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


Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the UK and while it’s not quite as convenient to get to Brighton from Heathrow as it is from Gatwick, it’s still very easy. That is as long as you’ve got this handy guide to rely on.

How to get to Brighton from Heathrow Airport: all options explored? Well, we look at how somebody can pick you up from the airport without spending a fortune, the cost of a chauffeur-driven approach, a taxi, hiring a car, hitchhiking, lift-sharing, taking a train, catching a coach or a bus and even cycling and walking. (Though we’re not very serious about walking).

Friend/Family Collection

Possibly the most popular way to get to Brighton from Heathrow Airport is to have a friend or family member collect you. However, it’s worth noting that because of Heathrow’s size and passenger throughput this can be more challenging than it is at most other airports in the world.

One thing that definitely won’t be happening at Heathrow is you won’t be walking out the door to find your friend or family member waiting in their car outside the terminal.

That’s because it is completely forbidden to wait in these areas, it’s OK to drop off or unload here but hanging around will get you into trouble. The police and the airport staff can and will ask you to move on if they catch you and if you don’t move on, you may be moved on forcibly.

That means they’re going to have to find a parking space at the airport for you to meet them in. So, we’d suggest that you either buy a SIM card in the airport or you ensure that you’ve got an internationally enabled SIM before you leave so that your friend or family member can let you know where they are.

Here are some hints on how to get the best deal when someone is collecting you from the airport.

Check The Arrival Time Of The Flight

Flights get delayed all the time. Sometimes, it’s a fault of the airline, sometimes, it’s the knock-on effect of a previous airline landing late or taking off late. Whatever, it doesn’t matter so much why it happens, but it does matter that it does happen.

Parking at Heathrow is not cheap (though it can be free – we’ll show you how in a minute) and that means you don’t want your relative or friend stuck in a car park, racking up fees waiting for you.

So, get them to check the Heathrow Live Flight Arrivals board online before they arrive (or before they set off if they’re coming from Brighton).

How To Get Free Parking At Heathrow Airport

If the person collecting you wants to keep costs to a minimum, it is entirely possible to get 2 hours of free parking at Heathrow. However, it means that they must park in the Heathrow Airport Long Stay Car Park and there are two things you both need to know about this:

  1. If they leave the long stay car park without paying, they may not return for a period of 24 hours. So, if they wait there for 2 hours and you don’t turn up, when they leave, they need to go and find alternative parking and if they elect to stay this will cost an incredible £27.30-£31.40 for a day’s parking!
  2. You cannot just walk out of the airport terminal buildings and into long stay car parking, you must take a shuttle transfer bus and while this bus journey is 10 minutes or less from Terminals 2, 3 and 4, the bus from Terminal 3 takes nearly 20 minutes! So, you need to build this time into the 2 hour wait time calculation. Our recommendation is that your friend/family member doesn’t arrive at long stay car parking until after your flight has landed, Heathrow is huge and it will take a while for you to clear immigration, collect your baggage and get to the car park.

To find that shuttle bus, just ask any member of staff at the terminal you have arrived in. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Actually, this is London Heathrow, they may not be happy, but they’ll definitely point you in the right direction.

Short Stay Car Parking At Heathrow A More Economic Option?

We’d recommend, in most cases, that you use the long stay car parking to wangle free parking and don’t contribute another penny to the airport’s retirement fund.

However, we recognize that for some people these long-stay car parks are not particularly convenient, particularly if you struggle to walk longer distances and that for some people, their flights will end up being delayed after their friend/family has arrived.

In these instances, you’re going to want to consider short stay car parking and the good news is that there is short stay parking available at each of the terminals 2,3, 4 & 5 that is much closer than the long stay parking to the terminals. This kind of parking is much more economically viable for the first few hours than long stay parking too.

But, there’s no free parking in short stay parking even if you only stay for 30 minutes, you’re looking at spending £3.80 on your parking and it goes up from there. It hits £27.60 (the same as long stay) by the 5th hour and if you spend 12-24 hours in the short stay car park it costs an incredible £59.50!

To get to the short stay car parking at each terminal you need to follow these directions:

Terminal 2 & Terminal 3

They’re side-by-side and that means you use the same exits from the motorway to find both terminals. If you’re coming in on the M4 take Junction 4 and if you’re using the M25 take Junction 15. You will then see signs that direct you to the terminals.

Terminal 4 & 5

These are not near the first two terminals and you’re going to need to use a different entrance to get there. You ditch the M25 at Junction 14, and the M4 at Junction 4B where it joins the M25 (again you leave at Junction 14 from the M25). You need to follow the signs to the individual terminals once you leave the motorway.

How To Save Money On Parking At Heathrow

You don’t have to go broke paying for parking at Heathrow. It is possible to book parking spaces in advance online without spending as much money as you would on the day. The company Airparks has a booking page for Heathrow. The only disadvantage of booking parking in advance is you may end up paying for more than you need or worse, not booking for long enough.

