Houston - Getting there
This refers to arrival at the airport from overseas.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport -Arriving
The most intimidating sight that greets you as you arrive at the airport is the often huge mass of people who, due to the world-wide timetable, all arrive at Houston at about the same time each afternoon. These folks all need to pass through a relatively confined and thorough immigration and customs procedure.
On arrival, you will be directed by often officious staff, which are uniformed, multilingual Special Service Representatives (SSRs). They are there to assist you and if in doubt, you must ask to ensure you join the correct queue for passport control. Should you try to join the wrong queue, arrive at the front, you will be sent to the rear of the correct queue.
Because of the sheer logistical situation here, this means you may be ‘shuffling forward’ with tired children for some time before you even arrive in the terminal area which signifies the queue you need to join.
If your flight happens to arrive first, or even after the majority, you may complete your formalities and be outside the building in 30 minutes – fantastic, if you are! But, if you are faced with the situation above, do not react, there is absolutely nothing to shorten your wait and the authorities will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour.
There are two areas within the immigration terminal – one for CITIZENS (THIS DOES NOT MEAN RESIDENTS!), who are US citizens or Green Card Holders etc.; even if you hold a RESIDENT VISA, you are considered a visitor or ‘ALIEN’ and should join the appropriate queue.
All passports, forms (which are normally handed out on the plane) have to be filled in correctly and, make sure, if arriving for the first time, you have correct visa documentation and all relevant paperwork, or you may end up on a return flight if the Immigration inspector finds any irregularities.
Following immigration, you claim your bags and pass through the U.S. Customs and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checkpoint. A Customs declaration form, which is distributed on the plane, should be ready for inspection by the Customs officer.
Should you be carrying anything to declare, there is a USDA inspector available to examine food, plants or other perishables. Should you have to pay duty, you will find a cashier window adjacent to the exit doors of the Customs area.
Once outside customs, you will find the main arrivals hall where you can catch an airport transfer to downtown, or you may have arranged car hire or limo/taxi service which will be available at this stage.
To book any transport from the airport in advance, use the ‘Houston Airport System’ link: http://www.fly2houston.com/
Select Bush international and select ‘Ground Transportation.
William P. Hobby Airport
Due to this being the domestic airport, if you land here from an International connection, you should have passed through customs and immigration at your point of entry into the USA so this is irrelevant for this sub-heading!
George Bush International Airport - Departing
There is extensive economy parking outside the airport with regular free shuttles serving the car parks. This option, or that of a private vehicle delivery service, offers the ‘stress free’ way to catch a flight. The airport is currently undergoing construction, so congestion can be severe and there are few short term parking solutions should you need to collect arriving passengers or tickets.
At terminal D, there is no on site parking at all, due to construction work. Currently, you follow signs for the Terminal D parking and then take the shuttle bus to collect passengers or tickets.
The airports have a very comprehensive site explaining each daily congestion plan which can be accessed at: http://www.houstonairportsystem.org/iah_default.htm Under the section ‘Parking’.
The world-wide heightened security also means that no vehicles are allowed to park/wait at arrival/departure terminals, so allow for these situations and make time available in your plans, so you arrive in time for your flights.
Underground inter-terminal passenger trains link all terminals and the airport hotel. An added terminal link with an above ground passenger train runs between terminals B and C.
A Marriott Hotel is situated at the airport as well as many car rental offices.
For transportation to the airport from any area, use the link: http://www.houstonairportsystem.org/
Select ‘Quick jump to airport’, select ‘Bush Intercontinental’ and select ‘Ground transport’
This site gives information on every form of transport applicable to the airport from public bus services to hotel courtesy transport to limos. It also gives appropriate costs, taxi fares and distances.
International travellers are serviced by the Mickey Leland International Airlines Building (Terminal D). Airlines which fly out of this terminal include Aerolitoral, Aeromexico, Air Canada (Terminal A), Air France, Air Jamaica, Aviacsa, British Airways, Cayman Airways, Continental, KLM, Lufthansa and TACA (see Airline vendors for full contacts and terminal information).
William P. Hobby Airport
The airport and parking are well placed in proximity to minimally congested highway links and therefore convenient for departing passengers. The airport has a website with detailed services intimating closures, weather, changes etc. Should you be using Hobby, it also shows the layout of the airport, hotels nearby and a host of other services provided within the airport.
The website address is: http://www.airporthotelguide.com/houston-hobby/
George Bush International Airport - Hotels
A Marriot Hotel is situated at the center of the terminal complex with more than 20 hotels and motels within near reach to suit every taste and budget. You will find all the major US hotel chains represented within this number, although, due to the proximity to the airport, they are some 30-40 minutes drive from downtown.
