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    Getting around Chicago: guide to the subway and airport transportation

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    By organizing a Chicago itinerary, after studying the main things to see, it is useful to understand what is the best method to get around the city without wasting too much time, which will prove essential especially if you have a few days available. I anticipate immediately that from my point of view the subway is the most comfortable and functional choice for visiting the city and its attractions, especially if you have chosen to stay in areas that are not too peripheral (by the way, here you will find our advice on where to sleep in Chicago).


    • Metropolitan – L Route
      • Prices and day passes
      • Park & ​​Ride
    • Bus
    • Bike rental and Bike share
    • How to get to Chicago airports

    Metropolitan – L Route

    La metropolitan of Chicago it is also known as L-Route, where the L is the confidential diminutive for "elevated", which is the particular characteristic that the metro takes on in the city center: the so-called "loop". Here, in fact, from underground service (or at the surface limit) it becomes elevated passing above the level of the road. The service is very convenient because it will allow you to move around the city and reach the main attractions, and it is also active 24 hours a day (obviously with a different frequency depending on the period).

    There are eight lines and they are distinguished from each other by color:

    • Red
    • Blue
    • Brown (loop)
    • Green (loop)
    • Orange (loop)
    • Purple (loop)
    • Pink (loop)
    • Yellow

    The races are frequent, during the day there is one every 7-10 minutes which become one every 10-15 in the late afternoon and during the evening. In the map below you can see the detail of the "loop" in the Downtown of the city.

    By clicking here you can view the complete map of the entire service from the official website of the local public transport company.

    Prices and day passes

    There are various ways to pay for the ticket and use the public service, let's go and see them in detail:

    • Ventra Ticket: they are the solution for those who do not need to use the subway a lot and do not stay in Chicago for more than a day. They are gods single tickets contactless non-rechargeable that can be purchased at the automatic ticket machines in all stations. There are two options:
      • Single ticket at a cost of $ 3 which includes two transfers between bus and subway line within two hours of first use.
      • Daily ticket at a cost of $ 10 that will allow one person to make unlimited rides within a single day.
    • Ventra Cards: it is a contactless card into which credit can be loaded to use public transport services. It costs $ 5, but you can reuse it to use the subway once you register your card online. This type of card will be required to purchase multi-day passes. Furthermore, once you have registered your card online, you will be protected from any theft or loss as your credit will not be lost. Once you have purchased the card, you can decide whether to recharge it and pay for each single trip ($ 2,50) or use one of the various day passes available.
    • Unlimited Ride Pass: you can choose to load the following day passes on your Ventra card:
      • 1 day for $ 10
      • 3 days for $ 20
      • 7 days for $ 28
      • 30 days for $ 105
    • Cash: definitely the most uncomfortable shape in my opinion. If you want to use the bus you will have to pay the exact amount of the ride to the driver because you will not receive change, to use the subway instead at the turnstiles you will not be able to use cash but you will still have to go to an automatic ticket office and choose either the Ventra ticket or the card.

    Park & ​​Ride

    In case you have entered Chicago as a stop on your on the road (after all, this is where the historic Route 66 starts), know that some subway stations have large parking spaces that will allow you to leave your rental car and arrive comfortably in downtown, avoiding traffic and the higher cost of city parking. The rates are in fact very low and range from 2 to 18 $ for a day, on the page on the official website you can see the details of the stations concerned and the cost for each of them.


    Summarizing the journeys of more than 200 bus lines in a few lines could be an unlikely undertaking and, in this case, perhaps even in vain. Given the widespread service offered by the metro, the need to use this public service is rather limited. However, if you have special needs, I invite you to use the handy trip planner tool of the local transport company which, in a few clicks, will allow you to understand which bus (and metro) line best suits your needs.

    Bike rental and Bike share

    If you are visiting the city at a time when Chicago weather permits, cycling can be a convenient way to get from one attraction to another. As in other major US cities, also in this case, in addition to the classic rental you will also have the opportunity to use the convenient and popular service of bike sharing. As for Chicago, the service is offered by the Divvy company, and it can be very useful if you want to move quickly from point A to point B in the city but do not need a bicycle for the whole day. This is because the bike cannot be left where you want, but must always be picked up and returned to the special stands (if you lose the bike, a $ 1200 fine is expected).

    Furthermore, the bike sharing service has costs that are sustainable in a short time, which however increase exponentially with prolonged use (we are talking about $ 3 every thirty minutes). You can partially get around this by buying a Explorer Pass which, for a cost of $ 15 per day, gives the possibility to make trips of 3 hours each without limitations during the day. However, there is always the problem of having to find a dedicated parking lot for the return that is close to the attraction you want to visit, and hope that it is not already full. In this case you will have to look for another thing that will make you waste precious time, perhaps moving away from your destination. Finally, remember that only people over 16 years of age can access this service.

    Furthermore, the bike sharing service offers you nothing more than the bicycle itself. So if you need a helmet, lock, city map, child seat and a bike that stays with you throughout the day (or for several hours consecutively), you can only rely on a classic. bike rental service by taking a look at the link below.

    Chicago bike rental info

    How to get to Chicago airports

    The best way to get to both O'Hare and Midway airports is with the subway, which arrives directly in these two airports. For theO'Hare International Airport you will need to use the Blue Line, which will allow you to directly reach terminals 1, 2 and 3 (while for terminal 5 you can use a free shuttle). Travel time is approximately 40-45 minutes from Downtown to the airport. The Blue Line service is active 24 hours a day non stop.

    To move to and from the terminal of the Midway International Airport you will have to use theOrangeLine which connects the airport with the well-known city “loop” in the Dowtown. Allow at least 20-25 minutes to get to Midway from the city center. The service does not run in the middle of the night when it is replaced by a night bus on N62 Archer.

    Although the airports are well served by the underground line, it is also true that moving around with all your luggage is not the most agile thing in the world, so if you prefer not to use public transport you can take a look at the private shuttle service by clicking on the link below.

    Transfer to and from Chicago airports

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