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Philadelphia City Guide

By: Mary Mihaly

Getting In, Getting Around Philadelphia

©2006 Richard McMullin If you fly into the Philadelphia International Airport, you'll have yourchoice of ground transportation to get into and around the city.

Visitors to Philadelphia will find they have lots of choices when it comes to traversing the city. Here are some of your options:

From the Airport

Car rental: From Philadelphia International Airport, you'll have plenty of options for getting into the city. All major rental companies, including Alamo, Budget, Avis, Dollar, Hertz, and National, have desks near the baggage claim areas (look for the signs) and rental car pickup is in Zone 2 of Airport Parking. The cost of a car rental varies widely between companies, car sizes, and seasons, but for a one-week rental the average cost of a mid-sized car is be about $200.

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Taxi: If you prefer a taxi, the 20-minute ride from the airport costs a flat fee of $25 (per car, not per passenger) plus a customary 15 percent tip. Taxis are available 24 hours, and the airport taxi stand is located outside the baggage claim areas. Be aware that most taxis will only accept four passengers.

Public transportation: The Southeastern Pennyslvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates a high-speed rail service that takes travelers directly from Philadelphia International Airport to the City Center every 30 minutes "on the 9s" such as 12:09 pm, 12:39 pm, etc. The rail cars are easy to find and stop in front of all airport terminals and drop passengers at the 30th Street Station and Suburban Station at 16th Street, which are also the two stations where you also can catch the rail back to the airport. Adult fare is $5.50 for a one-way ticket.

Driving In

Rush hour: Philadelphia might be one of the easiest cities to drive into, but from any direction, plan on a crawl during rush hour. From Interstate 76 ("the Schuylkill"), your best bet is to exit the freeway at 30th Street and head east on Market Street to get to Center City.

From Interstate 95, follow the signs to the Center City Philadelphia via Interstate 76 and exit at 30th Street near the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Rules of the road: Once you're in the city, don't forget that with few exceptions -- the Parkway, Vine Street, Broad Street, and lower Market Street -- every street is one way. Philadelphia's easy grid layout will minimize your confusion, but a street map, available free from the visitors center at 3rd and Chestnut streets, will be a handy reference for your entire trip.

Since the city is so walkable (one of America's best walking cities, according to Prevention magazine), you might want to park your car for the duration. The Philadelphia Parking Authority can give you up-to-date information on places to park. And do obey signs for bus-only lanes or you will be ticketed.

Getting Around

Public transportation, fares: The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is the fifth largest transit system in the country and a terrific way to get around town, especially when you've shopped 'til you've dropped and are loaded down with purchases. City buses are ubiquitous; schedules and maps are available from SEPTA or from the visitor center (800-537-7676 or 215-636-1666).

The SEPTA rail system is handy for getting to South Philly for an Eagles football game (Orange Line subway), or for connecting between neighborhoods (Blue Line subway, Green Line trolley).

SEPTA's Regional Rail can get you to dinner in Ardmore, Villanova, Doylestown and other suburbs without the hassle of driving. For service to New Jersey, call the Port Authority Transit Corp (PATCO, 215-922-4600).  Fares are $2 cash, payable as you board, or you can buy discount tokens in advance, $1.30 per token, at any subway station or Rite Aid store.

Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Not many cities can beat Philadelphia for shopping, dining, and touring on foot. Old City is a compact neighborhood where you'll find the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other important historic attractions. From there, Center City expands west to include the Washington Square District, Rittenhouse Square District, Convention Center District, and Parkway/Museum District -- all distinct, compact neighborhoods packed with parks, historic sites, great shopping, and restaurants, and all eminently walkable.

Walking between neighborhoods is easy, though covering all of them on foot would be impossible. Hail a taxi for longer distances, or call ahead: Olde City Taxi (215-338-0838), Quaker City Cab (215-728-8000), United Cab (215-238-9500) and Yellow Cab (215-922-8400) all are reliable. Taxi fares are $1.80 for the first 1/4 mile and 30 cents for each additional 1/4 mile, or per minute that the motor is running. There's no minimum of passengers, but most taxis will only transport three or four passengers per ride.

And to get between attractions if you're tired or the kids need a rest, hop a purple Phlash trolley for just $1 between 10 am to 6 pm May through November.

Once you know how to get around Philadelphia, you'll be ready to explore the city's sites and activities. On the next page, we'll talk about Philadelphia's special events and attractions.