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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Colin JE says:

    O/T Apologies Rob but I think you should know that Google ads is posting misleading ads on your site which claim Martin Lewis supports Bitcoin investing. He doesn’t.
    I appreciate that advertising is necessary to fund the site but these ads are very dodgy.
    Is there some way you can opt out of these.
    Happy to send you a screenshot if you need it for proof.

    • If you mean “is there a setting on Google Ads which you tick to block fraudulent ads” then, oddly, there isn’t 🙂

      We are reliant on Google not accepting them. They can only be blocked with the underlying URL details and even that is pointless because you can be 100% sure that tomorrow the company behind it will be using a different URL.

      There is a setting to block bitcoin ads but, again, that requires the company placing the ad to tell Google it is for bitcoin.

      • Colin JE says:

        Thanks Rob, hopefully your readers are smart enough not be taken in by these and click on them (or maybe we should all click on them until the advertisers run out of pay-per-clicks cash!). I’m just appalled at how Google makes money out of them.

        • Ah… the old Martin Lewis ‘I made several hundred million by encouraging people to switch electricity companies’ conundrum…. And people wonder why their electricity bills have been inflated so much…

          • The ludicrous government price caps (in what’s meant to be a competitive market) is more like to drive up prices. Don’t see how ML is to blame!

        • It’s best not to fraudulently click on Google ads, even if the motives are decent (e.g. wasting scammers money). What you should do is click the ‘x’ in the corner of the ad (all Google ads should have it) and select ‘report this ad’.
          If Google spots too many fraudulent clicks they’re allowed to suspend your adwords account, no idea how long an appeal is but if many started following your advice it could leave HfP without their Google income until they prove that they’ve not been encouraging these clicks themselves.

          • Agree if available – although I can only see AdChoices on some of them which doesn’t seem to offer that option. Never had any dodgy ads show up though thankfully.

        • Alan – That makes no sense whatsoever… Firstly, it’s NOT a competitive market (well, not as competitive as it could be), which is precisely why these caps were put in place. Secondly, in a competitive market there’s no logical reason why prices would rise to meet a cap.

          What this legislation does is protect the lazy, ignorant, unfortunate and/or stupid people who were previously paying over the odds and subsidising the lowest prices.

          So what you’re fundamentally annoyed at is not being able to take advantage of those people any more.

          • Lol don’t hold back, eh?

            I’m afraid it makes perfect sense. What they’ve created is a weird quasi-competive system that makes switching unappealing as there’ll be less differential. Obviously those who are unable to switch need help and something had to be done to address that, but plenty of folks are just too lazy to do so (including either the current or recent energy minister, not exactly a great example).

            This article explains it in much more detail that could in a comment here –

  6. Sadly very nearly got stung by this before Christmas. Stayed at the new HIX T4 – as we exited the Hoppa was there but had plenty of time and headed up to use local buses. Found the biggest queue I’d seen (50+ people) and not a chance of getting on when the first bus came. Timetable infrequent and next one >20min away so decided to head to HEX instead. Got to Heathrow Central only to be told T5 was shut (Underground and HEX stations) due to fire alarm. Unfortunately they never told us that at T4 but that must have been why so many folk were heading for the bus. Eventually got a bus from Heathrow Central and just made it before conformance hit (although also couldn’t OLCI so had to get permission from the gate to check-in). Just bad luck but the driver did bypass lots of other people waiting to be picked up at their hotels along the route as he was already full!

  7. I’m wondering if i’m misreading this:

    “Plan A, the obvious answer, is to stay at a hotel in the airport… the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross”

    It’s my preferred hotel at LHR as I can jump on the Picadilly Line 1 or 2 stops – but it’s a couple of miles from T4, so not in the airport?

    • It is, technically, on airport property. The bridge from the tube to the hotel has a sign on it saying that it is an airport-maintained bridge.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        There’s a bridge?

        • Genghis says:

          Over Faggs Rd? But I’ve always just crossed at the lights.

        • Well, not to the hotel but the bridge that gets you over the road (if you leave the station to the left) which then leads to the hotel. Although the slightly quicker route is to leave the station to the right and then walk straight down the road – but this involves getting into the hotel via the backdoor near the Starbucks stand which can be locked.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      There is a new Garden Inn opening in T2 I thought it was meant to be this month but the website now says

      “Hilton Garden Inn London Heathrow Terminal 2 will be open soon. We’re accepting reservation for arrivals on or after 14 Aug 2019.”

      The Hatton Cross Hotel is my go to aswell.

  8. Good Park & Fly 8 days rate for my travel dates at Hilton T5 for £120 – how long is the ‘free’ Hoppa journey to T5, 30 mins a sensible assumption? Alternatively, there is a good £48 a night room deal at HGI with parking there at £12.50 per night, so at 5 nights is comparable rate overall – any feedback on one over the other and availability of spaces on a Sunday afternoon? Will be driving back to/from the NW via M40.

    • The Hoppa skies 10 mins if you get the one that goes straight to T5, one of the Hoppas goes via T4 Hilton and T4 as well( or it used to as I don’t think any trip last year I got was via T4)

  9. I quite like the Radisson – reasonably decent restaurants and quite a sweet gym / sauna / steam / spa area and a very short hop on local buses.

  10. Park Inn by Radisson on Bath Road is another hotel that usually works out relatively cheap compared to others. It’s tired and old, but has a decent breakfast and a health club with pool and sauna. The free buses from right outside are really convenient for T2, 3 and 5.

  11. Do you need an oyster card for the free trips or do you just get on ?

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