Air travel is arguably the most convenient way to
visit a foreign country, which is why huge numbers of travellers headed to
London choose to arrive via Heathrow Airport.
This airport is also a frequent point of departure for
British tourists travelling abroad. Some guests with longer layovers even
choose to stay in a budget hotel
near Heathrow while awaiting the next leg of their trip or, for
short-stays, opt to stay nearby for easy access.
No matter in which direction your journey is headed or
how much time you are spending at or near Heathrow, it’s easier to navigate the
largest air hub in the United Kingdom with just a little bit of preparation.
This list of practical facts will help you make the
most out of your experience at this bustling airport and will (hopefully) help
you avoid any unfavourable mishaps.
1. Never arrive last minute for your flight
Some people make it a habit of arriving for check-in
at the very last moment. Whether that’s to cut down on your waiting time or
because you tend to procrastinate when it comes to packing, Heathrow is not the right place for such strategies,
due simply to its size and the volume of traffic it sees on a daily basis.
Be aware that check-in lines might be a little longer
than you expect, the gates are located a little further than your average
airport, and it’s not hard to make a costly wrong turn if you are in a rush.
When travelling from Heathrow, you should never arrive less than 2 or 3 hours
ahead of the take-off time – or you might end up missing your flight and –
worse! – delaying your holiday.
2. Security is taken seriously at Heathrow
These days, all airports are ramping up security and
Heathrow is certainly not an exception.
All passengers are subjected to thorough scans, while
the rules regarding what’s allowed in hand luggage are applied very strictly.
It goes without saying that you can’t take any weapons, explosive substances or
incapacitating sprays like pepper spray aboard a plane either, but many people
forget that any liquids in excess of 100 ml or common items such as scissors or
razor blades are forbidden as well.
Travel-size shampoo anyone?
Breaking any of these rules whether on purpose or
accidentally can lead to a time-consuming and potentially embarrassing
situation with the security staff, so it’s better to read up on what is and
isn’t allowed before you start packing.
3. Heathrow has four different terminals for different flights
Your flight could be routed through any of the four
active terminals at Heathrow, so it’s essential to be sure which one you need
The terminals are labelled Terminal 2 to Terminal 5 (there
used to be a Terminal 1 until it was closed in 2015). Each air carrier is
assigned to a specific terminal, but the assignments change over time and it’s
necessary to make sure you know which one your flight operator is currently
using. That means checking texts and e-mails before heading to the airport and,
upon arrival, having a look at departure boards.
If you do make a mistake, the terminals are connected to
each other. But, the distances are great enough to cause a pretty serious delay
and can be a drag, especially if you have a lot of luggage.
4. London is not far, but the ride there could take a while
Heathrow Airport is located just 15 miles from Central
London, which doesn’t seem like much
until you consider the amount of traffic shuttling between Britain’s capital
city and its busiest international airport.
Catching a cab, calling an Uber, or arranging a
private car pick-up can actually all be a bit slower than you might expect. Instead,
we recommend the Heathrow Express train which is the fastest (but also most
5. There are plenty of places to stay near Heathrow
There is a wide range of accommodation
near Heathrow Airport to choose from, so it’s very convenient to stay
overnight and catch an early flight out of town. This includes luxury and more
budget-friendly options, and hotels like Park Grand Heathrow are
well-equipped for travellers looking for a comfortable night sleep before
catching a flight out of Heathrow the next morning. Even if you plan on paying
a visit to the capital, Park Grand Heathrow is well-positioned for easy access.
6. There are plenty of attractions to see near Heathrow
Travellers who are not in a hurry can take advantage
of favourable Heathrow
hotel deals and stay for several days, spending their time visiting
Some of the most impressive sights you can easily
reach from Heathrow include Windsor Castle, Twickenham Stadium and Kew Gardens,
to name just a few popular tourist spots. All other attractions in the London
metropolitan area can be conveniently visited from a hotel near the airport too,
so it’s perfectly viable to enjoy a short holiday from a base outside the city.
7. You can log on to free Wi-Fi while at the airport
Let’s face it, it’s important to stay connected.
Whether you have business to take care of, family to stay in touch with, or
just want some entertainment while you wait for your flight, it’s good to know
that Heathrow Airport provides free (and fast!) Wi-Fi service for all
You can connect to the Internet as soon as you arrive
and check your social media accounts, share your latest selfies, search for
directions or respond to e-mails while you are walking through Heathrow’s long
8. Be prepared for the border controls
Depending on your country of origin, you might be
subjected to passport controls or even need a visa when entering Great Britain.
Forgetting your passport or failing to file the proper paperwork before you
arrive could be a costly mistake that could land you on the next flight back
Bear in mind, that’s the worst-case scenario!
But, even with
your passport, you might be forced to wait in a long line and will almost
certainly have to have information about where you’re staying, who you’re
visiting, and how long you plan on staying to hand. While this is an important
process, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about – chances are you will be on
your way soon into the city before you know it.
9. Be aware of the exchange rates
Pound Sterling is the only official currency accepted
in Britain, so you will have to change your money before you leave home or upon
arrival. It’s possible to withdraw money from an ATM or pay with a card, but in
this case, your funds will be automatically converted to pounds, often at less
than favourable rate.
Exchange offices, bank, and post offices all generally
offer exchange services, but you should know the going rates so you can pick
the place that offers the most. Top tip: only paper notes can be exchanged –
any foreign coins you might have are nearly impossible to convert into pounds.
10. You can get last-minute gifts at Heathrow
We have all been guilty of forgetting to buy presents
for our close friends and family members, so last-minute shopping at the
airport is often a last resort for travellers. Luckily, we have good news!
If your return flight takes you through Heathrow, you
won’t have to settle for thoughtless gifts. There are a lot of high-end stores
at Heathrow as well as souvenir shops, so you will be just as well-served as
you would be if you visited a shopping
area in central London.