Navigating New Orleans
They don’t call it the Big Easy for nothing: In addition to its famously festive atmosphere and anything-goes vibe, a wide variety of transportation options make getting around New Orleans’s scenic streets and tree-lined avenues a breeze. Whether you’re in town for Mardi Gras or on a quest to tour the mansions along St. Charles Avenue, we’ve got your guide to navigating New Orleans with ease. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Riding New Orleans’s iconic streetcar is a not-to-be-missed experience in the Crescent City. Clean, cute and convenient, the streetcar clatters along the essential thoroughfares on four lines: St. Charles, Canal Street, Riverfront and the Loyola Avenue line. Don’t forget to have exact change for fare (under $2). Or purchase a Jazzy Pass and ride the streetcar as much as you desire. Passes are available at Walgreens and select grocery stores.
Insider Tip: While streetcars on the St. Charles Avenue line operate around the clock, they are few and far between late at night and in the early morning hours. After dark, calling a cab is your best bet.
Renting a car isn’t necessary for most visitors to New Orleans: On the contrary, it’s probably more of a hassle than it’s worth. Parking can range from $7-$21 in private lots around downtown, and street parking in the French Quarter is especially harrowing given tight roadways and the density of (often inebriated) pedestrians. If you do rent a car, choosing from one of the rental car agencies at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport may be the most convenient choice.
Insider Tip: Read meters carefully! Broken parking meters can result in tickets. And drive with caution on St. Charles Avenue: A collision with a streetcar on the meridian probably isn’t on your agenda.
In recent years, “bike taxis” have sprung up all over the Big Easy: They’re a fun way to get around town and take an informal tour at the same time. Powered by (mainly) college students, pedicabs are a safe and eco-friendly way for one to two people to get around town. Pedicabs can be found in the French Quarter and near major attractions like City Park and Audubon Zoo, or call Nola Pedicabs, one of the larger operators in town, for prearranged pickup.
Insider Tip: Make sure to have cash and don’t forget to ask the fee in advance of your ride.
Unlike in Manhattan, the streets of New Orleans are not awash in a sea of yellow cabs. You’ll need to call ahead for a taxi service: Expect to wait about 15 minutes and have the address handy where you’d like to be picked up. Though many cab companies operate in New Orleans, the most reliable is United Cab -- keep their phone number handy. Fares start at about $3.50. Thereafter, you’ll pay about $2 per mile.
Insider Tip: If paying by credit card, ask the operator when ordering the cab: Few cab drivers will accept credit cards unless notified in advance.
Grab a “go cup” (NoLa lingo for booze-on-the-go) and your sneakers: New Orleans was made for walking. The city’s many pedestrian-friendly stretches make walking around a breeze: Visitors especially love to stroll down oak tree-lined St. Charles Avenue, take in the boozy bliss of Bourbon Street or hit the shops on the 6-mile stretch that is Magazine Street.
Insider Tip: Particularly in the French Quarter, streets are often shut off to vehicle traffic, ensuring that those on foot can easily navigate.
Blessed with a flat terrain, New Orleans is well-suited to bike riders who want to make tracks on two wheels, while working off some calories no less. In recent years, several bike shops have popped up around town, including Bicycle Michael's, Joy Ride Bike Rentals and The American Bicycle Rental Company, offering good old-fashioned cruisers made in the USA. Expect to sign a waiver, and ask about helmets -- some New Orleans neighborhoods have potholed streets, so always exercise caution.
Insider Tip: Rental costs run between $35-45 a day, but half-day prices are available.
The public bus system in New Orleans is efficient, easy to navigate and clean -- not to mention air-conditioned! Some 36 bus routes can take you anywhere you need to go, so if you purchased a Jazzy Pass, feel free to use it on the bus in addition to the streetcar. Just note that you must have exact change for bus fare.
Insider Tip: Bus stops are not announced by the driver, so make sure you come armed with a New Orleans city map or ask your driver before boarding if she or he can announce when you should get off. To look at bus routes around town, visit New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.