How to get to Brighton from Gatwick Airport: All Options Explored


If you’re thinking of visiting Brighton from overseas, there’s a good chance that your plane will be landing at Gatwick Airport. Don’t worry, this is a brilliant place to be when it comes to getting to Brighton and it can take as little as 30 minutes from leaving the airport to being at your destination!

The best way to get to Brighton from Gatwick Airport is order of convenience, Lift from friends, Taxi, Train, car hire, cho

How to get to Brighton from Gatwick airport: all options explored? We’ll show you how you can get a friend or family member to pick you up cheaply avoiding parking fees, how to get a chauffeur driven experience, the cost of a taxi or hiring a car, how to hitchhike, how to lift-share, how to take a train, how to catch a coach or a bus, how to cycle and even how to walk!



Friend/Family Collection

Many people who fly into Gatwick to head to Brighton are going to have a friend or a family member come and pick them up. However, Gatwick is a busy airport (even if it’s not as busy as Heathrow) and there are some restrictions on how collecting someone from the airport works.

The first thing to be aware of is that you can’t just saunter out of the terminal and into a waiting car driven by your chum or family member.

That’s because you’re not allowed to wait in these areas in a car. You can unload goods or passengers but if you wait around then you’re going to find you get into a bit of trouble. Both the police and the airport staff are likely to come and ask you to move on and failing to do so could end in your arrest.

This means that if they want to pick you up at Gatwick Airport, they’re going to need to get some parking. When you land in Gatwick, this is going to mean that you need a local SIM card (you can buy one in the airport) or a SIM that is already OK to make and receive calls from in the UK. This way you and your ride should be easily able to coordinate when you arrive.

Now, let’s take a look at how you can get the best deal when you arrive at London Gatwick for both you and your ride:

Get Them To Check The Arrival Time Of Your Flight

We’d love it if every flight was on time. We’d also suspect we were in a movie with a really bad ending because the world we live in doesn’t work like that. Flights get delayed. It happens a lot and there’s no way of predicting when it will happen to you.

Parking at London Gatwick is not free. (Well, actually it can be free, you just need to follow our guide below on this.) So, you don’t want to wait any longer than you need to for someone because it costs money to wait.

Your ride can use this link to check the Gatwick Airport Flight Arrivals board online before they come to the airport for you. That should reduce the need to hang around substantially.

How To Get Free Parking At Gatwick Airport

You don’t have to pay for parking at Gatwick Airport if you don’t want to. Well, you don’t have to pay for 2 hours which ought to be long enough for somebody to dive in, pick up a friend/family member at the airport and get out again.

The only snag is that this free parking is only offered in the long stay car park. That means taking a bus between the car park and the terminal (or vice-versa) though this bus is free to use.

Assuming that you’ve checked the flight times, this ought to be more than enough time as long as you arrive in the car park at roughly the same time as the flight is due to land (it takes time to pass through immigration and baggage claim, so there’s absolutely no need to be early).

Short Stay Car Parking At Gatwick Airport: Sometimes Works Out Cheaper

If you want to be closer to the terminal or you need more than 2 hours (but aren’t planning on staying for all day) then it can be cheaper or more convenient to use the short-term parking facility.

You can walk from the terminal building to short-term parking and it works out less expensive than parking in long stay for a whole day as long as you stay for 5 hours or less (after which it becomes more expensive).

Was £3.49 – Now Only £1.79

How To Save Money On Parking At Gatwick

The easiest way to save money on parking at Gatwick is to book a parking space online in advance using the official airport parking website.

Chauffeur Car

Not everyone’s family and friends can meet them at the airport and if that’s the case for you, we’d say that the best way to get from Gatwick to Brighton is probably a chauffeured car service.

We know, that seems suspiciously the same as a “taxi” but there are some subtle variances between the two types of service, and they can really make life easier when you’re tired and just want to get from the airport to Brighton.

