BritDopers: connections between London airports?

Is there any way to travel between the various London-area airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted) that is cheaper and/or less complicated than transiting via central London? My UK travel bible, Let’s Go: Britain & Ireland, doesn’t list anything.

The end goal here: take advantage of some of your wonderful cheapo airlines which apparently allow a person to fly London-Paris or London-Zurich for insanely small amounts of money (apparently cheaper than the train/ferry combo I was thinking of). I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of this insane trip, but it will definitely involve London, Kent (specifically Deal, which is near both Canterbury and Dover), and Paris and/or Zurich, depending on a) whether I am able to catch up with the friend in Paris and if they are available when I am, and b) whether the friend in Zurich can make it to Paris the first weekend in December. Return dates and other logistics are somewhat flexible, but I was thinking England Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, and then Paris and/or Zurich, and then home Dec. 8-9th-ish.

Is this too much for one trip? Do France and/or Switzerland have other cheapo airlines besides the insane number that the UK apparently has, i.e. what’s the best and cheapest way to travel between Paris and Zurich? It looks to be about 7 hours or so by train, and not cheap either as I remember, but some mighty nice scenery. Or should I just stick to Zurich, since I’ve been to Paris before, and not go completely bonkers?

Try this site for bus transfers between Heathrow and Gatwick. They may also transfer between the other airports also - I didn’t look.

I did this once and based on that one experience would not do it again. I bought a cheap ticket to Ireland and didn’t realize until later that it required a transfer from Heathrow to Gatwick (or the other way around… can’t remember. In any case it was reversed for the return flight.) Just didn’t pay enough attention to my itinerary.

The bus transfer cost 14 pounds per person. This seemed a little steep to me, and it was just a tiresome journey to tack on to a tranatlantic flight. But the real inconvenience was to have enough money in pounds to pay the bus fare, while not needing pounds for any other part of the trip. In any other circumstance this would require a costly exchange. Luckily I knew this in advance (didn’t know it would be a whopping 14, though. There were two of us so we needed 28) had a friend who had some leftover poundage from a prior trip, and just gave it to me. I don’t think (but am not entirely sure) they would have taken a credit card for this. You go into a little stand by the bus stop and purchase the ticket before boarding the bus. I also don’t know how a cab fare would have compared. Both of these may be worth checking out.

Well, I’ll be spending a few days in England, so I’ll need to change money anyway. But it does seem weird that it’s just as expensive to take a bus from Heathrow to Gatwick as to fly from Gatwick to Paris (not ocunting taxes, but still!). Goofy.

I had to do the bus transfer thing between Heathrow and Gatwick in April with only 2 hours between landing and having to catch a transatlantic flight home. It was a total nightmare as they’d just had a bomb scare at Gatwick so security was ultra ultra tight and the bus journey takes about 45 minutes, so you can imagine my panic. Luckily I just made it and it is a LOT easier and quicker than going via Central London but it is tedious and expensive (but no more than paying for a tube ticket and for Gatwick express which is about 10 pounds anyway). If you have a group you might want to take a taxi, but I remember asking and it’s very expensive (about 50 pounds) but would probably be even quicker.

Sorry, to address some of your other points: as a Europhile with a few such trips under my belt, I personally would only pick one other city (ie, not both Paris and Zurich), just because when I do a city, I like to take my time and savor every second. With only 3 days per (I like to spend a week in a big city… that’s a looong time for some people) I feel like I’m missing a lot and the extra inter-city travel is tiring for me. But if you have the inclination, go for it. And as for the cheap flights out of London, I think it’s great and worth giving it a try. If you’re motivated enough the London bus transfer probably won’t phase you (I guess the money thing was the big thing for me).

Also, if you haven’t discovered Rick Steves yet, add him to your list of travel gurus (great travel books and advice – the ‘graffiti wall’ on his website is packed with great tips, advice and experiences … www.ricksteves.com)

And whatever you decide, please post your experiences! I’d love to read all about your trip.

I do. Don’t even think about it. Here’s one taxi company. £70.50 LHR -> LGW.

I also did the bus transfer thing, which was further complicated by the fact that I had my bicycle with me. What a headache dragging that thing through customs, with all the tight British security, out to the bus depot, then onto the bus, and finally checking it onto another plane.

When at last I arrived at the Cork airport in Ireland, there was no customs, passport control, or anything. I may as well have been flying into Des Moines. And a guy let me just throw the bike box in a corner of the baggage hanger for a week and a half, until my flight out.

Anyway, if you go without lots of baggage, knowing it’s going to be a royal pain, it may be worthwhile if there’s a real price difference.

Well, I’m going to have a maximum of one small suitcase, with wheels (and with any luck, backpack straps as well). I’m not worried about Customs; I’m just trying to figure out the cost/convenience balance between flying cheapo from London vs, ferry from Dover to Calais and then train from Calais to Paris. I’ll be at my friend’s house in Kent, which is a short hop to Dover, vs. a long train ride back to London, and then another train ride to whatever airport…this is getting complicated. If I go to Zurich, it’ll be worth it, but if Paris, it’s probably simpler to take the ferry/train combo. And I still haven’t reached the friends in Paris yet…

London airports tell you to allow three hours for a transfer between Gatwick and Heathrow. I did this last year, with three hours between flights, and I missed my flight. So I’d say give it a minimum of four.

And dqa, the reason there was nobody in Customs at Cork is that there are open borders between the UK and Ireland.

