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You don’t need a car while in Portland because the city is well served by public transportation (light-rail, streetcar, buses). However, if you want to take day trips to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area , the wine country, or Mount Hood, or explore the Oregon coast, a car is necessary.

Major rental-car companies with offices in or near Portland International Airport or in downtown Portland include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty.

One of the most important benefits of belonging to the American Automobile Association (www.aaa.com; tel. 800/222-4357) is that it supplies members with free maps and emergency road service. In Portland, AAA is located at 600 SW Market St. (www.oregon.aaa.com; tel. 800/452-1643 or 503/222-6767). Members of AAA also can get detailed road maps of Oregon by calling their local AAA office.

In Oregon, you may turn right on a red light after a full stop, and if you are in the far-left lane of a one-way street, you may turn left into the adjacent left lane of a one-way street at a red light after a full stop. Everyone in a moving vehicle is required to wear a seat belt.

Oregon is one of only two states in the U.S. with no self-service gas stations. So when you pull into a gas station, an attendant will fill

By Public Transportation

Portland encourages the use of public transportation, and you can travel around the city via bus, MAX light rail, or the Portland streetcar, all operated by TriMet (www.trimet.org; tel. 503/238-7433). Buy your 2-hour tickets and day passes on the bus (exact change required), at vending machines at bus and light rail stops, at vending machines on board the streetcar, or at the TriMet Ticket Office (701 SW Sixth Ave.), located in Pioneer Courthouse Square behind the waterfall fountain. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. Bus and MAX passes and schedules are also available at most Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertsons grocery stores throughout the metro area.

Save Money with TriMet Transportation Passes

A 1-day transportation pass, which includes all forms of public transportation, costs only $5 for adults, $2 for seniors, and $3.30 for ages 7–17. You can buy a 7-day pass for $26 adults, $7 seniors, and $8 ages 7–17.

By BusTriMet buses operate daily over an extensive network. Adult fares are $2.50, $1 for seniors (“Honored Citizens”) 65 and older, and $1.65 for children up to age 17. You can make free transfers between the bus and both the MAX light rail system and the Portland streetcar. Tickets are good for 2 hours.

By Light RailThe Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) is Portland’s aboveground light rail system, connecting downtown Portland with the airport (Red Line), the eastern suburb of Gresham (Blue Line), the western suburbs of Beaverton (Red and Blue lines) and Hillsboro (Blue Line), North Portland (Yellow Line), and Clackamas (Green Line). Fares on MAX are the same as on TriMet buses; be sure to validate your ticket on the platform before you board MAX. There are ticket inspectors who randomly check to make sure passengers have stamped tickets and issue fines to those who don’t.

By STREETCARPortland streetcar (www.portlandstreetcar.org; tel. 503/238-7433) runs on two lines, the NS Line and the CL Line. The NS Line is a 4-mile (one way) route from NW Lovejoy and Northrup, through the Pearl District, downtown, and Portland State University to the South Waterfront District. The CL Line is a 4.65-mile (one way) route from SW Market to the Pearl District, across the Broadway Bridge to the Rose Quarter, Convention Center, and OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) in northeast and southeast Portland. Both streetcar lines are a great way for visitors to get from downtown to the neighborhoods. Streetcar fares are $1, but that’s for the streetcar only; you cannot use a streetcar-only ticket to transfer to buses or MAX.

By Car

Car RentalsPortland is a compact city, and public transit will get you to most attractions within its limits. However, if you’re planning to explore outside the city—and the Portland area’s greatest attractions, such as Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, lie in the countryside within an hour’s drive—you’ll definitely need a car or a tour company to take you there.

The major car rental companies all have desks at Portland International Airport on the lower level: Avis (www.avis.com; tel. 800/331-1212 or 503/249-4950), Dollar (www.dollar.com; tel. 800/800-3665 or 503/249-4792), Enterprise (www.enterprise.com; tel. 800/261-7331 or 503/252-1500), Hertz (www.hertz.com; tel. 800/654-3131 or 503/528-7900) and National (www.nationalcar.com; tel. 877/222-9058 or 503/249-4900). Outside the airport, but with desks adjacent to the other car rental desks, are Advantage (www.advantage.com; tel. 800/777-5500 or 503/284-6064), Alamo (www.goalamo.com; tel. 877/222-9075 or 503/249-4900), Budget (www.budget.com; tel. 800/527-0700 or 503/249-6331), and Thrifty (www.thrifty.com; tel. 800/847-4389 or 877/283-0898). Zipcar (www.zipcar.com) and Car2go (www.car2go.com) let you rent a small two-seater car from spots all over Portland, drive it as long as you need to, and return it to a convenient drop-off spot—not necessarily where you picked it up—for a standard rate of 41[ce] per minute. You don’t have to pay for gas when you use the car. You do need to become a member before you begin using the service, but after the initial charge there is no annual fee.

ParkingElectronic parking meters take coins, credit cards, and debit cards and issue receipts that must be placed on the curbside window of your car. The receipt remains valid elsewhere if you move your car, as long as there is time remaining on it. In most parts of town, you don’t have to feed the meters after 7pm, but you do pay for parking on Sundays from 1 to 7pm in some parts of the city. The hourly rate is $1.60.

The city operates Smart Park garages at First Avenue and Jefferson Street, Fourth Avenue and Yamhill Street, 10th Avenue and Yamhill Street, Third Avenue and Alder Street, O’Bryant Square, and Naito Parkway and Davis Street. Many downtown merchants and restaurants validate Smart Park tickets for 2 hours if you spend at least $25.

Special Driving RulesYou may turn right on a red light after a full stop and left into the adjacent left lane of a one-way street. If a pedestrian is crossing at a white-striped pedestrian crossing, motorists must come to a complete stop until the pedestrian has reached the sidewalk.

By Taxi

You won’t find cabs cruising the streets—you or your hotel concierge will have to phone for one. Broadway Cab (www.broadwaycab.com; tel. 503/227-1234) and Radio Cab (www.radiocab.net; tel. 503/227-1212) charge $2.50 for the first passenger, $1 for each additional passenger, and $2.60 per mile.

On Foot

City blocks in Portland are about half the size of most city blocks elsewhere, and the entire downtown area covers only about 13 blocks by 26 blocks. This makes downtown Portland a very easy place to explore on foot. From downtown you can easily walk to the Pearl District, NW 23rd, and Washington Park. (There are also public transportation options to all those destinations.)

 

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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.