London Heathrow (LHR) Guide
About London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow is Europe’s largest airport and welcomes more than 78 million passengers every year. It is one of the world’s top aviation hubs, servicing more than 80 airlines and taking people to more than 200 destinations around the world. London Heathrow is comprised of four terminals: Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Why no Terminal 1? This terminal was in operation from 1968 to 2015 but was demolished as part of the Heathrow Expansion project, making room for a future Terminal 6 and third runway. Click here for cheap flights to London.
What facilities are at Heathrow Airport?
There is a comprehensive array of facilities and services at London Heathrow. All travellers are considered, with business meeting rooms, play areas for kids, multi-faith prayer rooms and more. From the moment you check-in, you’ll have a whole lot of options.
Before you arrive at Heathrow to check in, you’ll need to know which terminal your flight is departing from. Your booking should include this information but if not, ask your Flight Centre Travel Expert or look it up on Heathrow Airport’s website.
Across all terminals, the check-in zones are marked by illuminated yellow cubes. As you enter Departures, you’ll see information screens on which you’ll be able to locate the check-in zone for your flight.
Check-in locations at London Heathrow:
- Terminal 2 – top floor
- Terminal 3 – ground floor (departures building)
- Terminal 4 – first floor
- Terminal 5 – top floor
Heathrow Airport recommends that you arrive at check-in/bag drop at least three hours prior to a long haul or El Al (Israel Airlines) flight, and at least two hours prior to departure for a UK or European flight.
Hot Tip for Heathrow check-in: You can now speed up the time it takes to clear security by pre-booking a slot with the Fast Track Security service. For around 13 pounds (NZ$25) you can reserve a 2-hour Fast Track Security window.
Luggage restrictions will vary depending on your airline and cabin class, so the best approach is to confirm with your airline or Flight Centre Travel Expert about what’s right for your particular flight.
In terms of hand luggage, your bags will need to meet the size restrictions to get through security at London Heathrow. Passengers are allowed a maximum of two pieces of hand luggage each, measuring no larger than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. Anything bigger than that will need to be stowed in the hold.
The Excess Baggage Company at Heathrow Airport provides services such as forwarding of excess or unaccompanied baggage, baggage wrapping, or baggage storage. It’s a good idea to advise your Flight Centre Travel Expert if you expect to be travelling with any oversize luggage and they can advise you on the procedure for handling this at the airport.
Packing tip: Don’t wrap any gifts. Security staff at London Heathrow may wish to view the items and so will need to unwrap the gift.
Is there a currency exchange?
There are several currency exchanges at Heathrow Airport with a Travelex service desk located in every terminal, before security. If you’re travelling to the UK from New Zealand, you can order and pick up any foreign currency before you leave, at Travel Money.
What are the other services and facilities?
Transport and terminal transfers
What’s the best way to get to and from Heathrow Airport?
- Quickest: Heathrow Express
- Cheapest: Underground
- Easiest: National Express
- Door-to-door: Taxi, Minicab, Car
- Luxury: Chauffeur service
Heathrow Airport is located around 27 kilometres west of central London and very well connected by transport links. Below is an overview of all the Heathrow transport options, to help you plan your airport journey.
Cheapest: London Underground
Let’s start with the iconic London Tube. The Piccadilly Line provides the most budget-friendly rail route between Heathrow and central London. The trip will take you just under an hour and trains arrive around every ten minutes. Heathrow Airport has three London Underground stations. One station serves Terminals 2 and 3, while Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 each have their own station. You’ll need a pay-as-you-go Oyster card to ride on the Tube, and all stations are in Travelcard Zone 6.
Fastest: Heathrow Express and TfL (Transport for London) Rail Services
Trains provide the fastest option for travel to and from central London and there are two rail services to choose from.
Heathrow Express runs non-stop from Terminals 2 and 3 to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. From Terminal 5, just add another six minutes onto the travel time. From Paddington Station you can connect to the greater Underground network.
TfL Rail departs Terminals 2, 3 and 4 every 30 minutes to Paddington Station, stopping at local stations in west London along the way. Journey time varies between 31 and 49 minutes.
Easiest: National Express
If you’re coming from or travelling to anywhere in the UK other than central London, the National Express is likely to be your easiest option. National Express and other coach operators run services from Heathrow to more than 500 destinations across the UK.
There is also an extensive local bus network around Heathrow, as well as luxury coaches and buses connecting Heathrow with the national rail network at Feltham, Watford, Woking and Reading.
