Drive, New Orleans
As of 2006, the bridge from I-10 east into New Orleans is still under construction. Though open for 2 lanes in each direction, numerous parts of the bridge are of temporary construction and with temporary guardrails. Use caution! The speed limit on this stretch of road is just 45, down from 70 mph before and after. Maybe this is finally complete?
I always rent a car when I'm in New Orleans. There are two reasons for it. The first is that I wander about quite a bit, far and wide, and sometimes impulsively. A cab would be inconvenient (waiting for the cab to arrive, and there are some places they won't go) and definitely a lot more expensive. The bus and the streetcars are handy and cheap, but they run only along certain main streets, run intermittently and stop altogether late at night. The second reason is that my partner has a limited ability to walk (which really makes the buses impractical for us).
But, if you don't have any physical disabilities that hamper your getting about too much, and if the places you'd go to are fairly limited and definite, a cab would likely suffice. It will cost more than a rented car, though, even still.
A rented car can be gotten for about $20 a day, while just the ride from the airport into town will cost $25 to $30 in a cab. The only thing about the rented car is that you should make sure that it's fully insured. With good driving, the likelihood of an accident can be minimalized. But there are always random people who develop strong feelings about people's cars --- favorably or not. If he likes it a whole lot, he may want to take it home with him. If he doesn't like it at all, he may decide it needs a good thrashing.
parking is very expensive in downtown new orleans and the french quarter. french quarter parking lots are most expensive and parking lots are a little less expensive in the warehouse and commercial districts. parking runs about $ 20 per day in parking lots and hotels. a car is really not needed in downtown new orleans. the french and warehouse districts can easily be walked from any centrally located hotel and you can take the st. charles trolley to the garden district. if flying into new orleans and plan to visit the central city i would suggest taking an airport shuttle to your hotel.
Anyone staying downtown or in the French Quarter should seriously look into staying at this garage in 1 block of Bourbon St. and Canal St. They offer $15/night valet overnight parking. This is less then half of what you will be charged if you park with your hotel. They have a coupon with more information that you can print off their website.
Here is the link.
This saved us almost $100 during Mardi Gras last year.
If you are weighing the options of driving or flying to New Orleans, you should likely consider the differences in pricing of cabs and the hotel parking where you decide to stay. On two occassions, I took different approaches, and in the end, I think I would choose to just stay in the French Quarter at a nicer hotel.
Hotels range in overnight parking from 25 dollars to 50 dollars per day, a cab to/from the suburbs is going to run you 40 dollars round trip.
While in the French Quarter however, I would definitely warn against trying to drive between locations. This is a walking city for sure, and you would be in a poor position to move from place to place if even possible in a car.
OK, OK. Street parking is a risky proposition due to the limited spaces, short time limits on meters, confusing signs, and strict enforcement. Your best bet is to park in one of the public lots along the river. Your cost will be $20 per day, or a minimum of about $6 per hour. These lots are monitored by police so your car should be safe. There are a few lots in the French Quarter, but the rates looked to be $26 per day. The Business District also has some overnight lots for a slightly lower rate, but you will walk farther and security is not guaranteed. I have also read that valet parking at Harrah's is for tip only, therefore virtually free, but I never tested the theory.
A few hotels like the Holiday Inn offer Valet parking for around $20 a day, which is a bit better than the public lots, and probably safer.
The main reason we rented a car was that we wanted to drive to nearby states. If we were going to stay in New Orleans the whole time we really wouldnt have to rent a car because the streetcar is very accessible and most things are walking distance. We walked many times from the Garden District where we were staying into the French Quarter and all over.
During Mardi Gras, even catching a taxi was difficult and also many streets were blocked off. We wouldnt have been able to drive our car anyways. Sometimes walking was the only choice we had.
As far as our car goes, we rented a car online on Hotwire.com On this site we got the best deal for the type of car we were looking for.
Hotel parking charges can be high. Make sure you ask when making a reservation. You really don't need a car in New Orleans. Streetcars are very useful. Tour companies will pick you up at your hotel to visit the swamps, plantations - or to do the post-Katrina city tours.
If you are only doing the old quartier of New Orleans then you can leave your car parked and forget about it for a while. There's no street parking in the quartier itself, so leave it at your hotel and cab it in. You can walk all over the place.
When you stay in the French Quarter you don't necessarily want to have a car; it can be more burdensome to park and store than it is worth.
However, we did want to get out of the city one day to see some plantations off of the River Road.
Before we left on our trip I was on a car rental website (forget if it was Dollar or National) and I used the drop down box to choose a location other than the airport to pick up. I found that there was a car rental agency just a few blocks outside of the French Quarter. I wrote down their address, local phone number and hours (wasn't open 24 hours). Then on the day that we wanted to get out of town we took a cab for a few bucks to the car rental agency and rented a car for approximately $50 for 24 hours. We brought the car back before the agency closed (we had it for less than 24 hours) but we didn't want to park it overnight in the French Quarter.
It was a lot less expensive than paying over $100 per person to take the plantation tours on a tour bus. It gave us the freedom of going wherever we wanted and not being locked into a tour schedule with a bunch of other tourists.
We really enjoyed seeing Lousiana outside of the Big Easy. The country to the northwest was very pretty and neat and so friendly.
So if you want to rent a car for a short amount of time, try the drop-down box for a location other than the airport.
Lake Pontchartrain is the largest lake in Louisiana and the largest salt water lake in the world; about 630 square miles. Each weekday 30,000 cars cross the longest over-water bridge in the world, The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. If you are coming from the North this is the best route into the city, IF the weather is good. When the wind is really blowing they shut down the bridge, and divert traffic to I-10. Driving over the causeway will cost $1. Also, be SURE that you know where you are going and that you have enough gas, because there aren't too many places to turn around!
Renting a car would be a waste of money. If you get a room near the street car lines, then you can take the trolley car to wherever you need to go. The street car is $1.25 one way, but you can get a day pass, 3 day pass, or month pass if you ride it a lot. The only thing we needed a car for was the swamp tour which was out of town, but they have special transportation if you need it for that. The streetcars run 24 hours and are these old trolleys from at least 1920. Riding the streetcar definitely gives you a better feel for the city. DON't Waste money on a car! You wont be able to find parking anyway!
The causeway is a four lane roadway which runs some 24 miles over Lake Ponchartrain between Metairie and Mandeville on the North Shore. The highway is actually two floating bridges. On the southbound route there is a toll for passenger vehicles which is collected at the Northshore toll plaza. Travelling northbound there is no longer a toll. Travelling into New Orleans, the cause way will bring you onto I-10.
We drove down from Chicago. 14 hours,leaving at midnight. I don't know if I'm eager to do THAT again anytime soon.
Do not attempt to drive in the French Quarter but if you want to visit other parts of New Orleans you probably SHOULD drive since cabs there are kind of a pain. There weren't enough and we wound up in a long line at the cab stand in the pouring rain. Walk, walk, walk.