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.
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