Express however you can use the low-cost supplier EasyBus and sometime get a national Express buss for 40% off!

Taxi
Journey times and costs vary depending on your destination, but take around one hour to central London. You can book with the airports preferred taxi partner, Airport Cars Gatwick:
In person: at the taxi kiosks located at both terminals.
Telephone: +44 (0) 1293 567700
Online: http://taxis.gatwickairport.com/

Transport links from the Airport to Central London

London City is the only airport that is actually IN London, however this airport only services European destination and frankly public transport is so easy from the other main airports if you were flying in from the US you can forget this airport.

Train/DLR
A new one for your British vocabulary, The “DLR”, The Docklands Light Railway is an overground system connecting East London (Location of London City airport) to the London Underground network. As for normal overline train services The closest National Rail stations include London Bridge, Waterloo and Stratford International

All services can be seen on the National Rail Enquiries website. You can pay for your ticket on the day, book in advance & collect or buy and Oyster card at the station and use that.

Minicab / Taxi
London City Airport have teamed up with minicabit.com so you can arrange cheaper, easier transport direct from your home, office or hotel in over 40 UK cities.

Minicabit.com price comparison engine provides you with an instant quote you can then book in real time online, with txt alerts to confirm your booking.

The Oyster Card (Public Transport access)

The majority of Londoners currently use an Oyster card routinely to pay for all their public transport needs

However, many are fast migrating away from Oyster cards to contactless payment cards, typically the Visa, MasterCard or American Express cards they use for everyday expenditure.

For short-term visitors to London it’s not as clear cut and the Oyster card continues to dominate as the preferred option for public transport around London.

For an overseas visitor to London, your credit or debit card that supports contactless payment will probably incur significant foreign exchange charges as fares are converted from pounds sterling to your local currency.

Overseas transaction fees or charges can often apply for non-UK cards. This will be one charge per day, not each time you travel, depending on your card issuer.

This is compounded by the nature of continuous small daily debits on your account that is the nature of contactless payment.

Like Oyster card you need a contactless card for each person travelling and you cannot use contactless payment for child fares.

If you are staying 5 or more days in London with an Oyster you can load a 7 day or monthly Travelcards electronically on to the Oyster card which has the potential to make significant cash savings – this is not available with contactless cards. Visitor Oysters and Travelcards can also qualify you for discounts on sightseeing.

Unless you are going to make just one single journey on public transport in London then you should really be looking to use either an Oyster card, contactless payment card or a London Travelcard travel pass and not pay for single tickets.

For example, paying cash for a single Underground journey in the centre of London is more than double the price of the same fare with an Oyster card.

The Oyster card is a permanent reusable electronic ticket of credit card size (see image above) which is topped up from time to time by its owner with cash that is used to pay the fares. You can top it up at ticket machines or for standard Oyster cards if you register the card.

After each journey the fare is taken from the cash on your Oyster card. This is called Pay As You Go.

The alternative travel pass called Travelcard is a much more simple product. You buy it for durations of 1 day, 7 days, 1 month or one year and it give you unlimited travel in those days for a set fee paid upfront. We have a dedicated page for the London TravelcardKey Point: The Oyster fare for any individual journey is the lowest fare available (contactless card fares are identical to Oyster). For each calendar day there is a fare cap (the maximum you can pay in a single day on public transport) and this is always less than the alternative 1 day Travelcard. Oyster fare caps are explained in more detail further down the page.

Key Point: If you use an Oyster card for 5 or more days in any 7 calendar days, a 7 Day Travelcard will normally be cheaper than using Oyster on a Pay As You Go basis every day.

Oyster cards (but not Visitor Oyster cards) have the flexibility to load a 7 day Travelcard electronically on to the Oyster and you can use both Oyster Pay As You Go and a 7 day Travelcard seamlessly together. So if you are in London for 10 days, you can use Oyster for 3 days and the 7 day Travelcard for the other 7.

You cannot use Oyster on the Heathrow Express train or the Heathrow Connect train between Heathrow and Hayes and Harlington and the High Speed Trains between St Pancras and Stratford.

Stansted, Southend and Luton airports are outside London beyond the scope of London public transport so the airport buses and trains from these airports are not covered. City Airport is serviced by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and is covered.

You can now use London’s Oyster cards and contactless payment options to pay for fares on the Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Southern Trains services between London and Gatwick Airport.

For the Gatwick Express train service the cheapest fares are obtained direct from Gatwick Express and not using an Oyster, so do look at the Gatwick Express page.

For Thameslink and Southern Trains the Oyster is a cheaper for a single journey using Oyster but for return journeys and visitors arriving then departing at Gatwick there are good reasons to buy train tickets instead.

There are two types of Oyster card. If you buy in London you get the standard Oyster card, if you buy outside London including airport trains and National Express coaches, overseas agents and you will get a Visitors Oyster card.

