You’ll want to decide whether you are going to fly or drive to New Orleans. If you fly, you will need to decide if you want to rent a car once you’re there. New Orleans is not a particularly car-friendly city, so unless you’ll be driving in or will be visiting far-flung locations that are not feasible for streetcar, cab or tour bus transportation, you’ll probably want to forgo the car. If you’re thinking about driving, you’ll want to see how much time you have to visit plantations, casinos, and other attractions that are en route to the City. If you can take a day or two traveling to and from New Orleans, you can explore a lot of surrounding area, and it will be worth your while to have a car with you.
The Louis Armstrong Airport (code MSY) is not in New Orleans proper. It’s about 15 miles away in Kenner. A cab ride to the heart of New Orleans takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic, and costs $33 for the first passenger (plus tip).
There is a more economical shuttle service going from the airport about every 30 minutes for $20 one way, or $38 for a round-trip ticket.
Town cars are also available, and of course you may choose to rent a car. The downside to renting a car is detailed below in the “driving” section.
Hotels generally do not have shuttle services, but you may want to check with your hotels of choice and see if any do provide transportation. It could easily swing your vote one way or the other, if you’re on the fence regarding a few different hotels.
The main advantage to flying in and taking a cab or shuttle to town is that you will not have to worry about garaging your vehicle, which can be an expensive proposition. Unless you’re planning on going somewhere that requires you drive, it’s best to enjoy New Orleans without a vehicle to tie you down.
If you’re driving into New Orleans, you’ll find the main thoroughfares easy enough to navigate. Watch out for one way streets and tiny cross roads. If you drive into the French Quarter, be aware that Bourbon Street is blocked off to vehicular traffic in the evenings. All of the streets in the French Quarter and Central Business District are very narrow. The exception is Canal Street, which divides the two sections of town and is quite wide.
Construction in the Central Business District and on the main roads is not at all uncommon. If any buildings in the French Quarter are undergoing renovation, it’s quite likely the dumpsters and any necessary equipment supporting the renovation will be in the street, further congesting the area. If you will be driving around the town, be prepared to allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, watch out for pedestrians, and have patience. You’ll need it. Take the opportunity to do as much people-watching as you can, and the time will not be wasted.
When you arrive at your destination, you will likely have to use the valet, and almost definitely will need to pay to park. Depending on your location, the cost will range from $5 or $10 for the evening to $20 – $30 or more for overnight garaging. Most parking lots do not allow in-and-out privileges, unless you’re staying at the hotel associated with them.