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How to Use Public Transportation in New Orleans

Updated: September 28, 2023
 By Sarah

This post provides details about how to use Streetcars, buses, ferries, and even bike rentals in New Orleans.

Our local tour guides know several useful tips and tricks to help you get around New Orleans with ease, and we’ve compiled all of that information below.

And in the video below, Tour Guide Andy explains how to use the streetcars.

We ride public transit every day to get to work and answer our guests' questions about them on every single tour.

We also used some of the tips given by members of our popular NOLA Travel Tips Facebook group to help write this guide.

This group consists of roughly 42k locals, like our guides, expats, regular visitors, as well as newbies to New Orleans.

You don't need to become a member in order to read the posts, comments, and suggestions.

Check out the group once you are finished with this post. A link to the group is at the bottom of this page.

How to Ride the NOLA Streetcar

In New Orleans, the hum of streetcars defines the city's pulse.

These transport icons, managed by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA), offer a blend of affordability and scenic exploration.

The available streetcar lines cater to both daily commuters and eager tourists. 

Downtown New Orleans has five distinctive routes:

  • Canal (City Park/Museum)
  • St. Charles
  • Riverfront
  • Canal (Cemeteries)
  • Rampart/St. Claude.

Each offers a unique perspective of the city.

The Canal Street routes diversify the transit experience by taking passengers to bright City Park/Museum or eerie Cemeteries.

Streetcar Map New Orleans

The St. Charles Line, boasting vintage green streetcars, is a moving tapestry of history.

Originating from Canal St and weaving through uptown, this line offers picturesque views of the Garden District and notable universities.

However, its old-world charm means air conditioning is absent, with open windows being the norm.

With its vintage red hue, the Riverfront streetcar promises a journey alongside the Mississippi.

Connecting the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to the bustling French Quarter, it stops at landmarks such as Jackson Square and Cafe DuMonde.

However, riders should note its temporary hiatus as of October 2022.

Cost-conscious travelers will appreciate the fare system. A journey costs $1.25, with an additional $0.25 for transfers.

The Jazzy Pass, available for 1-31 days, offers unlimited rides for extended adventures.

Paying your fare is easier with the "Le Pass" app, which converts smartphones into instant tickets and provides real-time route information.

For a complete transit guide, our post covering the New Orleans Streetcars provides instructions for how to ride them, offering maps, schedules, and insights into the streetcar experience.

How to Ride the RTA Bus

Navigating the lively streets of New Orleans has never been easier, thanks to the RTA bus service provided by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA).

As a cornerstone of public transportation in the city, RTA buses ensure both locals and tourists can traverse neighborhoods effortlessly.

With a staggering 30+ bus lines crisscrossing the city, RTA offers expansive coverage, connecting various neighborhoods, landmarks, and essential hubs.

Each bar is meticulously designed to cater to the diverse needs of riders, ensuring accessibility and efficiency.

  • Single Ride Fare: $1.25/Adult | $0.40/Senior or Disabled | $0.50/Youth
  • 1-Day Jazzy Pass: $3.00/Adult | $0.80/Senior or Disabled | $1.00/Youth
  • 3-Day Jazzy Pass: $8.00
  • 7-Day Jazzy Pass: $15.00
  • 31-Day Jazzy Pass: $45.00/Adult | $14.00/Senior or Disabled | $18.00/Youth

Purchasing a ticket for the RTA bus is both convenient and straightforward.

Tickets can be purchased at the following locations:

  • The RTA Website
  • RTA Office on Canal St
  • Select Retail Stores
    • Walgreens
    • Unique Grocery
    • Velveteen Lounge
  • Ticket Machines (map)

While riders can always pay their fares directly on the bus using exact change, the digital age brings the "Le Pass" app. 

The Le Pass app allows you to pay your fare with either Apple Pay or Google Wallet. This service also has a trip planner to help you get exactly where you want to go.

Having access to a live map will also provide useful information about service interruptions and other issues should they arise.

How to Ride the Ferry in New Orleans

Traveling across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter to Algiers Point is a scenic journey best experienced by ferry.

For just $2 each way (with discounts for seniors and free rides for children under 2), passengers can board at the Canal Street Ferry Terminal and alight at the Algiers Ferry Terminal. 

The ferry schedule varies throughout the week, with trips starting as early as 6 a.m.

For those interested in history, Algiers Point has a rich past dating back to 1719, and it evolved through various industries, making it a fascinating destination.

The Algiers Ferry operates diligently, leaving Canal Street at intervals. It departs every 15 minutes from Monday to Thursday, with the first ferry at 6 a.m. and the last at 9:45 pm.

