There are direct international flights to many cities other than just the airports whose name includes “London”. Recently, many airports in the south of England have added “London” to their names. Be aware that just because an airport has “London” in its name, this does not mean that it is necessarily close to London or easily accessible!
KLM offers a large number of feeder flights from its international hub at Amsterdam Schiphol to almost all regional airports in the UK.
Due to increased security measures at airports and aviation security in general, there may be long delays when checking in for a flight. In addition, a valid passport or photo ID (e.g. photo driving licence, ID card, etc.) must be presented at the check-in counter.
Flying direct from Northern Ireland on long haul flights (over 2,000 miles) can save you a considerable amount of money as there is an exemption from Air Passenger Duty (tax) for long haul flights in the province.
London Heathrow is one of the busiest international airports in the world. Located 24 km west of central London, Heathrow offers a wide choice of international destinations, with direct flights from most countries around the world. British Airways has its hub at Heathrow and offers a wide range of international flights from Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Australia. It is also home to Virgin Atlantic and is served by the national airlines of most countries. It is poorly laid out from a passenger’s point of view, always means a lot of walking even if you don’t get lost, and has 5 terminals. There are three different metro stations. So find out which one you should use before you get to the airport!
London Gatwick, 50 km south of London in Sussex, is London’s second largest airport. The North and South terminals are some distance apart. Therefore, before you arrive, check which of the two terminals is the right one to avoid missing a flight in case of a rush or a delay.
Manchester Airport in the north serves many European destinations and a reasonable number of long-haul destinations. This airport could be more convenient for visitors from North Wales, North England and Scotland, especially as it has a fully integrated main railway station. Local trains and trams also provide connections to Manchester city centre.
Belfast International serves Northern Ireland with North American and other long-haul flights.
Birmingham International has good European connections and some long-haul connections. It is an ideal gateway to the centre of England and Wales. Birmingham Airport also has a direct train service to London Euston (journey time approx. 75 minutes on the fastest trains) and is a hub for the low-cost airline FlyBe.
Bristol is a major airport for the West of England and South Wales, with a good number of European flights.
Cardiff is Wales’ only international airport and is a major hub for Flybe and Thomas Cook with some long-haul flights, such as to Barbados.
East Midlands Airport offers a range of low cost flights from European destinations near Castle Donington.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s busiest airport with a wide range of European and North American connections.
Liverpool John Lennon in the north-west of England is the fastest growing airport in the UK and is taking on more and more flights.
London City is London’s most central airport and is close to the city centre. Canary Wharf is easily accessible by DLR line or by Black Cab. Due to the short runway and noise restrictions, the airport is reserved for small aircraft. As a result, the service is more or less limited to domestic destinations in the UK and Western Europe – mainly financial centres such as Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and Zurich. British Airways offers two daily return flights in business class to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
London Stansted is located north-east of London in Essex and is the UK’s third busiest airport with a stylish, modern terminal designed by Norman Foster. It is the largest hub for low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet and offers direct flights to a wide range of European and North African destinations as well as Asia. It’s often cheaper to arrive by plane, but remember that it’s about 60km from central London, so always factor in the extra travel time. There is an express train from Liverpool St that takes 45-50 minutes, but the easyBus is a cheaper option (although longer, 2 hours).
London Luton, northwest of London in Bedfordshire, is an important centre for easyJet and, to a lesser extent, Ryanair. Luton can offer much cheaper flights than Heathrow or Gatwick. Other airlines such as Thomsons and WizzAir also have more than 10 destinations each. Most flights are within the EU, although some Middle East routes are also served, such as Tel Aviv, Egypt and Dubai. Luton is not as far as Stansted and it is possible to take cheap suburban trains (First Capital Connect) from Parkway Airport Station to the London terminals.
Newcastle International has direct flights to Dubai. It is also a hub for easyJet, Thomson, Thomas Cook and Jet2.com, with flights to over 100 destinations.
Aberdeen International is the main airport for the north of Scotland.
Small regional airports
- London Southend Airport is 55 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street station and 44 minutes from Stratford station. It serves as a hub for easyJet, Aer Arann and Jet2.com.
