Getting to London from Gatwick

14 January 2013

Arriving in London

The two main airports serving North American travelers are Gatwick and Heathrow. Both have information showing service to London but as you have just landed, and perhaps for the first time, you may be a bit overwhelmed. Stop and take a breath; you will get in to London and not miss anything. This may be a good time to start using the proper lingo. London does not have a “downtown”. If you inquire, ask someone how to get to central London. If you ask how to get to the city they may think you want to go to The City, which is a specific part of central London. The “City” is the financial district: Lloyds, Bank of England as well as St. Paul’s and the Tower of London. There are many ways to get to London but I have limited my information to only a few that the majority of visitors typically use. Taxis and private-hire cars are available but at an expense.

Airport Checkpoint Alert

You may be restricted in what you can bring through a security checkpoint at any airport. After checkpoint you may purchase liquids such as water or alcohol in the departure area or Duty Free before getting on a plane. WARNING! You may have to go through another checkpoint at you destination airport if you are changing planes or going through customs. When I went through customs in Philadelphia I never left the secure area and after I re-checked my bags I went to the next gate. In Charlotte I re-checked my bags but I had to pass another checkpoint on my way to the next gate. Any liquids would have had to be placed in my checked-bags first. But I had no idea that another C-P was ahead. You should check with a member of staff first or risk loosing you duty free spirits.

Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Gatwick is 28 miles (45km) south of central London and consist of two terminals, North and South. US Airways is located in the South Terminal. You can use the Gatwick Express, national rail, a coach service or a bus for service to London. Information for this can be found after you leave customs in the South Terminal. There is no underground service from Gatwick. See for live flight arrivals, departures and other information. A free shuttle service operates 24 hours a day between the North and South terminals.

If you land in the North Terminal, just take the automated train (it’s free) to the South Terminal for transportation to central London.

On your return to Gatwick get off the train and just go up the nearest escalator and towards departure. Look slightly to your right and you will see US Airways.

Gatwick Express

The Gatwick Express is a non-stop rail service that leaves from the South terminal every fifteen minutes for Victoria station. Journey time is about 30 minutes and could not be easier. You can buy your ticket before you start but it is easier to buy it on the train. The conductor accepts cash (£'s only) and most credit cards. The trip takes about thirty minutes unless work is being done to the track. The rail track is a major route for national rail trains and very busy on weekdays. Engineering work is often done on weekends and this can affect travel time.
See for latest fairs.

Shortly before you arrive at Victoria Station on the Express you will pass over the River Thames. There are two landmarks for lookout for. On the right is the disused
Battersea Power Station and on the right is the Chelsea Bridge.

The bridge opened in 1937 and was Britain’s first self-anchored suspension bridge. Other than that it is an interesting bridge to look at. The power station has four smokestacks (one on each corner) that make it a standout. Once I see these wonderful landmarks I know that I have arrived.

National Rail from Gatwick

Southern Trains run from Gatwick South Terminal to several stations in London as well as many cities in southern England. If your destination is not London you can get to other towns from here.

First Capital Connect departs Gatwick for London Bridge SE1 and then to King’s Cross & St. Pancras (both in N1). The cost is about half as much as Gatwick Express. The trip to London Bridge is the same as for Gatwick Express to Victoria; about 30 minutes, but from London Bridge to St. Pancras is a slow 20 minutes.

Keep your ticket with you, as you will need it to exit the station in London. You will be required to show or insert your ticket in a turnstile to exit the station. You should not need to do this with Gatwick Express as you get more of a receipt rather than what looks like a ticket.

Coach Service from Gatwick

National Express is a private company offering coach service to the airports and other cities around the country. Although their fairs are less expensive than the Express rail service the time involved to get to central London is greater. As always, there is a trade-off between cost and time.

Shuttle Service

There are a number of companies offering shuttle service between London airports and to central London. I am hesitant to mention them as their operation could change. A web search will bring them to you.

Victoria Station Information

The bus station is located out front for the station on Terminus Place. Do not confuse this with Victoria Coach Station, which is further down Buckingham Palace Road at Elizabeth St.
See this Transport for London map of all bus routes at Victoria Bus Station: Note the location of the stop to catch a bus for a particular route.
See this map for the coach station location:

Money Issues

In a technical sense you can enjoy your visit with just a credit card. But it may be good to have a few pounds in your pocket. Depending on how you travel to central London, you may need to pay in cash. ATM’s, known as cash points, are well placed in the arrival hall.