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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

Getting Around Chicago Without a Car: Local's Guide

Updated: Jan 22

Chicago is a must-visit city in the US. From museums to outdoor activities to restaurants galore, there is so much to do here. But it is quite a big city, so make sure you know all about getting around Chicago without a car before your trip!


One of my favorite parts about Chicago is how walkable and bikeable it is. There are pedestrian sidewalks everywhere and they are adding more and more bike lanes. But walking and biking aren’t the only ways to get around the city.


Getting Around Chicago Without a Car - Alpacka My Bags


The CTA, or the Chicago Transit Authority, is the public transportation system in the city. You can easily take a train or bus to get to further away locations. It’s possible to enjoy a baseball game in the north neighborhood of Wrigleyville and then take a train downtown for dinner.


Keep reading so you can become a pro at getting around Chicago! This city is a must-visit, so don’t let its size scare you. It’s much easier to get around than you might think.


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Getting Around Chicago Without a Car


There are actually multiple options for getting around Chicago without a car, but it depends on how much money you want to spend and how active you want to be.


If you’re okay with walking miles, Chicago is a great city to explore by foot. But don’t fret, there are several other ways for you to make your way around Chicago.


The Windy City is over 230 square miles, so there's no way you'll see the entire city in just one trip. And that's ok! However, you can still get around quickly and with ease so you can check out the best things to do in Chicago and explore the quirkiest neighborhoods.


1 | Walking


We’ll start with walking because it requires you to spend zero dollars. If you are visiting the city on a budget and are okay with staying in one general area, then walking is the way to go. Plus, it’s a great way to still get your exercise in.


Chicago boasts some incredible architecture, so walking around and just exploring is a really fun way to see what you can find. Take a quick train ride to a neighborhood you really want to explore and spend a few hours walking around. Some of my favorite neighborhoods are Andersonville, Lincoln Park, the Loop, and Wicker Park.


You can see so much more of a city if you explore on foot. You'll walk past things and see things you would otherwise miss while in a car or on a train. But I will say, the trains are an experience on their own in Chicago. Hop on the brown line for a fun trip above the city streets.


2 | Biking


Woman riding back on city street. Getting Around Chicago Without a Car

Another option, and another relatively cheap option, is to rent a bike and pedal around the city. At least between locations. You can rent Divvy Bikes by the hour all around the city. You literally can’t go more than a few blocks without seeing a Divvy Bike station.


I will say, if you have never biked in a city before, start on quieter roads and get a feel for it. It can be startling to bike on a busy road while cars keep driving past you. But don’t let this scare you.


Biking is super popular in Chicago, they're building more bike lanes, and drivers are used to them sharing the road. Just always stay aware of your surroundings.


Join a Chicago Biking Tour for a fun, active city adventure!


3 | CTA - Trains and Buses


A great option to see more of the city is to utilize the CTA, the public transportation system. If you want to visit multiple parts of Chicago, you’ll definitely want to use the CTA. You can see more of Chicago in a shorter time, and for less money, if you use the CTA.


Besides sometimes running behind, the trains and buses are a reliable and fairly cheap way to explore Chicago. This is a large city so various neighborhoods are spread out; the Loop, or downtown area, is the most popular, but don't skip the most charming like Lincoln Park, Boystown, and Andersonville.


Download the Ventra app for tickets or stop by a train station to find the ticket machines. You can purchase different tickets based on how much you will be exploring. There are single-ride passes, day passes, and more.


If you will be staying in Chicago for several days, a reloadable Ventra card will be worth it. It’s super easy to get on any train or bus with a card, and you can reload it anytime.


Read more CTA tips before you use it.


Train at a station in Chicago. Getting Around Chicago Without a Car

I recommend downloading the “Ventra” app, even if you don’t buy a card, as you can view train and bus stops near you and see when the next train or bus will be arriving. I found this app to be the most reliable. If you do buy a Ventra card, you can also easily reload it on the app.


Always Know Your Stop!


Another tip, listen to the stops when you are riding the train so you don’t miss yours! They announce the next stop (about 95% of the time) so you know where you are. There are also big signs at every stop, so you can peak out the window or door to know where you are.



Buses are a little bit different. You need to know where you are getting off ahead of time and pull the “stop” cord or press one of the “stop” buttons. The buses do not stop at every stop like the trains do; they only stop if someone needs to get off.


Google Maps comes in handy here because it will list all the stops on your journey. Pay attention to what stop is before yours so you know when to pull the cord or push a button. If you are going to a popular attraction or busy bus stop, there will most likely be others getting off as well, so this won’t be an issue. Just let them pull the cord and hop off behind them!


4 | Rideshare


Another option if you’re in a time crunch and don’t mind spending the extra money is to utilize rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft. Because it is such a big city, you should always be able to get a ride. And if you’re splitting the cost with friends, it won’t cost too much.


This is also useful to get to the airport. You can hop on the Blue Line train to get to the airport, but if you aren’t near a Blue Line station, ordering an Uber or Lyft can be a convenient option.



Getting Around Chicago Without a Car: FAQ


Is Chicago easy to get around without a car?

Yes! One of my favorite parts about Chicago is how easy it is to travel around. This city was built to be explored, public transportation is reliable, and walking and biking paths are everywhere.


Getting around Chicago without a car is thankfully very easy; in fact, it's a much better idea to skip renting a car here. You'll end up stuck in traffic too often and have to pay a fortune for parking every day.


What is the safest mode of transportation in Chicago?

During daylight hours, the trains and buses are all pretty safe in Chicago. If you've never ridden public transportation in a big city before, it might be a little overwhelming, but nothing you won't be able to figure out.


Things you should know before riding Chicago public transportation (CTA):


  • Always buy your tickets on the Ventra app or the ticket machines at select train stations. Never pay another person for a ticket; they're ripping you off.

  • You might see homeless people. Just mind your own business; most homeless people keep to themselves as long as you do in Chicago.

  • When in doubt, stick near a group of college kids or a family.

  • Try to avoid riding the trains and buses by yourself late at night. It's generally fine, but better to not be out super late, especially in quieter areas.


Chicago street at night - Getting Around Chicago Without a Car

There are multiple options for getting around Chicago which is awesome because you’ll be able to squeeze in lots of adventures in just a few days. My top tip is to download Google Maps no matter how you plan on getting around the city.


I recommend avoiding a car rental as parking in Chicago is so expensive. Traffic can get quite intense, and it's much easier to get around via the CTA (trains and buses), walking, biking, and rideshare.


Chicago is big and busy; there are lots of people everywhere and lots of streets. So knowing where you are going before you set off will be super helpful. Google Maps will also tell you all the train or bus stops on your journey so you know exactly where to get off.


Getting around Chicago without a car is easy and way more affordable! Are you excited to explore the Windy City now?


There is so much to see and do in Chicago, so get planning, download the “Ventra” app if you want to utilize the CTA, and pack a great pair of walking shoes! What are you most excited about doing in Chicago?


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aboutME

Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 

 

I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.

 

I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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