London Stansted Airport (STN IATA) is London's third airport. Despite bearing London's name, it is actually in Essex, about 30 mi (48 km) north of the capital. There are coaches and direct express trains into The City and Victoria Coach Station in London all day and overnight. The airport is also close to Cambridge, which is about 25 mi (40 km) away, and Colchester, which lies around 30 mi (48 km) to the east.
Most Stansted flights are to and from European destinations, including more than 25 destinations in France, 20+ destinations in Spain, 10+ in Greece and 10+ in Germany, depending on the time of year. There are also flights to and from North Africa and the Middle East, and within the United Kingdom to Newquay in Cornwall, Belfast in Northern Ireland, and Edinburgh in Scotland. A full list of destinations is on the Stansted Airport website.
The airport is owned by MAG, Manchester Airport Group, who also own East Midlands and Manchester airports.
Stansted is excellent for direct low-cost flights across Europe, especially away from the capitals. For example, from Rome to London, there's plenty of choice, but from Bari, Palermo or Turin it would otherwise be difficult to get here without paying three times as much and taking three times longer.
Stansted is okay for travel to central London. It's further out and pricier to reach than Heathrow or Gatwick, see transport options below. Nevertheless, there are frequent buses and trains south to London, and north to Cambridge, Norwich and the Midlands.
Stansted is poor for:
- flights beyond Europe – though Morocco and Dubai are served.
- transfers to other airports – allow at least two hours to reach Heathrow or Gatwick, on top of the normal two-hour check-in & security time.
- currency exchange (bureau de change) – as there are few options in the terminal and these are often very expensive.
Stansted is dominated by the low-cost airlines Ryanairand EasyJet which have large bases at the airport. Holiday charter airlines TUI and Pegasus also operate at the airport. A few other scheduled carriers fly to European destinations from Stansted and there are a small number of intercontinental flights.
Flights are normally from 06:00 to 23:00; the airport terminal remains open 24/7 but most facilities close overnight. Delayed passengers arriving during the small hours had better assume everything landside will be closed, so use the toilets in the baggage reclaim hall before emerging onto a draughty sidewalk. See transport section below for first & last buses and trains.
Stansted Airport is a fair way from London and other nearby cities, so travel times may vary, particularly at peak times. You don't necessarily need to pre-book your transport, with plenty of turn-up-and-go travel options, but "advance" tickets can come with a discount. It is always worth checking journey planners a few hours before your flight.
By train is usually the quickest way to travel to Stansted, particularly from London. Stansted Airport railway station is (almost) beneath the terminal building. The walk between trains and the terminal building usually takes less than 5 minutes.
The station has step-free access. London Oyster cards and contactless bank cards cannot be used to travel between London and Stansted. You can buy tickets and e-tickets at stations or online. National journey planners and tickets are available on several websites, including National Rail and The Trainline.
Trains to or from London
Stansted Express connects London with Stansted Airport. At peak times, a train leaves in both directions every 15 minutes. The journey takes around an hour. London Oyster cards and contactless bank cards cannot be used to travel between London and Stansted. You can travel from:
- 1 London Liverpool Street - change for: . Use for onward journeys to Canary Wharf, Farringdon, the West End, Heathrow Airport, and Reading. Use Greater Anglia for trains for onward journeys towards Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Southend-on-Sea. London Liverpool Street is in the City of London (Square Mile), with entrances in Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street. Postcode: EC2M 3TY.
- 2 Tottenham Hale- change for: . Use for onward journeys to King's Cross St Pancras, the West End, Green Park near Buckingham Palace, and Victoria. Use Greater Anglia for trains towards London Stratford and Hackney Downs. Tottenham Hale is in north-east London. Postcode: N17 9LR.
Trains to or from Bishop's Stortford and Harlow
Some Stansted Express trains call at stops between London and Stansted Airport. These include:
- Harlow Town - postcode: CM20 2JD.
- Bishop's Stortford - change for: . Postcode: CM23 3BL.
- Stansted Mountfitchet - postcode: CM24 8BE.
Trains to or from Birmingham, Cambridge and Norwich
You can travel to Stansted using some CrossCountry long-distance trains. Major destinations include:
- Birmingham New Street - change for: . Postcode: B5 4AH.
- Leicester - change for: . Postcode: LE2 0QB.
- Peterborough - change for: . Postcode: PE1 1QL.
- Ely - change for: . Postcode: CB7 4BS.
- Cambridge - change for: . Postcode: CB1 2JW.
Greater Anglia trains run between Stansted and Cambridge/Norwich:
- Norwich - change for: . Postcode: NR1 1EF.
- Thetford - change for: . Postcode: IP24 1AH.
- Cambridge - change for: . Postcode: CB1 2JW.
- Audley End for Saffron Walden - postcode: CB11 4LB.