Door-to-door: Taxi, Minicab, Car
If you want the classic London experience from the moment you set foot on UK soil, you could hail yourself a London black taxi from outside the terminal. Drivers are fully licensed and have passed the Knowledge of London examination, although you can expect to pay for the experience. As a general guide, a trip from Heathrow to central London in a black taxi will set you back anywhere from 48 to 90 pounds (around AU$85 to AU$162).
An alternative to the traditional London black taxi is to book a fixed-price journey to or from any UK destination with a private-hire minicab company. We Know London is Heathrow’s only TfL licensed on-site car service, with help desks at Arrivals in every Heathrow terminal.
If you’d like to experience a 5-star arrival or departure, you could arrange for your transport to or from London Heathrow via chauffeur driven luxury car. Vehicles include premium executive saloons such as the Mercedes-Benz S Class. If you have clients to impress, the 8-seat executive minibuses such as the Mercedes-Benz Viano are also available, with Tesla and Rolls-Royce vehicles soon to be offered. Talk to your Flight Centre Travel Agent for details.
Renting a car for pick-up at Heathrow Airport is an excellent option if you plan to do a bit of exploring during your visit, whether you’re on holidays or visiting family and friends. All the major car rental companies have reception desks in the Arrivals zones.
Heathrow Airport offers travellers a number of parking options, with 11 different official car parks within the airport perimeter. You can make significant savings by booking online, in advance, and note that all car parks are well lit, have 24-hour security, and are only around 10 minutes from the terminals by frequent shuttle. Below are the choices you have when it comes to parking at Heathrow Airport.
Located right next to the terminals, short stay parking is perfect for short trips or if you’re meeting or dropping off friends or family. You can book short stay parking in advance, online, for stays of two hours or more.
Long Stay parking is a great option if you prefer to drive your own car to the airport and will be away for a couple of days or more. Also, all passengers who park in Long Stay car parks are entitled to free shuttle transfers, which run every ten minutes and take as little as three minutes.
For the business traveller, Heathrow Airport Business Parking is closer to the terminals than Long Stay parking and offers an even faster and more frequent transfer service.
First things first – what is a Heathrow Pod? These futuristic-like vehicles form a small fleet of self-driving cars. Heathrow Pods have been up and running since 2011 and serve as a rapid shuttle between the Business Car Park and Terminal 5. They are electric, autonomous capsules that travel along guideway tracks and will have you at the terminal in four to six minutes.
Meet and Greet
This parking option is a more economical version of Valet Parking, and must be booked in advance. Great for families travelling with children or anyone with a lot of luggage. Simply drive right up to the dedicated Meet and Greet area within the Short Stay Car Park, where Heathrow staff will meet you and park your car while you check in.
Heathrow Valet Parking gives you the freedom to drive right up to the drop-off points you’ll find on each terminal forecourt. You save on taxi fares by driving your own car to the airport, and get to offload with a minimum of fuss. Valet Parking is perfect if you’re on a tight schedule, travelling with children, or have oversize or excess baggage.
Hot tip for Valet Parking at Heathrow Airport: Take advantage of the Car Care service while you’re away and return to a freshly vacuumed and sparkling clean hand-washed car.
How do I transfer between terminals?
If you’re connecting between flights at Heathrow Airport, there are plenty of transfer options via walkways, railways and busways. Terminals 2 and 3 are just a short walk apart, while Terminals 4 and 5 are served by free trains and buses. The dedicated Flights Connections buses will whisk you to your departure area without you needed to leave the passenger-only area at all. Free shuttle trains also operate between Heathrow Central station (Terminals 2 and 3) and Terminal 4 or Terminal 5, with four trains running per hour. The London Underground also offers frequent trains between the terminals. If you’re transferring between Terminal 4 and Terminal 5, take bus number 482 or 490 from Bus Stop 7 for a free transfer.
What restaurants and bars are at London Heathrow Airport?
There’s a whole lot of choice when it comes to dining at Heathrow airport, and it varies by terminal. You’ll find everything from Costa, the nation’s favourite coffee shop and a British high-street favourite, to more exotic options like La Salle French brasserie or Caviar House and Prunier Seafood Bar, which is a clean-cut seafood counter serving up fresh delicacies from the sea. Whether it’s a three course meal or something to grab on the go, the restaurants and bars at Heathrow Airport won’t disappoint, and even include restaurants inspired by Michelin chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.
In world-leading style, Heathrow airport also offers a few other perks when it comes to food and drink.
Look out for:
Heathrow Airport’s food and drink pre-order service, via the Heathrow app, available at a growing selection of restaurants.
