Gatwick Airport, the second largest and busiest in Britain after Heathrow, is located in West Sussex, 30 miles or so south of Central London. Even with the best of traffic conditions, a licensed taxi ride takes over one hour and costs more than £100 ($156). Arrive at rush hour on a weekday, or hit a delay, and things get rapidly worse from there. Exploring cheaper options is something to know before you go, especially if you are traveling solo or with one or two people.
Gatwick has two terminals, North and South, connected by a free aerial tram. The older, busier South Terminal has a train depot for the Gatwick Express, which serves London's Victoria Station. Gatwick Express departs every 15 minutes, and its journey time is 30 minutes. Tickets are sold at the top of the escalators.
While there is a first-class option, the regular fare is less steep at £18.90 ($29.50) one-way for adults and £9.45 for children under 16, free for children under 5. Save a bit by buying online in advance, which lets you print your tickets at home or collect them at the station, and by purchasing a return (round-trip) ticket. Some airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, offer passengers advance purchase prior to landing. Tickets are not sold on the train, so avoid a penalty by planning ahead. The first morning train departs Gatwick at 4:35 a.m., and the last train to London departs at 1:35 a.m.
From Victoria Station onward
Of course, you'll have to add on your cost of transportation from Victoria Station. The station has a taxi rank at the Gatwick Express exit; a busy underground station for the Victoria, Circle and District tube lines and a London bus terminal. There’s a major coach station a block away for long-distance bus rides on National Express.
Don't confuse "bus terminal" (for local buses) with "coach station": These are in two different locations at Victoria. Escalators serve all these stations, so look for the elevator signs if you have heavy bags; there is usually just one rather old and small “lift” in high demand.
A cheaper train option
Southern Rail operates a train in and out of Gatwick. This option takes a bit longer than the Victoria Express, but is still faster than a taxi. Tickets cost as little as £7.50 if purchased online, and the train arrives at Clapham Junction in Battersea, Southeast London. Here passengers can connect to another train (known as the Overground) from one of the 17 platforms to travel further into Central or West London or all the way to North London. If you continue on to Kensington Olympia Station, for example, there is no additional fare to pay for the onward train.
One disadvantage is the stairs at both Clapham Junction and at many of the station exits. The tube does connect to the Overground at many of these stations, but not at all of them. See this map for reference.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr