Founded in ancient times by the Romans, London has had a colourful and tumultuous history, leading to its present-day status as one of the world's most important financial and cultural centres. Historic charm meets modern life on the streets of this cosmopolitan city, which is the capital of England and of the United Kingdom.
You can immerse yourself in history as you visit famous landmarks such as the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. You can indulge in fabulous shopping on Oxford Street and King's Road — this is, after all, the place where many fashion trends originate. You can make some business deals in The City or consult the government in Whitehall. And you can get discount tickets to world-class theatre productions in the West End. Yes, there certainly is a lot of city to explore, and the streets of London serve up delight after delight — whether this is your first flight to London, or your 201st.
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London (LON) is the main hub for British Airways, British Midland International (BMI), low-cost carrier easyJet, and Virgin Atlantic. Virtually every major international airline serves London, as do many regional and European airlines, so there are usually tons of cheap flights to choose from.
London's hi gh season encompasses the months of June, July and August. Airfare is at a premium for this period, so book tickets for your flights to London early — as early as you possibly can. During the rest of the year, flight costs are much more reasonable. Be sure to check for charter airfares; you may find one that is considerably lower than what the scheduled airlines are offering. And charter companies like Transat Holidays offer some great flight/hotel packages to London for travel from spring through early fall.
London is known for being rainy and foggy year-round, so no matter when you go, pack an umbrella and a raincoat. Winter temperatures seldom drop below freezing, but this is when the city receives a great deal of rain, and it's downright cold and chilly almost every day. This makes winter the low tourist season, except for December, when tourists and UK residents take cheap flights to London for great Christmas shopping and to indulge in the theatre scene. July and August are definitely high season. The weather is lovely — seldom very hot but lovely nonetheless, with a daytime average of 20°C.
The four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall aren't as distinct in London as they are in the cities of continental Europe. That's because rain dominates all of London's seasons. But, June and September win the prize in terms of the least amounts of rain, so book your London flights during one of these months if you can, because you'll be able to enjoy outdoor sights a whole lot more.
When flying on a major international airline, flights to London (LON) typically land at London Heathrow Airport (LHR), a massive airport with four terminals, located about 24 kilometres from central London. If you're arriving on an international charter, your flight might land at London Gatwick Airport (LGW), which is located about 45 kilometres from central London. If you're arriving on a regional or European airline, it might land at London Stansted Airport (STN), which is approximately 56 kilometres from central London, or London Luton Airport (LTN), which is about 51 kilometres from central London, or possibly even London City Airport (LCY), which is approximately 16 kilometres from central London, and connects London to 30 major European destinations via small airlines such as CityJet.
The following are some of the most convenient options for getting to London from the airport. For further details, consult the respective airport's website.
Arriving at Heathrow
Train: The Heathrow Express high-speed rail link can whisk you directly to Paddington rail and Tube station in only 15 minutes. Adult tickets are around £20 one-way. A cheap alternative is Heathrow Connect, which provides rail transportation to Paddington in 25 minutes. Heathrow Connect stops at a few other stations along the way, and adult tickets are under £10, depending on the station you'll be disembarking at.
Hotel Shuttle: Except for the Hilton hotel near the airport, Heathrow hotels are not permitted to operate their own airport shuttles. However, the inexpensive Heathrow Hotel Hoppa offers transportation to and from hotels near the airport for a flat rate of about £4 for a one-way ticket. Hotel by Bus offers convenient minibus transportation from Heathrow to central London hotels and to numerous other destinations in the city. The fare depends on the destination, and averages £22.
Taxi: London's signature black cabs are easy to find at London Heathrow, and will take you anywhere you need to go. The average cab ride from Heathrow to central London costs approximately £55, and takes 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the traffic. If you want more personalized service, you can pre-book an Addison Lee minicab for a fixed price. Your minicab driver will meet you in the arrivals area of your terminal, assist you with your luggage, and escort you to your minicab.
City Shuttle: Hotel by Bus is the best city shuttle option from London Heathrow, as it will take you to hotels as well as numerous other destinations in central London.
Public Transportation: From London Heathrow, the London Underground, commonly called "the Tube," offers service to London on the Piccadilly line. Adult fare is cheap at less than a fiver, and the trip to central London takes about an hour.
Chauffeured Car Service: If you're a high flier, perhaps you're used to travelling in Business or First Class. Once your London flights arrive, you can continue to travel in the style to which you've become accustomed with Heathrow Personal Chauffeur Service. Rates vary, so you'll need to contact them for a fare quote and reservation.
Car Rental: All of the major car rental companies are on-site in the Arrivals area on the ground floor of each terminal.
Arriving at Gatwick
Train: From London Gatwick, the Gatwick Express can transport you to the Victoria Tube station in 30 minutes. There are benefits to buying your ticket online in advance. These include a 10% discount for booking online and special offers and promotions such as four tickets for the price of two and free airport lounge access with the purchase of a First Class ticket. For a little less money, and a journey of about 40 minutes, you can take a Southern Train from Gatwick to Victoria station. Adult fare is in the range of £11 one-way, depending on the type of ticket you buy.
City Shuttle: From London Gatwick, easyBus is the best city shuttle option. The price of adult tickets ranges from £2 to £7, depending on the London location and the time of day. The trip can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on your destination.
Hotel Shuttle: A limited number of the airport hotels near London Gatwick are linked to Gatwick by the inexpensive Hotel by Bus service offered by National Express. An adult ticket is about £3. EasyBus offers cheap transportation to any London hotel and to numerous destinations in central London.
Taxi: Checker Cars provides taxi services from Gatwick airport. The average fare from Gatwick to downtown London is £95, and takes about an hour.
Arriving at Stansted
The most convenient ground transportation option to and from Stansted airport is the Stansted Express. This rail connection runs between Stansted and Liverpool Street Tube station, stopping only at Tottenham Hale station in between. It is an ideal option for business travellers, as it takes you to the heart of the City. Liverpool Street is also on four of the most popular Tube lines, making it easy to get to your final destination. Book Stansted Express tickets online for additional discounts and special offers.
Arriving at Luton
Something to bear in mind when booking cheap flights to London is that, unlike other airports, Luton does not have a train station at the terminal. There is a rail station nearby, however you must make your way there by bus or car, making it considerably less convenient. There are several coach services, such as easyBus and Green Line, that pick up passengers every 15 minutes right at the terminal and will take you to central London for as little as £2 per ticket.This is definitely the cheapest, and possibly also the fastest option to get to London from Luton airport.
Arriving at London City
London City Airport is connected to London's transportation system through the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) which has a station right in the terminal. You can take the DLR to many destinations, as well as transfer to the Tube and rail connections at specific stations. If you have an Oyster smartcard, it can be used to pay your DLR fare. Taxi fare from London City airport averages £30 to most places in central London, or for a comparable fixed rate to your destination, engage an Executive Car from Quay-Vennards and take the guesswork out of it.