Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: How to get to and from London via Heathrow Airport

(Editor’s note: This is  more granular information for Heathrow Airport that goes with our Expat Essential post today about negotiating Europe’s airports.)

(Correction: Due to reporting and editing errors, the first version of this post had incorrect information about day ticket prices. That error has been corrected.)

Getting into the city from Heathrow if you use the Underground

To take the metro from Heathrow, you will have to get on the Piccadilly line leaving from the airport and traveling all the way through the city. There are numerous opportunities to change lines along the way. For your own convenience – especially if you have heavy baggage – look for a transfer at a station that has escalators or elevators. Each train has the map of the line and the changes along the way. Stations with accessibility have icons next to the map points  showing that accessibility.




So you have the choice of buying a single trip ticket, day ticket or the Oyster card.

A single trip ticket allows you to type in your destination and you pay accordingly.

The machine will keep that ticket when you put it in at the exit barrier so the barrier opens. If you buy a single trip ticket, remember that the machine will keep your ticket when you use it to get past the barrier when exiting the Tube. If you are traveling for business and want to claim that expense, snap a photo of your ticket with your smartphone before or you can forget expensing those 6 pounds you’ve just paid!

A day ticket allows you to use all modes of transport and take as many trips as you want within 24 hours. The ticket expires at midnight of that day. If you buy at it after 09:30, meaning after the morning rush hour, the rate drops from 17 pounds to 12.10 GBP.

Oyster Card is a prepaid card. To get started you pay 5 pounds for the card itself and top it off with the amount you want on it. An Oyster card allows you to open the barrier by touching on the yellow circle of the contactless area at the barrier machine. You have to touch on it as you enter and exit the Tube. Funds are withdrawn per trip. The advantage of using the Oyster cards is that there is a cap per day and per week, so you will not get charged more than you would if using the day ticket, but you still get the convenience of contactless payment and no need for purchasing a new ticket every day.

In case you use your Oyster card starting on a Monday and ending on a Sunday, you basically get the two last days off thanks to the weekly cap. This only works if you start your week on Monday and end on Sunday. If you are trying to enter the Underground and the funds on your Oyster card are insufficient, you will get a message you need to buy additional credit. Go to the nearby machines to quickly do that.

You can get a refund when you return your Oyster card. You get back the amount left on your card and the 5 pound deposit. The only catch is that you can only get that refunded 48 hours after you have initially purchased the Oyster card.

It is a somewhat confusing system of how much you are charged, but basically it depends on which zones you are traveling through and if you are traveling during peak hours or off peak hours. From Heathrow to the city, you will be going through 6 zones. Most of the sightseeing is in Zones 1 and 2.

For information on the rates with day tickets and Oyster card, click here.

For information on how to get to your destination, use this link and type in your starting and end point.

There is a person at each station who can help you with the tickets and information about which line to take. London Underground has many scheduled closures during the weekends for upgrade work, so make sure you get information on that ahead of your return trip. If you are flying from Stansted, you can use one of the trains running on the national railway network or take the Stansted Express. A single journey will cost you 19 pounds and a return 32 pounds taking the Express.

You can also take the Heathrow Express train to get into the city and back to the airport. This express train arrives and departs from the Paddington Station. A single ticket will cost you 22 pounds and return 36. You can also buy it on the train, which will then cost you 27 pounds for a single and 41 for return.

Points to keep in mind when using the Tube:

• Make sure you keep your ticket on hand and run it through the machine (if you have a day ticket), or touch on the contactless yellow scan area (if you are using the Oyster card) every time you go through the barriers to get in and out of the Underground.

• If you lose your ticket while in the Underground, that is not good. You have no legal way of getting past the barrier at the exit without getting fined.

• Walk on the left side on the Underground stairs and in hallways. This is the UK. There are also signs on the ground telling you to keep left.

• On escalators – stand on the right and walk past on the left. Keep the left side of the escalator clear for people who are in a rush and want to quickly get past.

• Some machines will not accept Maestro debit cards. Make sure you know your credit card pin number so you can buy your ticket.

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