- Exeter, Carlisle, Leeds Bradford and Durham Tees Valley all have cheap flights from mainland Europe with Ryanair, Jet2, easyJet and Flybe.
- Southampton and Bournemouth airports are medium sized but offer discounted flights with Ryanair and Flybe and are accessible by train from London Waterloo Station.
- Glasgow Prestwick is served by Ryanair and some low-cost flights.
- Robin Hood Airport has all the usual low-cost airlines as well as transatlantic flights operated by Aer Lingus.
- Norwich is served from Amsterdam, and there are also Flybe flights throughout the UK.
- Humberside has daily flights from Amsterdam and a very active service from the oil platforms in the North Sea.
- Inverness is a small regional airport serving the north of Scotland.
- George Best City Airport is 12 minutes from Belfast city centre by local bus.
- Derry City Airport serves the North West of Northern Ireland with a limited number of international and domestic flights.
- Blackpool has an international airport nearby that offers many package tour flights.
- The number of flights at Newquay Cornwall Airport has fluctuated in recent years, largely due to the £5 ‘development tax’ introduced in 2006, but it is ideal for avoiding traffic congestion in this beautiful part of the UK.
- To the south-east there is London Ashford Airport, also known as Lydd; the airport has more seasonal and limited services, as does Oxford Airport.
Orkney and Shetland airports both have flights to Scandinavia, in addition to domestic flights within the UK.
From Belgium and France
Eurostar provides regular high-speed services to London (St Pancras International), Ebbsfleet and Ashford via the Channel Tunnel from Avignon (TGV), Brussels (Zuid-Midi), Calais (Fréthun), Lille (Europe), Lyon (Part-Dieu), Marseille (Saint Charles) and of course Paris (Gare du Nord). There are also less frequent connections from Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy (Disneyland Paris) and in winter from two resorts in the French Alps (Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice), but these are mainly useful for holidaymakers from the UK. Tickets and connections from many European cities to most major British cities are available in Lille, Paris and Brussels.
The average journey time to central London is 2 hours 15 minutes from Paris and 1 hour 50 minutes from Brussels. A return second class ticket from Paris to London costs between 85 and 230 euros. It may be cheaper to fly from London to Paris on a budget airline, but bear in mind that the return journey between airports can be long and expensive.
Passengers travelling to the UK on the Eurostar from Paris, Lille, Calais and Brussels will be subject to a UK passport/ID check before boarding. Travellers from all other destinations go through security checks in Lille, which unfortunately includes disembarking from the train and physically passing through customs. British passport checks take place after exit checks of French/Belgian passports/ID cards at the stations. However, customs checks sometimes take place on arrival in the UK. Conversely, travellers go through French immigration control before boarding in the UK and do not usually have to go through the controls again on arrival in France or Belgium.
From the Netherlands
Direct Eurostar trains across the English Channel from Amsterdam and Rotterdam are just around the corner, but at the moment many travellers prefer a combined train and ferry journey via the Hook of Holland and Harwich. With the Dutch Flyer, passengers can travel from any station in the Netherlands to any Abellio Greater Anglia station in England (the Abellio network includes East Anglia and East and Central London) with a single fare. For travellers from Northern Europe or for those wishing to travel to East Anglia, this service can be a useful and convenient alternative to Eurostar in Brussels. The interchange between the ferry terminal and the railway station of the two ports is very simple and user-friendly. Harwich International express trains join the ferry for an easy transfer to London Liverpool Street in less than 90 minutes.
Deutsche Bahn is not yet (mid-2016) running trains to London. And this despite earlier plans (2012) and the testing of an ICE in the tunnel. However, Deutsche Bahn offers an almost unbeatable “LondonSpezial”, with which you can travel from anywhere in Germany with unlimited changes on a Deutsche Bahn train to Brussels and from there with the Eurostar to London. Prices start at €59 (second class, one-way) and €109 (first class). As discounted tickets for the most popular dates can sell out quite quickly (the NFL international series is particularly popular with Germans visiting London), you can book 91 days in advance as this is the earliest possible time to buy tickets online.
the Republic of Ireland
Cross-border rail connections to Northern Ireland
Services to the British mainland
Combined Rail & Sail tickets are available from any station in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to any station in Great Britain. Tickets can be purchased from the rail company and ferry operators. Direct tickets are available on most shipping routes. Fares are slightly higher in July and August.
