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Hi, we're Georgina and Nathan, college friends turned travel partners. We're coffee and animal-loving adventure enthusiasts here to share our favorite travel tips with you! Our 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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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina D'Angelo

Getting Around Chicago Like a Local

How to Use the Trains and Buses in Chicago

Getting Around Chicago - Alpacka My Bags

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 learning how to get around Chicago is a must 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.

Read Also: The Best Time to Visit Chicago

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.

Best Way to Get Around Chicago

There are actually multiple options for getting around Chicago, but it depends on how much money you want to spend and also 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.


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. Some of my favorite neighborhoods to walk around in are Andersonville, Lincoln Park, the Loop, and Wicker Park.


getting around chicago by bike

Another option, and still relatively cheap option, is to rent a bike and pedal around the city. At least between locations. You can rent “blue bikes” by the hour all around the city. You literally can’t go more than a few blocks without seeing a “blue 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 and drivers are used to them sharing the road. Just always stay aware of your surroundings.

CTA - Trains and Buses

A great option to see more of the city is to utilize the CTA, or the trains and buses spread out around the city. If you want to visit north Chicago, the Loop, then Chinatown, you’ll definitely want to use the CTA. Other than running behind (quite often) the trains and buses are a reliable and fairly cheap way to explore Chicago.

Stop by any “L” station, or train station, and find the ticket machines. You can purchase different tickets based on how much you will be exploring. There are single-ride passes to 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.

best way to get around chicago cta

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.

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.

Read Also: Best Coffee Shops in Chicago

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!


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 pretty much 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.

best way to get around chicago

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.

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.

Read Also: Best Museums in Chicago

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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We're Georgina and Nathan, two adventure enthusiasts and creators of Alpacka My Bags. We're here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 


We've been exploring this insane planet that we call home together for over 3 years now. After college, we knew the "traditional career path" was not for us, and honestly the "traditional life path", in general, just wasn't for us.


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

Our 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 us, and often our dog, JoJo, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as we have, we hope you find our tips useful for any and all of your future travels.

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