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Getting to London Airports by train

Whether you’re having a quick weekend away in Spain, or embarking on the adventure of a lifetime in Australia, you want to know that you can easily reach the airport. London has quite a few, too. Some airports just have one option, while there can be competition from different rail companies to get to others. It can be difficult to know where to begin. So, here’s our definitive guide to getting to all of the London Airports by train.

Can I get to London Airports by train?

Yes, all of the London Airports are accessible by train! One of them isn’t served by a ‘mainline’ train, though. Instead, you’ll take a driverless Docklands Light Railway train.

Let’s take a look through the list, so you know how to make your trip start without a hitch.

What are the London to Luton Airport train options?

There are two companies that run a London to Luton Airport train. First of all, you can take East Midlands Railway, which runs non-stop from London St Pancras. These trains are branded as the Luton Airport Express, and they run every half hour.

You can also take Thameslink. These trains make a few stops on the way, but you’ll find up to six of them every hour. They also serve London Blackfriars, City Thameslink and Farringdon. All of the trains, no matter which company you pick, go to Luton Airport Parkway, which is a short distance from the Airport:

luton airport parkway station

Once you reach Luton Airport Parkway, you’ll need to take the DART. This is a driverless train which takes you direct to the terminal. When it comes to your London to Luton Airport train options, there isn’t any difference in cost between them.

An Anytime Return (valid to return within a month) is £44 without any Railcards, reducing to £40.50 if you’re travelling after 09:30. If you’re travelling out on a Saturday and returning on a Sunday/Bank Holiday, then it’s cheaper to buy a Super Off-Peak Single each way, as they’re £17.30 each before any Railcard discounts, bringing the total to £34.60.

As for which train you should pick, you’ll find that the Thameslink train has more luggage space and more space in general to move around. Don’t forget that the First Class area at the back of every train is always available for passengers with a Standard Class ticket!

What is the London to Stansted Airport train like?

The next of the London Airports that you can get to by train is Stansted Airport. Stansted Express runs all of the London to Stansted Airport train services.

It takes just under 50 minutes to make the trip, and trains run every half hour. This increases to every 15 minutes during peak hours on a weekday.

In terms of cost, an Anytime Return between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport is £34.60. It’s £21.90 if you’re just making a one-way trip. The return ticket is valid to return within one month.

All of the trains on the route are Class 745 ‘FLIRT‘ units. They have 12 carriages:

stansted airport station

You’ll find plenty of luggage space on board, though there aren’t any full-size tables. Looking to know more? We’ve written a dedicated guide to getting to Stansted Airport.

What are my options for getting from London to Gatwick Airport by train?

Going to Gatwick Airport by train? You’ve got three options from London. The ‘headline’ choice is Gatwick Express. It runs every half hour from London Victoria and takes roughly half an hour to reach the Airport. It’s the most expensive choice, though. At £21.90 for a single and £43.70 for a return (valid for a month), you’ll be forking out a lot for a short trip.

You can also take Southern, if you prefer. They run from London Victoria as well, but the cost is a little lower. It’s £19.40 for a single, or £38.80 for a return valid for a month. If you’re making a short day trip though, you can get an Off-Peak Day Return for £19.50. The journey time is about the same as Gatwick Express, too.

gatwick airport station

Your final option for getting from London to Gatwick Airport is Thameslink. They run up to eight trains an hour, which serve St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge. The fastest trains (the ones bound for Brighton) take around half an hour to get to the Airport from London Bridge. The cost is the big winner too, as it’s only £24.50 for a return that’s valid at any time, and lets you return within a month. It gets even cheaper on weekends.

Want to know more? Have a read of our guide to getting to Gatwick Airport by train.

Are there trains to Heathrow Airport?

Heathrow is the London Airport you’ll be going to by train if you’re off on a big adventure. You have two options for trains to Heathrow Airport.

The Heathrow Express runs non-stop from London Paddington every 15 minutes, and can take as little as 15 minutes. If you’re buying on the day, it’s £25 for a single journey on the Heathrow Express, or £37 for a return. However, you can buy a single ticket for as little as £5.50 if you book up to six months in advance.

They have lots of luggage space and you’ll normally always have one waiting for you to board at each Paddington or Heathrow Terminal 5.

If you’re after cheaper trains to Heathrow Airport, then you can take the Elizabeth Line. They come from Abbey Wood, Shenfield and Central London. Four trains per hour go to Terminal 4, while two per hour go to Terminal 5. It’ll take just over half an hour to get to Paddington using this option.

elizabeth line train to london heathrow airport

It’s £12.30 for a single, or £24.60 for a return valid to come back within a month (from Paddington). If you’re coming from elsewhere in London, you might find that a London Zones 1-6 Travelcard is cheaper, as it’s £15.20 per day.

We’ve written an article about the best train to Heathrow, so you can take a look at both trains in detail.

Can I get the train to Southend Airport?

When it comes to getting to London Airports by train, this is probably the one you’re least likely to have heard of! Don’t worry though, you can get there in just under an hour from London Liverpool Street. All of the trains to Southend Airport are operated by Greater Anglia.

They run roughly every 20 minutes, and a single fare is £20.10. A return is £40.20 if you need to leave London during the weekday morning and evening rush hour, or arrive back in London before 10am on weekdays. If you can avoid these times, a return is £30.90.

class 720 train from london to southend airport

The trains on the route are fairly new, but just beware that the aisles are rather narrow. We’d recommend walking down the platform in London to find the ideal seat, rather than trying to squash your way through it.

Is there a London City Airport train?

Well yes, sort of! London City Airport isn’t on the national rail network. It’s on the DLR network, which is a driverless train that links parts of East London to Stratford, Bank and Tower Gateway.

You can change onto the DLR from mainline trains at Woolwich Arsenal, Lewisham, Greenwich, West Ham, Limehouse, Stratford and Stratford International. If you’re coming from Fenchurch Street, then it’s just a short walk from there to Tower Gateway.

Trains run every few minutes on this route. If you’re heading to London City Airport by train, you’ll need to buy a rail ticket that includes travel to London Underground Zone 3. Alternatively, you can use your contactless card. Just remember to tap in and out at the start and end of your journey. A single fare from Central London is £3.00 (or £3.70 in peak hours).

What else do I need to know?

Looking for more information about London? Take a look at our page about travelling around London. You’ll find everything you need to know, including how to understand your ticket, and how to navigate the Elizabeth Line. Don’t forget to take a look at our quick guide to crossing London, either.

Ready to take a trip to one of the London Airports by train? You can book it all with Railsmartr. We’ll be sure to show you even the slower and cheaper options, so you can get the best value fare for your journey.

Changed your mind? Need to travel on a different day? No problem at all. You can change or refund your ticket (if it’s refundable) without any extra fees.

All fares stated on this page are for ONE adult with no Railcard discount and were correct at 14:00 30/05/23. They’re subject to change at any time and Railsmartr are not responsible for any loss or disappointment incurred as a result of the information provided.

Getting to Stansted Airport by Train

If you’re taking a low-cost flight out of London, then it’s likely that you’ll be travelling from Stansted Airport. But how do you get there and what are the trains like? We’ve taken a trip out of Stansted Airport to show you what it’s like travelling to and from Stansted Airport by train.

What are the choices for getting to Stansted Airport by train?

If you’re travelling to and from London, then you’ll be taking the Stansted Express. There’s just the one operator here!

When it comes to getting to Stansted Airport by train from other destinations, there are a couple of choices:

Greater Anglia run roughly every hour between Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. They operate Class 755 Stadler ‘FLIRT’ trains which have either three or four carriages. These modern trains also have power sockets at every seat and free WiFi:

Stadler 'FLIRT' Class 755 train

CrossCountry operate trains every two hours (with some extras in the morning peak) between Stansted Airport, Peterborough, Leicester and Birmingham New Street. If you have a lot of luggage and don’t want the hassle of travelling via London, then they’re a good option for getting across to the Midlands without needing to change.

