Arriving in an unfamiliar city, one of the most immediate challenges travellers face is how to get to and from the airport at the best price – and without getting ripped off.
By Amanda Willimott
Official airport bus
Many major cities will have buses to and from the airport and the city centre. These buses often don’t need to be booked in advance, however it’s best to check online before your trip in case you need to book. The airport’s website will often have information about buses, including the booking desk location and the bus stop.
These buses are good value for the solo traveller as well as couples as they operate on a per-person fee, usually with a discount for return. They run regularly through the day and sometimes at night. Keep in mind that you will need to get from the city centre to your lodgings by walking, public transport or a taxi.
For those lucky enough to arrive in a city with a train connection between the airport and city centre this is often the best value. Airport trains are often separate to the metropolitan train network meaning you’ll have to buy a special ticket. Tickets are usually easily purchased from machines or from a ticket window and will be similar in cost to an airport bus.
Check before you travel that the trains match your arrival/departure times. Some cities do not offer 24-hour service.
Keep a close watch on your belongings as airport trains and train stations are often targeted by thieves. Once you arrive at the city station, know how to reach your lodgings.
This has always been my preferred option when I’m new to a city. Cost is per person, you pay in advance and they usually seat between six and 12, depending on the vehicle size. The driver will meet you at the gate, carrying a sign with your name. You wait until the rest of the group arrives before getting into the car. The driver will take you to the door of your lodgings.
While a little more expensive than the airport bus this is one of the easiest options to get from airport to lodging. Shuttles always need to be booked in advance to secure your place. You will also need to communicate your airline and arrival/departure time in advance. Keep the booking details with you, including a contact telephone number, as flights are sometimes delayed and you may have to contact your driver.
The same as the shared shuttle except the car is for you and your party and you pay for the entire car and not per person. It can be good value for small groups.
If you’re staying in a large hotel then your hotel may offer a shuttle service. Take advantage of the service if it’s free or low charge, otherwise compare with other transport options.
Somewhere between a private shuttle and a taxi is a private car. This is a premium choice for travellers who like to minimise fuss and increase comfort. Always book a car in advance and know how your driver will identify themselves. If you’re approached at an airport by a driver who does not have your details be alert and ask for identification. If in doubt, call the company to confirm.
If you’re planning to drive in the country you are visiting then you may want to collect a hire car at the airport. This is a good choice if you’re hitting the road straight away. If you are spending a few days in the city then the car can be a nuisance. Not all inner-city hotels offer free parking and you could end up paying parking fees. Hire companies often apply a surcharge for airport pickup or return.
Rather than figuring out train networks, shuttle buses or private cars, it’s often easier to jump in a taxi. There will be an official taxi rank, manned by airport officials, security or even police. Avoid skipping the line and taking an unofficial taxi. Taxis will usually have a fixed rate from the airport to the city centre. Make sure you agree on this before getting in the taxi.
Uber operates in 60 countries. Its app connects drivers to riders using their phone’s GPS. You know each others’ location and when the driver will arrive. You pay through the app. Uber Black, the company’s original service, costs a little more than a taxi and uses high-end town cars with professional drivers. UberX is the lowest cost option and uses everyday cars and drivers. UberX is facing challenges in several jurisdictions because drivers may not have commercial licences or adequate insurance cover.
Visit racv.com.au/traveltips for more ways to get great deals and avoid rip-offs.