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Getting around New Orleans

Public transport

New Orleans Regional Transport Authority (RTA) (tel: +1 504 248 3900; www.norta.com) operates the city's streetcars and buses. Streetcars and major bus routes operate a 24-hour service, though during night hours, the services are less frequent.

The New Orleans streetcar system is the oldest in the USA and is an excellent, good-value way to travel that coincidentally takes in many of the most picturesque neighbourhoods. There are three lines. The streetcars are used by commuting locals as much as tourists, and are an integral part of the city’s transport network rather than just a novelty. Buses run throughout the city.

Tickets for both forms of transport are available upon boarding. For unlimited travel, you can buy a one-, three- or 31-day Jazzy Pass online at local shops. One-day passes are also available from bus drivers or streetcar conductors. 

New Orleans Ferry (tel: +1 504 309 9789; www.nolaferries.com) operates a ferry service between Canal Street and the suburb of Algiers across the Mississippi river. The trip takes 10 minutes and leaves every half hour. It is free for foot passengers. Car drivers can buy tickets upon boarding. Note there are no toilet facilities or refreshments available in the terminals or on the ferry. This is not a 24-hour service and there are usually crowds of well-refreshed locals travelling back to Algiers on the last ferry of the night. There's also a ferry between Lower Algiers and Chalmette.

Taxis

Taxis in New Orleans are plentiful and easily found at major hotels, all over the French Quarter and along Riverwalk. At peak times and during major festivals, the fares go up and cabs often stop on the street to pick up extra fares even if you have already hired them.

United Cabs (tel: +1 504 522 9771) is the main company, but there are a number of local firms that you can flag down on the street. If possible, have a cross street as well as the address of your destination.

Driving

A car is unnecessary in downtown New Orleans. Parking space is minimal, traffic is very slow moving and you can reach most places on foot or by taxi. In the French Quarter especially, streets are narrow and are on a one-way system, with some streets being closed at certain times and complicated parking restrictions. The streets are also crowded with visitors (who pay little regard to what is roadway and what is the pavement) and at Mardi Gras, the entire French Quarter is closed to motorised traffic.

Car hire

All the major car hire companies have offices in New Orleans. These include Alamo (tel: +1 888 826 6893; www.alamo.com), Avis (tel: +1 504 523 4317; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: +1 504 565 5600; www.budget.com) and Hertz (tel: +1 504 468 3675; www.hertz.com). Drivers must be over 21 years (most companies extend this to 25 years) and need a valid licence or International Driving Permit and credit card.

Bicycle hire

The most relaxing cycling is away from the French Quarter in places such as Audubon Park, City Park and by Lake Pontchartrain.

To hire a bike, call Bicycle Michael’s, 622 Frenchman Street (tel: +1 504 945 9505; www.bicyclemichaels.com). City buses are equipped with bike racks.

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Featured Hotels

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Hampton Inn

Formerly a 1903 'skyscraper' office building, the Hampton Inn is just two blocks from the French Quarter. Every Monday to Thursday 1730-1900, the lavish lobby is the scene for the complimentary manager's reception. Rooms are large and comfortable with high-speed Internet and king-size or two double beds. The hotel also has a gym, concierge, coffee shop and parking for a fee, along with access to Spa Atlantis, directly across the street. The daily hot breakfast buffet is included.

La Quinta Inn and Suites Downtown

This hotel has great facilities for bargain prices, such as guestrooms with either king-size or two double beds and large bathrooms, and some have microwaves. In-room business facilities include data ports, oversized desks, free high-speed Internet access and local calls. Add to that, cocktail lounge, business centre, a heated pool, and fitness centre, plus a free breakfast. The location is convenient for the French Quarter, Superdome, downtown, and the convention center.

Hotel Monteleone

One of the classic New Orleans luxury hotels, the Monteleone has been wowing visitors since 1886. Rooms are decked out with plush curtains, high-thread-count sheets and large flat-screen TVs. The lobby is suitably grand, and the Carousel Bar is something of a local haunt for cocktails and people watching.

Melrose Mansion

A tasteful, small property on the edge of the French Quarter, this luxury Victorian-era mansion dates back to the late 19th century. The interiors are suitably plush, with antique furniture, original artwork and all the mod cons you'd expect (iPod dock, LCD TV, Wi-Fi and minifridge). There's also a fairly large outdoor swimming pool.

Soniat House

Old books, fine artwork, Oriental rugs, American and European antiques: it is the little touches like these that make this hotel unique. The two restored 1830s townhouses have spiral staircases, balconies and patios. Sweet olive, magnolia, guava and ginger grow in the courtyards. Each of the 19 rooms and 14 suites are furnished with antiques that are accompanied by Frette Egyptian cotton bed linen, Wi-Fi, data ports and two phones.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel

This unassuming building on a quiet stretch of the French Quarter is recorded back as far as 1775, almost to the city's own beginnings. A former bordello site, the hotel now has 111 modern rooms and a host of old, atmospheric cottages. The pool and courtyard are nicely secluded and the hotel bar, May Baily's Place, also harks back to those hedonistic times.