Though Oxford claims to have an international airport (known, bizarrely, as London Oxford Airport) the only international flights it operates are across the English Channel to Jersey. Oxford "International" is a fine place to land your plane if you have chartered privately otherwise it’s a matter of getting here via London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW). You can also fly to London Luton (LTN) and London Stansted (STN) though neither are remotely near London and getting across country to Oxford from either is not easy.
Getting to Oxford from London Heathrow
If you have a choice, the best airport for Oxford is Heathrow by a long chalk. When all the building work is finished, Heathrow may be an attractive place to land. At the moment it is, at best, a landscape of energetic chaos. The labyrinthine gantries, corridors and tunnels seem to go on forever. However, once you get to the Central Bus Station (Terminals 1,2 and 3) or the bus stop under Terminal 5, getting to Oxford is comparatively quick and easy.
If you have the misfortune to land at Terminal 4, you’ll have to get a local bus to either the Central Bus Station or Terminal 5, a slow and woeful experience. If this is your lot (and let’s be honest which of us gets to chose our terminal?) get off at Terminal 5 as, if you get on the Oxford bus at Central Bus Station, you’ll find the first stop, ten minutes later, is Terminal 5!
The great thing about the X70 bus that connects Heathrow and Oxford is that it runs every 30 minutes (every two hours between 10pm and 4am). This means if you miss one it isn’t long before the next comes into view. Travel time from Central Bus Station to the centre of Oxford is 90 minutes on a good day and from Terminal 5 80 minutes.
If you think there is the slightest possibility that you’ll be returning to Heathrow within the next three months buy a period return which costs only £26. A single is £22 so should you mistakenly buy a single your round trip will have cost you £44!
If there are three or four in your group ask about Group Return which is superb value at £65 per group. It’s best to have cash to pay the driver. British bus drivers are an unpredictable lot. Many are the salt of the earth and will take an avuncular interest in your travel plans, others clearly feel that passengers interfere with their travel plans. I once had an X70 driver ask me not to use my lap top as the sound of its keys set his nerves on edge!
Oxford buses go from Bay 14a at Central Bus Station and Bay 11 at Terminal 5.
Getting to Oxford from London Gatwick
At Gatwick there are only two terminals. The X80 leaves South Terminal from Stand 18 on the lower level and North Terminal from Bay 4. The journey time is usually twice that from Heathrow. It can take two and half hours to get into Oxford from Gatwick and the buses only run every hour (every two hours between 11.15pm and 7.15am). Which terminal you arrive at makes virtually no difference in journey time.
Gatwick-Oxford fares are £32 period return which is a great saving on two £27 singles. Again the Group return is excellent value if you are in a party of four.
Arriving in Oxford
Both the X70 and X80 make seven stops on their way into Oxford. Make sure you tell the driver which stop you want to get off at as this affects where he puts your luggage in the compartments under the bus. For most visitors the terminus known as Gloucester Green is the best place to get off as it’s right in the centre and there are taxis and local buses nearby. If you are staying at Bath Place or The Old Bank Hotel, however, the stop known as High Street is a shorter walking distance (in fact buses virtually stop in front of The Old Bank Hotel).
It is possible to pre-book an Oxford taxi to bring you direct to your hotel from Heathrow and Gatwick. A driver will meet you in the arrivals hall with a sign bearing your name. Rates vary but work on up to £80 for Heathrow and £140 for Gatwick which sounds a lot but if you're a party of four the pro rata is very reasonable. Try any of the following companies but you may find that they want 50 per cent deposit up front. Some even want it in cash in the office which can be problematic.
001 Taxis - +44 1865 240000
ABC Taxis - +44 1865 770077
Radio Taxis - +44 1865 242424
Royal Cars - +44 1865 777333
City Taxis - +44 1865 201201
Alternatively ask your hotel what they can arrange.