London. Who doesn’t want to visit this modern city that’s full of history and old world charm?
I am in a few travel forums and often people ask for information on the best or most inexpensive way to get to London, what to do in London, if the London pass is worth it, Harry Potter Studio and other day trips (amazingly people often ask how to get to Stonehenge) and public transport.
Those are a lot of question! For this post, I am going to focus on the many ways to get to London from Europe and other parts of the world via flying, ferry, Eurotunnel, and train.
If you only want to visit London and take advantage of the country and the city’s fine public transport system, flying may be the quickest and least expensive way to get to London. There are many flights coming in and out of this city, with many as low £25/pp round trip! Crazy, eh?
There are five airports that you can fly into: Heathrow (most international long haul will fly into this airport), Gatwick, Luton, City and Stansted. If you use an app or website like Google Flights, all you need to do is input your nearest airport (in my case Frankfurt) and for the destination, select London (all airports). The all airports is important. This makes sure that the website checks all flights to all the airports around London. Another website I like to use when searching for flights is Skyscanner.
Once you arrive at the airport you can either take the bus, tube/DLR, train, or taxi into the city. Taxi though can be quite expensive (except for City, the airports are a good deal distance away) and London’s public transport is quite reliable and safe.
The airport has a fantastic website on how to get to and from the city. For most travelers, the Picadilly line and maybe the Heathrow Express to Paddington will be the two main methods.
From Gatwick once can quickly get to the city centre, Victoria Station, on the Gatwick Express or King’s Cross/St Pancras and London Bridge on the Northern Line. Details on this can be found on the website.
The easiest and quickest way to get to London centre is via train or bus. For the train just follow the signs at the airport and when you are ready to buy your ticket(s), in the to/from, type in LUA and this will include the price for the shuttle bus between the train station and the airport (a 10min ride). The train will take you to King’s Cross/St Pancras. If you forget the shuttle portion, no worries! You can buy this on the shuttle. Cash only!
The bus ends in Paddington or Victoria Station. You can visit this website for a map and details.
City airport is a small private airport and only a handful of commercial flights fly in/out of this airport. If you happen to find a flight to/from this airport, you’re in luck. Due to the size, it’s so quick to get in and out of. Also, since it’s not far from the centre, a short DLR ride will get you into the city. Just hop on the DLR that goes towards Banks and once there, transfer to the tube that will take you to your hotel. more info can be found on their website.
A very busy airport! And like the other airports, there are a few ways to get to/from this airport. The most common is via bus or train. The bus is less expensive than the train. A bus ticket can be £9 vs £15 on the train, and if the train ticket is purchased a few weeks in advance. Visit the Stansted airport website to get all the details on how to purchase your transport tickets.
NOTE: When planning your flight and transport, keep in mind the time. Discount flights leaving Stansted can be very early. Due to this, you need to find out if it’s possible for you to leave London at 02:30-ish so that you can arrive in Stansted by 04:00 (assuming you have a 06:00 flight).
If not possible, then you may need to either find another flight, and maybe pay a bit more, or find a hotel near the airport that you can stay at the night before.
Ferry or Eurotunnel
I am putting these two means of transportation together just because when searching for prices, these two come up together. Also, when one wants to drive from somewhere in Europe to London, these two choices are what people think of.
There are pros and cons to both.
The ferry takes about 1.5-2hrs to cross (depends if you board in Calais or Dunkirk) and if you’re prone to motion sickness, this option may be an immediate no. What I like about the ferry is that it gives us a bit of time to walk around, eat, and just chill. After a long drive, this is like a long rest stop break. Also, compared to the tunnel, the price is often so much less.
But if you’re in a hurry, the tunnel takes 35min and there is a departure every 15min or so, and you get seasick easily, then the Eurotunnel will be worth every penny. Also, if you buy way in advance or find a voucher/special, you can get a decent price.
This last week I learned that some people think you drive through the tunnel to go between France and England. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way! Your car drives on to a train, a train without seats, and once in there, you put your car in park mode and you wait. Once the train starts, the journey takes about 35 minutes.
And for this trip, the DFDS site is $10 cheaper.
Now, keep in mind when driving, that you need to also calculate the cost of petrol and toll if applicable (may if you drive from France).
A tool like ViaMichellin app/website can help you with this estimate
According to the website, it’ll cost €91.36 to drive from Reims to London. So my trip, if I drive, is at about €244. What is this road tax that’s listed there? Most likely it’s the congestion charge that you’d have to pay if you were to be driving around central London on weekdays between 07:00 to 18:00.
So only the area in red is where the congestion charge applies. If you go to the website, you can input your hotel address, or where you will be parking/driving your car and see if that area falls under the congestion charge area. If it does, the cost is £11.50/day. If you drive in at 19:00 on a Wednesday, park your car in a car park, and never drive it again until you leave Saturday, you wouldn’t need to pay.
Another fee that you may need to pay when driving to London is the Dartford crossing. This is on the M25, soon after the A2 (the road from Dover). But only if you cross. If you stay on the A2 to London, you wouldn’t be going over/under this crossing.
Last, but not least, is the Eurostar train. The train to London can be caught in Paris, Disneyland Paris, Brussels, Lille, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In the winter there are trains to/from French Alps and in the summer to/from Southern France. You can see the destination map on their site. If you book in advance and/or watch for deals, you can get a ticket from Paris/Amsterdam to London for about €39/pp.
From Mannheim, there is a direct train to Paris. I can easily go to London by hopping on a train to Paris and then from Paris to London. There is a small switch in Paris (the Eurostar leaves from Gare du Nord) but with the metro system, it’s not a hard switch. I can drive up to Brussels also and catch the train from there.
The perk of living in Europe is the public transport choices!
I think that’s it on the many ways to get to London! I know there are other points of entrance into England, but I want to just focus on directly getting to London from outside of England.
If you have anything to add, question, or if I made an error in my info, please comment below. Have fun in London!! 😘