Our Chicago Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help planning your trip to one of the most popular destinations in the USA. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from the airport to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need? We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips.

    It’s all compiled in this Chicago Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip in Chicago.


    When is the best time to travel to Chicago?

    Chicago’s climate is humid continental, with average temperatures ranging from 25ºF in winter to 76ºF in summer.

    • Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with an average of 9-11 rainy days per month.
    • Snowfall can be expected between December and March.
    • The warmest time of the year is from May to October.
    • Summer, from June to August, is peak tourist season, with hotel and flight prices rising accordingly.
    • April-May and September-October are great times to visit, the weather is still cool but pleasant, you’ll avoid the summer’s crowds, and flight and hotel prices are more affordable.

    Chicago Basics

    • Primary languages: English
    • Plug types: A and B
    • Electricity: 120 V
    • Currency: United States Dollar (US$)
    • International dialling codes: +1 312 (downtown and loop) and +1 773 (the rest of Chicago)
    • Emergency telephone number: 911

    How to get to my hotel in Chicago?

    O’Hare International Airport

    O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and the primary airport in Chicago. It sits roughly 17 miles northwest of the Loop, the business district and city centre of Chicago. It hosts 4 passenger terminals in which you’ll find a great range of dining and shopping options as well as facilities including banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central Chicago:

    • A taxi to downtown Chicago takes around 35-45 minutes. The taxi ranks can be found on the lower level of each terminal.
    • You can also use Uber at O’Hare Airport. UberX, UberXL and UberSelect can be found on the departures level while UberBlack and UberSUV wait at the arrivals level.
    • Shared minivan shuttle services are at hand to get you to central Chicago from the airport. The journey takes around 35-45 minutes.
    • Public buses can get you downtown in around 50-60 minutes. It’s the cheapest way to reach downtown Chicago from the airport. Bus stops can be found outside each terminal.
    • The L and Blue Line trains take around 40 minutes. The train station is reachable on foot from each terminal.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the free shuttle buses outside each terminal to get to the car rental companies located in the airport car parks.

    Midway International Airport

    Midway International Airport is the secondary airport in Chicago. It’s located 9 miles southwest of the city centre. It features 1 terminal housing a few restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands and facilities such as banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central Chicago:

    • A taxi to the city centre takes around 20-40 minutes. The taxi rank can be found outside the terminal.
    • You can also use Uber which usually is cheaper than a standard taxi.
    • Shared minivan shuttle services are at hand to get you to central Chicago from Midway. The journey takes around 20-40 minutes.
    • Public buses can get you downtown in around 40-50 minutes. Bus stops can be found in front of the terminal.
    • The Orange Line train takes around 20-25 minutes. The train station is reachable on foot from the terminal.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the free shuttle bus at hand outside the terminal to get to the Consolidated Rental Car Facility located just north of the airport.

    If you come to Chicago by train

    Union Station is the primary railway station in Chicago. Opened in 1925, this historical and iconic train station sits right in the city centre. You’ll find restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands and convenience stores in the station. From here, taxis, buses, urban trains and rental cars are at hand for you to reach your hotel.


    How to get around Chicago?

    Travel tips

    The Chicago Loop - the city centre – is a lakeside area of roughly 1 mile by 2 miles. It can easily be explored on foot. You’ll find a good range of landmarks and attractions in the Loop, including Willis Tower, Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago. For longer journeys, Chicago has a good choice of public and private transport services available.


    Metro, elevated train and bus

    • The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) runs public transport in Chicago.
    • Subways and elevated train lines (L) cover most areas of the city.
    • Single ticket, 1-, 2- and 3-day CTA Passes are available.
    • CTA tickets and passes can be purchased in most CTA rail and bus stations, at retail outlets or online.

    Insider tip:

    • Take a little time to work out the colour codes and the interchange stations


    • You can hail a taxi from a rank or on the street
    • Payment of the fare by credit card is usually possible but it’s better to ask the driver before you get in.
    • It’s common to give a 10-15% tip to the taxi driver.
    • Uber, Lyft and Wingz apps can be used to hail a taxi in Chicago.

    photo by Olivier Aumage (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Cycling around Chicago

    • Bikes are welcome (for free!) on buses and trains, and there are also plenty of bike racks to leave them.
    • Divvy is Chicago’s bike sharing system
    • Just download the Divvy app to purchase a pass, or go to any Divvy kiosk if you do not have a mobile phone.
    • Get a 24-hour Divvy Pass and type your code into the keypad on any dock to unlock the bike.

    What are the main annual events in Chicago?

    World Music Festival Chicago

    • What: Artists from all around the world perform at this cool festival which blends music and culture in style.
    • When: November-December
    • Where: Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center and other citywide locations

    Saint-Patrick's Day

    • What: The Chicago River is dyed in green for Saint Patrick's Day. Expect Irish taverns to be super busy and enjoy the festive parade on Columbus Drive, between Balbo Drive and Monroe Drive.
    • When: 17 March
    • Where: Irish taverns and Downtown Chicago

    Chicago Blues Festival

    • What: In popular culture, Chicago is the Blues Brothers’ city, so it’s no surprise that ‘Sweet Old Chicago’ hosts a well-attended blues festival.
    • When: June
    • Where: Millennium Park

    photo by Mary (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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    COVID-19 Travel Alert

    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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