|This article is aimed at the independent traveller contemplating
using Stansted Airport London. The aim is to provide practical
information so best use of the airport can be made with as few
surprises as possible.
Of London's airports, Stansted Airport is furthest from the
centre of London, nearly 40 miles. The airport is dominated by
low cost budget airlines and in particular Ryanair and easyJet,
Europe's largest low cost airlines. The overwhelming majority of
flights are European or UK domestic flights. The airport also
has significant charter traffic, particularly for the British
travelling on package tours to the sun. The main
intercontinental and state carriers like British Airways,
Virgin, American and Singapore Airlines all use London's
Heathrow or Gatwick Airports.
The airport is an established airport but was relaunched 15
years ago with a brand new terminal and infrastructure,
including a direct rail link and motorway to London. At first it
was a white elephant but the emergence of the low cost budget
carriers has transformed Stansted into one of the fastest
growing airports in Europe in the last decade. Today, full
capacity of the main terminal is within sight and a new terminal
and further out a second runway is planned.
There are no surprises with the terminal itself, all the
standard facilities are in place including choice of foreign
exchange, pharmacies, news stands etc. There is a good range of
eating opportunities ranging from fast food and pub food through
to sit down restaurants. In common with all airports run by BAA,
the owner, there is a lot of luxury shopping outlets. But
remember, the vast majority of flights from Stansted are within
the EEC and do not qualify for duty free status.
It normally takes around 30 minutes from touch down to exiting
customs with most flights if you have luggage. There is an
airport information desk immediately outside customs and a desk
for AirportCarz who have a monopoly on taxi services at the
airport. Taking a taxi to London is only used by a very small
minority of passengers because of the distance and expense.
If your destination is London, the quickest option is to take
the Stansted Express train. The train station is underneath the
terminal so you just descend to the platforms by escalators or
lifts. The Stansted Express takes 45 minutes to London's
Liverpool Street Station and runs about every 15 minutes during
the day. Last trains are around midnight. The fares on the
Stansted Express are expensive, well over $US40 for a single
return fare. The Liverpool Street terminus is also not very
convenient for most travellers, being sited in the middle of the
financial district of London, 3-5 miles from most of the most
popular hotel accommodation. The train stops at an intermediate
stop called Tottenham Hale, 10 minutes before Liverpool Street,
an interchange with the London Underground (Victoria Line). Many
of the airlines will sell tickets for the Stansted Express, some
at a discount, before landing at Stansted Airport.
The budget transfer option into London is to take one of four
scheduled coach services run by National Express and
Terravision. There is a large, modern coach station in front of
the terminal, adjacent to the rail station.
The cheapest option is the Terravision service to Liverpool
Street Station, the same route as the Stansted Express. The
price is about half that of the Stansted Express Train. Downside
like all road based transfers is the London traffic, on a good
day the coach will make it in about an hour. National Express
run services about every 30 minutes to nearby Stratford
Underground at a similar price.
The other route taken by the coaches is Stansted to London
Victoria. Both have return fares around $US25. The Terravision
service is non-stop, the National Express service makes stops
through central London, many of them close to the major hotel
districts. The National Express service is a true 24x7 service,
the Terravision service only stops for a couple of hours early
morning. Some of the highest frequencies are around midnight
Stansted-London and very early morning London-Stansted for the
first and last flights when the Stansted Express and London
Underground have shut down.
Because of the sometimes extraordinarily cheap fares of Ryanair
and easyJet a lot of transcontinental travellers have found it
cheapest to fly into Heathrow and then complete their journey to
their European destination using a low cost airline from
Stansted. National Express run shuttle services between Heathrow
and Stansted from the coach station at Stansted. There are
usually a couple of services an hour, the journey taking around
90 minutes (though delays on the motorway are almost routine at
rush hours). The fare is not cheap either. The return fare is
about $US50. It is cheaper to use the indirect National Express
service to Stratford and then catch the London Underground to
Heathrow, but less comfortable.
If you want to stay over at Stansted Airport before a flight
there are plenty of options available. Like all airport hotels
at London, room rates are normally much cheaper at weekends than
mid-week. If you are transiting from Heathrow or Gatwick which
have much fiercer competition, you will probably find rates more
expensive at Stansted, particularly in the budget sector.
Immediately adjacent to the terminal is the luxury Stansted
Radisson SAS, the only airport hotel where you do not need a
hotel transfer vehicle. This is perhaps the most luxurious hotel
and at weekends rates can be fairly competitive. The original
luxury hotel at Stansted is the 4 star Hilton Hotel on the
airport perimeter. The Hilton Stansted runs its own shuttle bus
from the coach station about every 30 minutes. In the immediate
vicinity of the airport is an Express by Holiday Inn and a Best
Western. The consistently cheapest option is the Days Inn on a
motorway services area at the entrance to Stansted Airport. It
provides no airport transfer facility itself though of course
there are taxis and a local bus service. Apart from the chains
there are a lot of independent hotels in the vicinity. These
feature hotels for all budgets and tastes, ranging from Country
House Hotels, to pubs to traditional Bed and Breakfasts. The
countryside around Stansted is surprisingly unspoilt and there
is opportunity to stay in a traditional market town or coaching
inn for example.
About the author:
For current transfer fares see: Rail and
Road Transfers Between Stansted Airport and Central London.
A full range of hotel options with indicative pricing is listed
ndon Stansted Airport Hotels
Bob Handford is an expert about his city, London and is the
owner of the website
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