Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (www.ottawa-airport.ca), the capital’s only commercial airport, is located 10 km. south of downtown. It has U.S. customs preclearance and is served by several U.S. carriers, including American, Continental Express, Delta, United and US Airways. Canadian airlines include Air Canada, WestJet, Porter and Bearskin, as well as several small carriers serving the Far North, such as First Air and Canadian North. Most major car rental companies have desks at the airport; follow the Airport Parkway and Bronson Avenue to get downtown. You can also take a taxi (West-Way Taxi, 613-727-0101, approximately $30), the YOW Yow Airporter shuttle (www.yowshuttle.com, $15 one-way) or a local OC Transpo Route 97 (Tunney’s Pasture/Bayshore) bus (www.octranspo.com, cash fare $3.25, no change provided).
VIA Rail Canada (www.viarail.ca) serves the Ottawa Train Station at 200 Tremblay Road, five km. southeast of downtown. Services at the station include free wireless Internet, a first-class passengers’ lounge and a small snack bar, but there is no car rental desk. To get downtown, take a taxi (Blue Line, 613-238-1111, approximately $20) or a local OC Transpo Route 95 (Barrhaven Centre) bus (www.octranspo.com, cash fare $3.25, no change provided). The station is located on Ottawa’s bus rapid-transit route, the Transitway, which provides quick access to many parts of the city.
Greyhound (www.greyhound.ca) serves the Ottawa Bus Station at 265 Catherine St. The station is on the southern edge of the downtown core, about two km. from Parliament Hill. To get downtown, take a taxi (Blue Line, 613-238-1111, approximately $6) or walk one block east to Bank Street and catch a local OC Transpo Route 1 (Ottawa-Rockcliffe), Route 4 (Downtown) or Route 7 (St. Laurent) bus (www.octranspo.com, cash fare $3.25, no change provided). Air France-KLM (800-667-2747) also provides shuttle buses between Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and the Ottawa Train Station for passengers on their flights to and from that airport.
OC Transpo (www.octranspo.com) operates Ottawa’s extensive bus network. The adult cash fare is $3.25 and drivers don’t make change. Multiple-ride tickets cost $1.25 each and you’ll need two per trip on most routes. They’re available at OC Transpo offices and from the cashier at most convenience stores; you cannot buy them from bus drivers. The driver will, however, sell you a DayPass, which gives you unlimited rides for $7.50 per day. Buses on main routes usually run until at least midnight on weekdays. Service is more limited on weekends and holidays. The system is generally safe, but there are occasional reports of late-night muggings. OC Transpo is great for getting around downtown, but time consuming outside the core. Several OC Transpo buses travel briefly into Gatineau, but if you want to really explore the Quebec side of the river on transit, use Gatineau’s public transit, the STO (http://www.sto.ca/index_e.asp).
Ottawa’s taxis are relatively expensive when compared with those in other Canadian cities. A 10-km. ride will set you back about $22. Cabs have security cameras and are generally safe, although many drivers are cavalier about speed limits. Licensed taxis have a City of Ottawa taxi plate on the bumper, a taxi light on the roof (lit if the cabbie is looking for a fare, dark if the cab is engaged), and a driver ID photo inside. Most are dark blue or black sedans. It’s usually easy to hail one in Centretown or the ByWard Market; just stand at the curb and raise your hand. In other areas of the city, head to a hotel or shopping mall cabstand, or call dispatch. Be prepared for a long wait during bad weather and near bar-closing time (2AM) on weekends. Major citywide companies include Blue Line (613-238-1111) and Capital (613-744-3333).
If you’re planning to spend most of your time downtown, don’t rent a car. Ottawa’s core is compact and pleasant to walk in. You will need a car, however, if you want to visit Gatineau Park, Kanata or some of the far-flung museums. Many directions to outlying spots will refer to “the Queensway,” the local slang for the cross-town freeway, Highway 417. Many streets in Centretown and the ByWard Market are one way. Look for signs above the intersection for guidance. Avoid driving on Albert and Slater streets, if possible, as they are usually clogged with cross-town buses. Parking on many downtown streets is forbidden during rush hour, and fines are high. The city is in the midst of removing its parking meters and replacing them with “pay-and-display” ticket machines, so don’t assume parking is free if you don’t see a meter. Check street signs carefully.