6 tips for traveling to and around Phoenix, according to a local
Phoenix has a beautiful, award-winning international airport that's easy to navigate.
A car rental is the best way to get around town if you want to see a lot.
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I've lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for over a decade now, and throughout the past years have traveled into and out of town countless times by car, train, and plane.
As it's a sprawling metropolis, visitors and locals alike primarily rely on cars to get around. The city's layout is a grid system, which helps make it relatively easy to navigate, in my opinion.
Here are my local tips for getting to and around Phoenix, from the closest airport to the most convenient ways to explore the town and wider metro area.
Getting into town by plane, train, and car
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is the primary airport in the city and the most popular way for visitors to get into and out of town when traveling from a distance.
It's a hub for American Airlines and a base for Southwest Airlines, and many other major airlines fly in and out of the airport, including regional airlines like United, Alaska, and Frontier, as well as international airlines like British, Condor, and Volaris.
PHX has two operating terminals with shopping, convenience stores, and several outposts of local restaurants including SanTan Brewing, Chelsea's Kitchen, and Matt's Big Breakfast. And although it's ranked the 11th busiest airport in the world and the 9th busiest for US traffic, PHX in my experience is easy to navigate because the terminals are compact and walkable.
Phoenix is well-connected to the rest of the country via highways, and driving into town can be convenient for visitors from neighboring states.
For example, Los Angeles is typically six hours away by car, Las Vegas is around five hours away, and Albuquerque is about six and a half hours away. I've made the drive to and from each of these cities several times and it's very straightforward.
There are three Amtrak connecting stations within the city, including one at the airport, another at the Greyhound Station also near the airport, and the third located downtown. Visitors traveling on Amtrak will switch to a connecting bus at the Amtrak station in Maricopa, about 50 miles south of Phoenix.
I've done the trek from Phoenix to the Midwest several times in the past, and in my experience it's a fun, nostalgic Americana way to make the trip.
Getting around town
If you want to do and see a lot around the valley, I highly recommend renting a car. The city is an urban sprawl, encompassing 500 square miles, and many landmarks and notable destinations are an easy 20 minute-drive from one another.
So, you'll save time and money and gain loads of freedom with a car, in my opinion. Rentals are available from major companies like Hertz, National, Thrifty, and Enterprise at the airport.
Parking is also very easy to come by throughout the city because everything is spread out, and in many places it's free or inexpensive.
That said, you can technically get around the Phoenix metro without a car rental by relying on rideshare and the public transit system. Uber, Lyft, and Waymo are plentiful, which, in my experience, makes calling rideshare a cinch.
This can obviously add up, though, if you're relying on it consistently to get from one part of town to another. For example, a trip from Tempe to North Scottsdale can cost between $40 and $50 on Lyft, as of publishing.
Another option for getting around town is our public transit, which includes a network of bus stops and the Valley Metro Rail, a limited light rail that runs from West Mesa to North Phoenix along a single line.
I personally rely on my car to get around almost everywhere, but for some locals the Rail is convenient for getting around short distances in a single direction.
You can also avoid a car rental if you plan to skip nature excursions outside of Phoenix, and stay in an area that's fairly concentrated, like downtown Phoenix or Old Town Scottsdale. Both neighborhoods are pedestrian-friendly with plentiful restaurants and shopping for a leisurely trip.
View Insider's comprehensive guide to visiting Phoenix, Arizona.
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