Chicago is served by two major airports. O’Hare International Airport (tel. 800/832-6352; www.flychicago.com; airport code ORD) has long battled with Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport for the title of the world’s busiest airport. It’s located about 15 miles northwest of the Loop. Though taxis are plentiful (a cab ride into town averages about $50) and ride shares, such as Uber and Lyft, are readily available, traffic can be horrendous (the ride can last an hour or more, and the longer you sit in traffic in a taxi, the higher the fare will be). If you arrive around rush hour and aren’t carting around lots of luggage, I recommend taking the El, as it’s both cheaper and faster. The 45-minute trip on the El’s Blue Line from O’Hare to downtown costs $5. If you are staying around Michigan Avenue, you’ll want to switch to the Red Line, which will add another 10 to 15 minutes to your trip.
Midway International Airport (tel. 773/838-0600; www.flychicago.com; airport code MDW) is located 10 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. Although fewer airlines operate routes here, Midway is closer to the Loop and attracts more discount airlines, so you may be able to get a cheaper fare if you fly here. Taxis are available, as are Uber and Lyft, and a cab ride (about $30) from Midway to the Loop usually takes about 20 minutes (though in bad traffic, the journey can take considerably longer). Again, I recommend taking public transportation. The 20- to 30-minute trip on the El’s Orange Line from Midway to the downtown area costs $2.50. Note: The train station at Midway is a significant walk from the terminal—without the benefit of O’Hare’s moving sidewalks—so be prepared if you’ve got heavy bags.
Another transportation option at both airports is GO Airport Express (tel. 888/2-THEVAN [284-3826]; www.airportexpress.com). This shuttle’s green-and-white vans service most first-class hotels in Chicago; ticket counters are located at both airports near the baggage claim (outside Customs at the international terminal at O’Hare). For transportation to the airport, reserve a spot at your hotel (check with the bell captain). The cost is $35 one-way ($50 round-trip) to or from O’Hare and around $24 one-way (around $40 round-trip) to or from Midway. Group rates for two or more people traveling together are less expensive than sharing a cab, and children under 6 are free and ages 6 to 12 ride for $15 each. The shuttles operate from 4am to 11:30pm.)
For limo service from O'Hare or Midway, call Carey Limousine of Chicago (tel. 773/763-0009; www.carey.com).
Interstate highways from all major points on the compass serve Chicago. I-80 and I-90 approach from the east, crossing the northern sector of Illinois, with I-90 splitting off and emptying into Chicago on the Skyway and the Dan Ryan Expressway. From here, I-90 runs through Wisconsin, following a northern route to Seattle. I-55 snakes up the Mississippi Valley from the vicinity of New Orleans and enters Chicago from the west along the Stevenson Expressway; in the opposite direction, it provides an outlet to the Southwest. I-57 originates in southern Illinois and forms part of the interstate linkage to Florida and the South, connecting within Chicago on the west leg of the Dan Ryan. I-94 links Detroit with Chicago, arriving on the Calumet Expressway and leaving the city on the Kennedy Expressway en route to the Northwest.
Here are approximate driving distances in miles to Chicago: From Milwaukee, 92; from St. Louis, 297; from Detroit, 286; from Denver, 1,011; from Atlanta, 716; from Washington, D.C., 715; from New York City, 821; and from Los Angeles, 2,034.
Chicago's central train station is Union Station, 210 S. Canal St., between Adams and Jackson streets (tel. 312/655-2385). A hub for both national train routes operated by Amtrak and local commuter lines that run to the Chicago suburbs, it's located just across the river from the Loop. Although Union Station is relatively convenient to downtown, you'll most likely want to take a taxi or bus to your hotel if you have luggage. Bus nos. 1, 60, 125, 151, and 156 all stop at the station on their routes through downtown. The nearest El stop is at Clinton Street and Congress Parkway (on the Blue Line), which is 3 blocks away. Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison St., where you can catch the often-overlooked Metra commuter rail line (tel. 312/322-6777; www.metrarail.com), is a 5-minute walk.
For train tickets to Chicago from other cities in the U.S., consult your travel agent or call Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL [872-7245] in the U.S. or Canada; tel. 001/215-856-7953 outside the U.S.; www.amtrak.com). Ask the reservations agent to send you Amtrak's travel planner, with useful information on train accommodations and package tours.
International visitors can buy a USA Rail Pass, good for 15, 30, or 45 days of unlimited travel. The pass is available online or through many overseas travel agents. See Amtrak's website for the cost of travel within the western, eastern, or northwestern United States. Reservations are generally required and should be made as early as possible. Regional rail passes are also available.
Bus travel is often the most economical form of public transit for short hops between U.S. cities. Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) is the sole nationwide bus line. International visitors can obtain information about the Greyhound North American Discovery Pass from foreign travel agents or through www.discoverypass.com. The ticket allows for unlimited travel and stopovers in the U.S. and Canada. Chicago's Greyhound station is at 630 W. Harrison St. (tel. 312/408-5821), just southwest of downtown.
If you're planning on traveling elsewhere in the Midwest, Megabus (tel. 877/GO2-MEGA [462-6342]; www.megabus.com) offers low-cost trips to cities such as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. The well-kept double-decker buses -- which come equipped with free Wi-Fi -- are a popular option for students. Buses leave from the city's main train station, Union Station.
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.