How to avoid the Heathrow Hotel Hoppa fee by travelling on local buses for free

To be honest, I have always been happy with the idea of not letting the Heathrow Airport hotels run their own shuttle buses.  We all know from experience at other airports how chaotic arrival terminals can be with hotel and car hire shuttle buses all jostling for space.

At Heathrow, hotel shuttle buses are banned.  Instead, National Express has a monopoly contract to operate the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ shuttle service to 27 different hotels around the airport.

Like any monopoly, National Express has not been shy in exploiting it.  It currently costs a ludicrous £5 per person one-way or £9 return if you pay on the bus.  Children under 15 travel for free.

Hotel Hoppa

To add insult to financial injury, most Hoppa routes involve a circuitous drive around the area.  Most will visit 3-4 other properties before depositing you at yours.  If you are lucky and are the first to be dropped off, all that means is that you will face a longer trip in the morning!

There are ways of avoiding this fee.

The obvious way, of course, is to stay at a hotel in the airport.  That means the Sofitel in Terminal 5 or the Hilton in Terminal 4.  There is also a Hilton Garden Inn within walking distance of Hatton Cross underground station.

Plan B is NOT to try to take a taxi.  Whilst technically there is a way they can arrange to ‘push in’ to the queue on their return, you can imagine the response you will get when you ask a driver to give up a £75+ trip to Central London in return for a quick run to your hotel.  Heathrow is outside of the zone whereby black cabs cannot refuse a fare.

Instead, Plan B is to take a free standard London bus.

Within the airport perimeter, which includes all of the hotels on Bath Road, public transport is free.  Not a lot of people know this.  If you make your way to the Heathrow bus station you can hop on a standard red bus which will drop you near your hotel – albeit not outside the front door, which the Hoppa would do.

Unfortunately there is no easy way of working out which bus to take without doing some digging.

This map (PDF file) is a schematic of the free bus routes around the airport but is not very helpful.

I recommend using London Toolkit’s website instead.   You will find full details and, importantly, maps at their site.  To summarise, however:

From the Terminals 2/3 bus station:

Leonardo Hotel – bus 105, U3

Park Inn / Renaissance / Radisson / Marriott Heathrow / Sheraton Skyline / Holiday Inn Ariel / Ibis / Berkeley Suites – bus 105, 110, 140

Sheraton / Thistle / Premier Inn Terminal 5 – bus 75, 76

Heathrow Hotel – bus 75, 76, U3

Hilton Garden Inn – bus 285, 555 to Hatton Cross tube then walk

From the Terminal 4 bus drop off:

Park Inn / Renaissance / Radisson / Marriott Heathrow / Sheraton Skyline / Holiday Inn Ariel / Ibis / Berkeley Suites – bus 555

Hilton Garden Inn – bus 482, 490, 555, 724 from Hatton Cross underground

From the Terminal 5 bus drop off:

Park Inn / Renaissance / Radisson / Marriott Heathrow / Sheraton Skyline / Leonardo / Holiday Inn Ariel / Ibis / Heathrow Hotel / Thistle / Sheraton / Premier Inn Terminal 5 – bus 423

Hilton Garden Inn (from Hatton Cross underground), Hilton (from T4 bus stop) – bus 482, 490, 724

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  1. Nice one Raffles!

    Now I know how to get to the hotels around the airport!

  2. Just a small clarification based on personal experience… The free bus zone only covers the Bath Road as far as Harlington Corner. The Bath Road Premier Inn is one stop further down the road and you will need to pay the standard red bus fare from there (1.50). Still much cheaper than the hoppa and the bus stop is right outside!

    • Same for the doubletree on bath road. Still avoids the Hoppa rip off though, which has long been a bugbear of mine.

      • ThinkSquare says:

        It’s only a 5 minute walk from the Doubletree to the free zone

        • 20 minute walk to the stop outside HI Ariel for the free 423 bus that serves T5. 2 minute walk for buses that serve central bus station, which is about £1.50 plus free zone. Also, on another note, Hilton T5 can be walked to in 20 minutes from T5 arrivals, as can Holiday Inn T5.

