Europe By Rail Day 1 : London Part 1 – Heathrow Airport Terminal, Getting to Central London, The Tube
A pleasantly cool weather greeted us on our arrival at London Heathrow Airport. There was a kind of familiar air about this place. The layout of the terminal was not complicated and clearance was quick albeit not without the usual Mari Dari Unremarkable Exchange™.
British Customs Officer: How long will you be staying in London?
Mari: One day. *smile*
BCO: One day? *raised one eyebrow*
M: Er… one and a half, we’re going to the Netherlands tomorrow. *weak smile*
BCO: Who did you fly with?
BCO: Qantas? Qantas?! *raised both eyebrows*
Mari: Yes. Qantas.
I’m not too sure why she was so perplexed by this answer…but yeah, we were actually on a BA flight, which was codeshared with a SYD-SIN-LHR Qantas flight but after a extremely uncomfortable 14-hour flight surrounded by a couple of Aussies it was an easy mistake to make. Oh, wait…maybe she was actually trying to find out who my travelling companion was… and Dari didn’t look like a guy named Qantas? Less than 30 minutes in an English-speaking country and already having a problem with communication? Yes, it can only get better. -_-”
We got our luggage without much of a hassle from the baggage retrieval belt. There’s an Excess Baggage left luggage facility at the terminal (8GBP per item) and the usual conveniences you’d expect in any modern airport, like restaurants and shops.
Getting to Central London from London Heathrow Airport
There are several ways to get to Central London from Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow Express is the fastest and most frequent option available. Train runs every 15 minutes and it takes 15 minutes to get to London Paddington Station. It runs from a few minutes past 5 am to about half past 11pm (see Heathrow Express train times). Tickets can be bought on the internet (£16.50), at the ticket machine or office at the station(£18) or on board the train(£23.00)
The Underground aka the Tube is one of the cheapest options available. One-way tickets to Central London from Heathrow range from £2.40 for an off-peak travel using an Oyster card to £4.50 by cash. The downside — it’s one of the slower options (we took about an hour to get to Victoria), trains may be packed and there may be disruptions. Train service runs from about 5am till midnight (11:30pm on Sundays).
There are also buses, coaches and taxis serving the airport.
We took the Tube option because we wanna rough it like the locals. Nah, not really. Because we’re cheap and have time to burn. Okay, because our hotel, easyHotel Victoria, was close to the Victoria Station. And also…we’re cheap. ^_^
Look! A Transport for London Journey Planner:
First Experience with the Underground
The tube station (we took Heaththrow Terminal 4 on the Picadilly Line) is connected to the terminal so there wasn’t a problem getting there, even with our heavy bags. We got our Oyster cards and tube map from from a helpful London Underground staff member who explained the different types of card options (we took Oyster pay as you go). The Oyster card is a rechargeable preloaded contact-less travel card which you have to tap in and tap out at a fare gate to pay for your fare.
The train ride was a bit of a squeeze what with our large bags. There were a lot of freesheets strewn around. These papers were picked up by a cleaner (trains wait a couple of minute at Terminal 4 stop before continuing to Terminals 1,2,3 stop). By the next few stops however the next batch of commuters conveniently disposed of newspapers all over the seats again. The guy sitting beside me seemed to be very occupied with a certain page of the newspaper he was reading. I took a peak and saw that he was deeply entranced by the glorious naked boobs of a page 3 girl. Now we’re in London. ^_^
“Mind the gap” announcements varied slightly with stations. There were a few delays between train stops. At one point, the train stalled mid-station for about 10 minutes and it was announced that there would be a delay of a couple of more minutes. No one seemed too perturbed so I guess it’s a normal occurrence (see realtime Tube service disruption).