About London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow is Europe’s largest airport and welcomes more than 78 million passengers every year. It is one of the world’s top aviation hubs, servicing more than 80 airlines and taking people to more than 200 destinations around the world. London Heathrow is comprised of four terminals: Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Why no Terminal 1? This terminal was in operation from 1968 to 2015 but was demolished as part of the Heathrow Expansion project, making room for a future Terminal 6 and third runway.
What facilities are at Heathrow Airport?
There is a comprehensive array of facilities and services at London Heathrow. All travellers are considered, with business meeting rooms, play areas for kids, multi-faith prayer rooms and more. From the moment you check-in, you’ll have a whole lot of options.
Before you arrive at Heathrow to check in, you’ll need to know which terminal your flight is departing from. Your booking should include this information but if not, ask your Flight Centre Travel Expert or look it up on Heathrow Airport’s website.
Across all terminals, the check-in zones are marked by illuminated yellow cubes. As you enter Departures, you’ll see information screens on which you’ll be able to locate the check-in zone for your flight.
Check-in locations at London Heathrow:
Terminal 2 – top floor
Terminal 3 – ground floor (departures building)
Terminal 4 – first floor
Terminal 5 – top floor
Heathrow Airport recommends that you arrive at check-in/bag drop at least three hours prior to a long haul or El Al (Israel Airlines) flight, and at least two hours prior to departure for a UK or European flight.
Hot Tip for Heathrow check-in: You can now speed up the time it takes to clear security by pre-booking a slot with the Fast Track Security service. For around 13 pounds (AU$24) you can reserve a 2-hour Fast Track Security window.
Luggage restrictions will vary depending on your airline and cabin class, so the best approach is to confirm with your airline or Flight Centre Travel Expert about what’s right for your particular flight.
In terms of hand luggage, your bags will need to meet the size restrictions to get through security at London Heathrow. Passengers are allowed a maximum of two pieces of hand luggage each, measuring no larger than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. Anything bigger than that will need to be stowed in the hold.
The Excess Baggage Company at Heathrow Airport provides services such as forwarding of excess or unaccompanied baggage, baggage wrapping, or baggage storage. It’s a good idea to advise your Flight Centre Travel Expert if you expect to be travelling with any oversize luggage and they can advise you on the procedure for handling this at the airport.
Packing tip: Don’t wrap any gifts. Security staff at London Heathrow may wish to view the items and so will need to unwrap the gift.
Is there a currency exchange?
There are several currency exchanges at Heathrow Airport with a Travelex service desk located in every terminal, before security. If you’re travelling to the UK from Australia, you can order and pick up any foreign currency before you leave, at Travel Money Oz.
What are the other services and facilities?
- ATMS across all terminals
- Bag wrapping
- Baggage delivery
- Baggage shipping
- Business services
- Concierge service
- Kids play areas
- Family-friendly restaurants
- Fast Track – priority access through Security
- Group Travel Services
- Internet and Wi-Fi
- Lost property
- Meeting rooms
- Phone and laptop charging
- Medical health and emergencies
- Multi-faith prayer rooms
- Postal services
- Premium services (Meet and assist, luggage delivery, valet parking etc)
- Smoking areas
- Social care
- Runway viewing areas
- Showers and toilets
- St George’s Chapel
- VIP service
- VAT refunds (Visitors from non-EU countries can reclaim the sales tax (VAT) on purchases from many British retailers)
Transport and terminal transfers
What’s the best way to get to and from Heathrow Airport?
Quickest: Heathrow Express
Easiest: National Express
Door-to-door: Taxi, Minicab, Car
Luxury: Chauffeur service
Heathrow Airport is located around 27 kilometres west of central London and very well connected by transport links. Below is an overview of all the Heathrow transport options, to help you plan your airport journey.
Cheapest: London Underground
Let’s start with the iconic London Tube. The Piccadilly Line provides the most budget-friendly rail route between Heathrow and central London. The trip will take you just under an hour and trains arrive around every ten minutes. Heathrow Airport has three London Underground stations. One station serves Terminals 2 and 3, while Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 each have their own station. You’ll need a pay-as-you-go Oyster card to ride on the Tube, and all stations are in Travelcard Zone 6.
Fastest: Heathrow Express and TfL (Transport for London) Rail Services
Trains provide the fastest option for travel to and from central London and there are two rail services to choose from.
Heathrow Express runs non-stop from Terminals 2 and 3 to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. From Terminal 5, just add another six minutes onto the travel time. From Paddington Station you can connect to the greater Underground network.
