Arizona is a big state (the sixth largest), and because many of the state’s top attractions are national parks, national monuments, and other natural areas, a car is almost a necessity for getting the most out of a visit to the state. As with airline fares and golf, car-rental fees vary wildly. They used to be quite high here, but now are generally in line with other Sun Belt cities, and, of course, prices spike during car shortages and the most crowded part of the tourist season.
Because Phoenix and Tucson are major resort destinations, both have numerous car-rental agencies. Rental rates in Tucson can be a bit lower than in Phoenix, and you’ll save even more there on taxes and surcharges—in Phoenix, taxes and surcharges add more than 50% to rental car costs if you rent at the airport; in Tucson you'll probably pay $5 to $10 less per day. You can also often save money by renting at a non-airport location, which might be a smart option if, say, your resort will shuttle you from the airport.
If you’re not a car-rental pro, try www.autoslash.com, which applies discounts from various institutions to your bill, or www.priceline.com, which I've always found reliable.
In Arizona, a right turn on a red light is permitted after a complete stop. Seat belts are required for the driver and for all passengers. Children 4 and under must be in a child’s car seat, and ages 5 to 7 have to be in a booster seat. General speed limits are 25 to 40 mph in towns and cities, 15 mph in school zones, and 55 and 65 mph on highways in cities. On rural interstate highways, the speed limit can be as high as 75 mph.
If you’re heading out of a city, keep your gas tank topped off. In many parts of the state, it’s not unusual to drive 60 miles without seeing a gas station. Note: Temps can reach 100 degrees as early as March and as late as October. Always carry drinking water with you while driving through the desert, and if you plan to head off on back roads, carry extra water for the car’s radiator as well.
Because Arizona is a big state, if your time is short, you may want to consider flying between cities. Contour Airlines (www.contourairlines.com; tel. 888/322-6686) will get you from Phoenix to Page, near Lake Mead. American Airlines (www.aa.com; tel. 800/433-3200) flies from Phoenix to Flagstaff.
The train is not really a viable way of getting around much of Arizona because there is no north-south Amtrak service.
Greyhound (www.greyhound.com; tel. 800/321-2222) and Trailways (www.trailways.com; tel. 877/467-3346) run buses across the state. Shuttle bus service between most of the tourist cities in the vertical center of the state is available through Arizona Shuttle (www.arizonashuttle.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.