Coaches stop outside the main Stansted Airport terminal entrance. The walk between the coach station and the terminal is around 2 minutes.
Coaches are generally much cheaper than trains, but journey times vary depending on the traffic. There are direct coaches to other airports around the country, including Birmingham (BHM IATA), London Heathrow (LHR IATA) and London Luton (LTN IATA).
Coaches to or from London
National Express coaches run all day and night between Stansted and London:
- A5 - London Paddington, London Marble Arch, London Baker Street, London St John's Wood, London Finchley Road Station, London Finchley Road and Frognal, London Golders Green, Stansted Airport. Paddington to Stansted takes approx. 2-2.5 hours.
- A6 - London Victoria Coach Station, London Victoria Railway Station, London Paddington, London Marble Arch, London Baker Street, London St John's Wood, London Finchley Road Station, London Finchley Road and Frognal, London Golders Green, Stansted Airport. Victoria to Stansted takes approx. 2-2.5 hours.
- A7 - London Victoria Coach Station, London Victoria Railway Station, London Waterloo, London Southwark, Stansted Airport. Victoria to Stansted takes approx. 1.5-2 hours.
- A8 - Royal London Hospital, London Liverpool Street, London Shoreditch, London Bethnal Green, London Mile End, London Bow, London Stratford, Stansted Airport. Liverpool Street to Stansted takes approx. under 2 hours.
- A9 - London Stratford, Stansted Airport. Stratford to Stansted takes approx. 1 hour.
Airport Bus Express shuttle coaches run all day and most of the night, calling at London Liverpool Street, London Stratford and Stansted Airport only.
National Express coach routes to other UK destinations include:
- 250 - Ipswich, Colchester, Braintree, Stansted, Heathrow. Can take between 1.5 and 2 hours between Stansted and Heathrow at peak times. It may be quicker to travel by train through London.
- 260 - Canterbury, Maidstone, Chatham, Dartford Bluewater, London Bexleyheath, London Stratford. Stansted.
- 728 - Norwich, Thetford, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Cambridge, Stansted.
- 737 - Oxford, Milton Keynes Coachway, Luton, Luton Airport, Hatfield, Hertford, Harlow, Stansted. Oxford to Stansted can take up to 4 hours.
- 767 - Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough, Cambridge, Stansted.
- 777 - Birmingham, Birmingham Airport, Coventry, Leicester, Cambridge, Stansted.
- Essex AirLink X10 - Basildon, Wickford, Chelmsford, Stansted.
- Essex AirLink X30 - Southend, Rayleigh, Chelmsford, Great Dunmow, Stansted.
- Arriva 133 - Braintree, Rayne, Felsted, Great Dunmow, Takeley, Stansted.
- Central Connect 316 - Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Stansted.
- Arriva 508/509/510 - Harlow, Sawbridgeworth, Bishop's Stortford, Stansted Mountfitchet, Takeley, Stansted.
Unlike Heathrow, there is no standard taxi fare between central London and Stansted. Fares can be negotiated with each firm. Expect tariffs in excess of £110.
Street Cars Taxis is the on-airport taxi provider. There is a reservation desk in the international arrival concourse. Also bookable by phone: ☏ .
Stansted Airport is accessed via the A120 dual-carriageway, near junctions 8 and 8a of the M11 (London - Cambridge) motorway. There several different car parks for Stansted Airport, which are signposted from the A120.
Onward connections by car include:
- M11 Southbound () - towards Harlow and London (East and Central). Onward connections to destinations in the South East, South Wales and the South West, as well as west London via the M25 London Orbital motorway. If coming from the south, leave the M11 at junction 8a for Stansted Airport.
- M11 Northbound () - towards Saffron Walden and Cambridge. Onward connections to Norwich via the A11, and Huntingdon, the Midlands and the North East via the A14. If coming from the north, leave the M11 at junction 8 for Stansted Airport.
- A120 Westbound () - towards Bishop's Stortford. Onward connections to Hertford via the A10.
- A120 Eastbound () - towards Braintree, Colchester and Harwich. Onward connections to Chlemsford via the A131, and Ipswich via the A12.
The M11 motorway can become congested at peak times in the London and Cambridge areas. Entrances into Stansted Airport can also become congested during school or seasonal holidays.
A list of Stansted Airport car parks is on the airport website. Short stay car parks, which are the closest to the terminal building, are generally more expensive than the dedicated "mid stay" and "long stay" car parks.
There are 24-hour free airport transfer buses from car parks furthest away from the terminal. The transfer takes no longer than 20 minutes. You can pre-book parking online. Pre-booking is compulsory for the Meet & Greet and JetParks car parks.
By rental car
The 3 London Stansted Car Rental Village is home to several car hire firms, including national chains. A rental car finder is on the Stansted Airport website. There is a free bus transfer between the car rental village and the terminal forecourt, with a service every 10 minutes. Postcode: CM24 1SJ.
