Using The Tube
July 1, 2015 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Flying into Heathrow from the US, arriving in the evening on a Saturday. My wife thinks we should take the tube from the airport to our hotel in Kensington (the hotel is a short walk from the West Kensington station). Help me figure out a couple of things.

First, is it even possible? Looking at the map online, it looks like we would need to change from one line to another at some point, but I don't see where that point would be.

Second, is it advisable? We live in the Boston area and are familiar with the T and are not terribly intimidated by using public transit, so no problem with using it in principle. However, we'll be tired, traveling with a young teen, and toting some luggage. Are the lines we would be on safe, and could we manage to get where we want to go without much hassle?

If you think this is NOT a good idea, how would you get from Heathrow to West Kensington? I think my wife is mainly thinking about the potential cost of taking a cab or reserving an airport car, but I would rather pay the money to get where I want to be in one piece.
posted by briank to Travel & Transportation around London, England (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think it would be perfectly safe, but it looks like buses are easier (and more scenic) if you want to take public transit.
posted by lukemeister at 4:07 PM on July 1, 2015

We flew in and did not take the tube. But going back out after ten days of riding all over, we decided to try it. It was SO easy (and cheap!) that next time we will do it with no hesitation. If you can, download the Citymapper app and you're all set for five pounds!
posted by raisingsand at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lukemeiseter's results are inaccurate because they didn't adjust the time, so the site is looking for travel options at 12:15AM, when the Tube doesn't run. A search with an arrival time of 7AM on a Monday shows that it's a quick and easy journey on the underground. As long as you're not toting giant pieces of luggage you won't have any problems. The first leg of the journey will be filled with other luggage-lugging passengers. It's a really nice way to zone out and see London waking up as you travel into town.
posted by MsMolly at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

OMG, so safe, so easy. Don't bother with a cab or car. You can change at Hammersmith.
posted by tiger tiger at 4:29 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

I would get the Heathrow Express surface train to Paddington station, then a taxi from Paddington to the hotel, but I have a weak back and I used to find manoeuvring a suitcase on the Tube to be very tiring. I wouldn't be worried about safety on the Tube, just about it feeling like a long slog if I was already tired.
posted by Azara at 4:37 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oops, sorry, MsMolly is right that I forgot to change the time ... but during your time in London, buses can be preferable to Tube, particularly when it's hot as it has been.
posted by lukemeister at 4:46 PM on July 1, 2015

The tube is perfectly safe. It's slow, though. When I fly BOS>LHR during the day, I stay at the Sofitel on Terminal 5 my first night. If you're on BA you can walk from immigration and customs to the hotel, get a decent sleep, then take the tube into London after you're refreshed. It's not cheap, but I figure it's a lot cheaper than business class.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I never even considered doing anything else, and I live on the West Coast of the US. I had zero issues with safety, usability, etc. Would definitely recommend, unless there's a faster and cheaper option.
posted by cnc at 4:50 PM on July 1, 2015

I just came back from the UK, and have done pretty much every method of getting to and from Heathrow over my past journeys (bus, tube, Heathrow Express, cab...). The Tube is very safe and easy. I would say that it absolutely depends on how much luggage you have and which station(s) you need to go through: hauling heavy luggage up and down stairs loses its charm with great rapidity (and if you arrive when tube traffic is heavy, there are other discomforts to deal with). I find the Heathrow Express + cab option preferable simply because it's relatively fast and I'm usually dead on my feet at arrival.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

The tube is the best way from Heathrow. The tube leaves from inside the terminal it's cheap and while it's not the fastest there are no delays. It's safe and reliable and between those stops won't be very busy. Hail a cab when you get out. Definitely the tube over everything else!
posted by stevedawg at 4:53 PM on July 1, 2015

Best answer: It's certainly possible and in my view advisable to take the Tube. I hate paying for unnecessary cabs and I would consider the cab (or Heathrow Express + cab) unnecessary if I were in your shoes. The Tube is only a little more difficult to navigate than the T, and if anything it feels safer to me; London's stations are better lit than Boston's. The key thing to remember about the Tube is that you will each need to insert your ticket both at the start and end of the journey. (So it's like the DC Metro in that way).

Take the Piccadilly Line to Hammersmith, then change to the District Line. At Hammersmith, find the platform for Eastbound District Line trains (it's the green line, though no-one calls it that). Then, if you're concerned, double-check that the train you're getting on is headed towards a station to the East of West Kensington (compare Boston where if you wanted to go from Park Street to Kendall you would be looking for an Alewife-bound train).

