A Guide to London Gatwick Airport

London Gatwick was the UK’s second busiest airport for passenger traffic after Heathrow, and Europe’s eighth busiest as of 2022. This huge and fast-paced airport can seem overwhelming with the sheer choice of places for eating and shopping. Our airport guide to London Gatwick aims to help you navigate the process of getting to and using this major travel hub.

When should we arrive at London Gatwick Airport?

We suggest that you arrive at Gatwick Airport at least a couple of hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. This gives you plenty of time to check in and go through security. Once you’ve done that, you should also have time to grab a drink or something to eat and look around the shops.

For long-haul trips, check-in opens three hours prior to scheduled departure. For short hops to Europe, you can check in up to two and a half hours in advance; for internal flights within the UK and Ireland, it’s two hours. For more information, check out our article on when you should book airport transfers.


Gatwick Airport Check-in & Security

Gatwick has two terminals, North and South. Whichever one you arrive at, you’ll find check-in areas clearly labelled. Search for your flight information on the screens inside the terminal entrance to find out which check-in area you need. These zones are easily identified by illuminated yellow 3D squares.

Already checked in online and have carry-on luggage? Proceed to security and then the departure lounge. You can typically check in online between two and 24-hours pre-departure, while some airlines also have self-service kiosks, where you can beat the queue to choose your seat and print your boarding pass, with help on hand from staff if you need it. BA, easyJet, Norwegian and WestJet operate a self-service check-in at Gatwick, although not all passengers and routes may be eligible.

If you’re physically checking in, have your tickets and passport ready, and make sure your hand baggage contains only valuables and items you will need for the journey.

Go through security as soon as possible after checking in. Have your boarding pass handy for scanning, but you won’t need your passport. Have liquid toiletries in containers no bigger than 100ml, inside a clear resealable bag. Electrical items such as laptops and tablets get X-rayed separately. You’ll also need to remove your coat or jacket and belt, plus possibly your shoes, at this point.


Shopping at Gatwick Airport

If you enjoy a spot of retail therapy before or just after you fly, North and South terminals cater for shoppers well. Indeed, the outlets are broadly the same at both. Forgotten toothpaste and suncream? Pick them up at Boots. Meanwhile, WHSmith has you covered for holiday reading.

Alongside the basics, you’ll find numerous high-end goods, from the latest Bobbi Brown cosmetics to World Duty Free and Ray Ban or Sunglass Hut for stylish eyewear. You can also hit Ted Baker, Watches of Switzerland, Reiss and Boss by Hugo Boss, among other famous luxury names.

Check out Accessorize for just-in female trends, Aerospa for massage or beauty treatments, Collection for fashion accessories, or Case if you’re after luggage or similar travel extras.

Eating at London Gatwick Airport

Again, you’ll find extensive choice, with most eateries opening their doors super-early (around 5am) to cater for passengers on early flights in need of breakfast.

Just want a drink, pastry or sandwich? Both terminals have branches of the main coffee-shop chains, from Starbucks, Pret and Costa Coffee to Caffè Nero and EAT.

Meanwhile there are post-security JD Wetherspoon outlets – The Flying Horse and Red Lion in the South and North terminals respectively – plus The Beehive at South Terminal which isn’t airside. These supply a good range of beverages and affordable dishes.

Japanese-inspired Wagamama (both terminals) and peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s (South Terminal) have branches at Gatwick, as does YO! Sushi (South). For Santa Fe-style food like burgers and quesadillas, head to Armadillo, while Garfunkel’s again takes its inspiration from the US and offers international dishes at reasonable prices while being great for families. Shake Shack serves a hearty breakfast and classic burgers.

Other options include Sonoma and Grain Store. If you’re pushing the boat out, try Caviar House and Prunier for oysters and smoked salmon plus caviar in the South Terminal, or The Nicholas Culpeper (North) for British gastropub favourites and a cheeky G&T at the ‘world’s first airport gin distillery’.

Travel to Gatwick Airport

As you’d expect, London Gatwick Airport has various parking options including long and short stay plus valet and pick-up and drop-off facilities. There’s a rail station here with connections to the south coast at Brighton and the Gatwick Express’s non-stop service to London Victoria every 15 minutes. There are also direct coach and bus connections to over a hundred UK towns and cities, with others accessible by changing once.

But taxis to Gatwick are invariably quicker, more convenient, more comfortable, and more reliable, especially for late-night or early-morning departures and arrivals, particularly if several of you are travelling, and carrying luggage. Getting a taxi to Gatwick Airport can also be cheaper, when weighing up airport parking and petrol costs.

Contact Western Cars Horley Gatwick Airport Taxis

Western Cars Horley offers a dependable Gatwick Airport taxi service with 24/7 customer support. Book your taxi to Gatwick Airport with us, online or by calling 01293 510510. Alternatively, check out our Gatwick Airport Transfers page for more information.