If you arrive by car into JetParks, Stansted Airport Long Stay or Stansted Airport Mid Stay, follow signs to the nearest shuttle bus stop for a free transfer to the terminal building.
If you arrive by coach or by train, or by car into the Stansted Airport Short Stay Orange Zone, follow signs into the terminal building, through the subway. There are lifts and escalators between levels. The walk takes no longer than 5 minutes.
There is only one terminal building, so it's reasonably easy to get around Stansted. Entering the building, departures are to the left, and arrivals to the right. Check-in desks are in the centre. Some airlines allow for check-in online or via a mobile app. Check with your airline for details.
There are very few facilities landside.
You will need to pass through security to reach the airside area and departures lounge. FastTrack security to skip queues is open between 4am and 8pm. Prices start at £8 per person with booking online.
World Duty Free and a series of shops lie between security and the departures lounge. There are several departures screens in the departures lounge.
Some gates are walkable from the departures lounge. Gates 1-19 and 20-39 are accessible by people mover (an automatic, underground train).
If you are an arrival into Stansted, the 4 railway and bus stations are down a ramp, accessed from inside the terminal building. Rail departure screens are inside the terminal and the railway station. The rail and bus stations are signposted from the terminal.
There isn't a huge amount to do while you wait at Stansted Airport. Nevertheless, official advice is to arrive at the terminal least two hours before your flight. This is advice worth following, because Stansted can get busy during school and seasonal holidays with long queues for security.
Before the airport
If you're not in a hurry and in London, there are one or two attractions near London Liverpool Street, among them the Barbican Art Gallery, and a selection of restaurants and bars about 2 minutes from the Stansted Express platforms at the Broadgate Circle. Remember, it takes about an hour to get to Stansted by train from Liverpool Street, so be sure to leave in plenty of time.
The nearby town of Bishop's Stortford features a range of food and drink stops - including a range of food stalls at the Eat 17 "foodie utopia" and The Castle pub at 38 Castle Street. Great Dunmow, a historic market town less than 15 minutes by car from the airport, also features a selection of pubs and restaurants - including the Flitch House and Square One Dunmow[dead link].
On the roads, 1 Birchanger Green service station is off junction 8 for , approximately 10 minutes by car from the terminal building. Includes EV charging, free WiFi, free showers, pet-friendly areas, Burger King, Chopstix Noodle Bar, KFC, Starbucks and Waitrose, among other outlets.
See "Nearby" for a greater range of side-trips.
Before security, waiting around can be a little tiresome. There are Costa Coffee and Pret a Manger cafés with customer seating, along with a Burger King and a few vending machines. There are some benches throughout the terminal, but these can get very busy. There are designated smoking areas outside the terminal building.
After security, the departures area is compact and can get very busy, with standing room only in the main atrium at peak times. The bars, cafés and restaurants can offer a few more seats. There are plenty of souvenir, clothing and convenience shops to browse while you wait - but remember to check your baggage allowance with your airline before you buy.
There is seating at most gates, but delays can lead to standing room only.
Unlimited WiFi is free for 4 hours (the timer resets after 24 hours from first use). Use the _FreeWifi network. You can pay for faster internet access, with prices from £1.
There is free drinking water at the international departure lounge (behind Pret A Manger), at passport control, international baggage reclaim near reclaim 9, the international arrivals hall next to Burger King, in the gates 1-19 area, and in the gates 40-59 area.
There is no smoking (including e-cigarettes) airside.
The Escape Lounge is signposted, behind Pret A Manger in the airside waiting area. This family-friendly area features unlimited hot and soft drinks, complimentary WiFi, and a selection of hot and cold food. Can be pre-booked from £29.99 per person on the Stansted Airport website. Open daily from 4am until 8.30pm.
Eat and drink
Stansted Airport features a range of cafés and restaurants airside, and a small selection of outlets landside. Remember, if you are buying food and drink to take with you, there might be restrictions at your destination country.
Before the airport
Approximately 10 minutes by car from Stansted Airport, 2 Birchanger Green service station is off junction 8 for . It features a range of food stops including Burger King, Chopstix Noodle Bar, KFC, Starbucks and Waitrose. There is no public transport between Birchanger Green and the terminal building.
Inside the terminal, there is a cluster of places to eat and drink near the Arrivals area. These include Burger King, Costa (chain café), Leon (vegan-friendly "good" fast food) and Pret (chain café). Shops which sell food include WHSmith and M&S Simply Food.