The Convenience Of Doing Things Online

We think that the biggest plus point of this style of service is that you can book it and pay for it before you even leave for Gatwick. You get online with your card (or possibly PayPal) and arrange the service and then boom! You’re certain that you’ve got someone waiting to pick you up when you land in London.

This also means you don’t have to go hunting for a SIM card when you arrive in order to book another service and you don’t have to wait in line or waving your arm around for a taxi service.

You should always keep the receipt for this kind of service though (don’t print it out – just take a copy on your phone, save some trees!) as they can be sticklers for paperwork before they take you home.

The Official Meet & Greet

These services will normally send a driver to wait for you in the airport as you leave the baggage claim area. They’ll be holding up one of those signs with your name on it – this can make arriving in London, feel like you came with an international megastar. It’s also easy to find the parking space with the car in when you have the driver waiting to meet you.

Guaranteed Car Quality

These services also don’t use shabby, beaten up, stinky cars that have seen better days. Sure, it’s only a short drive from Gatwick to Brighton but who wants it to be an unpleasant experience? Nobody, right?

The Minor Downside

There is, of course, a small downside to using a chauffeur service (because nothing’s perfect in life) and that is – it costs a bit more than using a taxi service. It’s worth the slight premium, in our opinion, to have someone waiting to meet you and for the better overall customer experience.

You can expect to pay roughly £40 from Gatwick to Brighton.

It’s usually best to shop around for the best deals just before you fly but we’ve got some service recommendations to get you started here:

Taxi

You shouldn’t see any black cabs at Gatwick airport which means that you’re going to be much less tempted to get in one.

If you do see one, we’d recommend you avoid it anyway. The trouble is that metered taxis in the UK are very expensive and occasionally, they’ve been known to “take the scenic route” when ferrying a new arrival to their destination. This can mean that an already expensive ride becomes an astronomically expensive one.

The Gatwick Airport Taxi Service is a great little company, see the chart for the cost of a taxi from Gatwick Airport to Brighton seafront (Hilton hotel)

Car typepassengerssuitcasesPrice
Saloon up to 3up to 3 at 20kg max£58
Estate up to 4up to 4 at 20kg max £66
People Carrierup to 5 up to 5 at 20kg max £78
Executive Car up to 3 up to 3 at 20kg max £78
Executive People Carrier up to 5 up to 5 at 20kg max £109
8 Seater Minibus up to 8 up to 8 at 20kg max £93
16 Seater Minibus up to 12 up to 12 at 20kg max £167

Instead, we’d recommend that you use Uber or another ride hailing application on your smartphone to get a taxi from Gatwick to Brighton. Outside of the busiest periods, this is going to be nearly as quick as hailing a taxi and you will know exactly what the fare is when you get into the taxi.

You have no concerns about safety, Uber drivers in the UK are generally among the safest and most reliable anywhere in the world.

One thing you want to avoid at all costs, however, is the nice man who approaches you in the airport and offers to save you money on a taxi by taking his car. While you may (or may not) get a good deal on the fare, the truth is that without a license to carry a fare paying passenger – the insurance on the vehicle is invalid. If you get into an accident, it won’t pay for the damage to you or your luggage.

We’d estimate the cost of an Uber from Gatwick to Brighton at £20-25.

Lift Sharing

We can’t promise that you will be able to find a lift share from Gatwick to Brighton, but it can’t hurt to try, can it? There is a useful online platform called Liftshare that can help you look.

Lift sharing is a much cheaper way to get from A to B than using an Uber or a taxi, you chip in towards fuel costs and you get to chill with a local before you even get to Brighton.

However, you should be aware that a lift share is an act of kindness and while someone may be happy to take you from Gatwick, they’re not likely to wait for you if your flight is massively delayed.

