Visiting Gatwick Airport can be really overwhelming, but don’t worry! Gatwick is the second-busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic (next to Heathrow airport) and one of many London airports that are available.
Here’s everything you need to know when visiting Gatwick Airport in London, England.
Quick details about Gatwick:
- Gatwick airport code is LGW
- Major international airport
- Various hotels within and around the airport
- Located in Crawley, West Sussex in southeast England
- Gatwick airport is about 30 miles south of Central London
- Connects to Central London with commuter trains (usually about an hour) or the Gatwick Express (expensive, but only takes 30 minutes)
Moving to London? Make sure to check out my article: Moving to London: Your First Month in England
North and South Terminals at Gatwick Airport
Gatwick is a huge airport with both North and South terminals. Thankfully, there is a free shuttle service that runs between the terminals, so it’s never difficult to get around.
The shuttle runs 24/7 and the journey between the two terminals is only two minutes.
Side note: I’ve definitely parked in the South Terminal, gotten into the airport only to realize I was at the wrong terminal. Oops! Thankfully I just had to take the free shuttle and I was where I needed to be!
Need the shuttle? There are signs all over the airport at both terminals for the shuttle service. If you’re not sure, simply ask any of the staff.
Gatwick Airport Map – South Terminal
Gatwick Airport Map – North Terminal
Gatwick Airport Parking
There’s two options to consider before parking here: whether to park at the airport itself, or pay for parking at the hotel you’re staying at (if applicable). Depending on which hotel, you may be able to get a deal on the price of parking included with your hotel stay rather than paying for a hotel and then paying for separate parking with the airport.
If you’re going to park at the airport itself, there are four options:
- Short stay
- Long stay
Personally, I’ve only ever used long stay parking because all of my flights from Gatwick have been a week long or more. Overall, long stay parking is convenient, fairly simple and still really close to the airport.
1. Short Stay Parking
Short Stay parking is best for people who are only going to be away for a few days, or need to wait at the airport to pick up someone. If you’re going to be away for any longer, it’s better to choose long stay parking instead.
The terminal is about a 5 minute walk away, so it’s also helpful for those with children or heavy or awkward luggage. Short Stay Parking at the North Terminal can be found at Car Park 5. For the South Terminal, it can be found in Car Parks 1, 2 and 3.
- Best for a few days or picking up someone
- Don’t need to take a shuttle to the terminal
2. Long Stay Parking
I’ve used this type of parking at Gatwick loads of times and it’s always been the best option for me. This is ideal if your trip away is going to be longer than a few days.
However, these parking lots are far enough away from the airport that you’ll have to use their free shuttle. Once you’re parked, head over to the nearest bus stop where you can get the free shuttle bus which takes you directly to the terminal.
It usually takes about 5-10 minutes to reach the South terminal and 7-12 minutes to reach the North terminal.
- Cheapest option
- Best for parking longer than a few days
- Will need to take free shuttle to either terminal
3. Premium Parking
If you’ve got extra money to spar, premium parking could be right for you!
As you can imagine, premium parking is the closest to can get to both the North and South terminals, but obviously it comes with a cost.
- Luxury, expensive parking
- Able to walk to the terminal without a shuttle
4. Valet Parking
Of course, the most expensive option for parking at Gatwick is their Valet parking service. Simply drop your car off with one of the fully-insured professional valet staff and walk straight to the terminal. Your car will be waiting for your in the Valet Parking area when you return (based on the time you provide them on your booking.
If your car isn’t there at the time you specified, the book will be paid by Gatwick. Talk about service!
- Expensive, top-tier parking
- Car will be waiting for you when you arrive
Thinking about moving to England? Make sure to read my article: Moving to England: What do I need to do?
Gatwick Airport Hotels
BLOC is a hotel located actually within Gatwick airport in the South Terminal. Worried about getting to your flight on time? You won’t need to if you’re stay in BLOC.
There’s 245 rooms and the entrance is only a few meters from airport security.
I’ve personally never stayed here, but it’s definitely an option when visiting the airport.
Hilton London Gatwick
Although Hilton London Gatwick has “London” right in the title, the hotel is actually located in the South Terminal, only minutes from the airport itself.
I’ve actually stayed at the Hilton at Gatwick tons of times and every time has been wonderful. The rooms are clean, comfortable and has everything you need. I usually buy their buffet breakfast as well as I know I’ll get a great meal before my flight. Did someone say a Full English Breakfast, please?
Although Hilton can be a touch more expensive, I know what I’m getting and it’s always been good.
Looking for something a bit different? YOTELAIR might be just that.
This mini hotel/lounge is located within the arrivals hall of the South Terminal, just before entering security. It’s also near the free shuttle connecting the South and North terminal (handy if you need to move between the two).
These “cabins” are small rooms that you can actually book by the hour. The idea is if you just need some space for a nap before your flight, or you want to freshen up, etc, you can do that without booking a traditional hotel room. Otherwise, you can book one of these cabins and sleep here as normal, it’s just a bit small.
Each cabin has their own private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, a pull-out workstation and access to free tea and coffee. The cabins are very tight, almost like you’re sleeping on an actual plane. It’s minimalism at its best!
Sofitel London Gatwick
A bigger and labeled a “luxury” hotel, the Sofitel London Gatwick is another option if you’re looking to stay at the airport. Of course, it’s more expensive than other options, but does have a lot of extras: 2 restaurants, free WiFi in public areas and a free airport shuttle are also provided, 24-hour fitness centre, a coffee shop/café.
This 4 star hotel is directly connected to the North terminal, making it super convenient if your flight departs from the North terminal. If you need the South terminal, there’s always shuttles available (and it usually doesn’t take long).
If you want more of a high-end hotel experience, Sofitel is a great option. If you’re looking for a clean place to stay before your flight, there’s better (and cheaper) places to choose.
The Gatwick Express
The fastest way into Central London from Gatwick Airport is by using the Gatwick Express. This special train takes passengers directly to London in just 30 minutes, with a train leaving every 15 minutes.
If you intend on taking the train to get into London, I would definitely recommend booking online and get a 10% discount on your tickets.
The first time I came to London via Gatwick airport, I used the Gatwick Express to get into the city. Yes, it’s more expensive. But when you’ve just spent all day on a plane, sometimes you just want the easiest and more direct route.
Using an eTicket is also super helpful as well. This means you can use an electronic ticket rather than a paper one (and also means you don’t need to queue when you get to the station). Once your online booking is complete, your ticket will be emailed to you as a PDF file. When travelling, simply present your eTicket on your phone for inspection or to pass through a gateline.
Gatwick Express is located in the South Terminal. If you’re arriving on a Gatwick flight that lands in the North terminal, you’ll need to take the free 2-minute shuttle to the South terminal. There’s tons of signs for the train if you’re unsure where it is!
Want a cheaper way to get to Gatwick airport, or continue onto your new destination? National Express has cheap coaches that leave and arrive right at the airport. Of course, coaches are typically slower (and cheaper) than trains but they’re still an option. Plus their direct service between London and Gatwick is pretty quick!
National Express is also great because it can take you to various locations around England, rather than the Gatwick Express which focuses on central London.
What can you do in Gatwick Airport?
Gatwick is huge and it’s filled with shops, restaurants and everything in between.
For me, my typical journey to visit my family back is Canada goes like this:
- Stay overnight at a hotel by the airport (usually Hilton London Gatwick)
- Book the hotel’s cooked buffet breakfast to have before my flight
- Walk over to the airport from the hotel (very short distance)
- Check-in for my flight, go through secuirty and arrive at entry hall
- Everyone hangs out in the entry hall before their gate is announced for boarding. Here you’ll find currency shops, restaurants, gift shops, bathrooms, etc. You won’t be able to wait at your gate until they announce it (when they’re ready for boarding)
- I’ll hang out, maybe have a drink at the pub or buy some snacks for the plane
- Once the gate is announced, I’ll head over there and board
- Then it’s only a handful of hours until I arrive in Canada!