Buses are often better in London, but this isn't one of those occasions. You'd have to take two buses and it would take a significantly longer time, and on the whole the Tube is easier than the bus when you have luggage. And I'm in London today--the bus I took was just as hot as the Tube train I rode.
posted by EtTuHealy at 5:00 PM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

Take the tube but don't doze even if you're tired after your trip. Pickpockets prey on the sleepy (ask me how I know.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:02 PM on July 1, 2015

Yes, what EtTuHealy wrote, just get on the Piccadilly line from Heathrow, and change to the District line at Hammersmith. You'll have to go up a flight of steps at West Kensington, but I think the change at Hammersmith is just walking across the platform.

Once you start taking the tube back to West Kensington regularly, look out for the District line splitting off into 3 sub-lines, and be sure you get on the right train (look at the station on the front or on the signs to tell you which sub-line you're on), but from Hammersmith to West Kensington, as long as you're going east, all the trains will be the right train.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:05 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

At Hammersmith, find the platform for Eastbound District Line trains

You get off the Piccadilly Line train you've taken from Heathrow at Hammersmith and walk 10 feet across the platform to the District Line. No stairs, no effort, just cross the platform. West Ken is a 2 minute ride from Hammersmith.
posted by essexjan at 5:11 PM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick and helpful answers! We are going to make every effort to travel with as little luggage as we can, so I think it sounds quite doable even at the end of a long day.

I have some other questions to post before our trip, but for now I think I have what I was looking for.
posted by briank at 5:34 PM on July 1, 2015

Others have filled in the details; the only time I wouldn't want to take the Tube from Heathrow into Zone 1 or 2 is morning weekday rush hour, or if someone else is paying for the Heathrow Express. It's not a quick journey, but it's a good decompressor.
posted by holgate at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

If the hotel is within walking distance of West Kensington, then it's almost certainly also within walking distance of Baron's Court station, which is on the Piccadilly Line so wouldn't require a change from Heathrow. Those two stations are just a few minutes' walk apart; I used to live about midway between them.
posted by veedubya at 8:56 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

The only thing about the Tube is that last time I went to London (my first time on my own and as a grownup), I got lost and wound up at the Heathrow Express station instead, which was more expensive. I blame jet lag/lack of sleep (though I had a red-eye and was doing this in the morning after no sleep, as opposed to the evening). So maybe figure out how to get to the Tube before you leave, because the Express seems unnecessary.
posted by lunasol at 9:03 AM on July 2, 2015

Forgot to add: Baron's Court is a lot more pleasant to come out of than West Kensington.

West Kensington, despite the name, isn't actually in Kensington, and is as far from posh as you can get in London. When you come out of there, you'll be at a crossroad, where the A4 (which is the M4 a bit further west - the main road linking London to the west of England) crosses a busy trunk road. It's not pretty. In the film Trainspotting, the really rough house that Renton tries to sell after moving to London, the one that Sick Boy and Franco end up squatting in, that's across the road from West Kensington station. The film makers picked it for a reason.

Baron's Court, on the other hand is in quite a genteel setting. At the end of the road that it's situated on is the tennis club that's used as the warm up to Wimbledon. Despite being so close together, the two stations seem like they're world's apart.

I don't own shares, just wanted you to be prepared.
posted by veedubya at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider is the weather. If you're flying into London within the next couple of days, prepare for the Tube to be hellishly warm and uncomfortable. I'd prob still take the Tube, but if you have more disposable income than me, go for Heathrow Express plus taxi. If you are on a budget, buy some bottles of water before you take the Tube.

ETA. Google Oyster travel cards if you are staying in London for more than a day.
posted by kariebookish at 9:58 AM on July 2, 2015

Nthing the tube, with a friendly word of advice: Thanks to a combination of jet lag and c'mon, it's really funny, your young teen - and depending on your senses of humor also you and/or your wife - will feel the urge to giggle uncontrollably when you discover that the train you get on at Heathrow ends at Cockfosters. It's a reflex; do not fight it.
posted by pdb at 1:22 PM on July 2, 2015

I live in London. This is a very easy journey - probably easier than a taxi. There are several places you can change but I recommend Barons Court as there are no stairs between the two lines.
posted by intensitymultiply at 3:52 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

My husband and I recently came back from a trip to London, and I just couldn't stomach the thought of changing lines with luggage. So I guess my answer will depend on how much luggage you'll have. Anyway, we took an Uber to Paddington and then the Heathrow Express, but it turns out it would have been slightly cheaper just to take the Uber all the way to the airport.
posted by pyjammy at 6:23 PM on July 2, 2015

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