Chattanooga Metro Airport (airport code CHA) provides flights to several major cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Memphis, Washington, D.C., and Orlando. American, Delta and US Airways all service CHA. The terminal here is not large, but is sizeable enough to accommodate the traffic it sees and provide basic travel amenities, such as WiFi, ATMs and a business center. The airport is only a few miles from Downtown, and they host all the usual suspects when it comes to rental car and taxi companies.
Trains are certainly what this city is famous for. Back in the day, it was the main mode of transportation to and from Chattanooga. Things have changed quite a bit since the days of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, however. The airways and the almighty interstate have replaced the tracks as the preferred venue of arrival. Amtrak doesn't service the area any longer, but the Tennessee Valley Railroad
provides service throughout the area for sightseeing.
The CARTA public transportation system can get you around the city quickly and safely once you've arrived, but when trekking from your home city to Chattanooga the most convenient method is sticking to Greyhound. These mass-people-transporters can contain some shady characters and normally require several stops to get to your final destination. Greyhound can be a cheap option when coming from regional cities like Atlanta and Nashville, though. Fares from regional cities are normally under 50 bucks. Buses leave several times per day from these regional hubs, and there are typically seats available.
There are several riverboats operating tours and dinner cruises on the Tennessee River, including the famous Duck Boat Tours, which use amphibious landing vehicles to see the city by land and water. Many of these floating hotels, restaurants and tour services are fine ways to see the city; it's the same way many caught their own first glimpses over the past few centuries. However, the closest thing to traveling from another city by boat these days would be a houseboat rental. These can be found at several marinas in the area. If your spirit is adventurous and your pockets are deep enough, you could travel the Tennessee River from Knoxville to Chattanooga. This section has been likened to the Rhine River in its beauty—minus the castles.
CARTA (Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority) operates a free electric bus system. These free Downtown Electric Shuttles are hands-down the way to travel in the Downtown area; these shuttles run every 5 minutes from the Aquarium to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel. There is also a bus running to the North Shore every 15 minutes. The free shuttles operate daily, except for major holidays. CARTA also operates a paid bus system that is very affordable. Useful information about the CARTA system: The CARTA free shuttles stay busy. They make frequent stops, so if one stop seems crowded, it may be worth it to walk to the next one. Depending on your driver, you may be allowed to stand. Some drivers may ask you to sit, though, before they take off. If using the CARTA paid buses, a 24-hour pass can be purchased for $6; $4 will get you extra days. Adult fare on the paid buses is $1.50. Seniors, people with disabilities and students ride for 75 cents with a valid I.D. Contact CARTA for special passes. The paid buses use a coin and bill deposit for fares. Be ready with exact change or be prepared to get some looks. Find more information about the CARTA system at its website
Driving into the city from major regional destinations is a breeze. I-75 enters the city from the northeast and southeast and makes for an easy drive from both Knoxville and Atlanta. I-24 brings traffic in from Nashville, to the northwest. I-59 comes into the city from Birmingham and points southwest. Once in the city, it’s best to park the car. Traffic can be a bear on the interstates during rush hours, and Downtown traffic is full of tourists. Fortunately for the visitor, though, the city has plenty of other options for transportation once you arrive, and parking (mostly paid) is everywhere. North Shore, Downtown, Bluff View and St. Elmo are all easily accessible to one another by foot or the CARTA.
Taxi services have a tough time justifying routes in the Downtown area with the free CARTA system available. These companies come in quite handy, however, when transportation is needed to and from the airport and to hotels lying outside of the city center. There are several taxi services to choose from, but Checker Cab typically has the best rates (423-553-1598).