Heathrow Airport is London's largest and busiest airport, acting as an international travel hub for passengers from all over the world. The airport, which first opened in 1946 and features five total terminals, offers flights around the globe, including to the United States, Asia and around Europe. It serves both domestic and international destinations, with an emphasis on international flights leaving from four public terminals.
The departures and arrivals are located on different levels, and departures can be found on the upper level of each terminal. It's a very well organized and easy to navigate airport, but Heathrow is also often crowded, especially during holiday periods and over the summer.
Heathrow Code, Location, and Contact Information
Know Before You Go
Heathrow is a very large airport and both check-in lines and security lines can be long. It's best to arrive 2 to 3 hours before a flight to ensure enough time regardless of your destination. Heathrow features five terminals, although only four are used for commercial flights, and the terminals are connected via shuttles and trains, or by foot. Although Heathrow can be very busy, it's also an extremely clean, well-organized airport with easy to follow signs and helpful staff members.
Most large airlines serve Heathrow, which is a hub for British Airways (which takes up all of Terminal 5 and some of Terminal 3). Many international flights transit through Heathrow on the way to various other destinations and the transfer system is fairly easy to follow, although will require some walking and time.
Security at Heathrow is tight and travelers should be prepared to fit all their carry on liquids into a single plastic bag, which is provided before the security lines. There are no exceptions to this rule, so if you have extra liquids it's best to check your luggage. Be prepared to remove shoes, belts, and jackets, and to take electronics out of your bags.
Each of Heathrow's terminals features parking for travelers, including short and long stay parking. The airport also offers several special parking services, from valet to Meet & Greet parking, as well as dedicated Heathrow Business Parking at Terminals 2, 3, and 5 for travelers leaving for a few days at a time. All parking options can (and should) be booked in advance online using Heathrow's website. The online rates are often cheaper than those at the airport.
Several airport hotels offer Heathrow Hotel & Parking packages that combine an overnight stay with either Meet & Greet parking or long stay parking. These hotels include DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Mercure London Heathrow, Radisson Blu Heathrow, Park Inn by Radisson, and Sheraton Skyline. Packages can be booked in advance via Heathrow's website or via the hotels directly.
Heathrow also offers parking for motorcycles in Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5. All motorcycles must used designated areas, which are listed specifically on the Heathrow website for each terminal. Bicycles should be parked in the Heathrow Cycle Hub at Terminals 2 and 3, or at Terminal 4 or 5. Bikes can also be stored at the left baggage office for up to 90 days.
Heathrow Airport is located 15 miles west of central London. The airport is easily accessible from the M4 and M25 motorways, although traffic can be a consideration when driving to and from Heathrow. To access Terminals 2 and 3, exit the M4 at junction 4 or the M25 at junction 15. Terminals 4 and 5 have their own separate entrances. For Terminal 4, exit the M25 at junction 14 and follow signs for Heathrow Terminal 4, or exit the M4 at junction 4b and follow the M25 south to junction 14. For Terminal 5, exit the M25 at junction 14, or exit the M4 at junction 4b and follow the M25 south to junction 14.
For those who prefer to follow satellite navigation to Heathrow, enter postcode TW6 1EW for Terminal 2, TW6 1QG for Terminal 3, TW6 3XA for Terminal 4 and TW6 2GA for Terminal 5.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Heathrow is best accessed via public transportation. There are several options to get to the airport on public transportation, including by taxi, train, or Tube.
- Heathrow Express: The Heathrow Express connects the airport with Paddington Station in central London, bringing passengers to Terminals 2 & 3 and Terminal 5 in 15 to 20 minutes. To access Terminal 4, exit at Terminals 2 & 3 and transfer to the local service. Tickets can be booked online or on the Heathrow Express app in advance. If you book more than 30 days ahead, the tickets are usually discounted. Be sure to check the service and train times before heading to Paddington as there can be outages or service work. There is free Wi-Fi onboard the trains.
- TFL Rail: London's TFL Rail also connects Heathrow to Paddington via a local service with a few stops along the way. This is a great option for those with slightly more time as the fare is significantly cheaper than the Heathrow Express. The journey typically takes 30 to 40 minutes. You can purchase a ticket at Paddington, or pay with an Oyster card, contactless credit card, or Zone 6 Travelcard.
- London Underground: The Tube accesses Heathrow via the Piccadilly line, which runs from central London all the way to the airport. Allot at least an hour if you plan to take the Tube and be sure to avoid rush hour as it's difficult to get large suitcases into the cars when they're crowded. The fare varies depending on where you start your journey, but it's typically the cheapest way to get to the airport. Pay with an Oyster card, contactless credit card, or Zone 6 Travelcard.
- Buses: Many local buses include Heathrow on their routes. Use the TFL website to find the best option from your destination. Note that buses can take a long time, especially in busy traffic, so it's recommended to take the Tube or a train.