Oyster & Visitor Oyster card differences – the key facts

  • Oyster fares and caps are the same whether you use a standard Oyster or a Visitor Oyster, a common misconception.
  • Visitor Oyster cards you pay an activation fee (£5 in 2018) which is non-refundable. If you buy an Oyster card in London you pay a deposit (£5 in 2018) which is refunded (in cash/coins) when you surrender/cancel the Oyster card.
  • You cannot load 7 day Travelcards on Visitor Oyster cards only standard Oyster cards. If you are in London for 5 plus days having a 7 day Travelcard loaded on your Oyster can save you significant cash. For 5 days daily travel in London, Oysters and 7 day Travelcards for most visitors will be almost identical in price. For 6 or 7 days the sixth and seventh days are effectively free for a 7 day Travelcard compared to the Oyster total price.
  • At the end of your trip both Visitor Oyster cards and standard Oyster cards you can cancel at ticket machines and get any cash left on the Oyster refunded (in cash/coins). However, at the time of writing there is no such facility at Gatwick Airport to get refunds.
  • A standard Oyster card you can if you wish register, Visitor Oyster cards you cannot. The main advantages of being registered is that if you lose your Oyster you can stop its use, you can get a good audit trail of your journeys and you can request a refund of cash left on your Oyster direct into your bank account.
  • Visitor Oyster cards have “special offers” made available to purchasers, normally discounts on anything from food to theatre tickets relevant to visitors. Whether you would make use of any of these offers is another thing and the specifics of offers are often not clear.

If you plan on returning to London at some time then you can retain your Oyster and use it again on your return however far in the future.

Otherwise you will want to reclaim your Oyster deposit and any cash balance left on your Oyster or Visitors Oyster. You can do this using any ticket machine (though notably not at Gatwick Airport). The machine will cancel the Oyster card and refund your deposit plus any cash left on your Oyster up to £10.

If you forget to get the refund while in London you can post the Oyster card back to TFL customer services requesting the refund. For overseas visitors the big disadvantage is that the refund will be in the form of a cheque in British pounds.

This procedure is the same for both Oyster cards and Visitor Oyster cards.

Only one person can travel with an Oyster card at any time. If 2 people are travelling together they need 2 Oyster cards. However another person can use your Oyster card when you are not travelling.

No photo is required for an Oyster and your name is not stamped on the card. You can register the Oyster card if you want but that is entirely voluntary.

For concessions, principally child fares, a separate Oyster Photo ID card is required (see bottom of the page). For short term visitors of less than 2 weeks, there is a facility called the Young Persons Discount that enables child fares for a short period without photo ID

The most convenient place to buy Oyster cards for visitors are Underground stations, including Heathrow Airport. You can pay cash or credit card.

However there are no longer manned ticket offices at Underground and DLR stations, you have to buy from a ticket machine.

If you prefer a human to serve you there are also many Oyster Ticket Stops all over London in neighbourhood stores, newsagents etc that display a sign in their window.

If you feel nervous purchasing a public transport pass from a ticket machine after entering a strange country you can buy Visitor Oyster cards from Visit Britain (see link below) and have them delivered to your home address internationally. See section above for differences between the Oysters bought in London and Visitor Oysters.

You can use Oyster Cards in two ways:

  • Oyster ‘Pay As You Go’ mode – you purchase say £10 to be loaded on to your card. Every time you make a journey the appropriate fare is deducted automatically from your original £10 on the card. The fare deducted is far cheaper than if you purchased tickets individually.You then top up the Oyster card with further amounts as required. A key point is that there is a daily price cap (see section further down the page) where however much you travel in a day your total outlay never goes above this price cap.
  • Fixed duration, flat fee with unlimited travel – you can buy Travelcards and electronically load them onto your Oyster (but not 1 day Travelcards and you cannot load any Travelcard onto a Visitors Oyster card). This gives you a fixed cost for unlimited travel for a set time period 7 days, 1 month or one year. If you travel less than 5 days in any 7 then the Oyster Pay as You Go option will almost certainly be cheaper. This way of combining Oyster cards and Travelcards is covered in more detail on the London Travelcard page.

The London public transport system is divided up into zones that radiate from the centre. Nearly all the main hotel districts and the main sights of London are in Zone 1.

For the vast majority of visitors you will only travel in the two most central zones 1 and 2, though many may make an odd trip to places like Heathrow Airport or the Harry Potter Film Studios in the outer zones.

The Underground map (link above) has the stations and their zones marked.

Some stations like Turnham Green are in two zones, you use whichever zone for these stations is most beneficial in working out your fare.

The fare you pay is set by which zones your departure and destination stations are in. Your journey starts when you go through the ticket barrier of the station entrance you depart from and finishes when you pass through the ticket barrier at the exit of your destination.

You cannot break a journey on a single fare – once you go though the exit barrier of a station that is journey completed. At London Underground and DLR interchange stations you do not normally go through a ticket barrier to switch train and your fare is calculated as one journey, the exit barrier at your ultimate destination being the end point of your journey.

At major railway stations like Victoria and Euston, where you may interchange between a commuter train and the London Underground, you will normally have to go through ticket barriers to make the interchange. At these stations you are given a short time period (15-30 minutes) to make the interchange – have a coffee or take a longer break and you will be charged for 2 separate journeys.

London’s red buses do not have zones. With Oyster, a flat fee per bus journey is charged wherever and whenever you ride.

Eurostar – Highspeed train links to Europe!

Eurostar is the High speed train that has revolutionised travel between London and Europe since 1994. Operating at 185mph, it’s just over 2 hours from the heart of London to the centre of Paris or Brussels. The service connects London with Avignon, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Paris. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France. Once on the Eurostar there is easy access onward to Amsterdam, Disneyland and Germany – A full route map is available HERE.

Eurostar fares from London to Paris or Brussels start at £44 one-way or £58 return in 2nd class, if you book in advance. Standard Premier (1st class) fares start at £112 one-way, £168 return.

 

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