Getting to the UK

Central London viewed from the window of a plane
Most students from outside the UK arrive in London either by plane or by train. Whether you are coming to London to visit the Royal College of Music, to see friends or family, or to move into your new accommodation, you should plan how to get from the airport or railway station to your destination.

Every journey is different and every person has different needs. The guidance below is provided for quick reference only. We encourage all travellers to spend adequate time planning their travel options and checking fares with relevant ticket providers.

Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for the local transport system. TfL controls the London Underground, which is also known as ‘the Tube’, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the London Overground, London Buses and several other transport options. TfL operates a contactless pay-as-you-go scheme, which is cheaper than buying paper tickets on most services. The scheme works with contactless bank cards, Oyster Cards and NFC-enabled mobile phones.

TfL provides a helpful Journey Planner and a Fare Finder on their website. Please note that many of London’s airports fall outside of TfL’s fare area. Likewise some special rail services are excluded from TfL’s cheaper fare pricing. In these cases TfL is not in control of ticket costs and you should refer to the information supplied by ticket providers instead. 

A woman walks through Heathrow airpor

Arriving by plane

London is served by six international airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City and Southend. All provide excellent transport links into central London. Coaches are usually available with very cheap tickets. Taxis are also available but will be much more expensive. You should consider agreeing a fare with the taxi driver before setting off.

If you choose to travel by coach or taxi please account for traffic congestion – it can take a long time to reach central London by road. Using trains is almost always the most time-efficient and cost-effective method of travelling into London from any of the airports.

Travelling into London from Heathrow Airport

The London Underground Piccadilly line serves all terminals at Heathrow airport and runs directly through central London. Piccadilly line trains take about 40 minutes to reach South Kensington, which is close to the Royal College of Music, and about 50 minutes to reach central London.

The Underground is the cheapest travel option from Heathrow. It costs around £6 for a single paper ticket. Tickets are available from machines at all Heathrow stations. Prices vary at different times of day. Please check with TfL for the latest fares.

Piccadilly line trains do not run overnight on most days of the week. However, there is a 24-hour service from Terminal 5 and Terminals 1-2-3 on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no 24-hour service at any time from Terminal 4.

Mainline rail services from Heathrow to London Paddington are provided by Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect. Both are more expensive than using the Underground. Please note that these train services are not controlled by TfL. Oyster cards and Travelcards are not valid.

Heathrow Connect is moderately priced, but more expensive than the Underground, and takes 30 minutes to reach Paddington. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station. Please check the Heathrow Connect website for the latest fares.

The Heathrow Express is more expensive, but only takes 15 minutes to reach Paddington. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station and are slightly cheaper if you book in advance. Please check the Heathrow Express website for the latest fares.

London Paddington

Once you get to Paddington you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

Travelling into London from Gatwick Airport

Gatwick airport is not served by the London Underground, however Gatwick Airport station is within TfL’s fare area.

Rail services from Gatwick to central London are provided by Gatwick Express, Southern, and Thameslink. You can to travel to London Victoria, London Bridge, London Blackfriars, London St Pancras International and other stations in Greater London.

Southern services are reasonably priced and take between 35 and 40 minutes to reach Victoria. These trains can be crowded at peak times. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station and may be cheaper if you book in advance. Please check the Southern website for the latest ticket fares.

The Gatwick Express takes 30 minutes to reach Victoria, but is more expensive than Southern services. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station and may be cheaper if you book. Please check the Gatwick Express website for the latest ticket fares.

London Victoria

Once you get to Victoria you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

Thameslink services to London Bridge take 35 minutes. Slower trains take more than one hour, so be sure to check before boarding. Tickets are cheaper than Southern or Gatwick Express, however London Bridge is further away from the RCM than Victoria. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station and may be cheaper if you book in advance.

Many Thameslink trains continue to Blackfriars, St Pancras International and stations in north London. Please check the Thameslink website for the latest ticket fares.

