Business Traveller Flying to London? A London City Guide for Getting to the Centre

London. The vibrant, beating heart of the United Kingdom. It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations for tourists, and for business travellers too. The amount of commerce that goes through London is staggering, with a financial centre second only to New York, and service industries that cater for both the UK, European and international markets. As the world’s most multicultural city – there are over 300 languages spoken by a population of over eight million people (twelve million if you include the metropolitan area) – the opportunities for business are clear.

With the UK strategically positioned for the business traveller on the western edge of Europe, London is a global hub for air travel, providing easy access to mainland Europe, and a stepping stone to the United States. Primarily served by five airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted and Luton – London is easily reached from anywhere in the world. But with the exception of London City Airport – smallest of the five and located in East London, close to the business district of Canary Wharf – the other four airports are satellites evenly dispersed around the city. The most popular, Heathrow, is located to the west of London; Gatwick is situated to the south; Stansted to the north east; and Luton to the North West. Knowing this before you make your travel plans can be useful. Since the greater metropolitan area of London covers over 1,000 square miles, your final business destination may not be right in the centre. Researching which airport is closest to your destination can save you time, effort and money.

However, whether you’re a business traveller flying from within the UK or from overseas, your starting destination may often determine the airport you arrive at. Other factors, such as your chosen time of travel, budget and availability will also make a difference. For example, if you’re travelling with a major international carrier from a major city, such as New York, the chances are you’ll arrive at Heathrow or Gatwick (Stansted also receives flights from New York but is the smallest of the three). If you’re travelling locally from within the UK with a budget carrier you’re more likely to arrive at Stansted or Luton (though not exclusively). And if you’re travelling from a major European city, particularly a financial capital, such as Frankfurt, London City Airport is a likely arrival point (the airport was created specifically to cater for short haul business travellers, particularly between financial centres).

Each airport is served by comprehensive rail and road infrastructure, providing business travellers with a variety of options to enter London. All five airports offer direct rail travel into the heart of Central London, coach travel to the main Victoria terminus, and hire car, mini-bus, licensed black cab and taxi services by road. If you’re a VIP business traveller, chauffeur services are also available, and with the exception of London City Airport, each also offer direct helicopter transfer into the heart of the city.

London Heathrow Airport

The busiest of the five airports is London Heathrow. Located less than twenty miles from central London, Heathrow is situated to the west of the city within the M25 motorway metropolitan boundary. The fastest route into London is via the Heathrow Express train service, taking just 15 minutes from terminals 1, 2 and 3 to Paddington station (located on the western side of Central London). If your flight arrives at either terminal 4 or 5 it’s a further four and six minutes travel time respectively, and you’ll need to transfer on to the main London-bound service at terminals 1, 2 and 3.

The service is excellent, offering comfort and convenience, but does not always suite everyone’s travel budget. The standard ‘Express’ single journey ticket costs £21.00 (€25.00 / $35.00), but business travellers can get better value when purchasing a return ticket, priced at £34.00 (€40.00 / $56.00). The ‘Business First’ ticket is more expensive, with singles costing £29.00 (€35.00 / $48.00) and returns £52.00 (€62.00 / $86.00), but it does afford business travellers considerably more leg room, the privacy of a ‘single seating’ layout, and a fold out table. The experience is akin to that of air travel. All passengers across both pricing structures enjoy access to electrical sockets, USB ports and free Wi-Fi. The overall quality of service and passenger experience generates a ‘wow’ factor, and if your budget can afford it, is certainly the smoothest, quickest and most convenient way to travel into London from Heathrow. Trains run regularly every fifteen minutes in both directions, particularly useful for last minute dashes to the airport.

There are two further rail options available to business travellers, both considerably less expensive, though this is reflected in the quality of service. That’s not to say either is not a good solution for business travellers, just that there is a noticeable difference in convenience and comfort.

With a service typically running every thirty minutes, and a journey duration – depending on the time of day – of between 23 and 27 minutes from terminals 1, 2 and 3, Heathrow Connect is more than adequate for business travellers who are not in a hurry. Like the rival Express service, Connect also arrives at Paddington station, but unlike its faster rival stops at up to five other stations before reaching its terminus. The ‘inconvenience’ of this less direct journey is compensated for by a considerably less expensive ticket price. Single journey’s cost £9.90 (€12.00 / $16.00) while a return is £19.80 (€24.00 / $32.00). There is no saving to be made from purchasing a return ticket. While the convenience and comfort of the traveller experience cannot match the Express, the Connect business travel solution is an acceptable compromise that suits a greater number of travel budgets.