Heathrow Airport’s Taste magazine. Each terminal has its own edition, updated every season, which serves as a comprehensive guide to huge range of dining options available. Inside there’s a map of the terminal with all the restaurants and cafes clearly marked. Taste is available to download from the Heathrow website or in a free print magazine, inside the terminal.
The ‘15 Minute Menus’ icon against select items on restaurant and cafe menus. This indicates a meal that is quick and easy to prepare, and can be served up within 15 minutes of ordering.
Shopping at Heathrow Airport?
Shopping at Heathrow Airport is ridiculously good, which is no doubt why Heathrow has been awarded best airport for shopping at least eight years in a row at the Skytrax World Airport Awards.
All terminals offer a mix of luxury brands, souvenir shops, stores selling travel goods and more. There are international brands as well as a great British line up, with stores by Cath Kidston, Burberry, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Stella McCartney, Ted Baker and every wizard’s favourite – the Harry Potter shop at Terminal 5.
Partly due to the incredible choice, Heathrow Airport has introduced a personal shopping service within the terminals. This service is free, available in different languages, and every personal shopping assistant is an accredited stylist. All you have to do is book your personal shopping appointment 48 hours before you travel, via the airport’s website.
What lounges are at London Heathrow Airport?
Heathrow Airport goes above and beyond when it comes to lounges. In total, there are 42 lounges across the airport, comprised of airport lounges as well as airline lounges.
No matter which airline you’re flying with, or which terminal you’re departing from or arriving at, there’s an airport lounge available for you to book into.
Plaza Premium Lounges (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
Every terminal has a Plaza Premium Lounge, within which you can relax and unwind or quietly catch up on some work. On offer for guests is a generous selection of complimentary, freshly-made food, a fully tendered bar, complimentary Wi-Fi, luxurious shower rooms, as well as private relaxation rooms (Terminal 2 Arrivals and Departures, and Terminal 4 Departures only), and the Wellness Spa (Terminal 2 Arrivals and Departures only).
Club Aspire Lounge (Terminal 3)
Everything you would expect from an airport lounge, whether you’re travelling for business or leisure. Includes the award-winning Bliss Spa. Located at Lounge D, after security and near Gate 9.
No 1 Lounges – Bedrooms (Terminal 3)
If you have a stopover of three hours or more and really want to put your feet up, these lounges are perfect. This is the only overnight accommodation available in Terminal 3, and offers airside twin and single rooms, ensuite shower, toiletries and fluffy towels. There’s a minimum stay of three hours, and No 1 Lounges Bedrooms are only suitable if you’re transferring through Terminal 3.
No 1 Lounges – Lounge and Travel Spa (Terminal 3)
This award-winning lounge gives you the opportunity to relax in style. As well as the freshly prepared food and excellent range of complimentary drinks, you can enjoy unlimited Wi-Fi, use of the games room and cinema, the family room or, for an extra fee, indulge in a treatment from the No 1 Travel Spa or rest up in either the single or twin bedrooms. Located at Lounge F, after security.
Rest and Relaxation Room (Terminal 3)
This tranquil space requires no booking, and is dedicated to connecting passengers with long layovers who just want to put their feet up and rest. Entry is free, and you’ll find comfortable sofas and lounges, as well as a snack machine and flight information screen inside the lounge. Located after security, between Gates 24 and 25.
SkyTeam Lounge (Terminal 4)
Located opposite Gate 10, after security, the first SkyTeam branded lounge is spread over two levels and gives you an airfield view and all the space to need to relax or catch up on some work. There’s a fully tended bar, business area, quiet area with day beds, wellness centre offering Clarins treatments, a yoga room, and showers.
Aspire – The Lounge and Spa (Terminal 5)
The most ‘British’ of the airport lounges at Heathrow, Aspire Lounge and Spa is dominated by soaring windows on two sides offering dramatic views of the runway action all around. There is a complimentary British-inspired seasonal menu, showers, a dedicated work zone and free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating with unrivalled runway views, iconic cocktails and the Bliss Spa, offering facials, manicures and pedicures. You can book into this lounge online or pay at the door. Located near Gate A18, after security.
Heathrow by Invitation – VIP Windsor Suite
As the name suggests, this lounge is for paying passengers who don’t mind handing over quite a bit of cash for some very exclusive lounge time. Prices start at 2,750 pounds (around AU$4,900) plus VAT for up to three people on an arriving or departing flight. For your money, you get a private lounge facility for groups of up to 12, a dedicated security and passport control area and a limousine transfer to or from the aircraft, regardless of terminal. Heathrow by Invitation is open to Business and First Class passengers only.