London Bridge & other Thameslink destinations

Once you get to London Brisge, Blackfriars or St Pancras International you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

Travelling into London from Stansted Airport

Stansted airport is not served by the London Underground and is outside TfL’s fare area.

Rail services from Stansted to London Liverpool Street are provided by Stansted Express, which takes 50 minutes. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station. Please check the Stansted Express website for the latest fares.

London Liverpool Street

Once you get to Liverpool Street you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

Travelling into London from Luton Airport

Luton airport is not served by the London Underground and is outside TfL’s fare area.

Rail services from Luton Airport Parkway to London St Pancras International and London Blackfriars are provided by Thameslink. There is a free shuttle bus from the airport terminal building to the railway station, which is about 10 minutes away.

Thameslink services takes between 25 and 50 minutes to reach St Pancras International and between 45 minutes and one hour to reach Blackfriars. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station. Please check the Thameslink website for the latest fares.

London Blackfriars & St Pancras International

Once you get to St Pancras International or Blackfriars you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

Travelling into London from London City Airport

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves London City Airport and runs directly to central London, which takes about 25 minutes. Alternatively you can use a combination of DLR and London Underground services to reach South Kensington station, which will take about 45 minutes. South Kensington station is close to the Royal College of Music.

The DLR and the London Underground are controlled by TfL. You can use a combination of these services as part of a single fare. It costs around £5 for a paper ticket, which are available from machines at London City Airport station. Prices vary at different times of day. Please check with TfL for the latest fares.

DLR trains do not run overnight.

Travelling into London from Southend Airport

Southend airport is not served by the London Underground and is outside TfL’s fare area.

Rail services to London Liverpool Street are provided by Abellio Greater Anglia, which take 1 hour. Tickets can be purchased from machines at the station. Please check the Abellio Greater Anglia website for the latest fares.

London Liverpool Street

Once you get to Liverpool Street you will have to travel by bus, taxi or Underground to reach the RCM, Prince Consort Village and most other destinations. This may cost extra.

London St Pancras International Station

Arriving by train via the Channel Tunnel

All passenger services via the Channel Tunnel terminate at London St Pancras International on the edge of central London. Onward journeys can be made by several means.

The London Underground Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines provide direct connections to areas across the city. South Kensington station, which is close to the RCM, can be reached in 20 minutes via the Piccadilly line. The journey to South Kensington costs around £5 for a paper ticket, which are available from machines at the station. Prices vary at different times of day. Please check with TfL for the latest fares.

Several bus routes pass St Pancras, providing easy access to all parts of central London. Buses do not accept cash fares. You will need to use a contactless form of payment or have a valid Travelcard. Single bus journeys cost £1.50. Your bank may charge an additional fee if you use a contactless bank card.

Taxis are also available, but will be more expensive.

Road sign in central London

Arriving by car

If you are travelling by car you will probably arrive in the UK at the Le Shuttle terminal at Folkestone or one of the south coast ports. All are connected to London by major roads and motorways.

If you choose to travel by car please account for traffic congestion – it can take a long time to reach central London by road and parking is limited in many areas.

Le Shuttle Terminal, Folkestone

Travel to London via the M20.

Port of Dover

Travel to London via the A2 and the M2 or the A20 and the M20.

Portsmouth International Port

Travel to London via the M27 and the M3 or the A27 and the A3.

Port of Southampton

Travel to London via the A33 and the M3.

Parking near the Royal College of Music

There is metered parking on Prince Consort Road and the surrounding area. It costs £3.70 per hour for a maximum of four hours and is free after 6.30pm and on Sundays.

There are a limited number of disabled parking spaces on Prince Consort Road and Exhibition Road.

Other car parks and street parking are availble in the South Kensington area but spaces are often limited. Please check availability and restrictions before you travel.

There are designated motorbike bays in the area surrounding the Royal Albert Hall.