Most major domestic airlines serve the city’s Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) (www.flymsy.com). All international flights connect through other cities. The airport is 15 miles west of the city in Kenner. Information booths are scattered around the airport and in the baggage claim area.
Southern Airways Express (www.iflysouthern.com) operates regional flights from Memphis, Birmingham, Destin, and other midsize Southern cities to Lakefront Airport (NEW). The Art Deco airport is 9 miles from downtown New Orleans.
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.
For $20 per person (one-way), the official Airport Shuttle New Orleans (www.airportshuttleneworleans.com; [tel] 866/596-2699 or 504/522-3500) van 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 ($38) in advance, via phone, or online. It’s free for kids 5 and under. It operates daily from 3:30am to 2am year-round.
A taxi from the airport to most hotels costs $33 for one to two people; $14 per person for three or more passengers per person (it’s a better, more direct deal than the shuttle if two or more passengers are travelling). Taxi stands are outside the baggage-claim area.
To ride in style from the airport to your hotel, try Bonomolo Limousine Service (www.bonolimo.com; [tel] 800/451-9258 or 504/522-0892). Airport transfer service in a Lincoln MKS runs about $95.
From the airport, you can take the Jefferson Transit public bus No. E-2 for $2. It goes to Tulane Avenue and Loyola Streety 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 (7:30am weekends) and depart from the upper level of the airport. The Tulane/Carrollton line runs until 9pm daily; the line to Loyola runs until 6:45pm Monday to Friday only. For more information, call Jefferson Transit (www.jeffersontransit.org; [tel] 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. If possible, drive in during daylight and 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 Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. (www.greyhound.com; [tel] 504/524-7571). Megabus (us.megabus.com; [tel] 877/462-6342) has cheap fares to/from select Southern cities where they connect to many others. Buses pick up streetside (no terminal) behind the Athlete’s Foot store on Elysian Fields Avenue between St. Claude Avenue and Rampart Street in the Marigny.
Heads-up on Airport Rental Car Facility
The gleaming-new airport rental car facility can be easy peazy or nightmarish. If you arrive in New Orleans on a nice day at Concourse D (Delta, United), you and your little roll-aboard can expect a pleasant jaunt to pick up your rental car. If, however, you arrive at Concourse B (Southwest/Air Tran, USAirways), have multiple bags, a weary family, are traveling solo, or if it’s humid or raining sideways, the looong, open-air walk to the rental facility can be utterly miserable. There are no regular shuttles, but you can call MVI Field Services to request golf-cart assistance (tel. 615/318-3108); however, it only goes part of the way. Alternately, if you have a travel companion, leave them with the bags, do the hike, pick up your car, then swing back to retrieve companion and cargo (on the return trip drop [‘ ]em all off at the curb first). Otherwise, rent a luggage cart, take deep breaths, and make the trek. Allow ample extra time for the extra hassle. Hopefully this will all be fixed when the new terminal opens in 2018—or sooner.
Passenger rail lines pass through some beautiful scenery. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; tel. 800/872-7245 or 504/528-1612) 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 several major cruise lines do embark from the Port of New Orleans. Many passengers add a visit to the Crescent City before or after their Caribbean cruise—a right fine vacation. Contact Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com; [tel] 888/722-0021); Carnival Cruises (www.carnival.com; [tel] 800/764-7419), or Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com; [tel] 866/234-7350) for information. American Cruise Lines (www.americancruiselines.com; [tel] 800/460-4518) and the American Queen Steamboat Company (www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com; [tel] 888/749-5280) both ply the Mississippi River to and from New Orleans (American Cruise Lines launched a new ship in 2015), while Blount Small Ship Adventures’ cruise ship hugs the Gulf Shore (www.blountsmallshipadventures.com; [tel] 866/730-5265).
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 terminal ranges from $8 to $16 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.