Heathrow Airport London is the busiest international airport in the world. Around 35% of its passengers are transit passengers, i.e. passengers that are just using London to make connections.
Just one reason why there are nearly 40 airport hotels at Heathrow serving the local demand for overnight stopovers.
For many of these hotels the businessman with an expense account is their bread and butter. This article seeks to address the leisure traveller, providing a guide to getting value for money locating a bed at Heathrow.
We’ll start off by dividing the hotels into three categories.
There are the large 4 and 5 star chain hotels like Hilton, Radisson and Sheraton aimed at the businessmen, typically charging $US200 during the week, half that at weekends.
Then there are the 2 and 3 star hotels, again mostly chains, like Comfort Inn, Ibis and Premier Travel Inn, aimed at the leisure traveller and the businessmen on a budget. These will typically charge just over $US100 during the week, about $US75 at weekends.
Lastly, there are the small independent local hotels, mostly family owned who offer cheap ‘bed and breakfast’ style rooms. These have the cheapest accommodation.
Room rates can seem good value, especially at weekends when the businessmen are away and everyone deep discounts to fill beds. However, beware, what the hotel doesn’t get in room rates they’ll try and get out of you in other ways.
There are no hotels in the central passenger area where Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are located, though there is a hotel linked to Terminal 4 on the south side of the airport – the expensive Hilton Hotel, not for most leisure travellers.
This means a bus transfer, and unlike most international airports there are no complimentary hotel transfer buses. The airport authority provides ‘Hoppa Buses’, mid-size buses that run every 10-20 minutes on fixed routes to Heathrow Hotels. At 3 GBP per person per journey, thats an extra $US20 for a couple staying at a Heathrow Hotel.
Most hotels will charge anything from $US10-$US30 for breakfast, and at most hotels there isn’t viable competition outside the front door. Dinner is similarly expensive and entertainment is largely limited to an expensive bar.
So, tips for the leisure traveller trying to economise.
Look for a hotel on the Bath Road, this is the northern perimeter road of Heathrow Airport and the main hotel strip.
Public buses run more frequently than the Hoppa Buses along the Bath Road into Heathrow Terminals, and they’re free. (The fees from the Hoppa Buses are part used to subsidise the free local buses).
The Bath Road is the only location where you can escape your hotel. There is a pub serving meals, 2 McDonalds, a bowling alley, a small supermarket and an Italian Restaurant that can provide breakfasts, snacks and meals on the Bath Road. There are also 24 hour public buses running to local towns Kingston and Hounslow for entertainment.
Taking the above together, the benchmark for the leisure traveller is the Ibis and Premier Travel Inn hotels.
The other local option is to consider local Bed & Breakfast hotels. These do not provide an airport transfer but many are on the periphery of the airport on a bus or underground route. Their room rates are similar to the budget hotels but this includes a hearty breakfast and the transfer is still cheaper than the Hoppa Bus.
One other option is to forget Heathrow altogether and overnight in Central London. The Heathrow Express takes just 15 minutes to London’s Paddington Station and there is lots of cheap accommodation around the station. You’ll certainly have a more entertaining evening in London than at an airport hotel, and at a similar overall price.