Rental Car

It’s fair to say that renting a car can be a good option for getting between Gatwick and Brighton. You must have a license to drive a car which is recognized in the UK (check before you fly) if you want to rent a car. You might also want to consider the following:

  • It’s very expensive if you are under 25. You can rent a car from the age of 17 onward but in reality, there are huge surcharges levied against younger drivers. It’s just not practical until you reach the age of 25.
  • It may be impossible if you are over 70 (or 80). There is no upper age limit for driving in the UK, but the rental companies tend to impose their own. Check first before you agree to hire a car.
  • You will be driving on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re used to being on the right-hand side of the road, this can take some getting used to. Don’t forget though as it could be fatal.
  • If you want an automatic, you will pay more for it. The UK’s drivers are used to manual transmission and as such that’s the standard option on a car rental. If you are used to driving an automatic, it might be worth paying the extra to keep stress to a minimum when arriving in the UK.
  • Make sure you know what fuel it takes. The wrong fuel means a dead engine and a very large bill from the rental company. You want to make sure you check before you drive away.
  • The UK loves roundabouts. These can be absolutely terrifying if you’re not used to them, the good news is that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get used to them while you drive in the UK.
  • The speed limits on motorways can change. The standard speed limit on a motorway is 70 mph but this can vary, and you should keep an eye out for, very visible, speed limit changes.
  • The roads can be really narrow. If you’re from North America or some parts of Asia, this can take a bit of getting used to.
  • The insurance is expensive. In fact, insurance on a rental car can cost more than renting the car – so ask for a quote including the cost of insurance.
  • You cannot turn left on a red light. The UK is designed to give pedestrians a fair chance to cross the road, turn left at a red light and you are committing a traffic offence.
  • You can’t use your phone and drive. It’s against the law to use a phone in the car as a driver – even if the car is stationary.
  • It costs extra to drive through London on a weekday. London operates a “congestion charge” and if you choose to drive through central London that comes to £11.50 on a weekday!

The good news is that the UK’s roads are among the safest places to drive on the planet and if you want to hire a car, we’d recommend that you shop around for a quote, you can try any (or all) of these places to get you started.

The below chart is based on an aged 30+, 24-hour hire, 5 doors, seating 4 people.

Hire CompanyCarDoorsPrice per Day
HertzSmall hatch5£57.66
Avis
Minimum hire is 2 days
Small5£69.11
EnterpriseClass A5£68.01
Budget carGroup B5£47.18
EurocarEconomy5£54.36
ThriftyCompact5£65.52

It’s impossible for us to tell you how much this is likely to cost because there are a huge number of variables (including insurance risk) that go into the overall charge. So, it’s best to get quotes – and always get more than one because the charges can vary greatly between different rental providers too.

You may be able to arrange to leave your vehicle in Brighton too (at least with some of the bigger rental providers) if you don’t wish to drive it back to Gatwick. This service may be free or it may be provided as a chargeable extra.

Hitchhiking

We’re not advocating hitchhiking here. We think that overall the benefits of hitchhiking are still outweighed by the risks involved but you could hitchhike from Gatwick to Brighton and we’d think it would be one of the easier hitchhiking journeys you could make in the South of England given that the two are not far apart (less than 30 miles as the crow flies).

It’s not illegal to try and hitchhike in the United Kingdom (though it’s completely illegal to hitchhike on the motorway by dint of the fact that it’s completely illegal to be a pedestrian on the motorway – so make sure nobody intends to leave you on a motorway before you agree to a ride).

It can be hard to find hitchhiking friendly vehicles in the South of England though, according to Hitchwiki (a site that explains the pros and cons of hitching just about everywhere). While we don’t know that it’s easier to find a lift in the North, we do know that hitchhiking is fairly unusual in Southern Britain.

We think the most likely hazard you’re going to encounter if you decide to hitchhike is to end up standing in the rain for long periods of time with your thumb out. (Though we’re told it’s best to bring aboard with Brighton written on it – this is the way hitchhiking works in 2020, apparently).

There are no real risks of coming to a sticky end hitchhiking other than in a car crash as the UK has so many CCTV cameras that even the craziest person is not going to abduct or abuse someone they meet out on the road.

Train

Possibly the easiest way to get from Gatwick Airport to Brighton is simply to take a train. Sure, it won’t deliver you to your doorstep in Brighton, but you can easily take a taxi from Brighton station when you arrive.