The airport website listed below holds, under the section ‘Hotels’, links to each of the hotels and their respective facilities and proximity to the airport. http://www.houstonairportsystem.org/iah_default.htm
William P. Hobby Airport.
Although there are no hotels in the immediate terminal, there are the usual chains that have hotels and motels nearby with courtesy buses.
The most comprehensive and quick way to find one that suits your budget and taste is by visiting the attached link. http://houstonhobby.airporthotelguide.com/
- Houston has three airports representing the sixth-largest system in the world.
George Bush Intercontinental-Also referred to as ‘Bush Intercontinental’/Also referred to - on road signs - as ‘IAH’ (Intercontinental Airport, Houston, which is also the IATA code)
- William P. Hobby Airport -Also referred to as Hobby Airport
HOU’ is the IATA code
- Ellington field
Mentioned for information only, it is a joint use civil/military airport with joint use by NASA, Continental Express, United Parcel Service and general aviation. The airport is home to the largest flying club in Texas and is the site of the annual Wings Over Houston Air show.
It is situated some 15 miles south of Houston downtown, near I-45 Gulf Freeway, leading from the City to NASA and Galveston Island.
George Bush International Airport serves as the ‘hub’ for Continental Airlines (the second largest US carrier) and is the largest airport in the Houston system with four passenger terminals and direct flights to some 152 cities world-wide. It is situated north of the city off Sam Houston Toll Way, Hardy Toll Way and Southwest Freeway but is well signposted from all directions. International direct flights at IAH are centered on terminal D, which is the international arrival and departure terminal.
In general, the rule that applies to the four terminals is: the lower level is for the pedestrian tunnel and subway; the road or street level for baggage claim, vehicle/passenger pick up and the upper level for planes arriving and departing as well as for service amenities, restaurants bars, duty free etc.
Ticketing is on the upper level, except in Terminal D (where it is on the street level).
Facilities at Bush Intercontinental are good, with bars, restaurants and news/gift shops etc. The duty free is somewhat limited and naturally is only available in the international terminal.
Parking and congestion problems continue to dominate the headlines when describing IAH, as there is continuing expansion and alteration taking place and you need to allow time in your schedule for this.
For information regarding congestion and altered routes within IAH, check the site www.houstonairportsystem.org/default.htm Select Bush Intercontinental and the site supplies local information on all eventualities and daily occurrences, for example, security measure changes, parking lot closures, curb-side check-in etc.
This site also shows the weather forecast for the airport, links to flight finders and schedules, transportation etc.
William P. Hobby Airport , the original airport of Houston, is the domestic airport. It is a vibrant facility with plenty of amenities having recently been expanded and renovated. The terminal offers adjoining garage parking and plenty of additional parking.
Situated just a few miles from the downtown business area and easily accessible from the Sam Houston Toll Way and I 45 on the South West of the city, it is a popular choice for our customers to travel on domestic flights.
If your travel agent suggests a choice of flight from Bush International or Hobby, the latter would be your nearest to drive to and a less congested journey.
- However, for International flights, remember you will always have to connect at another airport. So check that the flights offered are exactly the same, e.g. Houston-Paris from Hobby will be routed Hobby, Atlanta, Paris for example (airlines connecting with their hub in other US cities).
- Houston-Paris from Bush International may - or may not - be a direct flight (so inquire carefully), depending on the carrier selected. There is a huge variety of carriers and their code share partners serving Houston in some capacity.
- The price may reflect these factors, so booking your flights can be a lengthy process to find the most suitable flight for you or your family.
These examples show that it is important in Houston, more than in many other places, to be aware of your geography and vendors due to the vast expanse of the networks concerned, and the often limited geographical knowledge agents hold (See airline vendors for more details).
- George Bush International Airport
Tel: + 1 (281) 230 3000
- William P. Hobby Airport
Tel: + 1 (713) 640 3000
For boats - sailing, fishing and recreational - see the 'Sports' section.
Included in the section:
Travelling by boat from Galveston
For suburb or out of town commuters, the Metro service extends to Vanpools and Carpools, Park and Ride etc to allow the commuter every possibility of use of the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle Lane).
Metro stops are easily identifiable by ‘Bus Stop’ indicators on the roadside. The buses are white with a large red and blue diagonal stripe.
Fares vary considerably from the free trolley service within the downtown limit, to single fares from $1.00 - $3.50 depending on the zone for use of the buses rising to $315.00 for a yearly pass. Exact change must be offered or relevant passes, of which an excellent selection is available.
