The world’s third-busiest airport, London Heathrow, serves over 70 million passengers a year and is located in the Borough of Hillingdon, 17 traffic-clogged miles west of London’s central district. Its overall ground transport structure involves London’s underground and overland train systems, bus and shuttle services, long-distance buses and taxis, as well as car and limo hire. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are based here, and air routes offered by numerous carriers span the globe’s major cities. Car hire is easily arranged and gives the freedom to explore all of the UK’s many attractions.
Who to Book With
Car rental suppliers at Heathrow are located on the complex’s northern periphery, accessed by free shuttle buses running from all five terminals. Eight international car rental firms are represented, including Avis, Budget, Alamo and Hertz, giving a wide choice of vehicles to suit all pockets and requirements.
Need to Know Essentials
You will need to show the following paperwork at vehicle collection:
- Your home country’s full driver’s licence
- The credit card used for the reservation
- Your passport and a utility bill to confirm your ID
- Confirmation of booking
For more info read our FAQ's.
The worst part of driving in the UK is getting clear of Heathrow Airport, after which self-drive is the most convenient way to tour the country due to its motorway links to all regions. Speed restrictions on motorways and fast rural dual-carriageway roads are 70mph, with a 60mph limit on single-carriageway roads and a general limit of 30mph in built-up areas. If you’re driving into London, there is a congestion charge, and parking regulations are heavily enforced with towing and fines. In general, parking in the UK is expensive, whether in underground car parks, pay-and-display or metered streetside spaces. Petrol stations are plentiful, even in rural areas, and most take card payments. Warning triangles are required to be carried and seatbelts must be worn.
See our guide to the UK for more information on driving here.
The most convenient ways to access central London from the airport’s terminals are by the two overground rail services or by the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line. By road, the journey is affected by heavy traffic on the motorway and main approach roads into the city centre, all of which are frequently gridlocked during rush hours. Taxis from the airport are expensive, with coach travel to Victoria Coach Station the cheapest means of travel. If you’re arriving on a late-night flight, traffic conditions should be good.
The fastest was to access London’s central districts from the airport is by the Heathrow Express overland rail service from terminals 1, 3 and 5 to Paddington Railway Station, a journey of just 15 minutes at a cost of £18. The Heathrow Connect stopping service on the same line takes 27 minutes to the same terminal station and costs £8.50, while the Piccadilly Line London Underground trains from stations in terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5 take just under an hour to reach central London and cost around £5. There are no long-distance rail links from the airport to other UK cities and regions.
London’s famous black cabs can be had at Heathrow Airport, as can minicabs and chauffeured limos. Black cab ranks are found outside all the terminals and trips can be booked in advance. All drivers are licensed and have passed their Knowledge of London test. Minicabs are offered at fixed prices by GreenTomatoCars and are generally less expensive than black cabs, while Tristar Worldwide offers luxury limos with drivers. Prices quoted below are for black cabs.
Heathrow Airport to London city centre averages £70
Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf is about £70
Heathrow Airport to Windsor Castle is about £40
Heathrow Airport to Canterbury is about £120
National Express offers links from Heathrow to more than 500 UK destinations, calling at all five terminals’ Arrivals exit coach stops. Tickets can be purchased at the airport’s bus station, from the driver or from the National Express ticket office at Arrivals in Terminal 5. The trip to London’s Victoria Bus Station takes just over an hour and costs £8.50. Transport for London local bus services run to towns in the West London area from the Central Bus Station between terminals 1 and 3 at a fixed single-journey fare of £2.20. Travel time depend on traffic conditions. Hotel by Bus is a new, shared ride service taking passengers to London hotels and other destinations.
Huge, sprawling Heathrow Airport has five separate terminals and is in a major reconstruction phase at present, with airlines shuttling between the unaffected buildings. Basically, Terminal 1 hosts Star Alliance airlines, Terminal 2 is now under total reconstruction until 2014, Terminal 3 hosts One World and a few Star Alliance carriers, Terminal 4 deals with US destinations and SkyTeam airlines, and Terminal 5 is the global hub for British Airway but is also used by Iberia. Worldwide destinations are covered by a large number of national flag carriers. There are no domestic flights.
All terminal forecourts are drop-off only, with short-stay parking via ticket machines found outside each terminal. Prices range from around £3 for 30 minutes to around £80 for between 24 and 36 hours. Three long-stay, on-complex car parks are linked by shuttle bus to terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5, and cost roughly £20 per day in peak periods and £18 per day in off-peak periods.
Wi-Fi internet access is available across the entire complex.
Roaming, purple-uniformed Passenger Ambassadors are found in all the terminals and are ready to help travellers with information and other types of assistance. Multi-lingual assistance can be arranged and passenger help phone points are provided.
Service Centre: +44 844 335 1801
From reserved parking bays and modified bus transportation to dedicated assistance on the concourses, Heathrow is well set up to serve passengers with reduced mobility and other disabilities. Reserved seating areas with induction loops and low level information screens, wheelchair spaces, assistance at check-in and security, adapted showers and toilets, and assistance with boarding and de-planing are available on request through your airline.
Restaurants and Bars
A total of 43 restaurants, cafés and bars are found in the terminals, including favourites such as Caffe Nero, Carluccio’s, Caviar House Oyster Bar, Garfunkel’s, Gordon Ramsey Plane Food, Wetherspoons’ Windsor Castle, Yo Sushi and Wagamama. Everything from fine dining to fast foods is offered, along with pub-style bars serving British and Irish beers, and a great choice of wines and spirits.
Servisair Executive Lounge
Servisair Executive Lounge
No.1 Traveller Lounge
Air Canada Arrivals Lounge
Money and ATMs
Banks and American Express and Travelex forex offices are available in all terminals, both before and after security, and in the Arrivals halls. ATMs are also located in all terminals.
Heathrow’s four working terminals have a total of 86 stores located landside and airside. Landside stores sell traveller necessities, books, luggage, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and electronics, while the airside mini-shopping malls have large duty-free outlets offering all the usual temptations. Duty-free sections are also found in the Arrivals halls. In the Departures areas of the terminals, you’ll find top designer boutiques such as Cartier, Burberry, Bulgari, Dolce and Gabbana, and Kurt Geiger, and Terminal 5 even offers a mini Harrods department store.