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. There is also a Travelodge and also the Moxy which is virtually opposite the Doubletree, and therefore outside the free travel zone.

  2. Don’t forget if you book the NCP at the Hilton T5 they include Hoppa tickets which can be picked up at hotel reception, no stay needed. I appear to have acquired a few spares after accidentally putting down that there were 4 of us travelling last time I used it.

  3. Tim Short says:

    Dear HFP,
    No objections to the content of the article or any if the points made in it but please note that National Express do not own or operate the Hotel Hoppa business any longer having sold it to Hallmark Connections in Hounslow in 2017, perhaps you would be kind enough to clarify this in your item in due course?

  4. A W COOK says:

    It’s not obvious but the Hotel Hoppa isn’t operated by National Express any longer. Rotala acquired it in 2017.

  5. John McManus says:

    Fully agree.
    If you want to leave your hotel very early for the airport it’s worth checking the bus schedule the night before as they may not be very frequent.
    The map suggests the Hilton 5 is close to T5 like Sofitel. It is not!

  6. “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” – to be honest I am not that concerned about what the taxi driver thinks……I just want to walk out of the terminal and get in a taxi with my luggage if I am staying in a Bath Rd hotel after an incoming flight

    • I believe this is the pertinent point for the taxi driver’s feelings…”Heathrow is outside of the zone whereby black cabs cannot refuse a fare.”

      Therefore he can tell you to go away (although he will probably be more blunt than that) as he can refuse to take you.

      • Approached the taxi “marshal” at T3 last week with trepidation, fully expecting to be told where to go, when asking for a short ride back to the CP Stockley Rd to pick up the car. Was allocated the first car (black cab) in the queue and the cheerful driver happily accepted the fare and helped with the baggage.Travelling with a disabled relative using a collapsible scooter, we couldn’t face another bus ride round the houses. Even as I gave the guy a generous tip I couldn’t help thinking there must be some way he was going to be allowed to cut back in to the front of the queue.
        Oh, and by the way, if you are travelling as a large group, don’t take a minibus to the UC class check in at T3 because they don’t fit under the awning and you will have to use the regular T3 check in. We requested a “large” taxi to accommodate the baggage and scooter and were sent a 20 seater crew bus for 3 people!

        • ankomonkey says:

          Was on a delayed flight last year into T5, eventually landing after the last public transport. I got to the front of the taxi queue only to be told to leave the line and wait at the side, presumably because my trip was short (to Hilton T5). Over 10 later I was offered a cab for ~£20. I asked if that was the normal metered rate for the couple-of-mile journey, only to be told by the ‘marshall’ to get into the taxi or walk. Rude, rip-off and a perfect example of why I avoid using taxis as much as I can.

        • @ankomonkey,
          TBH that’s what I was expecting, and I usually share your view on taxis. Mine did cost £20 inc. tip to the CP but would have been £15 for 3 on the Hotel Hoppa so felt it was worth it on this occasion with disabled relative.

        • the_real_a says:

          You guys still tip after being thoroughly screwed?!

      • TGLoyalty says:

        @ankomonkey did you get a receipt and claim from your airline?

        • ankomonkey says:

          No. The delay was under 2 hours. I didn’t think I could get anything for a delay this short.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Time doesn’t matter for duty of care. If the delay messes with your pre-arranged plans they should fork out for any reasonable costs. Ie taxi ilo of train as all trains have stopped.

  7. I wouldn’t dis the Premier Inn at T4. The free 482 and 490 buses go frequently to/from T5 and there are stops right outside the hotel. There is a covered walkway to T4 for train connections to T2/3. It is new, comfortable and nearly always available for little over £30.

  8. Also good to mention that you don’t need to tap-in when you get on the bus.

    • Alastair says:

      In fact, not only do you not NEED to – you should not do so otherwise you might get charged (on the bus). You DO need to if you are using the rail links between terminals (or you can pick up a free pass from a ticket machine, but this takes time) – remember to touch IN and OUT if you are doing this (on a bus you ONLY touch IN).

      Of course if you are outside the free travel zone (like at the Moxy, for example) then you do need to touch in. It’s complicated, but the service works very well.

    • Thanks for that Rosa, I was wondering how it worked. Presumably its the same if you are going from Heathrow to your hotel?

  9. Even though it is very close to T5, Holiday Inn T5 is also outside the free travel zone,
    counts as slough, so you’ll have to pay.
    Bus #10 one stop 5 mins.

    • The HI and HIX are both west of the airport and outside the zone, but you can get the 81 from Colnbrook village (one stop on the 423 or 7 eastbound). Same bus for the big Marriott at Langley. The 81 is a London bus so still only £1.50 even outside the city. The 10 and 7 buses are more expensive but faster and serve the same hotels.

  10. Jonathan says:

    There are a few hotels that are within walking distance of the official airport car parks, if you walk to the car park, you can then get the free car park shuttle service.

  11. I have never had to change terminals at Heathrow but, as a general point of interest, is there no free way of getting from, say, Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 or 5? How much does it cost on TFL rail or the Piccadilly line?

    • Both the tube and Hex are free. For the tube you tap in and out with Oyster or Contactless but you aren’t charged.

      For Hex you pick up a free transfer ticket from machines, though often there are staff handing them out at the barriers as well.

      Barring service disruptions, the Tube is slightly quicker unless you get straight onto a Hex.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      The trains between all terminals are free

    • Thanks both for the clarification.

      • Also the above refers to landside not airside. Airside: there are frequent direct buses between terminals.

  12. I am about to book the Hilton T5 car park for Easter but didn’t as was wondering which hotel to book.
    Ihg or Hilton, diamond/ambassador in both thanks to hfp , but travelling with our daughter have to book 2 rooms at T5 Hilton, it seems ihg have better offerings now. Flying into T3 on Etihad on the return, any suggestions the new Crowne Plaza at T4 sounds good.
    Using points today for the room/s

    • I would say the Hilton is a better hotel and you will have a free breakfast with Diamond. If you are leaving early then the HI is OK and walkable from the Hilton, drop your bags at the HI then park and walk. The Hoppa tickets are collected from Hilton reception and can be used at either hotel.

    • Hilton T5 does have rooms with rollaway beds possible and is a great hotel, though location not awesome.

      May be worth talking to hotel and sorting an arrangement to add bed to a room you can book..

      • Thanks Chris/Craig
        I do like the T5 Hilton and a previous comment about adding 4 passengers in the car park booking is one I should take note of….😄

    • Nate1309 says:

      Mr Todiwala’s Indian inside the T5 Hilton is my favourite way to start a holiday.

      • We ate there on our last stay and it may have had something to do with the fact we had returned from Dubai and it was 30+ and back in the uk,but the restaurant wasn’t very warm, the menu was not child appropriate, the service wasn’t in keeping with the price they were charging, and none of us liked the food.
        It was more personal preference as the type of Indian food was not to our taste but it is a very nice setting. My daughter likes a Korma and my son a tikka masala, neither were an option on the menu.

  13. J Monty says:

    When I had to stay at the Moxy because of a missed flight, the BA staff told me of the free buses for hotels on the Bath Road. I tried to confirm this at the Information desk: the girl there knew nothing about this and told me I had to get the Hoppa! Thanks Rob.

  14. I often use the Premier inn on bath road as rooms can usually be had for sub £40. Park at Purple parking right next door and you can use their free shuttle to the airport the next day later

  15. Hilton T5 is also outside the free bus/underground zone

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It is and the bus normal bus doesn’t take Oyster, infact the bus’ card machine was broken and had no change for a £20. So ensure you take small change.

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