The diesel trolleys are traditional, convenient and fun for tourists or residents. Running about every seven minutes during the week and ten minute intervals during the weekend, they cover a circular network within downtown.
Nearly 1500 buses covering 132 routes and some 25 park and ride facilities, METRO also extends services and park and ride programmes for special events in partnership with the sponsors of major public events, such as Rodeo Houston and the Houston Livestock Shows.
Tickets, tokens, passes, schedules and routes are available at Metro
Ride Stores as well as discounted I.D. cards and information on the other services such as Metrolift, a curb-to-curb service for both seniors and people with difficulty riding the scheduled services.
Metro Ride Stores are situated at:
· 813 Dallas 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Weekdays
· 720 Main 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Weekdays
200 Metro Stops offer Metro tokens, passes and stored Value Cards at conveniently located malls, check-cashing businesses and food markets all over Houston, including:
· Fiesta Marts
· Gerland's Food Fairs
· Kroger Food Stores
· Randalls Food Markets
· Rice Food Markets
The Metro Headquarters is situated at:
1201 Louisiana (at Dallas Street Downtown Houston)
Tel: + 1 (713) 635 4000 (bus routes/schedule information)
The websites are comprehensive, lists all schedules, routes and construction services on-line as well as information regarding the recent facility called Metrolink whereby customers may opt to have emailed scheduled etc.
Fare breakdown and prices for the various passes, including significant senior and teenager / child discounts are clearly explained in the ‘Fare information’ section of the site.
For travels further away:
Greyhound bus station
6590 SW Frwy (Highway 59)
Tel: + 1 (713) 532 3200 (main)
Tel: 1 800 454 2487 (charter)
Generally, opening hours at the bus station are 7.00am - 9.00pm (tickets are not available at the station)
A comprehensive web-site allows you to book on-line, check prices and availability at
Houston has the I-610 and Beltway 8. A tighter loop, comprising several expressways, circles the downtown and provides remarkable views of the city, especially at dawn and dusk. Radiating out from
these rings are I-10, heading east to Louisiana and west to San Antonio; U.S. 59, northeast to Longview or southwest to Victoria; and I-45, southeast to Galveston (about an hour away) or north to Dallas. High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, tollways, and crosstown connectors have reduced traffic congestion,
but all these highways can be extremely crowded during rush hours.
Gas stations are open late or 24 hours a day. Many are self-service, meaning that you have to pump the gas yourself. The U.S. gallon is slightly smaller than the Imperial gallon. Approximately 4 liters equals a
Visitors from abroad need only a valid driver's license from their home country to drive in the United States. An international driver's license is not necessary. If you are driving a non-rental car, third-party insurance is mandatory.
Houston is a huge metropolitan area, and despite efforts to encourage the use of public transportation and car-pools, traffic is extremely heavy. To make matters even worse for visitors, many of the major
roads have at least two names, and some have even more. I-45, for instance, is called North Freeway (north of downtown), Gulf Freeway (south of downtown), and Pierce Elevated (going through downtown). If you intend to drive in Houston, it is a good idea to get a key map and be prepared to ask for directions.
For up-to-date information on Houston's road conditions, call
Tel: + 1 (713) 869 4571/1 800 452 9292
For regional up-dates, call the
Texas State Road Conditions and Wildflower Line
Tel: + 1 (713) 869 4571/1 800 452 9292
Drive on the right in the United States. The speed limit is usually 30 mph (50 kph) on urban roads and 55 mph (90 kph) or 65 mph (105 kph) on highways. Distances are always measured in miles. Front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts in Texas; children under 5 must be in an approved passenger restraint anywhere in the vehicle. Ages 2-4 should use a safety belt and children under age 2 must ride in child-safety seats. At traffic lights, it's legal to make a right turn even when the light is red - except when there is a sign at the intersection stating that such a turn is NOT permitted - provided that you come to a full stop first and no traffic is coming. When in doubt, always wait until the light turns green to make a right turn. At four-way intersections controlled by red stop signs, it's first-come first-go; when in doubt, yield to the right. Finally, use extreme caution when approaching or following a school bus, which is usually bright yellow. If a school bus has stopped to drop off or pick up children, you are required by lawto stop until it moves off and has switched off the alert lights.
Rail travel to and from Houston
Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line from Florida to California offers a Southern experience through New Orleans, Houston and Del Rio. The service stops at Houston at the downtown passenger terminal three times a week. The terminal is located at 902 Washington Ave., just north of downtown.
Tel: 1 800 872 7245
The website is a comprehensive site and has booking, service and route details.