Edited by: Juan Ruiz
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I get it — all you want to do after a long flight is get to your accommodation as fast as possible.
When flying to the U.K., the likelihood is you’ll land at London Heathrow (LHR) and be tempted by the Heathrow Express (HEX), which advertises 15-minute train journeys into London.
While that’s not a completely false statement, there are 2 important factors to consider when deciding whether you should take the Heathrow Express from Heathrow into London.
The first is whether you’re able to get an advance purchase fare as prices vary significantly depending on far in advance you book your ticket.
The second is checking how long the whole journey to your final destination would take as the Heathrow Express will only take you to the western edge of the city.
Let’s take a closer look.
Booking in Advance
Booking a day-of one-way ticket on the Heathrow Express from London Heathrow to London Paddington will set you back £25 (~$31), with children ages 15 and under traveling for free when accompanied by a paying adult. In the grand scheme of things, that might not seem too expensive.
However, when I tell you the same trip can cost just £5.50 (~$6.75) when booking in advance, even when you factor in Heathrow Express’ air-conditioned carriages, Wi-Fi, at-seat power, and more dedicated space for luggage, $31 now seems like extortion, right?
For comparison, a single journey from Heathrow to Central London with rail transit alternatives to the Heathrow Express such as the Tube or the Elizabeth Line also cost $6.75 when using a contactless payment method or Oyster.
Hot Tip: When traveling around London, the cheapest way is to use a contactless card when using all public transport (buses, overground trains, Elizabeth Line, and the Tube). You’ll get capped at £7.70 (~$9.40) a day for travel within Zones 1 and 2 with this increasing to £14.10 (~$17.30) for travel including Zones up to Zone 6 where Heathrow is located. We recommend using a credit with no foreign transaction fees, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
The only way you’ll find a Heathrow Express fare as low as £5.50 (~$6.75) is to book far in advance. As per the Heathrow Express website, you should be able to find those fares at least 90 days in advance.
So, we put it to the test, and as per our searches on December 12, 2022, the first £5.50 (~$6.75) one-way fare we came across was on March 13, 2023 — a whole 91 days later.
In a similar way to what we see with airfares, Heathrow Express fares fluctuate in price depending on demand between £7.50 (~$9.20), £10 (~$12.25), £12,50 (~$15.31), £16.50 (~$20.20), and £18 (~$22) … all the way up to the on-the-day price of £25 (~$31).
I’d say if you can find a ticket for £10 (~$12.25) then it’s worth it, but any more than that and you’re paying through the nose.
The earliest £10 (~$12.25) fare we found was Saturday, February 11, 2023 — 74 days in advance.
Finally, we took a look to see how far out the closest discounted fare would be, which we found to be £18 (~$22) fare on December 27, 2022, just 14 days away from booking.
If you do book a last-minute, full-price ticket, then it’s worth considering buying a return for £37 ($45) as this will save you around £13 ($16). You can use the return ticket anytime within 1 month of purchase.
Staying in West London
If you can find a £5.50 (~$6.75) fare for a one-way Heathrow Express to London Paddington, then you’re getting a pretty good deal wherever your final destination might be.
However, the more the ticket increases, the less value the “time saving” element of the Heathrow Express has as the HEX’s arrival station — London Paddington — is located in the west of the city. This means you’ll probably still have a considerable distance to travel to most other parts of the city.
When the Heathrow Express advertises “15 minutes to London,” it’s only to Paddington and that’s just from Terminals 2 and 3 — it’s an additional 6 minutes from Terminal 5.
We used London’s official Transport for London website to find out the time it would take to get to some popular destinations in London using the Heathrow Express plus connections compared with taking the Elizabeth Line and/or Tube alternatives instead.
The times in the table below are the entire journey times given by TfL for journeys departing around midday on a weekday. Bear in mind these times could change depending on the time of the day or day of the week.
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|Destination||Heathrow Express (+ Tube/Elizabeth)||Tube All the Way||Elizabeth Line (+ Tube)|
|Brixton||1 hour 3 minutes||1 hour 10 minutes||–|
|Canary Wharf||56 minutes||1 hour 19 minutes||
1 hour 7 minutes
|Earl’s Court||46 minutes||50 minutes||–|
|Leicester Square||48 minutes||1 hour 2 minutes||–|
|Old Street (Shoreditch)||1 hour||1 hour 20 minutes||
1 hour 11 minutes
|Paddington Station||27 minutes||1 hour 6 minutes||
|Stratford||1 hour 3 minutes||1 hour 27 minutes||
1 hour 14 minutes
What’s interesting is that taking the Heathrow Express instead of the Tube from Heathrow to the above destinations only saves you 15 minutes and even less still when taking the Elizabeth Line for all or part of the journey at just 11 minutes.
From experience, journey times involving the Tube can often be quicker given that the advertised times account for longer waiting times between connections. This means that taking the Tube could be even quicker than the times quoted above.
One final consideration to make is that the Heathrow Express departs from Heathrow every 15 minutes, while the Tube is every 10 minutes.
Ultimately, spending £25 on a full-price Heathrow Express ticket from Heathrow to most other places in London other than Paddington Station would save you, on average, between 10 and 11 minutes and cost you over $20 more for the privilege.
Taking the Heathrow Express is great if you book early enough in advance to find a £5.50 (~$6.75) ticket way in advance or if you think the 10 to 11 minutes it would shave off your journey is worth it.
For all other times, getting a combination of the trusty Tube and the Elizabeth Line will likely save you money and get you there almost as fast.
But please, whatever you do, avoid getting a taxi or Uber from Heathrow: traffic can be really bad, it will cost you way more than even the HEX would, and fewer journeys to and from airports via private car will make a difference to all of our carbon footprints.
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Ross. All images credited to Daniel Ross unless otherwise noted.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to use the Heathrow Express?
Tickets for the Heathrow Express can cost from £5.50 (~$6.75) to £25 (~$31) depending on how far in advance you book your ticket.
What stations does Heathrow Express stop at?
The Heathrow Express stops at Heathrow Terminal 5, Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, and London Paddington Station.
How long does the Heathrow Express take?
The Heathrow Express takes 15 minutes from Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3 to London Paddington with an extra 6 minutes added on from Heathrow Terminal 5.
Where do I catch the Heathrow Express?
You can catch the Heathrow Express from Terminal 5 and Terminals 2 and 3 at Heathrow. The only station the Heathrow Express stops at in the city is London Paddington.
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