A trip to London is expensive for a variety of reasons. Americans who travel to London will have a currency conversion rate that won’t be in their favor. As of November 2015 on average 1 British Pound equaled 1.50 US Dollars. The cost of the airline ticket runs high since flying into and out of London includes a slew of various taxes and fees. Your hotel and meals will be a big part of your budget. The need to pay for ground transportation on top of everything else is daunting. Fortunately, it is possible to save money when it comes to transportation.
From London Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Express is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get from Heathrow Airport into London. The Heathrow Express is a train that you board from terminals 2, 3, 4, or 5. Trains leave four times an hour. Depending on which terminal you board the train at it takes between 15 to 20 minutes to reach the London Paddington Station. From London Paddington Station you can connect to other parts of the city using London’s other means of transportation, such as the Underground. You buy tickets for the Heathrow Express online or at the station’s ticket office.
Heathrow Connect is a popular means of transportation for employees of Heathrow Airport because of its stops in nearby suburban districts. Heathrow Connect is a slower train alternative to the Heathrow Express, but it is useful for tourists. If you are not traveling into London but need rail connections to other parts of England then you might need to use Heathrow Connect. For example, you can buy your ticket at the ticket office and take Heathrow Connect one stop to the Hayes & Harlington Station. From there you can find a connecting train to Slough or any other train station that has multiple connections that can whisk you away to your destination.
The London Underground, nicknamed the Tube, is an inexpensive and quick way to navigate London. Tickets available to ride the Tube include single ride tickets, day passes, multi-day passes, and a pay-as-you-go card. Two factors will help you decide which ticket to buy. The number of days you plan on staying in London and where in London you will be traveling. London is separated into various zones, the number of zones you cross using the Underground will help you decide which ticket you need to buy.
To save money you will want to buy either the Travel Card or the Oyster Card. The Travel Card is a paper ticket that can be used within the center zones of London for a set number of days. A seven-day Travel Card exists but is not available to buy in London and must be purchased before your trip. The Oyster Card is a plastic card that can be used in most zones. An Oyster Card has a balance that is deducted as you travel. A benefit of the Oyster Card is that it has a travel cap limit each day. This means once you’ve reached that limit any other journeys on that day are free. For that reason alone if your plans include many trips on the Tube you will want to buy the Oyster Card.
Transport for London is a UK government website with a plethora of information, including information on the various ticket buying options. Visit Britain, the “official shop of the British Tourist Board” has a page on their website with advice on which transportation ticket you should buy when in London. You can buy your tickets online through Visit Britain, including the aforementioned seven-day Travel Card.
Other London Transportation
The iconic taxis you can find throughout London are ready to take you to your destination. Each taxi driver must pass an intense exam to become licensed. The taxi drivers have memorized London’s streets and can navigate with ease without needing a GPS device. Besides taxis London has an extensive affordable public bus system. Additionally, various companies offer Hop on Hop off bus tours for a fee. Gray Line is a company that sells Hop on Hop off bus tours, specific tours of London, and day trips from London.
Destinations Beyond London
If your travels will take you elsewhere besides London you will want to consider purchasing a rail pass. It is pricey to buy just one-way point-to-point train tickets for multiple trips. With the right rail pass you can save money. BritRail Passes are not available to buy in Great Britain so you will want to be sure to buy them before your trip. Which pass to buy will depend on where you will be traveling. For example, if you will travel to popular tourist destinations such as Bath or Oxford then you will want to buy the BritRail South West Pass. If you plan on traveling through out Great Britain the best pass will be the BritRail GB Pass. Rail passes are bought for a specified number of days, used either on consecutive days or over a set number of days. The Visit Britain site has a visual breakdown of which destinations each BritRail Pass services. Besides Visit Britain, Rail Europe is another site with information on the various BritRail Passes available. You can buy the BritRail Pass through Visit Britain or through Rail Europe. During checkout the companies will ask what your departure date is to make sure that you will receive your tickets before your trip. Before boarding your first train be sure to visit a train ticket office to have your pass activated.