Heathrow Family Lounge
This dedicated family zone has everything frazzled parents need. There are active play and gaming areas for the kids, as well as quiet spaces for children to chill out. For adults, there is plenty of comfortable seating. The Heathrow Family Lounge is free to enter, and located on the upper level of Terminal 3 at Lounge A, with lift access behind the Ted Baker store.
There is a staggering number of airline lounges at Heathrow Airport, with the largest being the British Airways lounges, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge, American Airlines (Admirals Lounge and Flagship Lounge) lounges and United lounges (United Club Lounge and United Global First Lounge). Below is an introduction to just a few of the lounges at Heathrow Airport.
British Airways Lounges
As you’d expect, British Airways has quite a presence at Heathrow Airport with eight lounges in total: five departure lounges and one arrivals lounge.
British Airways Galleries Club Lounges
There are three British Airways Galleries Club Lounges at Terminal 5, which offer access to guests flying BA Club (Business Class) or First (First Class), as well as Gold and Silver BA Executive Club members and equivalent Oneworld alliance members. Facilities include designer sofas and furnitures, a wide choice of complimentary food and drinks, a 20-seat cinema, free Wi-Fi, and the Elemis Spa at South Galleries Club offers complimentary 15-minute treatments and has 20 shower suites in which you can freshen up.
British Airways Galleries First Lounge
This lounge is open to first class travellers and BA Gold members/Oneworld Emeralds. Inside the spacious lounge you’ll find a wine gallery and champagne bar, coffee house and deli.
British Airways Galleries Arrivals Lounge
If you’ve just jetted into Terminal 5 from a long-haul flight and you’re a Club World, First and BA Gold card holder, the BA Galleries Arrivals Lounge provides a great welcome. You can freshen up in one of the 94 showers, enjoy a free 15-minute Elemis Spa treatment, and take advantage of the valet suit pressing service and buffet breakfast on offer.
British Airways Concorde Room
There’s also the elegant BA Concorde Room, for First Class customers and BA Premier members. It offers intimate fine dining, concierge desk, business suite and hotel-style rooms with ensuite facilities.
The Qantas London Lounge
The first dedicated Qantas lounge at Heathrow Airport opened in December 2017 at Terminal 3. The two-level space has a capacity for 230 passengers and features highlights such as two bars, spacious shower suites, dining area (buffet and à la carte Rockpool menu), business section and a children’s zone.
Something to look forward to is the tended bar on the lounge’s upper level, showcasing some of Australia’s finest gins such as boutique Victorian gin Four Pillars, while serving up one of the UK’s favourite drinks: the gin and tonic.
The Qantas London Lounge is open to Qantas First and Business passengers, Qantas Club members on Qantas flights, holders of a Qantas Club lounge invitation who are on a Qantas flight, Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents, Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold members, plus First and Business Class passengers of Oneworld airlines departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, JAL, LATAM, Royal Jordanian and SriLankan Airlines). If you have any questions about your lounge eligibility, talk to you Flight Centre Travel Expert.
Qantas London Lounge travel tip: Even if you’re departing the UK, make sure you keep your socket adaptor in your carry-on luggage because all powerpoints within the Qantas London Lounge at Heathrow use a standard UK socket.
Virgin Atlantic Lounges
Located in the Upper Class Wing at Terminal 3, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is the airline’s flagship Clubhouse and is all about giving guests the VIP treatment. No wonder it’s regarded as one of the world’s best business class airline lounges. The award-winning Clubhouse features a complimentary a la carte menu, a 14-metre bar serving up complimentary cocktails created by London’s famous Dandelyan bar, a viewing deck with great views and comfortable seats, a games room, showers, luggage storages and the renowned Clubhouse Spa. You can access the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse if you are an Upper Class passenger or Flying Club Gold Member. You can bring a guest along with you if they’re travelling on the same flight. If you’re curious about your lounge eligibility, talk to you Flight Centre Travel Expert.
What hotels are near London Heathrow Airport?
Whether you’re flying into Heathrow late, have a very early departure or just want to take a break before the next leg of your journey, you’ll find several conveniently located hotels close to Heathrow. There are loads of benefits to decamping at an airport hotel for a night or two, including avoiding expensive cab fares, bypassing traffic hold-ups and dodging inner-city hotel tariffs.
There are a staggering number of Heathrow Airport hotels to choose from, including the 5-star Sofitel London Heathrow for a spot of post-flight luxury or the Crowne Plaza with its expansive, family-sized rooms. The Sheraton, Radisson, Best Western, Mercure, Ibis and Novotel hotel chains are all represented, ensuring there is a room for every budget.