TfL Rail departs Terminals 2, 3 and 4 every 30 minutes to Paddington Station, stopping at local stations in west London along the way. Journey time varies between 31 and 49 minutes.
Easiest: National Express
If you’re coming from or travelling to anywhere in the UK other than central London, the National Express is likely to be your easiest option. National Express and other coach operators run services from Heathrow to more than 500 destinations across the UK.
There is also an extensive local bus network around Heathrow, as well as luxury coaches and buses connecting Heathrow with the national rail network at Feltham, Watford, Woking and Reading.
Door-to-door: Taxi, Minicab, Car
If you want the classic London experience from the moment you set foot on UK soil, you could hail yourself a London black taxi from outside the terminal. Drivers are fully licensed and have passed the Knowledge of London examination, although you can expect to pay for the experience. As a general guide, a trip from Heathrow to central London in a black taxi will set you back anywhere from 48 to 90 pounds (around AU$85 to AU$162).
An alternative to the traditional London black taxi is to book a fixed-price journey to or from any UK destination with a private-hire minicab company. We Know London is Heathrow’s only TfL licensed on-site car service, with help desks at Arrivals in every Heathrow terminal.
If you’d like to experience a 5-star arrival or departure, you could arrange for your transport to or from London Heathrow via chauffeur driven luxury car. Vehicles include premium executive saloons such as the Mercedes-Benz S Class. If you have clients to impress, the 8-seat executive minibuses such as the Mercedes-Benz Viano are also available, with Tesla and Rolls-Royce vehicles soon to be offered. Talk to your Flight Centre Travel Agent for details.
Renting a car for pick-up at Heathrow Airport is an excellent option if you plan to do a bit of exploring during your visit, whether you’re on holidays or visiting family and friends. All the major car rental companies have reception desks in the Arrivals zones.
Heathrow Airport offers travellers a number of parking options, with 11 different official car parks within the airport perimeter. You can make significant savings by booking online, in advance, and note that all car parks are well lit, have 24-hour security, and are only around 10 minutes from the terminals by frequent shuttle. Below are the choices you have when it comes to parking at Heathrow Airport.
Located right next to the terminals, short stay parking is perfect for short trips or if you’re meeting or dropping off friends or family. You can book short stay parking in advance, online, for stays of two hours or more.
Long Stay parking is a great option if you prefer to drive your own car to the airport and will be away for a couple of days or more. Also, all passengers who park in Long Stay car parks are entitled to free shuttle transfers, which run every ten minutes and take as little as three minutes.
For the business traveller, Heathrow Airport Business Parking is closer to the terminals than Long Stay parking and offers an even faster and more frequent transfer service.
First things first – what is a Heathrow Pod? These futuristic-like vehicles form a small fleet of self-driving cars. Heathrow Pods have been up and running since 2011 and serve as a rapid shuttle between the Business Car Park and Terminal 5. They are electric, autonomous capsules that travel along guideway tracks and will have you at the terminal in four to six minutes.
Meet and Greet
This parking option is a more economical version of Valet Parking, and must be booked in advance. Great for families travelling with children or anyone with a lot of luggage. Simply drive right up to the dedicated Meet and Greet area within the Short Stay Car Park, where Heathrow staff will meet you and park your car while you check in.
Heathrow Valet Parking gives you the freedom to drive right up to the drop-off points you’ll find on each terminal forecourt. You save on taxi fares by driving your own car to the airport, and get to offload with a minimum of fuss. Valet Parking is perfect if you’re on a tight schedule, travelling with children, or have oversize or excess baggage.
Hot tip for Valet Parking at Heathrow Airport: Take advantage of the Car Care service while you’re away and return to a freshly vacuumed and sparkling clean hand-washed car.
How do I transfer between terminals?
If you’re connecting between flights at Heathrow Airport, there are plenty of transfer options via walkways, railways and busways. Terminals 2 and 3 are just a short walk apart, while Terminals 4 and 5 are served by free trains and buses. The dedicated Flights Connections buses will whisk you to your departure area without you needed to leave the passenger-only area at all. Free shuttle trains also operate between Heathrow Central station (Terminals 2 and 3) and Terminal 4 or Terminal 5, with four trains running per hour. The London Underground also offers frequent trains between the terminals. If you’re transferring between Terminal 4 and Terminal 5, take bus number 482 or 490 from Bus Stop 7 for a free transfer.