The Taxi Alternative – Cities Where You Can (and should) Skip the Airport Taxi

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Airport transfer to hotel by ronnieliew.An airport taxi ride in a new city could be one of the most exciting parts of your arrival – you’re almost guaranteed a hair-whitening, eye-opening, heart-stopping gallop – but taxis can be as expensive and potentially dangerous as they are thrilling, depending on where you are.

They can also be an unexpected budget-killer if you’re not careful. Plus, if any of the drivers decide you’re naïve enough to pay double, you will.

RTW 30 courses

Since getting into the city from the airport is something you just need to do, alternatives will be as welcome as a breath of fresh air.

Below are 10 hot travel cities around the world that have great public alternatives to the dreaded airport taxi.

London (LHR/LGW) 17/30 miles from central London

Super-convenient express trains leave from Heathrow and Gatwick called the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express. They’ll get you into town in roughly the same amount of time as a taxi and you’ll pay 75% less. They run around £20 (US$30) (buy online for a discount) and give you a peace and serenity you won’t find on the roads outside London. The trains arrive at Paddington and Victoria Stations where you can connect with the Underground to get closer to your final destination.

London taxis can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on which airport your using and fares get really steep, really quickly, potentially over $100 depending on which airport you’re coming from. Watch out for Luton specifically.

Mind the Gap! by Endlisnis.

Heathrow Express. Credit: Endlisnis

Paris (CDG) 35 miles NNE of the city center

There’s no reason to take a cab into Paris from Charles de Gaulle as there are two great alternatives. The Roissybus transfers passengers from the airport to Place l’Opera in the city center every 15 minutes and takes 45 – 60 minutes depending on traffic. The cost is €10 ($13) (or free if you buy the Paris Visite travel card). At the same price point, your other option is the RER, the city’s commuter wing of the Metro network. The RER B line, €9.50 (US$12), goes from the airport to Gare du Nord where you can pick up the regular Metro to anywhere in the city.

Taxis: if you hell bent on getting in a Parisian taxi, you’ll end up paying around $60 – $75, being subjected to a mind-numbing hour with a witless driver who may or may not be completely offensive.

Paris RER by smaedli.

Paris RER. Credit: smaedli

Moscow SVO/DME: 27/37 miles of the city center

The Aeroexpress is 320 rubles (US$10.50) to get to Red Square. It’s 35 mins from SVO and 42 minutes from DME. The cars are new and serve beverages and have a secure area for luggage. You’ll need to pay serious attention while transiting from the Aeroexpress to the local Metro as there’s almost no English signs to guide you through. But it’s not impossible, an adventure even.

The taxi experience will likely cause you more headaches then any train and certainly lighten you of your cash, patience and ego. It’s up to $100 for the 90 minute onslaught to Red Square.

Aeroexpress by zhaffsky.

Aeroexpress. Credit: zhaffsky

New York (JFK): 13 miles SE of the city center

Your best alternative to the taxi in NYC is the New York Airport Service. This large and AC-equipped bus will take you from JFK to major points in Manhattan (Grand Central, Penn Station, the Port Authority) for $20, with discounts available for students and senior citizens. Kids under 12 are free to ride, and as an added bonus you get to see the skyline from high up on your way in. Another rather more time-consuming alternative is the AirTrain JFK. It’s only $7.25 and includes subway fare.

Taxis are a flat rate into Manhattan but now $52 plus tolls. The bonus here is that you get your indicative NYC-cabbie experience, complete with stench, potholes and ever-so-cunning New Yorker humor.

On the train by Dan Terzian.

AirTrain JFK. Credit: Dan Terzian

Los Angeles (LAX): 15 miles SW of the city center

LA has the Flyaway bus. For $7 you will get from the airport to Union Station downtown in less than 50 minutes (other stops include Irvine, Van Nuys & Westwood). Coverage is not as widespread but it’ll avoid you having to brave the freeways in a sweaty LA taxi. Worth the price right there.

Taxis are usually a flat rate of $50 for the 30-minute trip.

Live Post: Via FlyAway by fredcamino.

LA’s Flyaway Bus in action. Credit: fredcamino

Hong Kong (HKG): 21 miles W

There’s absolutely no reason to take a taxi from Hong Kong Airport. The Airport Express train will get you to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in less time, more comfort with infinite Zen for far less money than a taxi ever could. It’s HK105 (US$13) and 24 minutes to HK Island and the station is right in the terminal.

Your average taxi costs $45 and takes twice as long.

