New Orleans is served by the Louis Armstrong International Airport
(MSY) which is a 15-30 minute drive from the city center depending on traffic. Most major carriers (Continental, Delta, JetBlue, American, Southwest, United and US Airways) fly here, but travelers sometimes complain about a lack of direct flights to New Orleans. Easiest access is from hubs such as Miami, Houston and Atlanta. A cab ride to the Central Business District is $33 for one or two passengers and an additional $14 per passenger after that. There’s also a shuttle service available to hotels in the CBD for $20. Driving from the airport is easy: take a short trip east on Interstate 10 into the city, then take the Poydras exit.
There is no scheduled passenger boat service to New Orleans but the city is a major hub for cruise ships. Cruise ships dock behind the Riverwalk Marketplace and at a couple of other cruise terminals. Cruises from New Orleans typically last 3 days to a week and head to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. New Orleans is currently the home port of the Carnival Triumph and the Norwegian Spirit which sail to the eastern and western Caribbean.
Greyhound buses also arrive and depart from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Avenue. There are regular buses that go to Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, Miami and beyond with connections to just about anywhere in the country.
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, one of the hubs for New Orleans transportation, is located at 1001 Loyola Avenue on the outskirts of the CBD and is the southern terminus for three major Amtrak routes:
- The City of New Orleans. Travel between New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago. 19 hours.
- The Crescent. Travels between New Orleans and New York with stops in Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. 30 hours.
- The Sunset Limited. Travels between New Orleans and Los Angeles with stops in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and Tucson. 48 hours.
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) operates local buses. Bus service is extensive, but it’s not the safest form of New Orleans transportation for travelers. The buses themselves are okay but if you have to transfer, you may end up waiting for your next bus in a sketchy neighborhood. If you're sitting around Claiborne, Rampart, M.L. King or Tulane Avenue waiting for a bus after dark, there's a good chance you're going to go home without your wallet and camera. In general, you should be okay on the routes along Magazine St., Carrollton, Canal St. and Poydras but take care of your valuables and keep a close eye on your surroundings. RTA has front-mounted bike racks on buses so you can take a bike along as well. An express pass is $1.50 and a transfer is $.25. Call (504) 248-3900 or visit www.norta.com
for more information. You can travel safely via streetcar on St. Charles Avenue, Carrollton Avenue, Canal Street and along the river in the French Quarter. The streetcars are operated by RTA and are popular with travelers.
New Orleans is a very walkable city but there will be times when you'll need to take a taxi, especially if you're headed Uptown to a place off the streetcar line. There are a number of cab companies in the city including United Cabs, White Fleet Cab Co., Yellow-Checker Cabs and Metry Cab, which serves the suburbs.
Driving around New Orleans isn’t difficult; however the roads are littered with potholes, so be careful because you can hit a bump the wrong way and damage your vehicle. Finding your way around is easy as most attractions, hotels and restaurants are off Canal Street, Carrollton Avenue, St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street. It’s pointless to try to drive and park in the French Quarter so don’t even try. Park at one of the lots near the Jackson Brewery on Decatur Street and walk. During Mardi Gras, driving and finding a place to park can be nearly impossible. If you fly in to Mardi Gras, don’t rent a car until you need to leave the city. If you drive in during carnival, you might want to just leave your car parked at your hotel.