Money-Saving Airport Transportation in 11 Major Cities
I travel for business, on my own most of the time, and I’m almost always in a hurry to get into town from the airport – and in many cities that’s easier said than done. Touching down often in the middle of rush hour, town cars, Ubers, taxis and most airport buses are accustomed to driving straight into the belly of the traffic beast and sitting there indefinitely. I, however, am not. I’ve got to keep moving.
In my endless quest to spend as little time as possible sitting in traffic, I’ve sampled numerous airport-to-town transport options, with trains turning up most often as the winners, time and money-wise. Here are 11 of my high-speed favorites to take you into some of the greatest cities in the world – so fire-up the roll-aboard – and ‘All aboard’!
1) BRUSSELS, Belgium
Belgian Railways is essentially a commuter line that can take you to just about any corner of Belgium you choose, including from the airport into Central Station in just 20 – 25 minutes for about $8.
Pro Tip: When headed from the city to the airport, try to go before or after rush hour as the trains can be standing-room-only affairs with little room for people, much less luggage.
2) CHICAGO, Illinois
CTA Blue Line Rapid Transit makes about 10+ stops on the way into town, yet somehow it still manages to whisk you and the local commuters into town in about 35 minutes. Tickets cost less than $5 one-way.
Pro Tip: Travel in the more crowded cars and use this one primarily during daytime hours, as the CTA can be lonely at night.
3) HONG KONG, China
OK, so perhaps I haven’t tried every in-from-the-airport route just yet, but my new all-time favorite is Hong Kong’s Airport Express. Just $13 per ride, the train is immaculately clean, very comfortable and virtually silent. In fact, the ride is so lovely, my only complaint is that at 25 minutes, it’s too short.
Pro Tip: Upon entering the train, grab a seat on the side opposite the open doors. That side has beautiful island and water views on the way to the airport — and makes you wish you didn’t have to leave.
4) LONDON, England
The Heathrow Express train is a bright, clean, super-efficient non-stop 15-minute ride into central London for roughly half the cost of a London cab. Advance purchase tickets start at $20 one-way and average about $54 for the roundtrip.
Pro Tip: No matter how jet-lagged you are, don’t get too comfortable – this is one of the shortest rides into town this side of a helicopter.
5) MIAMI BEACH & SOUTH BEACH, Florida
To get to Miami Beach, particularly north of 18th St., your best bet is the Miami Beach Flyer bus which, despite frequent stops, takes just 35 minutes, at the absurdly inexpensive cost of just $2.65 per ride.
Pro Tip: Call the front desk first to find out which bus stop is the closest to your hotel so you don’t waste time rolling your bags down Ocean Drive in the heat.
6) MILAN, Italy
Milan’s Malpensa Express is one of my favorites because it’s fast (about 45 minutes) and costs about 80% less than a taxi (just $13). Flying out of Milan’s Linate Airport? Then live a little – take a taxi. It’s so close to the center of town, even with traffic, the ride is only about 10 -15 minutes (even quicker early in the morning) and costs about $22.
Pro Tip: Heading towards Milan on the Malpensa Express, be sure to look behind you (back in the direction of the airport) to catch a glimpse of the sun rising over the snow-capped Alps – ah, bellissima!
7) NEW YORK, New York
For many people, the best way from JFK is via taxi which is generally fast (about 30 – 45 minutes) and convenient (door-to-door) though it will set you back about $65-70. The AirTrain costs less than $10, but can take over an hour and involves switching trains, dragging your luggage up and down steps, etc. – so pick your poison.
Pro Tip: When you arrive at JFK, ignore the guys hanging round Baggage Claim offering rides. Instead, pick up an official, yellow NYC taxi at the stand just outside the doors or call/text one of the well-known NYC car services, like Carmel Car, Dial 7 or Uber for a pickup.
8) PARIS, France
I have taken the RER train to Paris at rush hour and have the emotional scars to prove it – but they’re healing up now because I’ve switched to the far saner, calmer and ridiculously easy Paris Roissy Bus. Buy a ticket from a kiosk at the airport for about $12 and in about an hour you’ll land in the center of town at the Paris l’Opera Metro stop.
Pro Tip: If you find yourself getting on the Metro during rush hour, keep in mind it will be packed. Expect to be jostled, be mindful of your luggage and conscious of pick-pockets.
9) ROME, Italy
For just $16 a pop, the Leonardo Express is the non-stop way to go, from Fiumicino Airport, straight to the termini in the center of Rome, in just 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: Truth be told, it’s not unusual for the Leonardo Express to run late, so leave plenty of extra time. Another tip? Tickets can be bought at the counter or ticket machines at the station, but build in a little extra time here as well – the lines for both can be long, and the machines can be confusing for visitors.
10) SAN FRANCISCO, California
San Francisco’s BART into town is quick and convenient but badly in need of a cosmetic makeover. Aesthetics aside, at just about $9 a ride, it is a great deal in a very expensive city, so be sure to take advantage.
Pro Tip: As this system, like Chicago’s, is part of mass transit, travel in the more crowded cars during daytime or early evening hours as the BART can be lonely at night and service less frequent.
11) SEATTLE, Washington
Bright, clean and relatively quick Seattle’s Link Light Rail from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown is a breeze and also ridiculously cheap at just $2.75 per ride. There are11 stops along the way, but at just 35 – 45 minutes and traffic-free, who’s counting?
Pro Tip: This one too is part of mass transit, so if you’re traveling on your own, daytime or early evening hours are likely the wisest times to use it (though I’ve taken it as late as 10 pm without incident).
Happy travels and enjoy the journey!