The third – and least expensive – rail option is the London Underground ‘tube’ network. Despite the network’s name the majority of the journey from Heathrow is overground, until the business traveller nears Central London. Starting on the Piccadilly Line, the service connects all five Heathrow terminals and provides frequent trains into London, stopping at a considerable amount of outlying stations before arriving in the capital’s centre. This continually ‘interrupted’ journey – there are seventeen stops between Heathrow terminals 1, 2 and 3 and Paddington Tube station (the nearest equivalent tube terminus for a fair comparison) – and takes approximately fifty minutes journey time on average, considerably slower than its more direct rivals. This journey comparison also requires the inconvenience of a transfer between lines.

So why would the business traveller consider using the tube from Heathrow to Central London? Simple. The frequency of service, the array of destinations, and the cost. At a cash price of just £5.70 (€6.80 / $9.50) for a single journey in either direction during peak hours (06:30am to 09:30am), financially the Underground is an attractive option. At nearly half the price of the Heathrow Connect, and at just over a quarter of the price of the Heathrow Express, this service is comparably good value for money. Further value can be found if the business traveller purchases an ‘Oyster Card’, the ‘cashless’ electronic ticketing system beloved by so many Londoners. Available to purchase at Heathrow London Underground stations, this useful option allows you to get tickets cheaper than for cash – in this case a reduction to just £5.00 (€6.00 / $8.30). Off-peak travel with an Oyster Card offers even greater value, with Heathrow to Paddington in either direction costing just £3.00 (€3.60 / $5.00) per journey. The Oyster Card can also be used for unlimited travel on buses and trains throughout London, with a maximum daily spend capped at £17.00 (€20.00 / $28.00) peak time and just £8.90 (€10.60 / $15.00) off-peak for a six zone ticket (destinations across London are divided into six main zonal rings. Travelling from Heathrow to Central London crosses all six zones).

The Underground is primarily a city-wide mass transit system, rather than a ‘train’ service. As such the level of comfort and convenience is substantially less than that of both the Heathrow Express and Connect services, and at peak hours can be considerably uncomfortable. Having endured a recent flight, business travellers who choose this option run the risk of having to stand up the entire journey if travelling during peak hours. If the carriage is full to squeezing point (as is often the case at peak time) managing your luggage can be a challenge. It should also be noted that the tube network – which, as the world’s first urban mass-transit system is over 150 years old – is often prone to signal failures and delays. If the time between your arrival at Heathrow (don’t forget to factor in clearing immigration control, luggage collection and customs) and your business appointment is tight, particularly during peak hours, it is not unfair to say that you are taking a risk if you choose to use the Underground.

Compared to using rail, travelling by road into Central London is far less convenient. Like every major city around the world, traffic congestion plagues the streets of London. The M4 and A4 route from Heathrow into London is always busy and in parts can be slow moving at times. No matter what your method of road transport, the business traveller is vulnerable to the risk of delays and accidents.

Buses and coaches are plentiful. The dominant carrier is called National Express. They operate services between Heathrow Airport and London Victoria, the main coach terminus in London. From here travellers can travel to many other destinations around the UK. The coaches run from Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station, which is located between terminals 1, 2 and 3. Its well sign posted so easily found. If you’re arriving at terminals 4 or 5 you’ll need to first take the Heathrow Connect train to the central bus station. From Victoria Station you can get to any other part of London with ease, via the Underground, plentiful buses, local trains and licensed black cabs / minicab taxi services.

A single journey tickets start from £6.00 (€7.20 / $10.00), while returns cost £11.00 (€13.20 / $18.00). Although you can purchase your ticket at Heathrow, it is advisable to do so in advance, and online. This will ensure you have a guaranteed, reserved seat on your coach of choice, and also provide you with the opportunity to select a time of departure and/or return that best suits your needs. Typically this service runs three coaches per hour to and from London Victoria coach station. The journey time can vary, dependent on the route taken, the time of day and traffic conditions, but you can typically expect your journey to take between 40 and 90 minutes.

National Express also offers business travellers a Heathrow hotel transfer service to and from the airport, known as the Heathrow Hoppa. With hundreds of services each day running around the clock, it’s a clean, comfortable and affordable way to get about, costing £4.00 (€4.80 / $6.60) for single journey and £7.00 (€8.40/ $11.50) for a return journey. This service is particularly useful if your business appointment is located close to Heathrow and you have no need to travel into Central London.

