Portland, OR Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in Oregon
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Courtesy of Photo by Matt Payne of Durango, Colorado/Getty Images

Getting Around Portland, OR

The best way to get around Portland is public transportation, although you shouldn't rule out your own two feet. This city is known for having one of the easiest and most tourist-friendly public transportation systems in the country, with extensive routes from TriMet buses and light rail trains. You can hop on the light-rail from the Portland International Airport (PDX) and get into the city for a little more than $2, which is much cheaper than cab fare (around $35). Rental cars from the airport can come in handy for making daytrips outside of the city to places like Mount Hood and the Willamette Valley.

Public Transport

Portland's TriMet runs buses, light rail trains, and commuter trains throughout the city. Bus lines run frequently and five MAX Light lines – the blue, red, yellow, orange and green – service the entire city, including the airport. Popular bus routes include the No. 4 Division/Fessenden, which services the Clinton/Division neighborhood and Mississippi Avenue, the No. 20 Burnside/Stark, which services Central Eastside and Burnside Street, and the No. 63 Washington Park. 

Both the bus and light rail services run about every 15 minutes every day. Downloading the Hop Fastpass app is the easiest way to pay for your ride on the bus, light rail or streetcar. The fare is $2.50 for rides within two and a half hours, and $5 for unlimited travel within 24 hours. 

Portland Streetcar

Another public transit option is the Portland Streetcar. It operates three lines along 16 miles of tracks. The North | South (NS) Line travels from SW Lowell & Bond in the South Waterfront to NW 23rd & Marshall in the Alphabet District connecting PSU, the central business district and the Pearl District. Meanwhile, the A & B loops provide two circular loops that connect the Pearl District, the Lloyd District, the Central Eastside Industrial District, the central business district and PSU in clockwise (A Loop) and counter-clockwise (B Loop) loops around the city center. The streetcar services the city from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday. 

The fare is $2.50 for rides within two and a half hours, and it's $5 for unlimited travel within 24 hours. The easiest way to pay is with the Hop Fastpass app. Keep in mind that while the streetcars are efficient, they are also prone to the same traffic hassles that drivers encounter since they don't have special lanes. 

Taxi

Because the city is so compact, traveling by taxi is not as expensive as it is in other major U.S. cities. Fares start at around $3, with each added mile charging about $3. There is also an extra $1 for each additional passenger. However, you'll find efficient public transport generally makes using a taxi unnecessary. Uber and Lyft also operate in Portland.

Car

Most major car rental companies can be found at the PDX airport or downtown, but you may want to think twice about relying on your own set of wheels. Rental rates fluctuate dramatically depending on the season, but you'll soon discover that no matter when you're visiting, you'll spend more to park than you will to drive. Garages at central hotels charge as much as $45 a night. However, if you are planning to visit out-of-town attractions like Mount Hood, or the Willamette Valley, you will need a car to get there. Consider renting a car for a specific day rather than holding on to it throughout your trip.

On Foot

If you plan on exploring the compact downtown and central city area, you can easily do so on foot. Most of the city (with the exception of Washington Park and Forest Park) is relatively flat and ample green spaces mean hiking is a popular pastime. The Portland Bureau of Transportation provides maps that outline walking paths

Bike 

With 350 miles of bikeways and the nation's highest percentage of bike commuters for a large city, Portland is consistently named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. There are multiple bike rental companies, and the city also has the BIKETOWN bike-share program offering 1,000 bikes and 125 stations throughout the city. To borrow a bike, you'll pay a one-time $5 sign-up fee and then 8 cents for every minute after. Bikes are a good way to explore areas like Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade and Tilikum Crossing, which is for transit, pedestrian and cyclist use only.  

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