On this route, you’ll find Class 170 ‘Turbostar’ units, which have either two or three carriages. Unfortunately, they don’t have any power sockets for charging devices in Standard Class:

CrossCountry train from Birmingham New Street to Stansted Airport

What’s the Stansted Express?

As we mentioned before, your main option for getting to Stansted Airport by train is the Stansted Express. It runs every half hour during Off-Peak hours, and from May 21, 2023, it’ll run every 15 minutes between 06:00 and 09:15, and 16:45 and 20:15.

All services typically take between 45 and 50 minutes to complete their trip. During Off-Peak hours, all trains stop at Bishops Stortford, Harlow Town and Tottenham Hale, with one per hour stopping at Stansted Mountfitchet. When trains are more frequent, they’ll stop at either Bishops Stortford or Harlow Town (all trains still call at Tottenham Hale). One train per hour still calls at Stansted Mountfitchet, too.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect on your trip.

The cost

Before any Railcard discounts, an Anytime Return between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport is £34.60. It’s £21.90 if you’re just making a one-way trip.

The return ticket is valid to return within one month.

The trains themselves

All Stansted Express services are operated by Class 745 Stadler ‘FLIRT’ trains. They have 12 carriages and were introduced during 2020.

They’re good-looking trains and we’re definitely a fan of them:

class 745 stansted express train at stansted airport

Storing luggage

Getting to Stansted Airport by train is pretty simple when it comes to storing your luggage. The overhead racks are good for keeping large backpacks and other items while you’ll find plenty of bigger racks near the doors:

luggage racks on a stansted express train

The trains are also fully walk-through. This means that you can move between carriages without needing to pass through any doors, so moving around with a suitcase doesn’t have to be difficult.

The seat experience

Getting to Stansted Airport by train doesn’t have to be uncomfortable! The seats used on these trains are actually soft and well-padded, with a decent amount of legroom.

Seats on a Stansted Express train. Image shows a bay of 4 without a table

They’re all in a 2+2 layout. Just be mindful that there aren’t any full-sized tables, though the ‘airline’ style seats have a small table on the seatbacks.

Personally, we’d recommend seating on the ‘raised’ seats towards the carriage ends. It feels a bit more open and airy being sat a little higher! There aren’t any steps up either, so they’re easily accessed.

You’ll find power sockets between every pair of seats:

Power socket and USB port under seats on a Class 745 train

Onboard service

There aren’t any on-board staff on these trains. Regular automated announcements keep you informed about where you are during the trip.

Fancy an upgrade?

First Class was actually abolished when these new trains were introduced. However, it’s possible to sometimes get an ad-hoc upgrade!

Greater Anglia operates two almost-identical fleets of these trains. There’s this fleet, and there’s one for the Norwich route. The trains that go to Norwich have First Class, a buffet area and tables at seats.

While they usually stick to their own routes, occasionally a train with First Class ends up on the Stansted route. When this happens, First Class is open to all ticket-holders. It’s a bit more spacious and in a 2+1 layout.

How do you know if your train has First Class? You can do one of two things:

Is there anything else I should know about getting to Stansted Airport by train?

If you’re travelling towards Stansted Airport, head to the front of the train. Stansted Express trains are huge and tend to be much emptier at the front, even when the rear is quite crowded. You should have your ticket ready when you exit, too. There aren’t any ticket barriers but staff will regularly check tickets at the station exit. Leave some extra time to allow for this, as queues can form.

Travelling from Stansted and need a ticket? Don’t queue up at the machines in the baggage claim area if they’re busy. The station itself has many more machines for you to use. We found this out ourselves when we missed a train due to waiting so long!

Travelling on a CrossCountry train? The platform can be difficult to find. These trains leave from Platform 2:

CrossCountry train at Stansted Airport

It’s a small platform which is almost fully outside. To get to it, just keep heading forwards once you enter the station. Leave some extra time if you can, as it can take a couple of minutes to do this if you have heavy luggage.

Finally, why not book your tickets before you travel? You can skip the queues by booking an eTicket and head straight for your train. When you do it with Railsmartr, you can refund or change your ticket without fees if you need to.

We’ve even produced guides for getting to Gatwick and Heathrow.