An alternative to coach travel is taking a bus. This can be particularly useful if you arrive at Heathrow late at night. Depending on the day of the week, the N9 night bus runs approximately every 20 minutes to Trafalgar Square in Central London, from 11.30pm to 5am. The journey time is approximately 75 minutes, subject to traffic delays. It’s a very affordable service, and as part of the Transport for London infrastructure a single journey can be paid for with an Oyster Card (£1.40 (€1.70/ $2.30) or by cash (£2.40 (€2.90/ $4.00).

If your journey into London requires the freedom to choose to travel whenever you want, to wherever you want, or you simply require privacy, then private hire transport is readily available at Heathrow. If you’re just interested in getting from A to B and back again, without any other journeys in between, taking a licensed black cab or minicab taxi may suit your needs. Travelling in an iconic licensed black cab into Central London will take approximately 45-60 minutes, subject to traffic delays, and can typically cost between £50.00 (€60.00/ $83.00) and £80.00 (€96.00/ $132.00). If you do find yourself delayed in traffic the journey will cost more, since black cab meters also charge for waiting time when not moving. Black cabs are readily available at all hours, and good sign posting at Heathrow means they’re easy to find. At a squeeze up to five business travellers can be accommodated, though if you all have large luggage it will be a problem.

An alternative private hire to black cabs are licensed taxi services. This could be a better option for the business traveller, particularly if a number of people with luggage are travelling together. An array of vehicle types are available, ranging from standard 4/5 seater saloon and 6/7 passenger people carrier cars, up to 15 or 17 seater minibuses and even coach taxis. An added advantage is you can book your vehicle of choice in advance and at a fixed price. With so many different companies offering these services, prices – and quality of service – can vary, but typically for a single journey the business traveller can expect to pay a fixed, advance price of £40.00 (€48.00/ $66.00) for a saloon car; £50.00 (€60.00/ $83.00) for an estate car; £55.00 (€66.00/ $90.00) for an executive car; £55.00 (€66.00/ $90.00) for a people carrier; £65.00 (€78.00/ $108.00) for an 8 seater minibus; £80.00 (€96.00/ $132.00) for an executive people carrier; and £165.00 (€198.00/ $272.00) for a 16 seater minibus. Savings can be made on all tariffs if a return journey is booked in advance.

Travelling by black cab or licensed taxi affords the business traveller the freedom to travel at his or her own pace, and can take the hassle out of a journey. It can be a very relaxing way to commute from the airport into London, particularly after a long flight, and offers the business traveller an opportunity to unwind prior to their business appointment.

If you need to arrange senior executive or VIP transportation, chauffeur driven services are readily available (booked in advance) between Heathrow and London. The vehicle type and the length of time you require it for will dictate the price you’ll pay. Chauffeur driven services are readily available to find online. The same is true of helicopter charter services which can transfer the executive business traveller from Heathrow into Central London (Battersea Heliport) in approximately 15 minutes. Flightline Travel Management is experienced at providing our customers with both modes of transport, and we’re happy to take your enquiry.

© Copyright Flightline Travel Management Ltd. All rights reserved.

All prices correct at time of publication.

Backpacking in Thailand – How to Travel Super Cheaply

A great way to get amazing results from your backpacking or traveling-for-low-cost budget is by booking a ticket to Thailand and preparing to explore to your heart’s content – cheaply of course. Don’t think it can be done? Wait until you’ve read this article and you’ll be ready to book your ticket and go!

Now most budget travelers or backpackers would know this anyway – but in case you don’t, the simple fact is that when it comes to low cost travel, Thailand takes the cake, and allows you to eat it too. (By the way, Thailand’s neighbors are even cheaper to travel through than Thailand!) So let’s find out how to do it.

Firstly understand that you can basically catch trains, buses and vans (boats too, depending on where you’re headed) to almost anywhere in Thailand. Pretty much wherever there’s a road, there’s transport. You’ll also have a few choices about what style you want to travel in… You can go local style and pay the local fares, or you can go VIP and pay top dollar (for Thai standards).

As an example, a VIP 24 seater bus with air conditioning (think of it like a fridge on wheels) will cost you the top end of your traveling budget, but give you a very comfortable trip (albeit a cold one). Whereas you can also find a local bus or van doing a similar route and pay less than half the VIP price. You still get to where you’re going though!

