Travel: Chicago L Train

Chicago L Train:

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.

How To

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Helpful Sites

Okay, onto the photos!

Chicago L Train:

Chicago L Train:

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.

Chicago L Train:

Chicago L Train:

Public transit is so awesome – it’s a great way to see a city, its people, its soul. I love it.

Chicago L Train:

Chicago L Train:

Chicago L Train:

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!

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