The Channel Tunnel has provided a link between rail and road since 1994. The shuttles operated by Eurotunnel transport vehicles from Calais to Folkestone in Kent in 35 minutes. Fares start at €32 each way and can be booked online. After arriving in Folkestone, you can continue directly on the M20 motorway, which leads to London and the rest of the UK’s national road network. Passengers travelling from France to the UK will be subject to UK passport, ID and customs checks at Calais following French exit checks before departure, rather than on arrival in the UK. In the opposite direction, you go through French passport control in the UK before boarding the train.
Car ferries also serve many parts of the UK from other European countries (see the By Boat section below).
Motorists entering Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland usually find that they have done so without realising it. There are no border controls and even on the main roads there are usually no signs indicating that you are leaving one country to enter the other. However, cross-border travel still requires travel documents that correspond to your nationality, despite the lack of border controls. In the Republic of Ireland (as in the rest of Europe), signs are expressed in kilometres, while in Northern Ireland they are expressed in miles. The two countries use very different types of road signs, so it is advisable to be aware of the differences in road signs and markings when travelling in border areas.
Coaches are the cheapest way to travel from France and the Benelux countries to the UK. Eurolines offers daily connections from Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels to London Victoria coach station. Night buses and limited day buses run daily between Ireland and the UK. There are connections to most parts of the UK via the National Express national bus network. For most destinations it is cheaper to purchase this service when buying your Eurolines tickets as discounts are available.
Eurolines will also take you to and from most other major European cities, although an economy flight is usually cheaper (but with a greater environmental impact) and saves you a potentially very long bus journey.
Several other operators compete with Eurolines, mainly between Poland and the UK.
There are a large number of ferry services to the UK from mainland Europe. Newcastle operates a line from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Harwich has ferries from the Hook of Holland in the Netherlands. You can also sail to Hull from Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Zeebrugge in Belgium. There is a regular service between Ostend in Belgium and Ramsgate. There are 4 crossings per day and prices vary between €50 and €84.
Dover is the busiest ferry port in the UK, with connections from Zeebrugge in Belgium and Dunkirk and Calais in France. The Dover-Calais route is particularly busy, with three competing companies and up to 50 departures a day. The ferry between Calais and Dover costs around €23 by foot or bike and around €50 by car, with significant discounts available if you book in advance or take advantage of special offers. Passengers travelling by ferry from Calais or Dunkirk to the UK pass through UK immigration control after French exit control and before boarding; UK customs control always takes place after arrival in the UK.
On the south coast, Portsmouth receives ferries from Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg and Saint-Malo in France, and Bilbao in Spain, and there are fast connections between Dieppe (France) and Newhaven. The other route from Spain is from Santander to Plymouth. Plymouth also has ferries from Roscoff (France), Poole has ferries from Cherbourg and the Channel Islands.
From the Republic of Ireland, the ports of entry are Pembroke, Fishguard and Swansea. There are also connections between Dublin, Holyhead and Liverpool.
You can also board the Queen Mary II, or one of the other Cunard Line ships – they leave New York about every month. The crossing to Southampton takes between six and seven days. Prices start at around $1,300.
Other ships operate from various ports around the world – the RMS St Helena connects Ascension Island, St Helena, Walvis Bay (Namibia) and Cape Town (South Africa) with Portland (near Weymouth) twice a year and Grimaldi Lines provides a car and passenger service from Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Paranagua in Brazil to Felixstowe approximately every fortnight.
Bicycles can be taken on the Eurotunnel ferries and shuttles. They can also be taken on planes, but you should check with your airline beforehand: Bicycles are often considered “oversized baggage” and you may be charged an additional fee for checking them in. You may also be asked to partially dismantle your bike, but this rule varies from carrier to carrier. Eurostar allows folding bikes on all its trains and offers a more limited service for other bikes, but has quite strict and specific rules that are worth reading before your journey.