So, to do Thailand on a really cheap budget is more than possible. The trick is to catch the local buses and vans, and do what the local Thai people do. I’ve seen folks sit in low-cost seats all night to ride 12 hour train trips, rather than fork out the extra for a bunk bed to sleep in. 

Actually you’d be amazed at how cheaply you can travel Thailand for. For under US$10 you can do a picturesque 5 hour journey to a whole new part of Thailand. OK, so the bus might be full, and the driver a maniac, but you still get to where you’re going, right? So, go book that ticket right away!

How to Make Your Business Travel Easier

“Wow, that sounds really cool. Have a great time!” That’s the kind of thing people who don’t travel for business say to those who do.

If you’ve ever traveled for business, you know that it’s a lot of work. Fun? Not so much. You’re often ‘on’ for many hours in a day, at meetings, and at meals with clients and colleagues. The travel itself, especially by air, can be exhausting. Plus, you don’t have the comforting presence of home and loved ones when you finally stop at the end of the day.

Still, it’s a great way to expand your business and take advantage of opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have if you just stayed home.

So how can you make travel for business work for you as much as you do for it? Here are some strategies I’ve used over the years that make the process easier:

1. Pack smart. It really does pay to keep it light. Leave your bunny slippers and sequined ‘I Love Paris’ sweatshirt at home. Pack as little as possible: plan ahead exactly what you will wear and take only that. Minimize bulky items, including extra shoes. Pack it all in a bag small enough to be carry-on. It not only saves you time, money, and blood pressure-raising conversations with airline staff if it’s lost, because you’re not checking a bag. It’s also less for you to keep track of. That frees up mental space that comes in handy especially when you’re tired or preoccupied with your upcoming meeting. One final note on packing: roll your clothes rather than folding them. It really cuts down on wrinkles, which means less work at your destination. Unless you find ironing relaxing, in which case wadding your clothes into tight balls works really well.

2. You can take it with you. Having something familiar and meaningful with you can be very grounding. It provides an instant visual that takes you to your happy place. Besides the usual photos of that embarrassing moment at the last family reunion, or your dog looking cute and guilty with a gnawed chair leg in his mouth, you can also carry a (small) piece of uniqueness with you to help ground you. I’ve carried small artwork with me that I then put on my hotel desk or night table. For a while, I carried a red metal moose with me (he’s the dude in the photo) when I was away a lot. He reminded me of home.

3. Shhhhhhhh. Carry noise-cancelling headphones on flights. While it’s soothing to know that the airplane’s engines are still operating, listening to the constant roar for hours can be surprisingly tiring. Reducing that noise, plus giving you the control of choosing what you listen to via your smart phone or tablet, cuts down on ongoing stress.

4. Track your numbers. Email yourself photos of any important documents that might be stolen or left behind. You can access them from anywhere in the world that lets you access your email, and speeds up the replacement process.

5. Feed your body and soul. Eat well. Move. Listen to uplifting stuff. That pretty much sums up my nourishment strategies on the road. Eating healthy food and not to excess can be a challenge, especially when meals are pre-chosen for you, e.g., at a meeting, or your client’s product is chili cheese dogs with all the trimmings (eat up!). Plan ahead for this by asking about healthy choices. (Organic chili anyone?) Next: move! Get up during your flight and walk up and down the aisle a few times. You do get some concerned looks if you do this hastily or linger near the cockpit door, but it’s invigorating and keeps your energy level up. Getting up early to walk or swim or work out is also so worth it. Finally, listening to music or a great talk or book that feeds you will support your Entrepreneur Energy.

6. Be your own VIP! Any small ways you can treat yourself really well on a business trip will help you not only feel better, but will build the confidence you need to perform well. How would you treat a visiting VIP? Apply this to yourself. It doesn’t have to be just the more obvious business class seats (frequent flyer points will get you these too) or airport lounge access (available via some credit cards if not through your frequent flyer miles). VIP treatment also means making thoughtful choices, customized to you. It can mean that you choose with care what and where you eat. You take some down time to watch Road Runner cartoons. You indulge in a great magazine or book that you don’t usually make time for. Look for small ways to delight yourself with thoughtful attention.

Business travel doesn’t have to be such hard work. By supporting yourself in these ways when you travel for business, you make the best use of your opportunities, money, and energy.

And hey, you might even have a great time!