London / Travel Tips

Get Around London Like a Local

get around london

View of Southbank and the Millenium Wheel

How to Get Around London … like a local

The last time we flew into Heathrow we took the Heathrow Express into central London, but other options may be better depending on where you’re going in London.

Heathrow Express is the most expensive option at this time, however now that the new Crossrail service is due to provide some competition HE is lowering its rates slightly.

Get from Heathrow to central London:

1. Heathrow Express is a dedicated overground train you pick up at the airport terminal which takes you to Paddington rail/tube station in north London. One way tickets starts at £5. Book a ticket online at Heathrow Express.
  • At Paddington Station connect to the Central, District Hammersmith/City or Bakerloo Underground line.
  • At Paddington, you can also book a taxi or Uber to your final stop.
2. Underground. Heathrow Airport is also served directly by the Piccadilly line (Underground/Tube) which connects to South Kensington, Green Park and Kings Cross-St. Pancras stations directly and you can change Tube stops to get to your final destination. Same rules apply.
  • Keep in mind your luggage may be tricky to maneuver through turnstiles and up stairs.
  • Pay by Oyster card or tap a contactless credit or debit card
3. Taxi or Uber. If you prefer to be picked up at Heathrow, ask your hotel to book a taxi or car service. Expect to pay about £80.-100. to the center of London (one way). Uber is an alternative.
  • Give your airline and flight arrival|departure when you book. The driver of our car service waited for us to come out of customs they will usually have to pay to park in the garage. Ask if parking is included in the quoted rate.

4. National Express also runs a very reliable bus/coach service from Heathrow to London and beyond. This coach also stops at Gatwick Airport.

5. Rental Car. Last but not least, if you’re hiring a rental car at Heathrow, you’ll only need to be armed with a good GPS or Satnav and a willingness to learn to drive on the left side pronto! I would highly recommend you consider the timing of your arrival and departure as well. It will be infinitely easier to navigate the M4 and the M25 when it’s not rush hour.

get around london

Get around London by Train or Tube.

  • Get an Oyster card (like a travel debit card).  Walk into any underground (or overground) station and there will be a bank of what look like ATM’s to buy an Oyster card with your debit or credit card. Buy the card in any amount and then continually “top it up” or add $$ as needed. Start with £20. Use the same machines to check your balance. Just swipe your card against the magnetic disc.
  • Instead of an Oyster card if you have a contactless credit card then tap and go at the turnstile.
  • Each time you go through a turnstile you swipe the card against the card reader disc to open the gate. You’ll go down into the tube, travel to your destination, then swipe again as you leave the station. Make sure to swipe to close out your journey otherwise you’ll be charged for a full day.  The Oyster card is valid on the tube and on London buses.
  • Make sure you get a little printed map of the Tube when you first get to London (you should find them in the stations, just ask)
  • I also recommend carrying a small street map which shows the Tube stations as well as streets so you can plan your route.
  • Trainline. Get the app. This is the easiest way to buy any overground train (not Tube fares) to anywhere in the UK and some European routes. You search and buy your ticket on the app, purchase it with a CC (which can be stored) and then pick up your physical ticket at any station. There will be bank of ticket machines clearly marked for ticket pickup. Have the same CC you used to purchase handy to swipe (it won’t be charged again it’s just an identifier) as well as the reservation number on your ticket. You can also buy National Express coach bus tickets with the Trainline app.
  • I prefer to download store my digital train tickets in Apple Wallet – no need to pick up a printed ticket, just swipe at turnstiles
  • In the UK, tickets are released 12 weeks in advance, so don’t be surprised if you can’t book a ticket further ahead.


Before you book a hotel or Airbnb, check how close the nearest tube station will be. Yes, you can get around on buses or taxis, but the closer a mainline station is the better. You’ll be walking a lot and after a heavy day of sight seeing, you’ll be glad you don’t have to go through hoops to get “home”.  I was very happy the hotel we chose was just a 10 minute walk from the Pimlico station on the Victoria line and only 10 minutes drive from the Victoria main station.

Find that perfect place to stay in London.