One of the major ways to get discount transportation fares around London is buying an Oyster card for £3 and load the card with a certain amount of credit. The Oyster card can be purchased all over London and at airports through Tourist Information centers and at Underground station ticket offices.
I purchased two Oyster cards at London Gatwick Airport at the Airport Concierge desk for £46.00, loaded with £20 each for our seven day trip in London. There is still £1.60 on my card after seven days of touring London, including traveling from East Croyden near Gatwick Airport to Heathrow Airport.
National Express Direct Bus between Gatwick and Heathrow
National Express bus fare one-way between Gatwick and Heathrow airports is a £25 ticket for a 75 minute journey. This is what the agents will likely recommend you buy for transportation between the two airports.
Since I had four hours to get from Gatwick to Heathrow to pick up Kelley at Terminal 3 Arrivals for her American Airlines flight from LAX, I decided to see how inexpensively I could travel between the two airports.
Gatwick to Heathrow for £8.10 with Oyster card
I had arrived at London Gatwick South Terminal on RyanAir from Dublin and stayed the night at Holiday Inn Gatwick Airport. There is also a North Terminal. The train station is at LGW South Terminal.
London Gatwick Airport to East Croyden National Rail station = £5.10 on a weekend. This is the closest location to London Gatwick, south of London, where the Oyster card can be used. The process involved getting off the train and walking to the entry gates where there were station attendants to help me ‘tap in’. Basically, you have to exit and then ‘tap in’ with the Oyster card, so you have a valid starting point. Failing to tap in or tap out on a journey results in the maximum daily fare being deducted from the card. I had to wait about 15 minutes for a train to Victoria Station and it was insanely crowded on a weekend going into central London.
Zone 1 covers most of central London where tourists are likely to travel for museums and parks. London Heathrow is Zone 6.
I traveled from East Croyden to Victoria Station on the train. At Victoria Station, I exited the train, walked through the station and came to the ‘tap’in’ kiosks. I explained to a station attendant that I had traveled from East Croyden using my Oyster Card and he waved me through the open gate without having to ‘tap in’.
Victoria Station to Green Park is one stop on the Underground to reach the Piccadilly Line with direct tube service to London Heathrow Airport.
The total journey from London Gatwick on two National Rail trains and two Underground trains took 3 hours to reach London Heathrow at a cost of £8.10. I was there in plenty of time to meet Kelley as she walked out of the Arrivals door in Terminal 3.
The price would have been £2 more if traveling in peak time, but the tube trains are so crowded at peak times, we made every effort to avoid traveling at those times during our week in London.
There is also the option for a Visitor Oyster Card with additional features like dining discounts, but you have to pay postage and have it mailed to you before you arrive in London. The transportation fare prices are the same as the Oyster card purchased in London.
My Pint Savings Calculator
During our week in London, I came up with the Pint Savings Calculator. Given that the average price for a pint of beer in a London pub was about £4.50, anytime I could get a discount on some other aspect of our trip added up to free pints on our pub crawls.
Pint Savings calculator = £16.90 savings on transportation between LGW and LHR airports for £8.10 compared to the National Express £25 bus fare for direct service. That savings paid for our first four pints at The Two Brewers pub near the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London hotel on our first night in London.
Back to Gatwick Airport
On the return trip to Gatwick Airport, I took the train directly to the airport from Victoria Station due to time constraints. The ticket between Victoria Station and Gatwick was £15-something and convenient.
We now have our Oyster Cards for the next trip to London. They can also be given to someone else, but there is still much we want to see in the city.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” – Samuel Johnson (1777)
London Heathrow is more convenient than Gatwick for inexpensive transportation into the city since it is connected to the Underground. London Gatwick Airport was convenient as an airport for the short lines and great food options at the Marks & Spencer, visible in the first photo of this article, next to the Airport Concierge. The food prices were no more expensive than markets in central London.
I love European attitudes. I still had one large bottle of Stella Artois when I arrived at Gatwick Airport. Outside security, I sat in a comfortable chair and ate lunch and drank Stella Artois, then zipped through security with no waiting in line. Two pieces of free Toblerone chocolate were handed to me as I walked through the Duty Free store and I was on the RyanAir plane back to Dublin. Total time from walking out the door of the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London hotel to sitting in my room at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in south Dublin was 6 hours.