You may not need to be told, but Heathrow Airport is undisputedly the biggest and busiest airport not just in Europe, but the entire world. Its four operational terminals (2, 3, 4 and 5) see flights arriving from and departing to 180 locations worldwide, operated by 80 different airlines and carrying more than 72 million passengers and a staggering 1.4 million tonnes of cargo every year.
In addition to facilities for people travelling business class, those for children and those for disabled/ mobility impaired travellers, Heathrow offers excellent, reliable public and private transport options, enormous car-park space and a multitude of different hotels in its vicinity. And, more specifically then, here are some of the things about Heathrow you may be eager to know should you be likely to travel to or from the airport soon…
If you’re planning to drive before you fly, your car-parking options are:
• Short-stay – ideal if you’re seeing someone off or meeting someone, as it’s available at all terminals and generally recommended for up to five hours’ worth of parking; during peak times at Terminal 4 it’s likely to cost between £6.50 and £12, and during off-peak at all four terminals between £6 (for 30-60 hours) and £54 (for 12-24 hours)
• Business parking – recommended for parking for up to three or four days; business car parks can be found very near all four terminals and cost between £25.30 and £32.40 per day
• Long-stay – recommended for when you’re going away on holiday; a secure, safe and relatively cheap car-parking solution, especially as Terminal 5’s long-stay car park offers regular patrols and CCTV monitoring.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to down tools near the airport (rather than say slap-bang in London itself), then there’s a great deal of choice in the airport’s surrounding area – you won’t be a bit surprised to learn. A good combination of luxury and very comfortable places to stay, as well as medium-priced and more budget, no-frills hotels, are on offer. However, of course, in our opinion there’s a terrific solution for your hotel near Heathrow Airport – Park Grand London Heathrow.
As you’d expect, there’s a huge variety of retail options at all four of Heathrow’s terminals. Once through passport control, outlets run by the likes of jewellers Cartier and Bulgari, luxury fashion brands Burberry and Gucci and department stores Harrods and John Lewis offer duty-free and tax-free shopping. Alternatively, if you’re arriving at Heathrow, you can take advantage of the World Duty Free arrivals store, which offers tax-free-priced goods the likes of which (as mentioned) travellers from Heathrow routinely get to enjoy perusing and purchasing. You can also book a personal shopper for yourself (if you really feel you need one; remember to contact the airport 48 hours in advance) and make use of a ‘reserve and collect’ service, enabling you to search for and select items online then pick them up when you actually arrive at the airport.
There are many travel options in place to get you to London – or, indeed, anywhere in the UK – from Heathrow and vice versa. The important Heathrow Airport information here is that the early bird catches the worm; do your research and plan your travel and then book in advance (if you need to) online – there’s always big savings to be made that way. Your options are:
• Heathrow Express – the quickest way to get to and from Central London (Paddington station), as its trains are non-stop, ensuring journey times are just 15 minutes long; there are four departures an hour
• Heathrow Connect – a slightly slower train service to Central London, in that its journeys take 25 minutes and include several stops before reaching Paddington; as you might expect, though, it’s cheaper than Heathrow Express
• By Tube – Terminals 2 and 3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 all have stops on the London Underground (or Tube) train network’s Piccadilly line; again journeys are relatively cheap but will take between 50 and 60 minutes, while trains run every five minutes at peak times and every nine minutes at off-peak times and weekends
• By train (non-London) – the Railair service connects Heathrow with stations in the South East such as Feltham, Reading, Woking and Watford Junction; you can make significant savings of ticket prices by booking at thetrainline.com
• By coach – the National Express coach company operates out of the Heathrow’s central bus station, servicing London (arriving at and departing from Victoria station) and other places throughout the country
• By taxi – More than 600 taxi companies serve the airport and its surrounding area, many of them offering more than affordable rates
• By car – one way to reduce costs, congestion, pollution and, yes, parking costs is via car-sharing; you can find someone going your way and happy to share with you (for free) via liftshare.com.
Useful contact numbers
• Information desk: + 44 (0)844 335 1801
• Airport parking: + 44 (0)344 335 1000
• Left baggage (all terminals): + 44 (0)208 759 3344
• Lost property: + 44 (0)844 824 3115
• Pre-book foreign currency: + 44 (0)845 8727627
• Heathrow Express timetable: + 44 (0)345 600 1515
• National Express: + 44 (0)871 781 8181
• Hertz car rental: + 44 (0)843 309 3099
• Avis car hire: + 44 (0)808 284 0014
• Europcar hire: + 44 (0)871 384 1087