Another interesting post from Albert.
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: The small but very functional LCY is the closest airport to central London. Its quick immigration lines and Docklands Light Rail (DLR) connector into the city make LCY my favorite metro airport when visiting London. It should also be yours!
Today’s TTP is why using LCY as your main London airport is the smart choice.
London is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. London Heathrow (LHR) is its largest and most well-connect airport for global air traffic. Joining LHR is London Gatwick (LGW), London Luton (LTN), and London Stansted (STN). Each of these airports service international destination though most intercontinental traffic arrives at LHR and LGW.
So, if you want a direct flight from CONUS, LHR and LGW are your best choices. However, as readers have noticed by now, I rarely like a simple and direct line to a destination. This is where LCY stands far above its airport compatriots as the best and most convenient when visiting London.
First, for those of us stationed in Europe, LCY is connected to almost every major Western European hub city (e.g,. Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, etc.). Even though British Airways is the predominate carrier at LCY, Lufthansa, KLM, Swiss, and other Euro-carriers service LCY with direct, non-stop service. Even with a connection from CONUS to mainland Europe and connecting onward to LCY, landing at LCY vice LHR is much more convenient.
Given its smaller size, only regional jets service LCY, meaning each arriving aircraft has between 90 to 120 passengers. This is compared to LHR whose arriving wide-body aircrafts can have as many as 300+ passengers. When the rush to enter immigration happens post-arrival, LCY’s smaller loads guarantee you’ll be elbowing far fewer of your fellow passengers to cross the UK border. Shorter immigration lines at LCY has steadily been my experience.
Second, getting into London from LCY is incredibly simple thanks to the DLR. The DLR is an above-ground network of trains exclusive to the east end of London. At multiple locations, however, the DLR connects to the more popular London Underground, so likely you are one maybe two connections away from your hotel in Central London.
Yes, the London Underground connects directly to LHR, but it will take you 45 mins to get to Piccadilly Circus on the Underground vice 35 minutes from LCY with DLR and Underground connections. LHR is serviced by the Heathrow Express train, which is the quickest way to get from LHR to London but also the most expensive, $37. The DLR/Underground combo cost approx. $5. Even with on-peak and off-peak pricing and return ticket discounts, the DLR/Underground combo is almost certainly the more affordable ticket.
I would certainly recommend to anyone visiting London for the first time to stay in the city center. Almost all of the most famous tourist attractions are within the city center. However, as a secondary TTP, staying outside of Central London is truly the best way to save on hotel rates. My past four visits to London have all included not only arriving at LCY but staying in Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is a large financial center in east London which has two malls and lots of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and a movie theater—in addition to DLR and London Underground stops.
Canary Wharf, for me, offers the best balance on price and transit distance to Central London sites when visiting London. While a nice hotel in London can run upwards of $300/night, the Marriott at Canary Wharf can have rooms available for as low as $150/night. Definitely do your research and be flexible if you can.
In sum, visiting London should be at the top of your travel bucket list, and LCY can make your arrival cheaper and easier. Also, by focusing your hotel search in Canary Wharf, you can both save some money and be only 10 mins away from your airport.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler