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Looking for the Closest Airport to Oxford? The Answer Will Shock You!

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3 weeks ago

Despite being a major international center of learning, many are surprised to find out that Oxford does not have its own airport. Whether you’re a new student, attending a conference or simply on your way to visiting Oxford, it can often be a painful process getting from the airport to Oxford.

I have lived in Oxford for the last few years and (in case it isn’t clear) I’m at the airport almost once a fortnight. In this article, I’m here to share the good news: it’s not all doom, gloom and long bus journeys.

Oxford is often seen as being a satellite city to London (easily visited by train on a day trip). However, Oxford’s location means you have access to a number of airports in England and, most importantly, not just the London airports.

With that, here are the top 5 closest airports to Oxford – and 1 airport to avoid!

1. Birmingham International Airport

Airport Code: BHX

I always receive a shocked face when I tell people that Birmingham is the easiest airport to access from Oxford

Birmingham may not be the closest airport to Oxford but, in my opinion, it is the easiest airport from Oxford.

Birmingham Airport is a major European budget airline hub. Additionally, Birmingham Airport also boasts strong connectivity from European flagship carriers and Air France, KLM, Turkish Airlines and Emirates.  

Getting from Oxford to Birmingham International Airport

Before booking flights to or from Birmingham Airport, it’s important to confirm the train and bus schedules. Many transport options only run during the day, which often make a late-night arrival or early morning departure from Birmingham not possible.

By train

Hourly trains run between Oxford train station and Birmingham International, and if you book in advance you can generally snatch a good deal on these train tickets.

The train duration is 57 minutes door to door. By British standards, you really can’t ask for much better than that!

You will need to take a short air-rail link to the train station (but it’s really only about 5 minutes). As I said, it really couldn’t be easier and Birmingham Airport is always my first choice.

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By bus

For those looking to save money, National Express run an Oxford to Birmingham Airport Bus (1.5 hours) for £10.50 on average 5 times per day. The bus departs from Oxford’s Gloucester Green bus station.

If you are looking to take the bus upon arrival at Birmingham Airport, simply follow the signs for National Express buses.  

By car

Birmingham Airport is about 1 hour 20 minutes from Oxford. If you are arriving into Oxford after 4.30 pm, the entry to Oxford tends to add a few extra minutes to the ride.

The easiest way to travel from Birmingham Airport to Oxford is to pre-arrange your airport transfer.

2. London Heathrow

Airport Code: LHR

Luckily for travelers, the closest airport to Oxford in London is Heathrow Airport. As the UK’s major gateway, I am very grateful that getting from London Heathrow to Oxford is extremely straightforward. 

Getting from Oxford to London Heathrow Airport

By bus

People are always surprised that we still don’t have a train between Heathrow Airport and Oxford. Rather, the best way from London Heathrow Airport to Oxford is by bus.  

Buses run between Oxford and Terminals 2 & 3 and Terminal 5 every 20 minutes or so, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The bus times differ depending on which terminal you are traveling to. Terminal 5 is the closest with a 1-hour journey from Oxford, while Terminals 2 & 3 is generally around 90 minutes

If you need to get to Terminal 4, the best way would be to take a bus to Terminals 2 & 3 and then connect with the train. Make sure you factor in at least 30 minutes for this added leg!  

To better understand how to navigate Heathrow’s terminals like a pro, don’t miss our comprehensive guide to London Heathrow Airport.

The Airline buses

When purchasing tickets, you will notice that The Airline is the main bus company operating between Oxford and London Heathrow (every 30 minutes or so). While The Airline is very comfortable (reclining chairs, USB ports), it comes at the heavy price of £25 one way.

Oxford students will be disappointed to find that there is no student discount for The Airline.  

For travelers to Oxford who are staying in St Clements or Cowley, The Airline buses do make stops there before finishing at Oxford’s Goucester Green bus station.

National Express

For those looking for a more budget option, National Express offers direct buses between Oxford and London Heathrow Terminal 2&3 and 5 a few times a day. These journeys are about 10 minutes quicker and cost £19.90. If you are visiting Oxford on a budget, sometimes you don’t have to wait much longer to grab one of these services!

By car

If you are visiting the UK with children, or there is a group of you, it is often more economical to take a taxi from Oxford to Heathrow Airport. On-site taxis will often not want to travel to Oxford, so you’ll want to make sure you have pre-arranged an airport transfer from London Heathrow to Oxford.

3. London Luton Airport  

Airport Code: LTN

While London Luton may suddenly be one of the easiest airports in London to reach airport, I’m surprised how many Oxford locals don’t know about its accessibility from Oxford. With a huge range of budget airlines and a small, easy-to-use airport layout, London Luton is a firm favorite for me and is almost the closest airport to Oxford.

Getting from Oxford to London Luton Airport

By bus

Getting from Oxford to London Luton by bus is easy with direct buses on offer. National Express run buses between London Luton and Oxford at the very affordable price of £17.80 one way (if booked in advance). The bus journey between Oxford and Luton Airport takes about 2 hours (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less).  

The Oxford to Luton Airport bus timetable varies, but in general there is a bus from Oxford to Luton Airport about every three hours. This means buses are not as regular as to London Heathrow Airport and you may want to align your flights with the bus schedule.

From my own bad experience, I warn you to watch out for budget airlines that land in Luton late in the evening. If you miss the last bus back to Oxford, you will need to either wait untill the early morning bus or travel through London.  

By car

From Oxford to London Luton Airport is approximately 1.5 hours by car. If you are traveling in a group or with children, it’s often easiest to pre-arrange a direct car transfer (which is always faster than the bus).

4. London Gatwick Airport 

Airport Code: LGW

London’s second major international airport, London Gatwick often has great deals on flights across Europe and beyond. London Gatwick is certainly not the closest airport to Oxford, but with regular (albeit not fast) transport links, I will still often consider flights to or from Gatwick.

If your trip involves any time in London, it is much easier to travel from London to London Gatwick Airport. For more details, don’t miss our comprehensive guide to London’s Airports.

Getting from Oxford to Gatwick Airport

If you are looking at traveling between London Gatwick and Oxford, you will be pleased to know that you have multiple options. It’s important to pay attention to your options, as one small wrong decision can result in significant time on the road.

By train

My first preference is always to take the train from Oxford to Gatwick Airport. Annoyingly, you will need to change trains at Reading. However, depending on the train connection times, the total journey from Oxford to Gatwick Airport is generally around two hours.

Despite the popularity of the bus, the train is definitely the fastest way to get from Oxford to London Gatwick Airport.

In case it isn’t clear by now, it pays to book your train tickets in advance (as they are often significantly cheaper).

By bus

Trains between Oxford and London Gatwick only operate during the daytime. If you have an early morning departure or late arrival, your next option is the bus. The bus journey travels via London Heathrow and often take just over three hours (depending on traffic).   

The Airline operate very regular buses between Oxford and London Gatwick (both North and South terminals), at the hefty cost of £30 one-way. It isn’t the closest airport to Oxford, but it can at least be easy to get to if you plan in advance.

My general approach is that if I can’t get my flights to line up with the train schedule, I generally advise against traveling through London Gatwick

By car

The distance between Oxford and London Gatwick is quite long (about 90 miles) and often takes 2.5 hours in a car. In saying that, I realize people traveling with children or with excessive baggage often cannot take public transport.

You’ll generally get a better deal by pre-booking a taxi from London Gatwick to Oxford.

5. Southampton Airport 

Airport Code: SOU

Southampton Airport has very limited flights, mainly to and from regional hubs (Edinburgh, Belfast, Glasgow, Amsterdam). 

However, if you are planning a small UK trip, or looking to travel from Oxford for the weekend, Southampton Airport offers a quick and easy airport link to Oxford.

Getting from Oxford to Southampton Airport

By train

Direct trains run between Oxford and Southampton Airport every hour. With a journey time of 1 hour 18 minutes, Southampton Airport is an obvious airport choice – far closer and more convenient than London Gatwick or even London Heathrow.

When booked in advance, train tickets to Southampton Airport are often extremely cheap.

By bus

Megabus operates a direct bus between Oxford and Southampton Airport usually between two to four times a day. The buses often take 1.5 hours and can be as cheap as £7 one way. Given that the duration is almost the same as the train, it’s worth checking if your flight aligns with the bus schedule.

And the 1 to avoid: London Stansted

You are probably thinking: what about all those cheap Ryanair flights I see to London Stansted?  

I generally try to avoid London Stansted and personally don’t think the low-cost flights are worth the immense effort of traveling between Oxford and London Stansted.

Getting from Oxford to Stansted Airport

By bus

If you are insistent, there are National Express buses between Oxford and London Stansted Airport every 3 hours costing £22. These buses are scheduled to take between 3 hours 40 minutes and 4 hours 5 minutes, but if you do manage to hit traffic at any point, the journey is realistically closer to 4.5 hours.  

However, if you are flying into London Stansted, why not check out the ‘Other Place’ (Cambridge)? An easy 30-minute train ride directly from Cambridge to London Stansted!  

By car

If you are considering your airport transfer options by car, London Stansted is actually a decent option. At 2 hours from Oxford, London Stansted is not the closest airport to Oxford. However, it is certainly closer to Oxford than London Gatwick. As usual, you’ll want to make sure your taxi is pre-arranged as it can often be difficult to find drivers willing to cover the distance.

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Sunday 5th of May 2024

What an informative way to travel to Oxford ! Thanks so much !