- Taxis and Ubers: Hail a taxi from anywhere in London to get to the airport. Black cabs are wheelchair accessible, but are often quite pricey. Black cabs will accept cash or credit cards. Uber also operates to and from Heathrow, which is a good option for those on a budget. Minicabs and car services are also bookable in advance for a set rate.
Where to Eat and Drink
Heathrow has plenty of dining options in each terminal, from quick-fix eateries to sit-down restaurants. Look for Pret a Manger, EAT, Costa, and Starbucks to satiate any coffee cravings, or search out a special meal to pass the time. Note that many of the restaurants offer pre-order service with the Heathrow Airport app.
- Fortnum & Mason Bar: Located in Terminal 5, Fortnum & Mason Bar features high-end options like seafood and caviar, as well as champagne and the brand's iconic teas.
- Leon: One of London's most popular fast food spots is Leon, which has an outpost in Terminal 2. Grab a sandwich or salad box, as well as breakfast items.
- Spuntino: This New York offshoot can be found in Terminal 3, serving up comfort food and cocktails, as well as breakfast.
- Comptoir Libanais: Lebanese eatery Comptoir Libanais, located in Terminal 4, offers mezze bites, tagines, and savory flatbreads with many healthy options.
Where to Shop
Heathrow is filled with shopping options, including extensive duty free shopping. There are numerous designer shops located throughout the terminals, although Terminals 2 and 3 tend to have the best shops thanks to their many international flights.
- Burberry: The iconic British fashion brand has a shop in Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5.
- Hamleys: Britain's favorite toy store, Hamleys, is the best place to stop for a souvenir or gift before you leave London. There are shops in Terminals 2, 3, and 4.
- The Harry Potter Shop: Get all your wizarding gear at The Harry Potter Shop in Terminal 5, which sells collectibles, apparel, accessories, gifts, novelties and souvenirs.
- World of Whiskies: Take home some of the U.K.'s best whiskey from World of Whiskies, which can be found in Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5. Customers can pre-order their products via the Heathrow website for collection at the airport.
- Harrods: Harrods, another British favorite, can also be found in Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5 with a limited selection of designer and high-end products from their famous department store.
How to Spend Your Layover
Heathrow has several airports nearby for those with overnight layovers, but it's also possible to head in to central London if you have enough time. Public transportation, such as the Tube or the Heathrow Express, is recommended and travelers can store their luggage at the left luggage office for a fee. Left luggage offices are located in all terminals on the arrivals level.
If central London feels too far away, consider visiting somewhere closer to Heathrow during your layover. Windsor and Eton are just west of Heathrow and accessible by Uber or taxi, and Chiswick offers a nice downtown area just east of Heathrow.
The best airport hotels for a layover include the Sofitel London Heathrow, located at Terminal 5; Hilton London Heathrow Airport at Terminal 4; and YOTEL, a budget capsule hotel also at Terminal 4. The No1 Lounge after security in Terminal 3 offers bunk and single rooms for passengers who prefer not to leave the airport.
Heathrow features numerous frequent flyer airline lounges throughout Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5, including for British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines and American Airlines. Customers can opt to pay for entry to several of the lounges, including Aspire Lounge and Plaza Premium Lounge, which are listed below. There is also a free Rest and Relaxation room for all travelers in Terminal 3.
- Terminal 2: Plaza Premium Lounge
- Terminal 3: Plaza Premium Lounge, Club Aspire Lounge, No1 Lounge and Travel Spa, No1 Lounge Bedrooms
- Terminal 4: Plaza Premium Lounge, The House Lounge, SkyTeam Lounge
- Terminal 5: Plaza Premium Lounge, Aspire Lounge
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Heathrow offers free Wi-Fi for all passengers throughout the airport, both before and after security. Select "_Heathrow Wi-Fi" on your device and follow the instruction to register. There is no time limit on the use of Wi-Fi. There are also free computer desks with broadband access in every terminal.
Free "Power Pole" charging stations are available in all terminals, before and after security. The charging station use U.K. and European plugs, or a USB cable. Those with a U.S. plug should bring along a converter to use the charging stations.
Tips & Facts
- Travelers with kids should look for "Stay & Play" areas in each terminal after security. The areas, which include slides, soft play areas, and separate baby and junior zones, welcome kids up to 9 years old. Mr. Adventure coloring and activity sheets are also available at each "Stay & Play" area. Many Heathrow restaurants feature Kids Eat Free meal deals, which can be spotted via Mr. Adventure signs at each restaurant.
- Travelers who need special assistance at the airport can put in a request in advance ahead of time via their airline or travel agent. Be sure to make the request at least 48 hours ahead of travel. There are also assisted toilet facilities, an assistant shopping service, and reserved seating in each terminal. In addition, look for the rest and relaxation room in Terminal 3, which offers a quiet space.
- Those who don't want to deal with the hassle of heavy luggage can use Heathrow's Transfer Bags service, which collects bags from your hotel, home or office for delivery to Heathrow. The service can be booked online via Heathrow's website or at one of the left luggage office. AirPortr offers a similar service, which is also booked online in advance.