Remember that scene with Steve Martin at the car rental counter in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? The one with 18 F-word expletives used in a one-minute-long tirade? Well, beside being lauded as the scene which clinched Steve Martin’s casting, it also doles out a swift and hilarious measure of what we (in the industry) like to call, ‘travel schadenfreude' the pleasure derived by watching a person’s misfortune when trying unsuccessfully to get from A to B.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Dragging cases down the ‘up’ staircases, traipsing the length of the airport concourse looking for taxi signs, queuing for shuttle buses which may well whisk us off to nowheresville. That’s why we’ve decided that enough is enough and pulled together this clever little guide which gives you no-nonsense advice to the best capital city links, from five popular airports. Don’t thank us, thank Steve Martin - and our healthy preoccupation with travel mishap.
London Heathrow (LHR) visitors have two decent choices - both reasonably cheap and fast. For those looking for a speedy journey, the Heathrow Express is ideal as it takes you straight into Paddington station - where you can connect by tube or bus. Alternatively - and a bit lengthier (40 minutes) but more direct if you’re heading central - is the Piccadilly line which stops at Piccadilly Circus (museums), Covent Garden (shopping) and Kings Cross (trains across the UK).
How much? Varies according to your time of travel but the current cost of a daytime anytime tube travelcard within zones 1-6 is £11.80. The Heathrow Express one-way ticket currently costs £22.00 but offers may be available with advance booking. Queues for both ticket desks are frequently busy, so consider booking online at home before you travel.
Packed-o-meter: Depending on the time of your travel, you will usually find the tube busier than the Heathrow Express.
London Gatwick is a pretty easy beast to navigate and there are a few handy options. At the top of our list would be the Gatwick Express, departing every 15 minutes and taking 30 minutes to whizz into central London (Victoria). It’s available between 5am and 1am, from both terminals and is four times cheaper than taking a taxi. Ordinary trains are available too, for those seeking a cheaper alternative.
How much? Current prices for the Gatwick Express are listed at £19.90 for a standard adult ticket - but you can save 5% and avoid the queues if you buy in advance and online.
Packed-o-meter: It all depends on your time of travel, but we find that we often bag a seat easily.
Charles De Gaulle:
Our closest European airport is Charles De Gaulle (CDG) - largest in France (and seventh largest worldwide) - which links to central Paris via the RER (B) line. The great thing about taking the train, rather than opting for a cab (aside from avoiding the €50-€70 fare) is that it stops in central Paris stations such as Gare du Nord within 40 or so minutes. Make sure you take a blue line train in the direction of Robinson, Antony or St-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, using a ticket from one of the blue machines.
How much? Current prices are listed at €10 for a standard adult ticket.
Packed-o-meter: Trains are a little bit roomier than London’s tube, so you can usually expect a seat - even in peak hours.
You can rely on the trusty Dutch to cover all bases - and transport from the bustling Schiphol Airport (AMS) is no exception - although rail is our preferred option, since the station is located just underneath the concourse. The high speed Intercity Direct service actually drops you at Centraal Station in 14 short minutes but you can also hop on lines to other national cities as well as further afield to Brussels and Paris.
How much? A combi ticket for €15 will get you from the airport into central Amsterdam and will also allow use on GVB trams, buses, and ferries across Amsterdam, so is worth the extra cost if you’re sightseeing or planning extensive travel.
Packed-o-meter: Rail travel in Amsterdam is usually pretty comfortable, but if you’re worried about the rush-hour squeeze, new taxi company Abel is using a refreshingly sustainable tariff which lowers fares if travellers show a willingness to share the ride with other passengers.
Upon landing at Rome Fiumicino (FCO) airport (also known as Leonardo da Vinci airport), there are plenty of options for travelling into the city - and many of these are cheap bus services. So many, in fact, that travellers are advised not to buy a ticket in advance for the sake of saving a euro or two - as it’s likely that you’ll only be able to use that ticket for one of the services. Better to wait and buy in person once you find a service that suits your budget and destination. Trains are a popular but busy option too, although remember that the direct express service is not a great deal faster than the ordinary suburban train, but will cost double the price.
How much? Buses vary but you’re looking at around €5 to central Rome. Trains are more expensive - with the express currently charging around €15.
Packed-o-meter: Rail travel can be busy, but journey times aren’t too lengthy which should ease the discomfort.
Madrid’s Barajas Airport:
If there were awards for airport transfers, Madrid’s Barajas Airport (MAD) would surely be a contender. There’s something for everyone - and a price to match. If you’re heading to Atocha Station (culture, hotels, shopping) then our first choice would be RENFE - Spain’s national railway network. It’s amazingly good value for money and if it’s delayed for more than five minutes, you can actually get your money back - although we’ve never had to try it. Problems with RENFE? Never fear, Madrid’s subway is modern, fast and clean - remember to use the pink line.
How much? Cheap - at the last checking, you can buy a ticket on either RENFE or the subway for between €2-5.
Packed-o-meter: Bear in mind that rail travel can be very busy at peak times.
To find out more, including the best parking options for these capital cities, give us a call on 03303 334540