Travel and Tourism

London airports

Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport (airport code LHR) is London’s largest airport – and however you measure it (passenger numbers, flights, cargo tonnage), one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It lies to the west of the city, just inside the M25 orbital motorway.

Heathrow currently consists of five terminals, imaginatively named Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5. Situated between Terminals 1, 2 and 3 is the Heathrow Bus Station, which provides passenger connections with local buses as well as coach services to other towns and cities. Below the Bus Station is one of the three Heathrow Underground Stations; it is on the Piccadilly line and provides “Tube” train connections to central London.

Heathrow currently consists of four terminals, imaginatively named Terminal 1, Terminal 3, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5. Terminal 2 is closed at the moment for redevelopment (scheduled to reopen in 2014 – perhaps in time for Loncon 3). Situated between Terminals 1, 2 and 3 is the Heathrow Bus Station, which provides passenger connections with local buses as well as coach services to other towns and cities. Below the Bus Station is one of the three Heathrow Underground Stations; it is on the Piccadilly line and provides “Tube” train connections to central London.

Terminal 4 opened in 1986 and Terminal 5 in 2008. Both are located short distances away, though still within the Heathrow complex. They have their own road access (and traffic directions), as well as their own bus/coach stops and Underground Stations – again, on the Piccadilly line. There are free trains and buses connecting Terminals 4 and 5, and also between them and Terminals 1 and 3 – although be careful, as there are also connections which require payment. These include the trains which run from Heathrow to Paddington station.

The journey planner links on this page will help you to find the most convenient way for you to travel between Heathrow and the ExCeL campus (or wherever else in London you might be going first). However, here are some options in descending order of price, they are:

Gatwick Airport

London Gatwick Airport (airport code LGW) is London’s second largest airport. It is situated south of London, about 8 miles out from the M25, and close to the M23.

It has two terminals: North and South. They are connected by a free shuttle which runs every few minutes (and takes just a couple of minutes). The railway station is at the South Terminal, and trains run to mainline London stations including Victoria, London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras International.

There’s more information here to enable you to plan travel across London from Gatwick airport. The best option for travelling from the airport into London is to take the Gatwick Express train service. It arrives at Victoria Station, and takes about 30 minutes. Tickets cost £19.90 one-way or £34.90 return, but you can save some money by booking online.

However , if you want to travel directly from Gatwick to ExCeL, you should avoid the Gatwick Express and take a First Capital Connect service to London Bridge (£10 for a one-way journey), where it’s easier to get to ExCeL either by Tube and DLR (Jubilee line eastbound, then switching at Canning Town to the DLR towards Beckton) or by taxi (around £25).

Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport (airport code STN) is London’s third largest airport. It takes a few inter-continental flights, but most flights are from European airports and other UK airports. It is noticeably smaller than Heathrow or Gatwick and consequently can be faster to transit through. It is situated north-east of London, about 15 miles out from the M25, and close to the M11.

There is a frequent rail service from Stansted to London Liverpool Street station. The Stansted Express will take about 50 minutes, at a cost of £23.40 one-way or £33.20 return. There are various Underground/DLR options from there, e.g. Central line westbound, then switching at Bank to the DLR towards Beckton.

City Airport

London City Airport (airport code LCY) is a smaller airport and its flights thus almost all come from other European destinations, including other places in the UK. It is situated in the London Docklands area, close to the centre of the city, a mere 5 miles to the east of Tower Bridge. Consequently it’s even closer to ExCeL: about a mile away.

If you are flying from a European airport you might therefore find City Airport very convenient. Travellers from further away might want to look for airline options which route through another European airport (including the hubs at Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt, Zurich or Madrid, or wherever other national carriers are based) and then fly into London City.

If you’re able to carry or tow your luggage (assuming, of course, that it doesn’t have its own legs) you could even walk from Arrivals to the convention. Other than walking, the two obvious methods of travel are to take a taxi or use the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Unfortunately, City Airport is not on the same branch of the DLR as ExCeL, so you would need to change at Canning Town for the Beckton branch. The convention centre is at the eastern end of the ExCeL building, by Prince Regent DLR station; if you are travelling first to your hotel, you might need a different DLR stop. (For more information about London transport, go here.)

As always, a pre-booked taxi will be cheaper than a standard cab, but the distance involved is so short that it shouldn’t make too much difference.

Luton Airport

London Luton Airport (airport code LTN) is situated north-west of London, about 13 miles out from the M25, and not far from the M1. It specialises in package holiday and charter flights.

Trains run direct from Luton Airport Parkway station into a number of London mainline stations. To get to ExCeL, it’s probably best to take a First Capital Connect train through central London to London Bridge. From there you can get to ExCeL either by Tube and DLR ( Jubilee line east – bound, then switching at Canning Town to the DLR towards Beckton) or by taxi (around £25).

Southend Airport

London Southend Airport (airport code SEN) is a small airport which has recently been growing in size. It is situated east of London, about 20 miles out from the M25, and close to the coast. It has recently opened a new terminal to encourage international flights. For ExCeL, take a train to Stratford and then jump on a Beckton-bound DLR service.

Oxford Airport

London Oxford Airport (airport code OXF) has renamed itself from Oxford Airport, and is included here since it thus sometimes shows up in web searches for London airports. It is a small airport specialising in business flights; it handles no scheduled international flights and only connects to a few airports in the British Isles (including the island of Jersey). It is situated near Kidlington, just north of Oxford, west of London, and about 40 miles out from the M25. It will not be mentioned further!

You may wish to check out the current guidance on hand luggage restrictions at UK airports and especially the section on electronic devices and electrical items. Seasoned travellers may wish to note that there have been some recent changes.