In addition to food and drink in shops such as World Duty Free and WHSmith, there is a wide selection of restaurants, bars and cafés. In 2023 these include:
- The Camden Bar and Kitchen - breakfast, pub classics and beers inspired by London's Camden Town
- Comptoir Libanais - Lebanese cooking, including breakfast, light bites and dinner
- Harris + Hoole - chain café
- Itsu - Asian-inspired lunches and light bites, including breakfasts, soups and sushi
- Joe & The Juice - juice bar
- The Perch - Nikkei-inspired premium bar with menu combinations from across South America and Japan
- Pret - chain café
- Terracotta Italian Kitchen - Italian restaurant
- The Windmill - a J D Wetherspoon pub serving drinks, breakfasts, pub lunches and dinners with runway views
With a captive market, changing your pounds and pennies for other currencies can be a little expensive at the airport. If you are still after travel money at Stansted, you can exchange your cash with ChangeGroup - in the landside area, departure lounge and baggage reclaim.
If you want to change your money before you set out for Stansted, you can check exchange rates on websites such as money.co.uk and MoneySavingExpert. You might be able to exchange your cash on your local high street - at with independent travel agent, Post Office, John Lewis, M&S Bank and others.
You can find WHSmith - a chain convenience store - in the arrivals area.
Before your departure, shop for toys, clothes, travel essentials and London souvenirs in the airside area. In 2023, these include:
- Accessorize - women's fashion
- The Body Shop - soaps and fragrances
- Boots - health and beauty essentials
- BOSS - formalwear
- Glorious Britain - UK merch
- Hamleys - toys, games and London souvenirs from the famous Regent Street retailer
- JD Sports - sportswear and footwear
- Mulberry - luxury leather and smart-casual wear
- Rituals - soothing health and beauty products
- Ted Baker - clothing
- WHSmith - books, newspapers, magazines and snacks
- World Duty Free - food, drinks, gifts, souvenirs and novelties
There are two multi-faith prayer rooms at Stansted Airport for prayer or quiet reflection.
Landside, find a prayer room opposite Check-In Zone A.
Airside, there is a prayer room near the Escape Lounge in the Departures Area, behind Pret.
Both prayer rooms are open 24 hours a day.
Napping is allowed in the terminal, which is open 24 hours, but you may be woken by fellow passengers or staff.
Next to the terminal, find:
- 1 Radisson Blu Hotel London Stansted Airport, Waltham Close, CM24 1PP, ☏ , email@example.com. Good value 4-star, great location, though restaurant erratic and fitness centre kinda worn.
- 2 Hampton by Hilton, Bassingbourn Road CM24 1QW, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Good affordable 3-star, great location just SW of terminal.
Two hotels are near the Mid Stay Car Park, with a £4 per adult shuttle bus to/from the terminal:
- 3 Holiday Inn Express, Thremhall Avenue CM24 1PY, ☏ . Convenient clean mid-range choice.
- 4 Premier Inn, Thremhall Ave CM24 1PY, ☏ . Reliable mid-range chain.
A shuttle bus connects the terminal with Novotel Stansted Airport near the Long Stay car parks:
Are you sure? For Ryanair this is a hub and they can stand-up aircraft and crews if they see that a delay is going to embroil them in grief and compensation. Your departure posted as 3 hours late may suddenly go to a boarding call. You can probably only risk leaving the airport for a general shut-down, or an incoming turnaround by some other airline that hasn't even left Malta yet. Check that flight's progress online (e.g. departure board of the airport of origin) and work out Plans B and C for if your departure time suddenly comes forward, or goes back even further because the crew have timed out on their hours.
- Cambridge is top choice if you've four or more hours spare: wander the wonderful old streets and colleges. Thirty minutes by train twice an hour; the station is a mile or so south of town but there's a bus.
- Stansted Mountfitchet has a medieval castle with an educational replica Norman village and windmill. It's only six minutes away via hourly trains towards London Liverpool Street.
- Bishop's Stortford is a small market town. The ruined castle is just a grassy knoll. Nine minutes away by train towards London Liverpool Street every 30 mins.
- Saffron Walden, six miles north off M11, in summer has Audley End Jacobean Mansion and Gardens. The Mansion is a mile from Audley End railway station (trains towards Cambridge) so you could walk, but more likely you'd come here if you had a hired car and were too early for your accommodation or return to the airport. See East Anglia for similar options within an hour's drive, such as Ely.
- London itself doesn't work as a side-trip unless you've six or more hours to kill. The train takes 50 mins to Liverpool Street in the northeast of the city but then it's another 30 mins by Underground to the central sights.
|Routes through London Stansted Airport|
|Cambridge ← Saffron Walden ←||N S||→ Harlow → London|
|Bishop's Stortford ← Stansted Mountfitchet ←||W E||→ Braintree → Colchester|
|END ←||N S||→ Harlow Town → London Liverpool Street|
|Norwich ← Cambridge ←||N S||→ ENDS|
|Birmingham New Street ← Cambridge ←||N S||→ ENDS|