Hong Kong airport express map

Hong Kong airport express map

Shanghai (SHA): 10 miles W

Has one of the most fearless and pulse-rising ways to transit into the city – the Shanghai Maglev Train (short for magnetic levitation). It goes from zero to 180 mph in two minutes and maxes out at 250 mph. For 50 Yuan (US$8) you can get downtown like greased lightning in a candy shell – in 8 breathless minutes. Buy a round trip ticket and save even more money.

A taxi isn’t expensive but takes forever in comparison. $20 will get you to the city center in around 45 minutes. Snails will seem to pass you.

Maglev ticket from Shanghai, China by

Maglev Train ticket. Credit: futureatlas

Tokyo (NRT): 41 miles E

Has one of the most expensive taxi-to-city rides in the world. From Narita, fares can be over $200 for the 41 mile trip.

Take the Narita Express train and get in for ¥2940 (US$31.50). Plus there are anti-theft cameras in the luggage areas to watch over your bags and keep them from harm. Your sense of budget victory will be unmatched.

P1000253 by jsmjr.

Credit: jsmjr

Bangkok (BKK): 25 miles ESE of the city center

The Airport Express bus provides service from the Suvarnabhumi Airport to several downtown hotels on AC-equipped buses.  There are 4 different routes that cost Bt150 (US$5) each. If your hotel isn’t on the list, take the MRT train to your particular accommodations once you alight.

The bus runs till midnight but many flights get in around that time. If you’re late into Bangkok a taxi may still be necessary.

Taxi riders take note: arriving at the airport is like running the gauntlet. Do not fall for the attempts of the drivers inside the terminal. They will rip you off. Period. Part the sea of yellow shirts and beeline to the exit. The taxis queued up in the taxi stand should only charge you $10 – $15 for the ride in. But make sure to negotiate the fare beforehand, lest you become yet another Bangkok taxi rube!

Bangkok airport bus. Credit: Lachlan Hardy

Delhi (DEL): 12 miles SW of the city center

Delhi is one of the cities where taxis are the better alternative for airport transportation. It’s less than an hour to the city center and costs about $5. Not to mention you will get the ride of your life. However, numerous taxi scams are in operation at the airport. Definitely use a pre-paid taxi booth rather than selecting from the hordes out on the street. Also prices rise after 11pm.

India: Sikh taxi driver by Mosseby.

Sikh driver. Credit: Mosseby

Cape Town (CPT): 12 miles NE of the city center

There is no official public transportation from the CPT airport. Taxis run between $25 – 30. But the alternative is the Backpacker Bus that runs to various budget accommodations around the city. At ZAR 175 (US$20) it’s a little cheaper plus it will be an adventure of sorts where you can chat up that cute backpacker girl/boy before you get to the hostel.

DSC_0016 by rayzhouli.

Credit: rayzhouli

Sydney (SYD): 6 miles SW of the city center

The Airport Link train will get you quickly and efficiently into the Sydney city center. At about AUD15.90 (US$16.30), it doesn’t save you a heck of a lot over a taxi (if you have multiple people) but it will give you a sense of satisfaction that you started your Sydney stay authentically. And you’ll be there in 15 minutes.

For about $30 you can taxi to Central Station. There’s a $3 airport toll as well.

Sydney City Map


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21 comments to “The Taxi Alternative – Cities Where You Can (and should) Skip the Airport Taxi

  1. David Derrick | 3 years ago

    Thanks for the article Nico! I hate that feeling of dread that comes about 1 hour before landing at night, knowing that you’ll have to navigate a taxi mafia after 20 hours of flying.
    Hong Kong has to be the slickest rail connection there is. You can even check in with your airline before getting on the train to the airport. They also have airside ferry connections to Macau and Guangzhou, so you don’t even need to go through HK immigration. I would add Amsterdam and Frankfurt into your list.
    Another one worth mentioning is the metro from the airport in Mexico City. While not the most comfortable experience, its infinitely better than the notorious taxis there.

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Amsterdam and Frankfurt both have excellent rail links into the city center, true. In fact most major European capitals have trains alternatives to expensive taxis. I think the cities were just too numerous to list in this post! Thanks for mentioning Mexico City, I’m sure that’s a big tip for people.

      • Ester | 3 years ago

        Yes Frankfurt main service is excellent!

  2. brian | 3 years ago

    Great idea for a post. I can personally say the Hong Kong transfer is definitely the easiest. Straight forward and nice clean trains.