Edinburgh Airport to City Centre – on a budget!

Here at Railsmartr, we all love a bargain, even if it’s for not a train journey we can sell you! So, if you’ve bagged a cheap flight but want to avoid pricey airport transfers to connect onto your train, what do you do? Here’s our guide to going from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre on a budget.

Edinburgh Airport to City Centre: the options

First of all, we should add that you should only take this option if you’re happy with a bit of walking and aren’t lumbered down with heavy luggage. If you’ve taken the cheapest flight option though, you probably don’t have a huge suitcase! Let’s take a look at the different costs of getting from Edinburgh Airport, to begin with:

If you’d like to take the tram direct from the airport, it’s £6.50. Happy to take the bus? That’ll set you back £4.50. If you’re happy with a 25 minute stroll though, you can take the tram for just £1.80. Like we say, we don’t recommend this if you’re pulling along a load of heavy luggage. But, if we’re already helping you save on your train ticket, we might as well knock a few quid off your tram fare as well!

Edinburgh Airport to City Centre: the walk

Instead of the Airport tram stop, we’re off to Ingliston Park & Ride. So if you’re going from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre, you’ll need to start by getting off your plane and making your way to the front of the terminal. The road in front of the arrivals is a bit like a loop, and you’ll need to turn right heading against the flow of traffic. Stick to the path next to the terminal building, and you’ll soon come across a sign pointing you to the Hampton by Hilton hotel. This is a good sign (literally!) and it means you’re heading the right way.

edinburgh airport to city centre - walk out of terminal

You’ll be heading in the direction of the air traffic control tower (on the left of the picture above). Keep following the path as it curves around past the tower and you’ll come across the hotel on the right. You’ll also find the Spitfire memorial here:

edinburgh airport to city centre - spitfire memorial

Next, you’ll have a couple of roundabouts to contend with. At the first one, simply keep right and keep following the road until you reach the Moxy hotel. There’ll be a road to cross here, then you’ll need to cross the road again (there’s a traffic island). This side of the road has a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on it, as well as one of these rather large signs:

Make sure you’re on this side of the road, as the path soon runs out on the right hand side. Now, it’s a fairly simple case of following the road for just over five minutes. You’ll come across a reassuring sign like this one, too:

edinburgh airport to city centre - sign

After this time (and after a small roundabout), you’ll need to take the first road that appears on your left. This leads into the Ingliston Park & Ride site:

edinburgh airport to city centre - entrance to park and ride

This short stretch of road doesn’t have any paths, but there are grass verges in the event of any traffic approaching. You can also choose to walk through the car park on the left which also leads towards the tram stop. Alternatively, you can visit the information centre (roof visible on the right) which has some ticket machines for the tram. We’re heading straight for the tram stop though, as there are machines and validators on the platform, too.

A final set of signs will guide you to the stop itself once you’re in the car park:

edinburgh airport to city centre - entrance to tram stop

Travelling by tram

Part 1 of your trip from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre is complete! Make sure you buy a ticket or validate a pass for the tram before you board. There are tram stops and validators at every stop and they look like this:

The ticket machines accept coin payment or you can use cards (both chip and pin and contactless). Other than the single for £1.80, you can also buy day tickets which are accepted on Lothian buses, too.

Great! So you’ve got a ticket, and now it’s time to take the tram. They run up to every 7 minutes and at the moment, they run to St Andrew Square, which is in the heart of the city. There’s plenty of luggage space and they’re fully accessible. You’ll also find a member of staff on every tram checking tickets and giving out help and advice on your trip.

On the way, you might get off at some of the following stops:

No matter where you choose to go from Ingliston Park & Ride towards the city, the fare is always £1.80. You can find out more about travelling by tram on the Edinburgh Trams website.

Is there anything else I should know?

It takes around 25 minutes to get into Edinburgh itself once you’re on the tram. Factoring in a 25 minute walk and a wait for the tram, it’s likely to take you almost an hour from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre. So this isn’t the fastest option, but it is of course the cheapest.

Let’s recap the walk with this handy map:

Ready to save on your train tickets, too? Visit the Railsmartr website.