Heathrow is the 7th busiest airport in the world, serving nearly 80 million people every year through its four active terminals.
In reality, it’s a sprawling complex that extends over more than 12 km2 and teems with activity at practically all hours. With that said, it may be a bit intimidating and confusing for someone navigating its vast halls and endless corridors for the first time.
But, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed – with sound advice and a little preparation, anyone can find their way around Heathrow and enjoy every moment of the experience.
Here is everything you need to know if you are headed to the largest commercial airport in the United Kingdom:
All you need is located nearby
Even if you just arrived in London with no clear plan, you can find pretty much everything a traveller might need without leaving the airport grounds.
High-quality accommodation is available in the immediate vicinity including Park Grand in Hounslow. Some of the other smart choices include well-known, affordable and luxurious hotel chains like The Montcalm or The Shaftesbury.
You can also find many good places to eat, have a nice cup of gourmet coffee or tea (you are in England, after all), exchange currency, cash in your checks, buy local newspapers and magazines, or visit a place of prayer. Think of Heathrow as its own self-contained city. While – no – it certainly isn’t as stunning as London nor is it home to major tourist attractions, it does offer all the conveniences of a high street.
Multiple ways to reach central London
Upon arrival at Heathrow, many passengers try to head straight to London. While we certainly don’t blame you for being keen, you should consider all the possibilities at your disposal and choose a mode of transportation that best suits your circumstances. How far are you travelling? How much luggage do you have? Are children in tow? Are you on a budget?
A ride on the metro is the cheapest way to reach London, but if you are in a hurry you might want to jump on the Heathrow Express train that can reach the city centre in just 15 minutes. The final terminal is at Paddington Street.
Of course, you can also take a cab if you are so inclined, but given the amount of traffic on the streets of London, this might actually be the slowest way to reach your destination, especially if you are travelling during the rush hour.
Great place for a shopping break
If you are staying at the airport for several hours waiting for a connecting flight or are spending a night at the Park Grand Hotel, you might be tempted to check out some of the shopping venues that Heathrow is packed with.
Unfortunately, there are no true Duty Free shops at this airport, although there is a store at Terminal 3 where some imported goods may be purchased at a discount. Nonetheless, you can find a lot of high-end stores, as well as a host of souvenir stands here, perfect for some last-minute gift shopping or impulse purchases.
Even if you are just looking to pass the time, shopping areas at the Heathrow Airport are large enough to keep you occupied while you wait for your plane to take off.