Chauffeur Car

If your friends and family aren’t able to meet you at the airport, then one of the best ways to get from London to Brighton is to use a chauffeur car service.

This may, at first glance, appear to be the same thing as a taxi service but it actually offers some subtle differences that can really help make the last leg of your journey much easier.

You Can Book And Pay Online Before You Leave

Convenience is often very important and there’s nothing quite like booking your transport from the comfort of home and then travelling with the peace of mind that somebody will be waiting for you at the other end of your flight.

Then there’s no rushing around to buy SIM cards to make calls and/or no flagging of taxis at the airport which may or may not take you on a direct route to your destination.

Though it is important to keep a copy of your receipt as some services can be quite picky when they collect you. A paper copy isn’t necessary though, you can keep one on your smartphone.

Meet & Greet

Most of the pre-booked services will have their driver meet you inside the airport and that makes it much easier to find where they are parked. Yes, you’ll also be one of those people who are met by someone holding up a card with your name on it. This can make you feel like a superstar which is always a nice perk.

Quality Of Car

You’ll also find that these services tend to be very fussy about the cars they use and you’re not likely to encounter a shabby interior which smells of cigarettes and dog, either. We know it’s only around an hour’s drive to Brighton, but you still don’t want to be inhaling something unpleasant or sat in someone’s chewing gum for an hour either.

The Disadvantage?

Well, it’s the cost of these services. It’s only going to work out slightly more expensive than a taxi but it is more expensive than a taxi all the same. You can expect a £10-£20 premium for most cars though if you want to be picked up in a stretch limo or a Rolls-Royce, it’s going to cost a lot more than that.

However, we found services that were willing to do this trip from about £70 upwards.

We’d recommend that you shop around for a service that meets your needs but if you’re looking for some places to get started you can try:

Black Lane Limousine Service

London Heathrow Airport Chauffeur Services

Kelly Executive

iChauffeur

Platinum Cars

Taxi

We know, you’ve arrived in England and you can’t wait to get into one of the famous black cabs and be on your way from Heathrow to Brighton.

Unfortunately, we can’t recommend taking a black cab from Heathrow to anywhere. Metered taxis are very expensive and if you get caught in traffic or the driver is a little “directionally-challenged” (to keep things polite) then your bill could end up being much higher than having rented a chauffeur online before you arrive.

Fortunately, you don’t need to get a black cab from outside of Heathrow. Your best bet, for the moment, is to use Uber or a similar app to hail a cab from the ether. Then you know that your fare is fixed for the journey.

Sure, it’s not a black cab but if you really want to ride in a black cab, go up to London for a day, hail one in the street and use it to take you to the end of the road. Long enough for a selfie, but not long enough to cost the earth.

Uber drivers in the UK are safe, reliable and efficient. You should expect to pay around £50-£70 for a taxi from Heathrow to Brighton.

One thing you definitely should not do, under any circumstances, is agree to get into an ordinary car if someone should approach you offering cheap taxi services. These cars are not insured and while you may save money (or you may not as it’s not unknown for the price to go up when you reach your destination), it could cost you a fortune if there’s an accident.

Lift Sharing

There are no guarantees that you can share a ride from Heathrow to Brighton (or vice versa for that matter) but there is a convenient platform online where you can find out called Liftshare.

The advantage of lift sharing is that you’re going to pay less than you would with an Uber or a taxi and you’re going to get to meet a local person and get some conversation too.

The disadvantage is that a ride sharer is not likely to wait around all day for you if your flight is delayed. They’ve got a schedule that you need to fit into.

Rental Car

If you are legal to drive in the UK, then you might also want to consider renting a car to drive yourself from Heathrow to Brighton. Things you should know before you decide to do this include:

If that list didn’t put you off, then some of the places you can try for car hire at Heathrow include:

Hire Company Car Doors Price per Day
Hertz Small hatch 5£58.50
Avis
Minimum hire is 2 days
Small 5£66.22
Enterprise Class A 5£61.12
Eurocar Economy 5£52.67
Thrifty Compact 5£74.52

We can’t give you an approximate cost because there’s so much variation between makes, models, individual renter’s risk profiles, etc. that a number wouldn’t serve any purpose. You’d be better off finding out for yourself but do shop around and get several quotes – you can see huge variations in total costs for rental cars in London.

It is possible to arrange, with most of the bigger car hire companies at least, the facility to drop the car off in Brighton if you don’t want to bring it back to Heathrow. There may (or may not) be a charge for this service too.

Hitchhiking

It’s not an option that we’d recommend but it is theoretically possible to hitchhike from Heathrow to Brighton. You should be aware that it is not illegal to hitchhike in the United Kingdom but it is illegal to hitchhike on a motorway, that means you must be certain that whoever picks you up is not intending to leave you at a junction.

