Easy Guide: 3 Ways to Get from the Airport to Downtown Chicago

You’re visiting Chicago and the long flight finally lands, and passengers rush to the exit before it gets to the gate. Meanwhile, you are figuring out how to get from the airport to downtown Chicago. Smart move!

There are many ways to get from the airport to downtown Chicago. Among the choices are buses, trains, Uber, Lyft, taxis, airport shuttle services, and livery services.

However, the most economical and fastest way to get to and from the airport is by Chicago’s “L” train. So if you don’t mind the extra hour of riding through the city, here’s the skinny!

The entrance is located near elevator center 4 in the pedestrian tunnel. The trains are underneath the ground level (of baggage claim), so look for and follow the signs that say “CTA Trains” or “Trains to City”.

Public Transportation

Getting from the airport to downtown Chicago can sometimes be a challenge, but using public transportation is a convenient and budget-friendly option. Not to mention, once you arrive downtown, using the Chicago public transportation system is very easy.

When it comes to getting from the airport to downtown Chicago, the most convenient option is to take the ‘L’ train. The city offers multiple options including the CTA Blue Line train, which departs directly from O’Hare International Airport and takes passengers to the Loop (downtown area) in about 45 minutes.

Public transportation not only provides affordable transportation to downtown Chicago, but also allows travelers to experience the city like a local.

O’Hare Airport

The Chicago Transit Authority Blue line train travels between O’Hare Airport and the Chicago Loop.

  • Duration: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Cost from Airport: $5.00
  • Cost to Airport: $2.50 (when using the Ventra card)
  • Hours: All times, every day

Midway Airport

The Chicago Transit Authority Orange line train travels between Midway Airport and the Chicago Loop.

  • Duration: 30 to 40 minutes
  • Cost to/from Airport: $2.50
  • Hours: See chart below
WeekdaysSaturdaySunday + Holidays
Midway to Downtown3:30 AM to 1:05 AM4:00 AM to 1:05 AM4:00 AM to 1:05 AM
Downtown to Midway3:50 AM to 1:25 AM4:20 AM to 1:25 AM4:20 AM to 1:25 AM
Orange Line Schedule of Operation

How to Purchase CTA Train Fare

There are three ways to purchase your fare.

  1. CTA Kiosk
  2. Ventra App
  3. Contactless via Google Pay or Apple Pay

If you don’t plan to use the Chicago “L” during your stay, we recommend the contactless payment method.

Only a Ventra card or 1-day or multi-day pass, which allows unlimited rides within that period, can be obtained through a kiosk or the app. 

Know before you buy:

  • The fare from O’Hare is $5 per ticket
  • When you buy from the kiosk, there is an additional .50 chart (total cost is $3). This charge does not apply when using the Ventra app.
  • The kiosk accepts debit cards, all major credit cards, US dollars, and coins.
cta kiosk

Does CTA Have Reduced Fares

Yes! When riding the ‘L’ around the city, you can get lower fares for children 7 – 11 years old and for senior citizens who are 65 years or older and those with disabilities.

Free rides are available for military personnel in full uniform, qualifying disabled veterans with a CTA Military Service Pass, and children under 7 with a paid adult fare.

In conclusion, we travel to and from the airport 90% of the time using this mode of transportation as locals to get from the airport to downtown Chicago, or vice versa.

The only exception is during very late night to early morning hours (between 11 PM and 4 AM) when all we want to do is get in a car after the flight. In this instance, we arrange for an airport transfer service.

Hired Car

If you’re wondering about the best way of getting from the airport to downtown Chicago, consider booking a transport for a hassle-free journey.

Hired cars are reliable ways to make sure that you get from your airport terminal to the heart of the Windy City in no time at all. Hired cars are perfect for those who are looking for the most personalized experience possible; you’ll be driven in comfort and style by your own private chauffeur, who will know exactly how to get you to your destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How to Request a Hired Car

Unless you’ve made a reservation in advance for a private airport transfer, you’ll need to catch a taxi at the airport. At both O’Hare and Midway airports, taxis can be caught at the baggage claim level outside the terminal. There is normally and attendant and a line when there is high demand.

To make a reservation for a taxi in advance, we recommend American Taxi Chicago (800-244-1177). They charge a flat fee for service to and from the airports. However, there is a surcharge during the very early hours of the morning.


On the other hand, shuttles are great for those who are traveling on a budget, or for larger groups who want to travel together in comfort.

However, with a scheduled departures from all major airports, shuttles are an easy and affordable way to get into the city without having to worry about driving or navigating public transportation.

No matter what your travel needs may be, there’s no doubt that a hired car or shuttle can make your journey from the airport to downtown Chicago much more enjoyable.

How to Request an Airport Shuttle

You cannot catch a shuttle at the airport without reservations in advance. We recommend reserving one in advance to avoid wait times because scheduling of picks is done ahead of time for efficiency in operations.

One option is Transit Van Shuttle (866-261-3114). There are not a lot of companies that bus travelers into the city because the city train is more economical and will beat the traffic.

Final Thoughts on Getting from the Airport to Downtown Chicago

With this post, there is no need to research transportation methods for getting from the airport to downtown Chicago. While you may want to use a hired car, it is expensive compared to public transportation and you could get stuck on city traffic.

A shuttle service is the next best option to city trains if you want to avoid figuring out ticketing and carrying your bags to the train station.

In any event, it is important to plan your Chicago itinerary so that it includes figuring out the logistics of getting from the airport to downtown Chicago seamlessly.

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