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

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As I have mentioned a few times on Head for Points, my preferred ‘near Heathrow’ hotel – if you don’t want to pay a premium for the hotels attached to the terminals – is the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross (reviewed here).  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.

Most people hate the Hotel Hoppa buses.  Unlike virtually all other major airports, at Heathrow hotel shuttle buses are banned.  Instead, Rotala, which recently bought the business from National Express, has a monopoly contract to operate the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ shuttle service to 25 different hotels around the airport.

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.

Hotel Hoppa

However, like any monopoly, National Express and Rotala have 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.  There is a 50p saving if you book in advance or use a kiosk at the airport.  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!

What can you do instead?

There are ways of avoiding this fee, which adds at least £18 to your overnight costs for a couple.

Plan A, the obvious answer, is to stay at a hotel in the airport.  That means the Sofitel in Terminal 5, the brand new Crowne Plaza in Terminal 4 (Crowne Plaza Terminal 4 review here), the brand new Holiday Inn Express in Terminal 4 (Holiday Inn Express Terminal 4 review here), the Premier Inn at Terminal 4, the Hilton in Terminal 4 (Hilton Terminal 4 review here) or the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross (Hilton Garden Inn Hatton Cross review here).

Plan B is NOT “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 May 2018 version and reflects the last set of changes to the bus network around the airport.  For some odd reason, the Heathrow Airport website links to an older version of this map dated August 2017.

All of the major Heathrow hotels are featured on that map.  The one exception is the DoubleTree by Hilton Heathrow T1 ,2, 3 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.  (The DoubleTree website uses the line “Just minutes away from Heathrow terminals 1, 2 and 3 and 24-hour public transport links” – this does NOT mean it is ‘minutes away’ from the airport, unless you have a helicopter.  It is just ‘minutes away’ from public transport which can get you to the airport, eventually!)

A standard bus ticket to the DoubleTree 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.

PS.  If you are looking to drive to Heathrow and then take a bus to the airport, it is worth noting that the Hilton Terminal 5 – which is not at Terminal 5! – has an NCP car park attached to it.  Anyone using this car park is given free Hotel Hoppa tickets to the airport.  We wrote about this here.

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Comments

  1. funkypigeon says:

    OT: I will be flying from Glasgow to Gatwick (S) and then Heathrow (T3) to Budapest in February. Have found that National Express run a service that will cost £27 for the both of us and take around 1hr 15mins.

    Is this the best / cheapest way to get between Gatwick and Heathrow?

    Many thanks!

    • Genghis says:

      Perhaps the easiest. But train to Clapham Junction, changing to train to Feltham and then a bus costs less.

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