On weekends, the timings slightly differ. For accuracy, travelers should consult the official schedule.

Algiers Point isn't just a terminal stop. It holds centuries of history, having been a significant hub in industries ranging from shipbuilding to the railroad.

Founded a year after New Orleans, its landscape tells tales of early settlements, the Spanish reign, and the Louisiana Purchase's aftermath.

Today, Algiers is a testament to the cultural mosaic that has shaped New Orleans.

Attractions at Algiers Point range from historically significant structures like the Algiers Courthouse to the Algiers Point Branch Library.

This is also the site of the popular Wednesdays on the Point concert series, and a music festival called Algiers Fest.

In Algiers, every stop gives a window into the past, and visitors are encouraged to explore and saturate themselves in the rich history.

How to use Bike Rentals in New Orleans

Bicycles in New Orleans offer a unique method to explore the city's rich history and vibrant atmosphere.

Numerous companies provide bike tours featuring diverse routes and attractions like the renowned "back of town," Treme's cultural richness, the grand Esplanade Ridge, City Park, and significant landmarks such as the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Flambeaux Bike Tours, conveniently located near the French Quarter, is a leading rental choice for those interested in cruiser and hybrid bicycles.

Meanwhile, Buzz NOLA presents another sought-after option in the business district.

With its bike-share program offering blue bikes for hourly or daily rates, it is a strategic hub for tourists eager to visit major attractions.

New Orleans, known for its flat landscape, promises an effortless biking journey.

The city, with its extensive network of bike lanes, underscores its commitment to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for cyclists. 

For more details, please read our post covering New Orleans Bike Rentals and Tours.

Additional Transportation Options

This section will cover all of the other ways to get around New Orleans, including rideshare services, taxis, car rentals, airport transfers, and even hop-on hop-off bus tours!

Rideshare Services

In many places, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have become well-established.

Users simply need to download the respective app, input their location, and request a ride to utilize these services.

While they offer convenience and door-to-door service, they are more costly than traditional options like buses, ferries, and bike rentals.

Taxis, another popular mode of transportation, have been the go-to choice for many residents and locals for years.

They're quickly hailed on the streets or pre-booked through various platforms.

A car rental or rideshare can make getting around even easier than riding the streetcar. Image source: Pixabay user Sylvain Acher.
A car rental or rideshare can make getting around even easier than riding the streetcar. Image source: Pixabay user Sylvain Acher.

It's also important to remember that fares for taxis are typically a little bit more than those for rideshares.

Cost and convenience must constantly be taken into account while making decisions.

With many transportation options available, residents and visitors can choose what best aligns with their needs and budget.

Car Rentals

Travelers arriving via flight at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) will find car rental services conveniently close to the terminal.

With various options, securing a vehicle for your journey becomes hassle-free. For those looking to compare prices and offerings, Click here.

Once behind the wheel, the drive to the downtown area of New Orleans is straightforward, allowing visitors to transition from flight to exploration quickly.

Airport Transfers

There are several ways to get from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to the city.

Near Door 7 and the Level 1 Baggage Claim, at the Arrivals Curb, are taxi stands.

They give affordable flat rates and transportation to the French Quarter or the Central Business District. 

Although popular, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft may need advance arrangements.

They have a designated pickup spot outside the Level 1 Baggage Claim, between doors 7 and 11.

For those eyeing shared shuttles, the Airport Shuttle New Orleans stands out, ensuring timely departures to and from the city's prime spots. 

An economical option, the 202 Airport Express by Jefferson Transit (JET), directly links the airport to the French Quarter.

This is a boon for travelers, especially those with time-sensitive departure schedules. Lastly, individuals seeking a more specialized experience can choose private shuttles like Talixo Services. 

Discover more about these services and others here.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours

Tourists flocking to New Orleans often seek the most exhaustive ways to explore the city.

Enter CitySightseeing, a hop-on hop-off service tailored to showcase the city’s vibrant neighborhoods and national historic landmarks.

Plying the streets in their signature red double-decker buses, they provide an unbeatable overview of the city.

From the lively French Quarter to the hauntingly beautiful cemeteries, visitors are granted the freedom to weave their narrative of the town, endorsed by the New Orleans City Council.

But the experience isn't just about mobility. Each bus houses a live guide, enriching every ride with tales and tidbits, while 18 strategic stops offer endless possibilities.

To sweeten the deal, CitySightseeing provides value-packed options. 

Their ticketing system, designed for adults and children, integrates with tourist-friendly initiatives like the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass.

Third-party platforms might even offer that coveted discount for those keen on stretching their dollar. 

About The Author


Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history. Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!
Updated: September 28th, 2023
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