Most major domestic airlines serve the city’s Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) (www.flymsy.com), along with several smaller regional lines. British Airways flies in from London, and Condor Air from Frankfurt. The airport is 15 miles west of New Orleans in the town of Kenner. Information booths are scattered around the airport and in the baggage claim area. Private planes often use Lakefront Airport, 9 miles from downtown. Note: New Orleans’ all-new, $990-million, Cesar Pelli–designed Louis Armstrong Airport is scheduled to open in February 2019.
Getting into Town from the Airport
Depending on the traffic and your mode of transportation, it takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to get from the airport to the French Quarter or the Central Business District.
Most major rental car companies operate out of a unified facility that is accessed by a shuttle bus outside baggage claim. Follow the signs.
For $24 per person (one-way), the official Airport Shuttle New Orleans van (www.airportshuttleneworleans.com; 866/596-2699 or 504/522-3500) will take you directly from the airport to your hotel in the French Quarter, Garden District, Central Business District, or Faubourg Marigny. There are Airport Shuttle information desks (staffed 24 hr.) in the airport. Note: If you plan to take the Airport Shuttle to the airport when you depart, you must call a day in advance to arrange a pickup time. You can also book and pay for a round-trip ($44) in advance, via phone or online. It’s free for kids 5 and under and operates daily from 3:30am to 2am year-round.
A taxi from the airport to most hotels costs $36 for one to two people; $15 per person for three or more passengers per person. Follow signs to taxi and rideshare stands are outside the baggage-claim area. Uber and Lyft rates run about $37 to $39.
Airport Limousine also operates from the desks in the baggage claim area. Sedans to hotels start at $61 (www.airportlimousineneworleans.com; 855/735-5466 or 504/305-2450). Alternatively, arrange limo service via Bonomolo Limousine Service (www.bonolimo.com; 800/451-9258 or 504/522-0892). Airport transfer service in a Lincoln MKS runs about $99; ask about in-town hourly rates.
The cheapest option is by public bus. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) express line No. 202 runs directly from the airport to Canal St. and Elk Place in the Central Business District eight times daily between 6am and 7pm. Other options: Ride the Jefferson Transit public bus No. E-2 for $2. It goes to Tulane Avenue and Loyola Street in the Central Business District Monday to Friday; on weekends it goes as far as Tulane and Carrollton in Mid-City, where riders can transfer to the Regional Transit Authority lines for an additional $1.25. Buses run from 5:20am weekdays (6:30am weekends). The Tulane/Carrollton line runs until around 9pm daily; the line to Loyola runs until 6:14pm Monday to Friday only. Follow signs outside baggage claim to the NORTA and RTA public bus stop. For more information, call Jefferson Transit (www.jeffersontransit.org; 504/818-1077) or the Regional Transit Authority (www.norta.com; [tel] 504/248-3900).
You can drive to New Orleans via I-10, I-55, U.S. 90, U.S. 61, or across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway on LA 25, then US 190. If possible, drive in during daylight to allow time to enjoy the distinctive swampy scenery. U.S. 61 or La. 25 offer the best views, but the larger roads are considerably faster.
Approximate drive time to New Orleans from Atlanta is 6.5 hours; from Houston it’s 5 hours; Chicago, 14 hours; Baton Rouge is an hour and a half away.
Driving in New Orleans can be a hassle, and parking is a nightmare. It’s a great city for walking, and cabs are plentiful and reasonable, so you really don’t need a car unless you’re planning several day trips. Nevertheless, most major national car-rental companies are represented at the airport.
International visitors should note that insurance and taxes are almost never included in quoted rental-car rates in the U.S., and they can be significant. See “Getting Around” for more on rental-car age and payment requirements.
Greyhound buses service New Orleans from Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) at 1001 Loyola Ave. (www.greyhound.com; 504/524-7571), as does Megabus (us.megabus.com; 877/462-6342), which has cheap fares to/from select Southern cities where they connect to many others.
Passenger rail lines pass through some beautiful scenery. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; 800/872-7245) trains serve the city’s Union Passenger Terminal, 1001 Loyola Ave. in the Central Business District. The station is on the recently completed Loyola streetcar line, and plenty of taxis wait outside the passenger terminal. Hotels in the French Quarter and the Central Business District are a short ride or a healthy walk away.
It’s not usually considered “transportation,” but cruising to or from the Port of New Orleans is increasingly popular. Many passengers add a visit to the Crescent City before or after voyage—a right fine vacation. Ocean cruises include Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com; 888/722-0021); Carnival Cruises (www.carnival.com; 800/764-7419); Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com; 866/234-7350); and Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com; 866/562-7625). Plying the Mississippi River are American Cruise Lines (www.americancruiselines.com; 800/460-4518); the luxe French America Line (www.frenchamerica.com; 888/387-1140); and the American Queen Steamboat Company (www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com; 888/749-5280).
Taxi fare from the cruise terminal to most hotels is about $10 for the first person and $7 for each additional person. Parking at the terminalis $20 per day.
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.