          • Sorry Dave, have to disagree with your 20 mins for the 423 bus! Surely you mean 2 minutes?! Come out of the Ariel, and stop J for the 423 is across the junction to the right hand side, on the south side of Bath Road.

            • the_real_a says:

              He does. The stop is more or less opposite the hotel. I would not fancy walking to Hilton T5 however!

  3. Jovanna says:

    Caught the bus from behind the Hilton Garden Inn last Thursday when the Piccadilly line wasn’t running due to the strike (Bus Stop K). That was free. Download Citymapper. It’s invaluable for getting about in London.

  4. When staying at the Hilton Garden Inn we got the tube from London and a taxi next morning – £8 to T4 which was cheaper than the Hoppa for 2 people, not much more than the tube and saved wrestling baggage in the rain. We usually use the Hilton at T4 but it was £50 more than the Garden Inn and all we needed was a comfy bed. Would recommend.

    • +1 for Hilton Garden Inn. Very comfortable and much nicer than other HGI I have stayed at. Didnt try food as I had lounge access at the airport. Easy transfer to other terminals via tube and free Heathrow Express if required. I would definitely choose this over Doubletree due to convenience and even Hilton T5 due to price and convenience. Not tried Hilton T4 yet.

      • Genghis says:

        + another 1 for Garden Inn at Hatton Cross. Good for early morning departures.

        • Sandgrounder says:

          I found the walls to be a little thin at the Garden Inn. TBH the Travelodge in Hounslow was a better budget option. A minute from the tube with reasonably priced late night shops and takeaways inbetween. But give me the Sofitel any day :-)

  5. “If you are lucky and are the first to be dropped off, all that means is that you will face a longer trip in the morning” – I don’t quite understand this. If you are the first to be dropped off (in the evening), because your hotel is at the beginning of the route from the terminals, surely you would be the last to be picked up in the morning, meaning that your trip will again be a short one!

    • No, because drop off and pick up happen at the same time so for example if you stay in hotel A, the route goes Terminal – A – B – C – D – Terminal, you are the first drop off after the terminal but also the first pickup.

  6. I learned something the other day that not all buses in the free travel area are free. I jumped on the 90 bus at Hatton Road North and walked past the driver without paying (he was terminating at Hatton Cross so no need to say anything). He called me back and said I had to pay. I said I was in the free area to which he replied only the 285 is free and not the 90. I had a travel card anyway so just touched in. I did some research and it looks like the 90 isn’t free as it doesn’t stop at the airport. This is useful to know if you are catching a bus from Hatton Cross to one of the Bath Road hotels.

  7. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years IIRC.
    Combined with parking using Justpark if you need your car then it’s a bargain.

    One note though.
    We caught the 423 from the Premier Inn to T5 one year at a very early time and found the bus was crammed with workers going to the airport. We were the last ones the bus picked up as it was so full.

    • Richmond says:

      Another issue is frequency of free buses, like 423. On weekend evening it’s every 20 or 30 minutes, so if you miss it, saving on parking + transport may not be that good. I paid £5.50 for parking at Premier Inn but then another £5.00 for Hoppa bus, because next 423 was showing due in 19 minutes instead in next 5 as it should. I timed my arrival to car park according to bus schedule, but it didn’t help at all.

  8. We are landing at T4 and have a booking at the Radisson. I understand that the 555 bus plies this route. However, the London Toolkit notes that service on this line is infrequent. I’m wondering: would it be clever / possible / just-barely-feasible / no chance to make our way from T4 to the Central Bus Station and get one of the other lines (105, 111, 140) from there? TIA.

    • Henry: from T4 get on the Heathrow Connect train, which is free to Central, then head up to ground level to pick up the free bus to the Radisson.

    • I’ve used 555 bus a few times it’s fine. It’s not a standard red TFL bus though it’s run by a company called abellio Surrey. Check their website for times. Still free in the LHR zone.

