A timely departure | How to get to London’s airports

Coaches to London’s various airports may seem like the cheaper option, but what they’ll cost in time and hassle might tip the scales in favour of the train.


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TRYING to save an extra buck you jump on the cheapest flight of the day, only to realise after you’ve purchased the ticket it leaves at five in the morning. The mental calculator starts ticking; got to be there two hours early so three am, plus an hour and a half on the coach, 45 minutes to get to the coach station and 15 minutes to walk to my local bus stop. So I basically have to leave home at half past midnight – guess I’ll be spending my first day in Barcelona in bed.

One of the best things about living in London is that it’s a porthole to the rest of Europe and plenty of amazing holiday destinations. Unfortunately we can’t just snap our fingers and find ourselves on a banana chair soaking up the sun, mojito in hand; and that’s where the problems start.

Those cheap EasyJet and RyanAir flights are oh so tempting, but what you save in pounds is usually paid for in trouble as many of the best deals leave at the most god-awful hours. Most EasyJet flights leave from Gatwick and RyanAir from Stansted, both are outside London so unfortunately your weekly pass won’t be coming to the rescue.

There are a selection of coach services that go to Gatwick and Stansted costing you anywhere between £2 and £10. But depending on where you get on, you might have to allow two hours plus to get to the airport. So considering how close things are in Europe, if you choose to take a coach, it might well take you longer to get to the airport than to fly to your destination. Unless you have plenty of spare time on your hands, enjoy a leisurely drive through the countryside or live on the outskirts of London, coaches are probably not your best option.

For a much faster and less traffic dependent route, go by train. I’m sure you’re already familiar with the Gatwick and Standsted Expresses, seeing as you can’t type “airport” without being redirected to their websites. The Gatwick Express leaves from London Bridge and Victoria, and the Stansted from Liverpool Street or Tottenham Hale. Both take anywhere from half an hour to 50 minutes to arrive, with one way fares setting you back around £20.

Your other, much less advertised and just as swift option, are companies such as Southern Railway or First Capital Connect, which leave from the same stations and will get you to Gatwick from as little as £8. The choice is yours. Prices vary so do consult their websites.

Charging through the airport, suitcase clamouring behind you, coat, scarf and other accessories (that wouldn’t fit into said suitcase) billowing away, isn’t the most attractive situation to be finding yourself in when they announce your final boarding call. Taking a train instead a coach could well save you over an hour in journey time but no matter how you get there, always leave plenty of leeway to avoid getting caught out!