    From Tokyo’s Narita I took the cheaper and longer way via the regular commuter trains. Took about 90 minutes. That was a pretty big adventure consider I got there at night. But I found my way.
    .-= brian´s last blog ..Spirit Airlines Carry-On Fees – How The Other Airlines May Have Been Stopped From Doing It Themselves =-.

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Thanks, Brian. In Tokyo you have to do everything you can to keep the costs down. If it means a 90 minute labyrinth though the Japanese suburbs on a commuter train, so be it. I’m glad you’re here to prove that something like that can be undertaken if the will is there.

  3. Crazy Airline Fee Lenny | 3 years ago

    The cheapest, fastest way to get into NYC is to land at Newark. The AIrTrain people mover whisks to the nearby station to catch a NJ Transit train that takes you straight to Penn Station in 30 minutes. Cheap, no muss, no fuss.

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Great tip, Lenny. Thanks. Newark has lots of international arrivals too, though you usually have to fly on Continental (or Virgin) to get there.

  4. Stephanie | 3 years ago

    Hi Nico,

    I just wanted to point out that the London Tube actually runs directly to Heathrow and you can hop on the Picadilly line right there. Will still take you an hour to get downtown but it only costs about $8!

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Thanks Stephanie, that hint slipped through the cracks. And you’re right, while it may not be as comfortable as the Heathrow Express, the Tube will definitely get the job done. And any money saved in London…


  5. Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

    From @RobertaK on Twitter: Milan Linate -> center, 73 bus, 1 euro!

  6. Jan | 3 years ago

    About the Shanghai Maglev train:

    For $7.30 you can get downtown

    That is not true. The price may be correct, but where you end up is certainly not downtown yet. The Shanghai government decides the magnetic field from the train was too dangerous to pull the train all the way to the very center of the city (say Pudong or the Nanjing road). You will still have to take a taxi from the endstation of the maglev train to where you want to be. Last time I was there there was not even a metro station nearby. (Don’t get confused by the big Metro sign there, it’s a retailer, not a subway system :p )

    While the maglev of all systems listed here is arguably the most impressive way to get to the center , it will not take you where you need to be. Good for trying once, but after that you will want to find an alternative (like the normal trains, or, yes, a taxi)

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Great to know, Jan. I’m sure people will find this very helpful!

    • Jerome | 3 years ago

      Actually you can very easily transfer from the Maglev Train to the Metro. The Metro stop is Longyang Rd, from there you can get anywhere in the city close to a metro stop. The metro station is across the shops from the Maglev station.

  7. Ashley | 3 years ago

    Another one to add to the list 🙂

    In San Francisco, you can take BART (our version of a subway) from the aiport right into downtown for about $8…waaay cheaper than a taxi.

    Great post! I always try to take public transit from the airport if I can…actually wrote up a similar one awhile ago on my blog going over the different public transit options to San Francisco from the three airports in the Bay Area.
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..Choosing a Study Abroad Program – First Guest Post! =-.

    • Nico Crisafulli | 3 years ago

      Thanks, Ashley. While SF may not be leading the world in efficient public transportation, we still do have Bart. And even though the fares recently increased from $6 to $8 for the ride from SFO to Market St downtown, you still can’t beat that rate. Questionable seat fabric and all. 🙂

  8. London Airport Transfers | 3 years ago

    Just echoing someone elses point above. The tube runs directly to Heathrow and is cheap. It doesn’t cost more than £6

  9. Glen G | 3 years ago

    What about Chicago?

    Both Midway and O’Hare have their CTA “El” Lines at the airport and they go to the city for just 2.25…both will get you to the Loop in 30 minutes or less.

  10. Allan | 3 years ago

    All great choices, but also remember that VANCOUVER has direct train service from the city’s downtown to the airport (YVR)…about 25 minutes travel time. All public transportation in the Metro area connects to this service making it possible to access YVR without using a cab.

  11. Julia | 3 years ago

    The Heathrow Connect train, like the Heathrow Express, runs from Heathrow to Paddington but makes a few stops along the way. It’s clean, comfortable and spacious and only costs a fraction of the Heathrow Express fare.

  12. 9to5refugee | 3 years ago

    Excellent article. You’ve covered quite a few places that I’ll be heading to for the first time over the next 12 months, so I’ll definitely be saving this for future reference!

  13. Sofia | 3 years ago

    I never take the taxi to the airport in western countries, but in Asia there have been a few exceptions when taxi or tuk tuk was necessary. Really liked the airport train in Bangkok.

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