Get stuck on the motorway on foot and not only is it unlikely that another driver will stop and pick you up – it’s very likely that someone will send a police officer to pick you up and take you to jail, instead.

According to Hitchwiki which is the definitive reference for all things hitchhiking online – it’s harder to find a ride in the South of England where Brighton and Heathrow are than in other parts of the country.

While it is true that hitchhiking can be dangerous because you’re travelling with a stranger, in reality, the UK is now one of the top surveillance societies in the world and anyone travelling by car for any distance will be on many different camera systems – that means you’re not likely to encounter any serial killers or the like when hitching in the UK.

What’s more likely is that you will spend long periods of time waiting for a ride in the pouring rain.

An essential tip for hitchers in the UK is to carry a sign that clearly says “Brighton” and be stood somewhere that a car can safely stop and is likely to be heading in the right direction.

Train

If you want to travel to Brighton by train from London Heathrow, then it’s a two-phase journey. You need to begin on the London Underground where you will take a tube (the British phrase for “subway train”) to London’s Victoria station.

After that, you need to pick up a connecting train to Brighton.

Now, there are other routes, theoretically, which you can take by switching tubes and stations at regular intervals on the journey but we have no idea why you would want to do this – they’re going to take longer and you’re not likely to get a better seat for this kind of effort, either.

Please be aware that when you travel by rail in the United Kingdom, you are required to have a valid ticket before you board the train (the only exception being when there is no ticket service of any kind at the station).

If you don’t have a ticket and are challenged on the train, you can be required to pay a fine AND the full price of a ticket (which can be a lot more than the ticket cost at a station) or risk prosecution.

The journey from Heathrow to Brighton takes approximately 2 hours though if you want to do a complex train swap series – it can take up to 2 and a half hours. The good news is that there are plenty of trains between London and Brighton running all day long.

The bad news is that these trains can be very busy and there’s no guarantee that you will get a seat (though you can improve your chances of a seat by paying for a – much more expensive – first-class ticket).

The cost of a ticket (one way) for both rail and tube is going to be around £30 at the cheapest and possibly up to £60 at peak periods. If you’d like to book your ticket in advance, you can always do so online at thetrainline.com.

Coach

Possibly the cheapest and most convenient method to get from London Heathrow airport to Brighton is to use the National Express coach service. Coaches in the UK are, generally speaking, fairly pleasant and are much nicer than long haul bus services in places like North America though they still have a little catching up to do to be as nice as VIP services in Asia.

You’re looking at a cash outlay of just £12 (plus a £1 booking fee) to get from Heathrow to Brighton as of December 2019 and we wouldn’t imagine that it will get much more expensive any time soon. That’s because National Express pricing tends to be very constant and aware of the competition.

You can also get a discount if you are a coach card holder, though you need to buy a coach card first, this is only practical if you expect to take a coach a few times a year and not for a single journey.

There are services running directly from the airport to Brighton’s central bus station. There are no “door-to-door” coach services and you’ll need to arrange local transport at the end of your journey to your hotel. The good news is that this can be done cheaply and easily when you arrive in Brighton.

You can take up to 2 x 20Kg of luggage on a coach (there are charges if you want to bring more) plus a single item of hand luggage.

The only downside of using a coach is it takes about 3 hours as opposed to 2 on the train or a bit less if you’re driving.

Bus

You could also, in theory, elect to take a bus from Heathrow to Brighton. We’re not sure why you’d choose to do this over taking the coach though. The other bus services running from Heathrow directly to Brighton cost more money and offer no significant upgrade over the National Express service.

It’s possible you might be able to save money by taking a series of local buses to Brighton and changing a lot, but the time spent would completely outweigh what could be no more than a pound or two in savings.

So, we don’t recommend this option. But if you insist, you can try looking for bus services here.

Cycling

If you have a bicycle, no luggage and a superb level of fitness – then you might even consider cycling from London Heathrow to Brighton. Google says you can get the 67.5 mile journey done in just under 6 hours if you want to.

Walking

We have to include it as an option (as we said we’d explore all the options) but we’d like you to note that walking from London Heathrow to Brighton is something that would take days. Google may optimistically think you can do this in 17 hours and 39 minutes, most people simply can’t walk for 53 miles in a day. You’d be more likely to have to spread this over 3-4 days.

Much of the walk wouldn’t be very nice either. If you’re determined to get a long walk done in England, you’d be better off getting the coach to Brighton and then embarking on the South Downs Trail which is spectacular.

Conclusion

There are many different ways to get from London Heathrow to Brighton. If you want speed and don’t care much about costs – driving wins every time. If you want to enjoy a little more comfort, the train can be great. If you’re watching your pennies, then we’d recommend the coach. Cycling could be fun if you’re fit enough and prepared for it, but we’d skip walking. Seriously, skip walking.

Carlo

Local Tour guide of Brighton and blogger

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