London by limo in 3-4 hours?
July 7, 2008 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I will have a ~6 hour layover in Heathrow. Can anyone recommend a good private sightseeing tour of London?

(More details: just me, Sunday arrival at 11am, departure 5pm, 2 weeks hence)

I'd love to hire a chauffeured car with a talkative driver and 5 minute curbside stops to get out and take some photos. Something like this, only shorter and with stops for junk food. I'd prize punctuality above all else, naturally.

Should I try and work out an amended tour package or just hire someone for 3-4 hours and try to map my own route? Does anyone have advice or recommendations?
posted by cowbellemoo to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure how feasible that plan is - Heathrow is quite a way from central London. You'll have to clear immigration, it'll take you quite a long time to get into central London and back to Heathrow at which point you'll have to allow a long time to clear security. So you'll have very little time to see much of anything.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2008

I agree with Koah; I don't think 6 hours is enough time to do what you're interested in doing. Sorry!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2008

Unfortunately thirding the above. Further, if you don't have an EU passport there's a good chance that immigration won't even let you in - with such a tight schedule they will most probably assume that you are not intending to catch your onward flight.
posted by different at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2008

I'll throw my voice on the consensus pile. Last time I tried to get into Heathrow it took me 2 hours to clear security.
posted by Ponderance at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2008

I'll be contrary and say that the time is quite doable. I've done a few hours in Central London on a six or seven hour layover, and spent three of it walking along the river or popping into my favorite shops before heading back. Allow an hour for customs and an additional (very reliable) hour each way into the City and back. That still leaves three of your original six, which is about right for a bit of a walkabout or driveabout.

Though that said, you can probably also leg it, since Heathrow is on the Tube and so are all the places you'll likely wish to take quick pictures of (Buckingham Palace, Parliament, the Tower Bridge, etc.) Most of classic-travel-photograph London is only 20-30 mins apart. It's much easier to do than, say, Manhattan.

Heathrow is on the Piccadilly tube line, which you can take directly to Knightsbridge (Harrod's), or further in, all the way to Oxford Street, Pic Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden in about 50mins. You can either walk south from those (20mins) to the river and Parliament and all sorts of loverly sights, north 10 mins to Oxford, or skip the artsy/shopping center in favor of a Circle or District train to Victoria Station (close enough to all things Royal for a nice stroll) or to Tower Hill.

Heck, with a little planning I can see dozens of ways to do this. If you must have a driver, a regular old black taxi will work. The drivers are all very well-educated in all things London, and I suspect any would be glad to take a four hour fare. Depending on the hour of the day, traffic might eat up a lot of your time, though, which is another argument for the Tube and your own legs.
posted by rokusan at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: thirding you're not going to make it. see, clearing immigration and all that jazz (heathrow means lots of walking if you're unlucky) means you're already two hours or so down. you can pretty much bank on having to sit at the gate 60-90 minutes before departure, so let's just say you're another two hours down. that leaves you enough time to make it on the picadilly line to earls court and back ... if you are lucky and the damn thing doesn't suffer 'minor delays' again (there are also less trains running on sundays). long story short: it's a massive gamble and you wouldn't see anything either way.

I would recommend buying a pass to one of the many airport lounges at heathrow and just relaxing a bit instead. this should not run you more than £20 (here a link to a site where you seem to be able to book access) and they include drinks and all that good stuff. consider browsing the forums on flyertalk to find the best lounge and take a look at chowhound to find a nice restaurant in the area. perhaps you can salvage the six hours that way.

I wished I could give you the answer you were hoping for but heathrow is in the middle of nowhere for tourists.
posted by krautland at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: :O

Okay! I give up. I'll tuck that dream away for a future trip.

(Thanks for steering me clear of trouble, at least!)
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:28 AM on July 7, 2008

The Heathrow Express, only takes about 15 minutes to get to Paddington Station.

If you take the Express, budget two hours for travel and delays. Account for an hour getting out of immigration, an hour checking back in, and an hour for miscellaneous delays and you've got about an hour to sight-see. If you really wanted to go through all the trouble, it's possible you could spend an hour in the Paddington Station/Hyde Park area. I would make some attempt to inquire with the UK Border Agency about the feasibility of your plan.

There is at least one website that claims it can be done, although they recommend a full 12 hour layover. On the other hand, their plan involves coming from Gatwick, which is a fair bit further from central London than Heathrow, even on the Gatwick Express.
posted by jedicus at 11:30 AM on July 7, 2008

Here's a similar question that assumes a longer layover, but might still be useful:
posted by rachelv at 11:42 AM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks rokusan and jedicus, but I'm not game for a hassle of any kind. And with transit time to London and some of the price quotes I've seen increasingly doesn't justify 1-2 hours of Londony bliss.

Extra-special points to krautland, though, for pointing me to the terminal 4 lounge, which looks satisficient to babysit me for a few hours and get me sloshed to boot. I already have my pass.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:40 PM on July 7, 2008

I would consider going to see Windsor and Eton instead. It's a bit closer (11 mi), and it's the opposite direction from London. You can decide whether you have time when you get through passport control and customs on the way in, and then take a cab out there. It will be expensive (I'm guessing £30-£40 each way, but could stand corrected), but probably not as expensive as your first idea.
posted by grouse at 12:45 PM on July 7, 2008

Oh, never mind then if you've already bought the pass. This is why I usually don't answer in threads that already have a best answer marked.
posted by grouse at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: Heh, don't feel bad, grouse. I did happen upon this page, but even that wants 6 hours door to door around an even larger layover (and $600-$700).
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:17 PM on July 7, 2008

Well, I was thinking that you would just get out and walk when you got to Windsor, and get another cab back, not pay some guy to wait around for a few hours.
posted by grouse at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: (Full Disclosure: I kinda also wanted the perk of bossing someone around.)
posted by cowbellemoo at 2:04 PM on July 7, 2008

I doubt you would be able to get into London central and have much time to spare, but if you time it right, you might be able to hit Windsor Castle. That's about 5 miles away from Heathrow, so you should be able to get a taxi there, gawk like a tourist for an hour or two and still get back in time. That is, of course, assuming you can get out of Heathrow in anything less than an hour; frankly, UK immigration seems to make it as difficult as possible; I've seen some really unpleasant queues for non-EU citizens if a number of flights have jsut arrived. If that doesn't work, just find a good lounge, grab a few drinks and watch the rain fall...
posted by baggers at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2008

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