How to Travel From London to Exeter by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Exeter Cathedral
Richard Hooker monument at Exeter Cathedral. Getty Images

Exeter, 175 miles (282 kilometers) west of London, is the capital of the county of Devon and the gateway to Dartmoor and Exmoor, two dramatic national parks. The ancient city is also home to a historic cathedral and a great introduction to England's West Country. Visitors can get from London to Exeter by airplane, train, bus, or car, choosing whichever suits your budget and vacation or holiday plans. 

  Time Cost Best For
Plane 2 to 4.5 hours From $67 Quick travel
Train 2 to 4 hours From $75 Relaxing journey
Bus 5 hours From $11 Inexpensive trip
Car 3 to 4 hours 196 miles (315 kilometers) Scenic and historical route

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From London to Exeter?

Coaches—long-distance tour buses, intercity buses, and special excursion buses—are the cheapest way to travel around England, starting at $11. National Express Coaches operate buses between Victoria Coach Station in London and Exeter Bus and Coach Station. The buses usually leave London roughly every three hours and take just short of five hours to Exeter. You can buy the tickets online at the National Express website; look for promotions and use the Online Fare Finder. To get the best deals, be flexible about the time and day you travel.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From London to Exeter?

Great Western Railway runs trains from London Paddington to Exeter St. David's usually each hour. St David's is a 15-minute walk from the city center. The trip starts at $75 and takes from two to three hours, depending on the number of stops along the way, though some are direct journeys. Pick your trains carefully—only a few trips are available at the cheapest fare and the cost of this journey can quickly double or even triple.

South Western Railway leaves from London Waterloo with direct services to Exeter Central or Exeter St. David's frequently throughout the day. Their trains make more stops and take three hours or more, starting at $95. To get the best fare, be flexible about your time of travel and use The National Rail Enquiries Journey Planner.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

Exeter is 196 miles (315 kilometers) west of London via the M4 and M5 motorways. It takes about three to four hours to drive. The M3 to the A303 route is slightly shorter but will take you just as long, if not longer. This route passes the historic Stonehenge monument and during the high and mid seasons, the traffic delays from rubbernecking tourists can add hours to your trip. Gasoline (called petrol in the UK), is sold by the liter (a little more than a quart).

Once you get to Exeter, parking is available in the city center's short, medium, and long-term lots, called car parks locally. Pay online, using an app, or by phone in advance to reserve a spot. Some spaces a little further from the center are free for up to two hours. BlaBlaCar is a local carpooling service that can be booked online.

How Long Is the Flight? 

The flight from London City Airport (LCY) in the Royal Docks to Exeter International Airport, the city's only airport, begins at $67 for a one-way ticket taking about two hours and 15 minutes with one transfer. There are no direct flights. London Gatwick Airport (LGW) south of Central London and London Heathrow Airport (LHR) west of the city center are additional options—but these routes will usually take longer and cost more. If you depart from LGW, a flight with one stop takes about four hours and prices begin at $97. From LHR, expect about 4.5 hours to Exeter with a transfer starting at $115. Check online in advance for the best deals and airport locations that suit your plans.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Exeter?

Exeter receives over 2 million visitors a year and many like to catch the city's typically nice weather between late May and the end of September. In July, the Exeter Festival is a fun summer gathering featuring live entertainment and activities for kids. To further explore the culture and history of the ancient city, check out Heritage Open Days in September and the city's year-round free Red Coat Guided Tours.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Exeter? 

A303, the most direct major route between London and Exeter, takes about three hours and 20 minutes and is a nice alternative to the motorways. The modern road built in the early 19th century has a significant history as the former site of an ancient trackway called Harrow Way in the Stone Age and The Fosse Way after the Romans invaded Britain in A.D. 43. Visitors will pass famous places such as the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty national park. Another option is taking the approximately four-hour route on the M4 motorway to Bristol, and then the M5, passing by the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a hilly nature reserve.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport? 

The Exeter International Airport is located only about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the city center. Travelers can rent a car and take a quick 10-minute drive costing approximately $1–2 in gas. Another option is to use Apple Taxis Exeter (the only official airport-authorized taxi company); reserve in advance by phone or at the airport's taxi desk. The taxi costs between $17 and 22. You can also take a Stagecoach bus—route 56 costs about $3–4 and runs approximately every 30 minutes to an hour (except certain holidays), taking 22 minutes between the airport and Exeter's city center. Also, the Airport Car Park Customer Service can arrange for bicycles to be used.

What Is There to Do in Exeter?

Exeter in southwest England is an ancient city dating back prior to A.D. 50 when the Romans arrived. Located on the River Exe, Exeter has many sites within walking distance. Check out the historic Roman wall, the medieval Exeter Cathedral, underground passageways, and cobbled alleyways. The city also offers plenty of entertainment all year from theater to comedy as well as the historic Quayside, a lovely place for a walk and checking out events, restaurants, and pubs.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How long does it take to get from London to Exeter by train?

    If you take the Great Western Railway train from London Paddington, you can get to Exeter in two to three hours, depending on the number of stops along the way. The South Western Railway train from London Waterloo, on the other hand, makes more stops; if you choose this option, you can expect to reach Exeter in three to four hours.

  • How much is a train from London to Exeter?

    One-way train tickets from London to Exeter start at $75.

  • How long does it take to get from London to Exeter by car?

    If you drive, you can get from London to Exeter in three to four hours, depending on traffic.