The Chicago L train, or usually just the ‘L’ is the best way to get around Chicago. We flew into Chicago O’Hare and stayed in River North. I think all in all we used the ‘L’ 38 times. Yes, on and off 38 times in 5 days.
Now, I’ll admit the Ventra card is a little challenging to figure out. Not to mention, the machines are such a hassle, yet if you’re patient and don’t get frustrated, you’ll be good.
I’ll share a few tips and tricks which will make it worth your while to ride the ‘L’.
Chicago L Train
The ‘L’ is a subway system, mostly above ground, some underground, moving you around the Chicago Metro area. A single ride is $2.50 or $5.00 from Chicago O’Hare. They do, however, have a Ventra Card which you can preload with funds or get a pass. We got the 7 day pass.
- Passes: each day is 24 hours, so from the first time of use is when your pass starts.
- Activation: the Ventra card costs $5.00 – you can’t use those funds until you registered it, but the card is activated and ready for use if you purchase an item.
- Registration: once your Ventra card is registered through the Ventra site your $5.00 card fee will be available to use towards the purchase of a pass or for a regular fare.
- International Address: in order to register you need a US address, just use your hotel or the address of your accommodation and you’ll be good.
- Pass Riders: each rider will need their own card for day passes.
- Card with Funds: if you’re just loading a card with money, you can hand the card back and forth and use it for multiple people.
- Buy your Ventra Card – put only $1.00 on it, so the cost will be $6.00. We did this at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, down at the CTA entrance.
- Register your Ventra Card and you’ll now have a full balance of $6.00 (since your $5.00 card fee will convert to available funds). We did this using our phones.
- Load your Ventra Card. Put on more value or a pass (1 day, 2 day or 7 day pass) and you can use your available funds towards that purchase. We put our registered cards back in the kiosk and loaded them with passes.
- Ride the ‘L’. We did this 38 times, plus connections.
The steps above are what we did in order to maximize the value. Cost us $28.00 each for a 7 day pass. And, like I said, we used it 38 times. That would have cost us $100.00 (with a round trip to O’Hare) if we just paid regular fares. Total savings: $144!
The one day pass, useful for 24 hours is only $10 per person and that includes your $5.00 trip from Chicago O’Hare. Worth it, I think since to and from O’Hare will cost you $10 total, so every other ride is a bonus. Each pass includes all routes, including the premium O’Hare route.
Okay, onto the photos!
Some stations are up a few levels of stairs, so be ready to walk a bit – yet even one stop will take you blocks and blocks, so it’s fast and convenient, I think.
Public transit is so awesome – it’s a great way to see a city, its people, its soul. I love it.
All in all, public transit is the way to go. Just be sure to do your research first. On all of our 38 trips I made two mistakes. Once we got on the wrong way (I caught it after 2 stops) and another time we told Bryce’s parents to get off a stop too early. You do need to pay attention – that was mostly my job! And having a good understanding of the city layout, the routes, and how the ‘L’ worked in general certainly helped each time we rode the train.
Safe travels and I hope you use public transit, too!