There are 189 trains a day which go from Gatwick to Brighton and that means you’re rarely going to have to wait more than 10-15 minutes to get on one.

Better still, it’s a direct service which means you don’t need to get off the train and change at any other station (something that can be a real pain when you’ve got lots of bags with you).

It’s not quite as fast as driving, mind you, but at roughly 30 minutes (sometimes 25 if you’re really lucky) the train takes some beating as a method of getting from the airport to Brighton as fast as possible.

Tickets start at around £10 which is very reasonable for any kind of service running out of London and you might need to pay a bit more if you want the (very temporary given the length of the journey) luxury of first class.

You can book your train ticket from Gatwick Airport to Brighton online at the Trainline.com.

Please note: You must have a valid ticket before you get on the train. Wherever you are in the UK, this is a legal requirement – the only time you can get away without having bought a ticket is if the ticket machines are broken and there is no counter to buy a ticket from as well.

Failure to produce a ticket when asked to do so by a member of train staff (and they will ask) means that you will be made to pay a fine AND to pay the full maximum price of a ticket for your journey (and this can be a lot more money than you might have paid for a ticket otherwise).

Coach

If you’re looking to save money on the train fare, we’re pleased to tell you that it’s completely possible to do so. The simplest means of doing so is to take a coach provided by the National Express Coach service.

The coaches that they use are normally quite nice and won’t be anything like as bad as a long-haul bus service in the United States, for example. However, they certainly don’t measure up to some of the VIP bus services that run throughout Asia now, either.

The good news is that you can spend as little as £10.40 a ticket (plus a £1 booking fee which feels rather more substantial when weighed against £4 than it does against longer journeys) to go from Gatwick to Brighton as of December 2019.

Fares on National Express routes tend to be very stable, so we wouldn’t expect that to go up dramatically at any point in the near future. You can always check on their website if you’re worried about the costs.

The service runs directly from Gatwick Airport to Brighton’s central bus station. As with all coach services, they don’t run “door to door”, so you will need to get a taxi or someone to pick you up when you arrive in Brighton, but this will be cheap and easy.

You may take up to 2 x 20Kg bags on the coach and another item of hand luggage. If you want to bring more bags, you can, but you have to pay for them. (This can work out more than the cost of your own ticket too on this service).

It takes about 1 hour on the coach to get from the airport to Brighton.

Bus

Believe it or not, you can get an even cheaper service than National Express through EasyBus but be warned – just like Easy Jet the airline, this is done by cutting out all extra services – so if you want to take luggage on the bus, it’s going to cost more.

But if you’re travelling light, then we think it might be physically impossible to beat their £1 fares from the airport to the city! That’s incredible value.

Cycling

We acknowledged in our Heathrow to Brighton guide that you could cycle that distance in just under 6 hours, though we think it might not be that practical. But cycling from Gatwick to Brighton is a much easier proposition and assuming you have no luggage (or at least no more than a backpack) and a bike – you could do this trip in just under 3 hours on National Cycle Route 20!

Walking

We don’t think it would be much fun, but you could, theoretically, walk from Gatwick to Brighton in one, very tiring, day. For most people, this won’t be a serious option, but we did say we’d look at all options when we began and that means we should at least nod towards the idea of walking it.

Google says your easiest walking route is just 27.2 miles (.1 miles longer than the shortest route) and you ought to be able to dash it off in just 8 hours and 59 minutes. That is assuming that you’re superhuman and don’t need to stop for calls of nature, anything to eat or drink or just because you’re exhausted and want a rest.

Conclusion

It’s very easy to get to Brighton from Gatwick Airport, it’s the closest commercial passenger airport to Brighton and there are a ton of simple and cost-effective methods of moving between the two places. We think the train’s the best bet at Gatwick because it’s so convenient and reasonably priced but we can see why you might want to take a taxi or a coach too. Cycling sounds like a lot of fun as well.

Carlo

Local Tour guide of Brighton and blogger

Recent Posts