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

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(EDIT:  I have changed this article during the day due to reader feedback, which included a very helpful link to a brand new bus map.  As this new map includes the location of the major hotels have removed the text on how to get to each property.  Thanks to everyone for their feedback.)

Last week I ran a review of the Hilton Garden Inn hotel at Hatton Cross, on the very edge of Heathrow.  My main selling point in recommending this hotel is that it sits next to Hatton Cross tube station so you can avoid the Heathrow Hoppa shuttle buses used by other off-airport hotels.

Following feedback in the comments to that article, I thought I would update this advice on how to use the free local bus services at Heathrow to avoid paying for the Hoppa.

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 29 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 cash to the driver.  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, the Hilton in Terminal 4, the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross or – from late May – the new Premier Inn at Terminal 4.

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.

This map (PDF file) is a schematic of the free bus routes around the airport.  This is the new April 2017 version and reflects recent changes to the bus network around the airport.

All of the major Heathrow hotels are featured on that map.  The one exception is the Doubletree which is quite a long way outside the airport –  you will need to pay for a bus ticket if you are heading here as it is outside the free travel zone.  A standard bus ticket at £1.50 is still 70% cheaper than a Heathrow Hoppa ticket, although remember that cash is not accepted on the London bus network so you would need an Oyster card or contactless credit or debit card.

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  1. Pierre says:

    555 not running between T4/Hatton Cross/T5 anymore, they;ve kept the line number but on a different route
    From T4 it’s bus 482 to Hatton cross then 285 or 423 to Bath road hotels

  2. If you stay / park at the Thistle, you can use the T5 pods. Much more fun than double decker bus…

    • Eastbourne Guy says:

      The thistle will charge £5 each way to access the pod gate between the pod park and the hotel
      I am not sure who benefits from the ridiculous charge for opening the gate?

      • You know you can walk out of the thistle main entrance, turn left, walk down the bath road, over the bridge, turn left into pod park and just take the POD for free.

        Its a 15 minute walk.

        I know there is another way to do this, but that’s the only one I know.

      • John says:

        no gate charge required – simply follow behind another more gullible punter

        (works every time)

  3. George says:

    One thing to point out for the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross is that there is no lift between the underground platform and the surface, so if you’ve got luggage it’s a bit of a pain. Especially from T4/T5 a free bus to Hatton Cross can be quicker due to the collective frequency of the buses.

  4. Julian says:

    Pleased to see Rob is after all a man quite clearly dedicated to avoiding the payment of ripoff fees to those bandits who see tired travellers and tourists as being easily exploited targets. Oddly I had previously rather got the impression that he and his wife were generally luxury at any price wallahs who would almost never dream of getting a public bus (or indeed having to push their own luggage at all given some of the Air Porter services that have been promoted on here) rather than travel with the hoy paloy just to save a few five pound notes.

    Perhaps his recent promotion of the truly gobsmackingly expensive Heathrow Express (in comparison to the £3.20 off peak fare payable to/from Central on the tube) may have misled me in that regard.

    And perhaps it will even turn out that Rob has always been a dedicated user of http://www.saynoto0870.com for all these years until my invention of the 03 number (suggested by us campaigners to Ofcom at a meeting more than ten years ago) finally rendered that site largely unnecessary (unless you are calling a UK business from overseas where unfortunately 03 numbers are still often wrongly charged at a premium rate by foreign telcos who are not controlled by Ofcom’s General Condition 17).

    • the real harry1 says:

      hoy paloy lol – just about saved the yawn

    • Sussex bantam says:

      Woo hoo. That last para is a 79 word sentence. I think that’s a new record even for Julian !

      • Heathrow Express is a bargain – the kids don’t pay at all now and you can get a cheapo advance ticket for the adults! Just a shame I rarely need to be near Paddington.

    • Lynx says:


      Was there supposed to be a point to your tedious codswhallop? If so, you might wish to reconsider your writing style.

      P.S. It’s hoi polloi. If you’re going to use Greek phrases do make the effort to spell them correctly…

      • Callum says:

        Their point was obvious – they thought Rob was a bit of a snob but are now having second thoughts.

        Quite an unnecessary comment granted, but it’s always amusing to see the responses from people with a deep emotional attachment to a man they’ve never met!

        • Julian is welcome to pop into the office for a coffee the next time he’s in the City, as indeed is any passing reader.

          There were 150 readers at the Christmas party last year and I did manage to say Hi to at least 80% of them.

  5. Typically I take the POD from T5 to thistle stop. Buzz at the gate , then walk to another hotel on the bath road.

    In the morning I walk down the bath road, over the bridge, into the pod park, and take it back for free.

  6. Nick says:

    A few more updates. I work in the area and know the buses inside out…

    75/76 don’t exist any more. There’s a 7 instead but it takes the inner perimeter road (useful for offices – same route as the N9 – but not for hotels).

    555 – as mentioned – doesn’t serve anywhere except T5 (to Ashford).

    Doubletree – use the 111 or 105, but you have to pay (£1.50, card or oyster only, no cash). Still far cheaper than the Hoppa and significantly more frequent too!

    Hilton T5 – can walk. Or follow these…
    HI T5 / HIX T5 (i.e. Langley) – take the 423 from T5 one stop (free), then cross over the road and take the 81 (£1.50 as above), which stops directly outside the HIs and walkable from the Hilton.

    There’s also a 441 bus between T5 and CTA which stops near the Sheraton and Arora hotels.

    • Cheers Nick

    • The Original Nick. says:

      Brilliant, Thanks Nick.

    • The Original Nick. says:

      Nick, when you say cross the road so you mean literally just cross the road to the bus stop opposite? Is the First Stop Heathrow close (stop K)?

      • The Original Nick. says:

        Think I have it, The Square (stop E).

        • Nick says:

          Yes that’s right, it’s pretty convenient if a bit of a faff. There’s another public bus (10) direct from T5 that goes near the Hilton but as it’s a Slough bus rather than a Heathrow one it costs a bit more (this one is cash only, confusingly!). Personally I’d do the 423/81 combo but YMMV.

          Incidentally, the White Horse pub is decent for a pint or meal if you have a wait/layover don’t have lounge access – same (one stop) on the 423 – or walkable from the Premier Inn/Thistle. It’s the T5 equivalent of the Pheasant the other side of the airport, albeit easier to get to.

        • Nick says:

          I did of course mean ‘London bus’ not Heathrow!

  7. Do the public busses allow luggage. I often carry 2 pieces. Can they conveniently be loaded onto the busses?


    • Gavin says:

      It’s a public bus used by a lot of airport workers who live in the area, and you would be responsible for carrying your own luggage on to the bus, and probably delaying the other passengers.

      I wouldn’t recommend having more than hand luggage, out of courtesy for other bus users.

  8. Jovan says:

    There is an excellent website ‘London Toolkit’ covering all the free buses for the hotels surrounding Heathrow.

    • That was in the original version but the comments yesterday made it clear it is out of date.

  9. Premier Inn Bath Road is not on the map. A decent place often with bargain rates. Outside the free area on the 105 and 111 routes.

  10. IslandDweller says:

    Luggage? It depends how big your two pieces are? I routinely use buses with luggage, but I never have more than one hold bag and a small rucksack. So long as a wheelchair user doesn’t board and need the space, you can use the wheelchair area (by the rear door) to store bags.

  11. N9 is another free option from Bath Wall to central bus station and T5 until about 7am.

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