Quite often, questions are posted asking how to get from the airport to a particular hotel downtown. This sticky post is meant to be a Cliffs Notes primer. If you have a specific question that’s not covered in this sticky, please create a separate post in this forum. It will make it easier for us to see and help you out.
Chicago has two airports – O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW). They’re about the same commuting time (45-60 minutes) from downtown. If you have the opportunity to fly to either airport, go with whichever airport has the best fare.
Public transit in Chicago is operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The website www.transitchicago.com – is very useful. On the right side of the homepage is the Plan A Trip section. It’s the same as Google Transit. You can also call the CTA at (888) YOUR-CTA.
As of this writing, train (sometimes referred to as the “EL”) and bus fares are $2.25 for a single ride. CTA operates on a fare card system. You can purchase stored value fare cards from CTA vending machines (cash and credit cards accepted) at the airport as well as all train stations. They are reloadable and can be shared. Fare information - www.transitchicago.com/fareinformation.aspx
While you’re at the airport train station, pick up a free transit map. It will come in handy.
If you plan to use more than two buses and/or trains within a 24 hour period, a CTA Visitor Pass is a better value. It provides unlimited bus and train travel. A 1-day pass is $5.75, a 3-day pass is $14, and a 7-day pass is $23. The Visitor Pass works on a 24 hour period. For example, if you start your 1-day pass at 9:00 am on Monday, it’s valid until 9:00 am on Tuesday. Visitor passes are available at the airport vending machines as well as Walgreen’s, CVS, and currency exchanges downtown. You can also order them ahead of time online from the CTA website. Visitor passes cannot be shared.
CTA trains do not have luggage racks. The blue line (O’Hare) and orange line trains (Midway) originate at the airport. Getting a seat on the train shouldn’t be too difficult. However, the train will get more crowded as it gets closer to downtown. If you have a considerable amount of luggage, a taxi or shuttle van is best.
Speaking of taxis, cab fare from O’Hare to downtown is approximately $45. From Midway, it’s about $35. Chicago taxis accept credit cards. If the driver claims that the credit card machine does not work, don’t get in the cab. Cab fares are metered. There is an additional charge for more than one passenger. There is no extra charge for baggage or credit card use. Cab stands are located outside of baggage claim at both airports. You can calculate cab fares here - http://chicago.taxiwiz.com/
If you’re not in a hurry and want to save a few dollars - http://airportexpress.com/ is the airport van shuttle here. There’s a discount coupon on the homepage and you can make reservations (not required) online.
If your hotel is in the Magnificent Mile (Mag Mile), River North or Gold Coast area and you’re coming in from O’Hare (blue line), take the train to Clark/Lake. The station has an elevator and escalator. From there, take a taxi to your hotel. If your hotel is in the Loop area, Clark/Lake or Monroe are the closest stations.
From Midway to Mag Mile hotels or River North, you can take the orange line to Roosevelt. Transfer to a northbound (towards Howard) red line train. Get off at either Grand or Chicago. If you have a lot of luggage, take the orange line to Clark/Lake and a taxi from there to your hotel. From Midway to Loop hotels, take the orange line to Washington/Wells or Clark/Lake.
Not all CTA stations have escalators or elevators. The online maps below indicate the accessible stations.
You can make a free transfer between red and blue line trains at Jackson. However, it involves walking about a block in a tunnel along with some stairs.
At Clark/Lake you can make a free transfer between the blue and orange lines.
Here’s a good online map of the downtown area to put things in perspective - transitchicago.com/assets/…200806D.htm
Here’s a map with a sightseeing guide - transitchicago.com/assets/1/brochures/downto…
Note – as of this writing, the CTA has scheduled service reductions scheduled to begin February 7th. Trains and buses will be running less frequently and several bus routes will be eliminated. The eliminated bus routes are not in the downtown areas. You can get up-to-date information at - transitchicago.com/travel_information/servic…
If you’re coming to Chicago via Amtrak, Union Station is at the western edge of the Loop area. Taxis are best from there to your hotel. If you don’t have much luggage, CTA bus #151 will get you from Union Station to Loop and Mag Mile area hotels.
Once you're downtown - http://www.hopstop.com/?city=chicago - is a good site to map out walking directions.
If you are travelling from either airport to a suburban destination, do not take a Chicago taxi. It will be meter + 50%. Instead, take a flat rate (no meter) taxi - http://americantaxi.com/