Nobody told that to the folks back in London, where the usual strict security regimen was in place on my return flight from Cork. This was 10 years ago, so things may have changed. Ireland was a real breath of fresh air compared to the paranoia of British security protocols at the time (which admittedly were justified what with the IRA still active). No doubt the things are even stricter now.

BTW, nobody’s mentioned the traffic going from one airport to the other. It may be 45 minutes in theory, but if the traffic on the motorway is backed up, anything goes.

You may want to have a look at Eurostar for getting from London to Paris, it looks like you can get a round trip for £60.00

Yeah, admittedly at London airports they do often ignore the “open borders” policy. They rarely do at other British airports, though, even now. I can’t remember if I’ve flown into London from Ireland since September 11th, but I’ve flown into Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester - multiple times each, easily totalling 2-3 dozen landings - and I think only once was there a security check. Oddly things were very strict the last time I took the Dublin-Holyhead ferry, though.

Sorry for the hijack (can you say “hijack” in airline threads?)

Heathrow > Gatwick

Heathrow > Stansted

Travelling time between them doubles at the obvious peak hours; non-peak Heathrow > Gatwick is an hour at most, non-peak Heathrow > Stansted 1 hour 20-30 mins.

The quickest way to get from Heathrow to Gatwick is via Amsterdam.

If you are a reasonably capable traveller, do what natives would do and get the tube (underground).

Example:

From Heathrow Terminals 1-2-3
Take Piccadilly Line (underground) to South Kensington (Cockfosters train)

Form South Kensington
Take District or Circle line (underground) to Victoria

From Victoria
Take South Central Trains (overground) towards
to Gatwick Airport

The tube part of the journey will cost around £4 as long as you are not travelling during morning peak. The train part will cost about £8.

Some useful links for London travel:

How to get from anywhere, to anywhere in London.
Book train tickets in advance, check fares
Check rail timetables around the uk.

Oh yeah… the problem with using flights to do really short trips like this is that you normally have to check in AT LEAST 45 minutes before your flight leaves. If you have to get a flight out of London and then back in it will add a couple of hours to your journey time.

Fez.

Eva Luna, I am a bit confused. England 29 Nov to 5 Dec then Zurich and/or Paris then home 9 Dec right? Does that mean the transit-between-airports problem only exists because you depart for the US via London again on the 5 Dec?

It would help advising your if I knew if you were departing for home from Heathrow (west of London) or Gatwick (south of London). Whilst there are some cheap internet only flights that use Gatwick, and a very few using Heathrow, (which would eliminate your transit problem) but you should look into flights out of Luton (west of north from London) as well as Stansted (east of north from London).

Without knowing your details I would suggest the best combo would be Heathrow and Luton – the latter has some good bus/coach links and it avoids the worst potential of the M25 motorway and the autumn fogs that always seem to surround Gatwick. Watch out for Ryanair BTW they are legendary for losing luggage!

Watch out for the fine print on the cheapo airlines - the quotes are all one-way only and excludes airport fees and taxes which can add up to GBP25 each way to the bill. Prices are dynamic too, changing with the time of day you fly and how far ahead you book. It is not always cheaper to book ahead, prices can come down if it looks underbooked near the flight time, but generally I find around three weeks ahead is a good time to do the deal. The time of year you are going helps you as no tourists and yet no skiers either.

Lastly I would agree with others who suggest Paris and Zurich is too much for the time you have. Zurich is in a great location with the lake, and the foothills will look great that time of year dusted with snow, so if you have been to Paris before I would recommend getting your Parisien friend to join you both in Zurich.

Enjoy yourself - and do try the “alpinemaccaroni”. Pasta with onion, potato, speck and apple sauce anyone?!? Sounds awful, tastes great!!

Wow, thanks, guys!

I’m sorry I haven’t been clearer; the problem is that I don’t know what the heck I’m doing yet, so I’m just trying to sort out my options. I haven’t checked the fares yet from Zurich-Chicago, although Chicago/London and then Paris/Chicago wasn’t significantly more expensive than Chicago-London-Chicago, I don’t know if that’s also true for Zurich. I should check that next. Otherwise, it might involve Chicago-London-Zurich-London-Chicago, which is where the airport transfer would come in.

It looks like there are some insanely great fares on BMI and Easyjet (and BMI will even get me frequent flyer miles on United!), but BMI only flies to Paris, not Zurich. (EasyJet is quoting 42.99 GBP, which is significantly cheaper than the train from Ashton to Paris! Weird.)

Now to nail down the logistics…it’s unfortunately not so simple for the French friend to meet me in Zurich, because, among other things, it involves not only him, but his wife and two small children. Plus where are they all going to stay? The Zurich friend, on the other hand, had been planning a visit to his parents in Paris for this weekend, but had to cancel it because of work, so it may be easier for us all to meet up in Paris. And hey, even if I’ve never been to Zurich, there are certainly worse fates than Paris!

OK that helps a bunch. If the logistics favour Paris and you are going to be in Deal, Kent, then it might well be better to try to get a deal on Eurostar boarding at either Ashton or Dover. It takes you straight into Gard de Nord without all the hassle of getting in from the airport. It also eliminates the risk of lost luggage which would ruin you holiday.

Eurostar pricing though I think encourages return journeys whereas BMI/Easyjet price each leg independently.

Oh, and check out that EasyGet price again, I bet it excludes fees and taxes. Those are available online if you look.