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Chicago, Illinois
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leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

Hello TA Forums!

We have a 12 hour layover in London and are getting mixed answers about leaving the airport for the day and exploring London?

Does anyone have any insight into why we would not be able to leave?

Traveling on US passports - Virgin Atlantic air - bags will be checked through all the way to South Africa.

Thanks all!!

UK
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1. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

There is no reason why you can't leave the airport - I have left airports on long lay-overs on lots of occasions.

I've read somewhere (it may even have been here) that Virgin doesn't like it when passengers leave the airport, and is trying to discourage it... but they can't stop you.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

If you have 12 hours between scheduled arrival and departure times then your potential time for sightseeing will be about half that.

You will need to allow an hour to go through passport control (write In Transit on the landing card and tell the agent you're going for a quick look around the area) and to reach the Underground station. You will need to add time to drop your carryon bags at the left luggage rooms if need be.

It's about 45 to 60 minutes from Heathrow to central London. You will need to allow that time again for the return, and will need to be at T3 no later than 90 minutes before scheduled departure time to South Africa.

If you plan to travel at the weekend then planned works on the Underground might have an impact on your journey as well. All this will be moot if you opt to visit Windsor for a few hours. Let us know more, please.

Ontario, Canada
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3. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

there's no reason you can't leave the airport if travelling on US passports. I frequently travel to SA thru London and wouldn't dream of hanging around the terminal if there's a long layover (there always is on the outbound). I usually get a dayroom at a nearby hotel as I never sleep on the plane and I don't enjoy walking around London in a sleep deprived fog!

San Antonio, Texas
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4. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

I would suggest that you skip the underground, that takes about an hour, and take the Heathrow Express, buying a return ticket. Yes its more expensive, but no stops other then the airport terminals.

Phoenix, Arizona
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5. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

And DO plan on your trip back through Security in the total scheme of things.

Travel safely,

Hunt

Portland, Oregon
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6. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

I would suggest that you skip the underground, that takes about an hour, and take the Heathrow Express, buying a return ticket. Yes its more expensive, but no stops other then the airport terminals.

====

Except the Heathrow Express goes to Paddington which is nowhere near the attractions. And it only runs every 15 minutes whereas the tube runs every five. By the time you've changed to the tube at Paddington and finally get to where you want to go you'd have saved about 5 minutes and spent an arm and a leg.

The tube is quite sufficient for this trip.

Here's a traveler article from the London forum that explains everything you need to know.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g186338-c195392/Londo…

Portland, Oregon
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7. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

I've read somewhere (it may even have been here) that Virgin doesn't like it when passengers leave the airport, and is trying to discourage it... but they can't stop you.

=====

What Virgin state is that if you miss the onward flight as a consequence of leaving the airport you'll be considered a no show and won't have missed connection protection (ie they'll cancel your ticket). Which is understandable as it'd be your fault. But that's easily avoided by careful planning and allowing yourselves plenty of time to get back to Heathrow.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

Thank you everyone, I really appreciate the advice and tips!!

Portland, Oregon
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9. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

By the way, there is an alternative to central London - Windsor which is in the other direction. A lovely town and of course Windsor Castle (one of the Queen's residences).

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g186216-c184679/Unite…

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: leave the airport in Heathrow? US to South Africa?

>> Windsor which is in the other direction. A lovely town and of course Windsor Castle (one of the Queen's residences). <<

I was going to suggest the same thing. Easy bus ride from Heathrow, very walkable, nice medieval districts and parks, you can even cross the Thames and visit Eton College (around 20 min. from the castle.) It's a great day, far cheaper and less hectic (more oxygen too) than central London.