  9. Lost for words says:

    I can’t believe people want to scrimp and save to this extent?! Just book meet and greet parking and be done with it.
    Must be a slow news day…

    • Sure if you’ve got a car! But if you don’t live near Heathrow and are flying into then overnighting for a flight the next day this makes perfect sense! Never mind cost, as these buses are direct they’re often quicker than the Hotel Hoppa too!

      • Yes, Lost for words, I agree.

      • AndyGWP says:

        Totally agree Alan, because of some awful connections from the regions (which sometimes take up a whole day), we used to regularly go down the night before from Manchester, stay in a nearby hotel then get the early flight out the next day.

        Changes to Avios means we usually drive most of the way down the night before now, but it’s ridiculous to assume everyone has a car anyway!

    • It is entirely possible to be flying in and out of different London airports and parking at one of them means you have to get back there from the other.

      I often drive down to LHR and use a meet & greet parking service. But there are times when this is not the best option. As Raffles says, the local buses are by far the most convenient way to get to & from the nearby hotels. Waiting around for the right Hoppa is an utter pain.

    • No way would I trust a meet and greet company with my car.

      Only a month ago, I saw a load of cars parked nose to tail in a layby near gatwick.

      I would like to know my car is safe and only I have the keys.

      Do you ever check to see if your insurance would cover you in an accident, or do you take their word for it. What happens if they deny any damage? Just not worth this risk.

    • Not everyone is driving to Heathrow you know.

  10. Don’t forget the other in-site hotel – Yotel. If all you need is a clean and comfortable bed and bathroom, and you’re travelling alone or as a couple, it’s a good option. You pay by the hour, so it can work out for be the cheapest and easiest option, especially if you arrive late and have an early flight to catch in the morning. Obviously, no hotel amenities though. Just a (very) small pod for the night.

  11. How about Hilton T5 – possibly a bit further out, as not mentioned above. We use it as it is great to park the car and get a decent room / lounge.

    Is the hoppa the only real choice here? We did get a private taxi before and the driver was awful – drove well above the speed limit. Awful journey.

    How do the local busses cope with luggage?

  12. What are these ‘buses’ we are talking about?

    Do they have flat beds? What is the quality of the food in the lounge and on-board champagne? And the IFE….?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist :-)

    • Indeed. I recall using one once when a flight didn’t use the air bridge, no amenities whatsoever, not even a welcome drink.

  13. the_real_a says:

    Its also worth noting the google maps shows all bus stops and buses that stop at them. Just pull up your hotel and take a look where the bus stops are located.

  14. Simon Fisher says:

    I too love the dichotomy of discussing saving a fiver to travel to catch your £££ business class flight, but still think this was a good article, for future reference. I am staying at the Travelodge, (£44) on Wednesday, so the Hoppa seems the best option to take the current Mrs Fisher and I to our flight. I could I suppose splash out and use Station Cars Langley who offer a transfer for £12.

    As someone who has only traveled business class once and always travels on the tightest of budgets, these fivers all add up.

    • If it’s the Travelodge T5, the Hoppa is best. If it’s Heathrow Central Travelodge, get the public buses and pay the extra £1.50.

    • Genghis says:

      It’s the principle of paying £5 for a bus to take me a mile or so that I hate. Mile for mile one’s J flight is prob cheaper

  15. Its not so much about saving a fiver but not being ripped off by the Hoppa Bus which often is slower and is often seen as the only option when asking people at the airport or hotel. Some hotels do tell you about the bus service which is how I found out about the free service

    • And some actively “don’t know” anything about the local buses. I checked the details before leaving home, but then checked with the concierge at the Sheraton. He said the only buses that went to the airport were the Hoppas and would not budge on anything to do with the local buses that passed along the road outside. He did offer to arrange a cab for me, when I said I wasn’t interested in the Hoppa.

    • +1

  16. Alex Evans says:

    Thanks for this Raffles, great info, will help a lot of people including me!