Getting From O’Hare International Airport to Downtown Chicago

Your plane lands in Chicago, and all you can think about is how much longer you have to taxi before they let you deplane. But when you finally get off the plane, what do you do next? You’re a business travel pro, so chances are you’ll walk right past baggage claim with your carry-on, but do you head upstairs to call a Lyft or Uber? Or do you walk to the O’Hare L train station?

A few members of the TravelBank team recently visited Chicago on a business trip so we decided to put both options to the test. Which is the best way for getting from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to downtown Chicago: with a rideshare app, like Lyft or Uber, or on the L train?

Chicago Tram

Catching the L Train from O’Hare (ORD)

I arrived first and walked through the airport following signs for “Trains to the City.” There are also signs for “CTA Trains,” they all lead you to the same place: the O’Hare train station. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week, and the Blue Line runs all the way from O’Hare to the center of Chicago. I already knew the L train was the cheapest way to get downtown, but would it take more time or be less convenient?

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Chicago Highway

Calling a Lyft or Uber from O’Hare (ORD)

Katie arrived later Sunday night and walked upstairs to call an Uber. In the O’Hare Domestic Terminal, exit upstairs on the Departures level and meet your driver in the Rideshare Pickup zone. If you fly into the International Terminal (5), meet your driver downstairs on the Arrivals level. While we knew the comfort of a personal ride definitely beat out riding the train, we were wondering how much more it would cost? And would the car get stuck in the infamous traffic heading to and from O’Hare?

Chicago Train and Buildings

So which one is better?

L Train Cost: $5
L Train Time: 46 minutes

Best for: Travelers with light luggage, saving money for a dining splurge
The L Train cost a minimal $5 from O’Hare to downtown. The trip took 46 minutes from the airport to my destination, The Virgin Hotel, including a 5 minute walk. While the walk is short, it could be a bother if I had more than a carry-on roller suitcase. Riding the L train with luggage during rush hour could be difficult as the trains get crowded. The L Train is great for those wishing to save some money on ground transportation for a dining splurge.

UberX Cost: $34.55
UberX Time: 29 minutes
Best for: Trips outside of rush hour, ease of door to door transport
Katie’s Uber ride from O’Hare to the Dana Hotel and Spa in River North cost $34.55. The trip took 29 minutes including a 3 minute wait for pickup. Getting a ride at O’Hare only takes minutes and once you settle in you can zone out and don’t have to worry about taking up space with your suitcase. It was more expensive than the L Train but within the amount budgeted for ground transportation in my TravelBank trip budget. There wasn’t traffic late on a Sunday night, but you may need to be wary if heading to or from O’Hare during rush hour.

Chicago Airport Highway

Lyft Plus Cost: $60.35
Lyft Plus Time: 51 minutes

Best for: Traveling with a group or lots of luggage
Since we were all heading back to the airport together, we shared a Lyft Plus, which pairs you with a larger vehicle that can fit up to six passengers. The trip from River North to O’Hare cost $60.35 and took 51 minutes. With a group and lots of luggage (we had all of our photo equipment and props at this point), having the space of a personal ride was crucial. We did have to allot a little extra time to account for rush hour traffic, but we didn’t mind arriving to the airport early and sharing a few glasses of wine while we waited for boarding.

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