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Gatwick Airport To London – 5 Bus And Train Options Compared

Author: Bob Handford
There is a wide choice of public transport options both train and bus that will take you the 28 miles (45 kms) between London\’s Gatwick Airport and Central London.

This page attempts to lay out a decision process that will help you identify the right transfer option for your individual requirements.

The Most Important Action - Know Where Your Destination Is In London

It sounds unbelievable but the most common reason for people selecting the wrong Gatwick transfer is that the transport they select goes nowhere near their destination.
London is very spread out, there is no tight downtown area where the various transfer options terminate in and you have a short walk to your hotel.
The London map below depicts the main hotel districts in London, and superimposed on the map are where the various airport trains and buses terminate in London.
Odd\’s are that the best transfer option for you is the one that comes closest to your destination. It\’s a complte waste of money if you pay a premium for the Gatwick Express train into Victoria, if the transfer to your hotel is going to take longer than the train from Gatwick.

Map Of Locations In London Where Gatwick Airport Transport Departs From
Gatwick To London - Location of London Termini Map

London Hotel District By District Summary Of Gatwick Transfer Convenience

Kensington (Earls Court, Gloucester Road, South Kensington, Knightsbridge)
Trains – OK to Victoria
Airport Buses – OK – easyBus go direct to Earls Court area of Kensington
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Paddington, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch
Trains – Tedious, with significant transfer in London
Airport Buses – Tedious, with significant transfer in London
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Victoria, Pimlico, St James
Trains – Excellent on Victoria trains
Airport Buses – Excellent on National Express
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Trafalgar Square, Leicester, Square, Covent Garden
Trains – Good – Victoria, then taxi or First Capital to Charing X changing at London Bridge
Airport Buses – Good, National Express to Victoria then taxi
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Bloomsbury, Euston, Kings Cross, St Pancras
Trains – Good, First Capital service to St Pancras or Farringdon
Airport Buses – Tedious, not recommended
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
County Hall
Trains – Good, Southern train to Waterloo, changing at Clapham Junction
Airport Buses – Not recommended
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Blackfriars, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, City Of London
Trains – Excellent, First Capital trains to London Bridge or Blackfriars
Airport Buses – Not recommended
Private Cars/Buses – Not recommended
Docklands & Canary Wharf
Trains – Tedious, First Capital train to London Bridge then taxi or public transport
Airport Buses – Not recommended
Private Cars/Buses – Worth thinking about

Airport Buses Are The Cheapest Gatwick Airport - London Transport

If lowest cost is your overriding criteria for selecting your Gatwick – London transfer then on headline price the two airport buses will almost certainly offer the lowest fare into town.

Other than price the airport buses have little going for them.

Journey time is getting on for at least double that of the alternative train, frequencies are also much less than the train. During the daytime you also are prone to significant delays through traffic congestion that are very hard to predict, no matter what time you are travelling.

Flexibility of ticket is also an issue if your flight arrives late. On the buses you have to book a seat on a single service. If your flight is late you may have to pay an adminstration charge to switch to another schedule or even lose your ticket and have to buy another. With the railways your ticket gives you much more flexibility to board the next train that is most convenient.

The buses also have luggage allowances that the trains do not have.

National Express Coaches v easyBus A guide to the Gatwick Airport Buses

Choosing The Appropiate Train Service

If like the majority of travelers you go for the train service its then a matter of which of the three main train services you go for.

All three have frequencies where there are many trains an hour.

For most people the location of your London destination will determine whether you get a service going to Victoria or the First Capital Line going through the City Of London to St Pancras in the north. (Although do check the convenient train connections section below).

Most people\’s accommodation will be to the west of London, so will select one of the Victoria trains.

The Gatwick Express train, the dedicated airport train is nearly twice the cost of the Southern Trains to Victoria, though fare promotions (see below) blur this.

For this extra money you get a non-stop journey against the stopping Southern trains that take 10-20 minutes longer. Plus the probability although not guarantee that the Gatwick Express will be not be as crowded and with more dedicated luggage storage space in the passenger cabin.

None of the trains have reserved individual seating

Convenient Train Connections To Hotel Districts From The 3 Main Train Services

As suggested above, the most important factor influencing your train choice is your final destination within London.

There are three rail interchanges (not Underground) that may be attractive to you for certain hotel districts. You can buy a through ticket from Gatwick on all three options.

By getting the First Capital train to London Bridge, you can change onto trains goimg to Charing Cross. Charing Cross station is adjacent to Trafalgar Square, the geographical centre of London. If you are staying in the West End, the theatre/entertainment district of London this may be very close to your hotel.

By getting a Southern Train to Clapham Junction you can change to another train going to London\’s Waterloo Station. Waterloo Station is next to a cluster of popular large chain hotels at County Hall.

Also from Clapham Junction, a branch line goes to the west side of London (Kensington) with stops at Imperial Wharf, West Brompton, Olympia and Sheperds Bush. All 4 stops have popular hotels around them, Earls Court by West Bromption is a major budget hotel district.

Obtaining The Lowest Fares On Trains

On all of the train services there is a complex web of promotional fares available.

Its not that much different than getting a good fare on a flight, you are richly rewarded for buying in advance on-line, traveling at less busy times and days as well as straight promotional fares that may be available for only a few days before they are withdrawn.

The other kinds of promotions not found on flights are promotional fares for couples or group/family fares often called groupsave fares. This means that a Web Duo fare for 2 people on the otherwise expensive Gatwick Express fares may make it more price competitive with the cheaper trains.

Although railway booking systems may have a Promotional Code option, promotional codes are rarely if ever issued by the railway companies.

The other ways to make your airport rail fare even better value are the Railcards and the 2 for 1 sightseeing promotions detailed below.

No train ticket ties you to a specific train schedule and there are no seat reservations on any train, but some cheaper fares are restricted to off-peak travel times.

The full range of promotional fares will become available 12 weeks prior to your date of travel.

Below are banners to the Trainline and Gatwick Express web sites.

Type in your dates , times and number of passengers and see what fares are available for your required schedule.

The Trainline - timetables and ticketing for UK railways

Gatwick Express Train Tickets

UK Railcards - 33% Discounts On All Train Fares

If you are from the UK or you are a visitor planning on using the trains in the UK regularly then Railcards are worthwhile. There are various railcards targeted at different markets, seniors, families, youth and just frequent travelers.
The broad proposition is that you pay an annual fee which gives a typical discount of 33% on all fares including promotional fares and airport trains.

You can use these Railcard discounts on all of the Gatwick airport trains.
Railcards – More Information

Railways 2 for 1 Sightseeing Promotion

A very worthwhile promotion is the railways 2 for 1 promotion.

In summary with a return railway ticket to London on any Gatwick airport train service you qualify for the 2 for 1 sightseeing promotion if you buy the ticket from the railways.

As its name suggests, one person pays admission, the other gets in free. Effectively half price.

The scheme is supported by many of the major London attractions as well as many you won\’t have heard of. Perennial supporters of the scheme have been the Tower of London. Madame Tussaud\’s, London Zoo, Kensington Palace, Churchill War Rooms and the London Dungeon. Others like the London Eye have drifted in and out of the scheme.

Railways 2 for 1 Sightseeing Promotion – More Information

Links To Details Of All Gatwick - London Transport Options

Gatwick Express Train – Full details and fares

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Southern Trains – Full details and fares

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First Capital Trains – Full details and fares

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National Express and easyBus Gatwick Airport Buses – Full details and fares

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Comments or Questions?

If you have additional information to add or want to ask a question, just use the discussion facility below.

I\’ll normally respond within 24 hours

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  • Dortha Stewards

    Your comparison is good but I want to add one thing that taxi is the reliable service as compare than other transportation.

    • Bob

      While I respect your opinion for Gatwick to London a taxi is much slower, less comfortable and much more expensive than taking the train and perhaps a black cab when in London.

  • robin

    I am travelling from gatwick to Illford train station which is the cheapest route by train?

    • Bob

      It depends on when you travel and if you buy in advance etc.
      Ilford is in zone 4 so the bit of the journey from London to Ilford is going to be broadly the same whichever route you take.
      So the key aspect is going to be what is cheapest from Gatwick to London.

      Use the train travel planner linked below to see what options there are on the time and date you require both Gatwick to London and Gatwick to Ilford

      If you’re lucky there may be a £5 advance fare on Southern from Gatwick to Victoria, then get an Oyster Card at Victoria for the trip out to Ilford

      If cost is very important National Express bus Gatwick to Victoria then an Oyster for the Underground/Train to Ilford will probably be cheapest if the very low discounted fares are not available.

      • Acsana Khan

        Hey Bob,
        2 of us travelling to gatwick and arriving at 11.30am. We have to go to Ilford jack cornwell street. what would be cheapest for us? train or taxi as we are 2 ppl. Plz let me know. Thank you

        • Acsana Khan

          I thought my friend will pick us up but last minute emergency came up. please let me know am kinda panicking and its very expensive. Please reply as I have only 24hours. Thank you

          • Bob

            A last minute train ticket Gatwick to Ilford is 25.20 GBP plus an Underground journey between Farringdon and Liverpool Street – a taxi will be probably not be cheaper

  • Silfanny Bahar

    Hi Bob,
    I plan to buy southern train ticket from Victoria to Gatwick for Monday.
    I saw there are 2 trains at 6pm, one on 6:02am and take 52 minutes. The other one is 6:06am and take 32 minutes,
    Obviously I want to take the second train to get me to gatwick airport. But how do I know which train to take once I’m there? Do they come on different lane? Or one after the other?

    • Bob

      There are 4 main platforms at Gatwick Station.
      There are monitors and display boards showing the trains arriving and which platform they will be using as well as if there any delays to the scheduled time.

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