A tube entrance near Charing Cross
A London Underground entrance near Charing Cross station, at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square.
Sightseeing Guy

The easiest way to travel between Heathrow Airport and Central London is to take the London Underground.

The London Underground is also known as the Tube, due to the shape of the tunnels. The metro system has 11 lines, serving 4.8 million passengers each day.

Taking the Tube

When you exit Heathrow Airport, follow the London Underground sign. You will arrive at the Heathrow Terminals station on the Piccadilly line.

When you exit Heathrow Airport, follow the Underground sign for the Tube entrance
When you exit Heathrow Airport, follow the Underground sign for the Tube entrance. Photo: Sightseeing Guy

As the train approaches Central London, you can switch to another line, which would bring you to your final destination.

Note there are three Heathrow Terminals stations on the Piccadilly line. The there stations are: Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3, Heathrow Terminal 4, and Heathrow Terminal 5. Half of trains omit Terminal 4.

Fares

The cost of your journeys depend on your travel distance and peak hours.

The higher peak fares apply on workdays from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM and from 4 PM to 7 PM.

A one-way trip within Central London (Zone 1 and 2) would always cost you £2.40 with the pay-as-you-go option. On the other hand, a trip from Heathrow Terminals (Zone 6) to Central London would cost £5.10 during peak hours, and £3.10 during off-peak hours.

The good news is the total cost of your travel is capped daily.

For example, when you travel in Zone 1 and 2, your daily cap is £6.60. As soon as the cost of your travel reaches £6.60, your fares will be capped and your will not be charged for any more travel that day in Zones 1 and 2.

Inside a Tube train
Inside a Tube train. Photo: Sightseeing Guy

Travelcard

A Travelcard is a ticket that allows you to travel as much as you like on bus, Tube, and other Transport for London services.

If you visit London for four days or less, pay-as-you-go is cheaper than buying a seven-day Travelcard.

Pay as you go

The easiest way to pay for your travel is to pay as you go. This option is also the least expensive.

When you use pay as you go you only pay for the journeys you make.

Pay-as-you-go fares are cheaper than buying paper single tickets. If you make a lot of journeys in one day, the total cost of your daily travel will be capped. Hence, you will pay less than the equivalent Day Travelcard.

How to pay as you go

When you enter a Tube station, touch your Oyster card on a yellow card reader to start a journey. A fare will be deducted.

When you exit a Tube station, touch your Oyster card again on a yellow card reader. In this way, you will be charged the correct fare. If you forget to touch your Oyster card at the Tube entry or exit, you might be charged a maximum fare and risk a penalty fare.

Oyster card

Oyster is a plastic smartcard which can hold pay-as-you-go credit, as well as Travelcards. You can use an Oyster card to travel on bus, Tube, and other Transport for London services.

Credit on your Oyster card never expires. Once you have used up your credit, simply add more credit ("top up") online or at a Tube sation.

You can purchase an Oyster card from a ticket machine at a Tube station. The card itself costs £5; and you can choose how much credit to add to your card. If you just landed and are travelling to Central London from Heathrow Terminals, I recommend adding at least £10 credit to your Oyster card.

Two Oyster cards
On the left: the Visitor Oyster card that I received by mail, before my first visit to London in 2012. On the right: the regular Oyster card I purchased from a ticket machine in Tube in 2016. Photo: Sightseeing Guy

You can also order an Oyster card online, add credit, and have the card delivered to your home address before your trip to London starts. A delivery charge will apply. Make sure you have enough time to receive the card before your trip.

Contactless card

A UK payment card that displays the contactless symbol can be used for pay-as-you-go. With a contactless payment card, you no longer need to keep adding credit ("top-up"). However, most credit cards issued outside the UK can't take advantage of this feature; you still need to use your non-UK credit card to purchase an Oyster card at a Tube station.

A London Underground train passing the Waterloo station
A Tube train passing the Waterloo station. Photo: Sightseeing Guy

Sightseeing by the Tube

If you enjoyed your Tube trip from the airport, you will also like taking the Tube for your adventure in London.

Most London attractions are within Zone 1 and 2, where your daily transit cost is capped at £6.60.

London Attractions and nearby Tube stations
Attraction Tube station Line Fare zone
Buckingham Palace Green Park Jubilee, Piccadilly, Victoria 1
Tower of London, Tower Bridge Tower Hill Circle, District 1
St Paul's Cathedral St. Paul's Central 1
Big Ben, Palace of Westminster, Churchill War Rooms Westminster Circle, District, Jubilee 1
London Eye Waterloo Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern, Waterloo & City 1
Hyde Park Knightsbridge Piccadilly 1
British Museum Tottenham Court Road Station Central, Northern 1
National Gallery Charing Cross Bakerloo, Northern 1
Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum South Kensington District, Circle, Piccadilly 1
Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe Southwark Jubilee 1
Kensington Palace Notting Hill Gate Central, Circle, District 1 & 2
St. James's Park St. James's Park District, Circle 1
Kensington Gardens Bayswater Circle, District 1
Regent's Park Regent's Park Bakerloo 1
Piccadilly Circus Piccadilly Circus Bakerloo, Piccadilly 1
Wallace Collection Bond Street Central, Jubilee 1
The Shard London Bridge Jubilee, Northern 1