Atlanta's principal airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, situated 8 miles south of downtown Atlanta. This is often claimed to be the busiest airport in the world, and it does have many flights from both US domestic and, to a lesser extent, international destinations.
It should be noted that Hartsfield is largely set up as a hub airport, with much of its traffic being transfer rather than arrival or departure traffic. The airport has a single groundside terminal, connected to 5 mid-airport concourses by underground walkways and rail transit. The concourse furthest from the terminal (concourse E) is dedicated to international flights and all immigration and customs formalities are conducted here. This makes international arrival procedures rather cumbersome. Passengers arriving from overseas will need to clear immigration controls, reclaim hold baggage from a baggage carousel, clear customs, check hold baggage back in, ride the underground transit to the main terminal, reclaim hold baggage again from another carousel, and finally exit the airport.
Hartsfield airport is the terminus of the southern branch of the MARTA rail system (see 'Get Around' below), and for travelers going to locations in downtown, midtown or northern Atlanta this forms a good and economic way of getting there. Most MARTA stations have taxi ranks to aid completion of the journey, and some hotels (especially in the Sandy Springs area) have free shuttles which will collect from their nearest MARTA station on telephone request. Alternatively the airport has the usual complement of taxi ranks, airport shuttle vans and car hire offices.
For more information, telephone 1-800-897-1910
Atlanta is served by Amtrak's Crescent train, which runs daily and serves New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans (and vice-versa). Southbound, the train leaves New York just before 3pm, calls at Atlanta at around 9am and reaches New Orleans by 8pm. Northbound, the train leaves New Orleans at around 7am, calls at Atlanta at around 8pm and reaches New York by 2pm.
In Atlanta, the train calls at the Amtrak station at 1688 Peachtree St. N.W., which is several miles north of downtown and not well served by local public transport. You will probably need to budget for a taxi to complete the journey. For more information, telephone 1-800-872-7245
Greyhound Bus Lines provide bus service to Atlanta from many locations throughout the US. Buses arrive at, and depart from, the Greyhound terminal at 232 Forsyth Street, which is on the southern edge of the downtown area and directly beneath MARTA's Garnett Station. For more information, telephone 1-800-229-9424,
Atlanta is linked to the rest of the US by the interstate highway network. The principal interstates serving the city are I-75 (serving traffic from Chicago and Detroit to Florida), I-85 (connecting the Mid-Atlantic to New Orleans) and I-20 (connecting California and Texas to South Carolina), all of which cross through Downtown.
I-285 (commonly called the Perimeter by Atlantans, and the Atlanta Bypass on overhead signs) rings the city at a distance of about 10 miles out, crossing and connecting with all the above freeways as well as the airport.
Despite their sheer width (at a maximum reach of nine lanes per direction, these interstates are among the widest roads in the world), all of these highways can become extremely congested during rush hour and periods of construction, which are usually at night and on summer weekends.
Within the downtown and midtown areas, walking is a reasonable way to get around. All the streets have sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. However, other sections of Atlanta and, outside of the city, can be distinctly unfriendly places for pedestrians. Many streets have neither sidewalks nor pedestrian crossings, and the width and traffic density of some streets make then almost uncrossable; the problem seems to be worst in the most recently developed areas. In some areas you will need to reconcile yourself to using car, taxi or shuttle for journeys of less than one hundred yards.
Atlanta is served by MARTA, (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) which operates both rapid rail and bus networks in the city of Atlanta and the counties of Fulton and Dekalb.
The rail network comprises two principal lines making up a cross. The north-south line runs from a southern terminus at Hartsfield airport through downtown and midtown Atlanta, before splitting into two branches serving terminals in north metro Atlanta at North Springs and Doraville respectively. The east-west line runs from an western terminal at Hamilton E. Holmes, via an interchange with the north-south line at Five Points station in downtown Atlanta, to an eastern terminal at Indian Creek. Trains run on all lines every 10 minutes during peak periods, reducing to every 20 minutes on Sundays.
The bus network comprises over one hundred different bus routes, with many routes operating every 20 minutes or so. One feature of MARTA is the close integration of rail and bus services. Many rail stations have integral bus stations, and in some cases the buses enter the station's 'paid area' thus avoiding the need to use transfers.
A single ride on MARTA costs $1.75 including transfers. Ride tokens are sold in vending machines at all rail stations or at RideStores at Airport and Five Points stations. When starting the journey by bus, drop the token or cash fare into the farebox and, if necessary, ask the operator for a transfer ticket. When starting the journey by train, drop the token into the turnstile and, if necessary, press the button to request a transfer ticket be printed. When transferring to a bus, show the operator your transfer ticket. When transferring to a train, swipe the transfer ticket through the reader on the turnstile.
Note for Weekend Travel: MARTA has a tendency to run slower on the weekends. Typical wait times are 30 minutes for trains and up to an hour for buses. Be sure to accommodate for this.
For more information, telephone (404) 848-4711
Until the past few years, Atlanta had poor cab service, cabs being few and far between. It is getting easier in the downtown area along Peachtree St. up to the Buckhead area to flag one down, but your best bet is to go to a hotel or a MARTA train station to get one.
Lately, it has been possible to call a cab in (Checker, etc) and have them do pick ups within 5 minutes around the Midtown/Downtown area. The prices are high (expect to pay $10 within Midtown/Downtown and an extra $10-20 if you're going to Buckhead/North Atlanta).
Cars are the most popular form of transport in and around Atlanta and as such, traffic can be pretty bad. Though the Interstates are wide, rush-hour can bring them to a standstill. Traveling during business hours or on non-holiday weekends, though, can be quite easy.
Keep your eyes peeled as you drive, because the average speed on area freeways can exceed 80 miles per hour, and native Atlanta drivers have learned the art of moving from the far side of the road to make an exit. If you keep your cool and watch the traffic, you'll soon learn the flow. Given a day or two of experience, you'll be driving like a native, though it is unclear whether or not this is a good thing.