Driving, New Orleans
There has been a reputation going around for quite some time that the police in Louisiana are not always on the up and up. Most of this rumor really comes from the fact that during Mardi Gras, you have alot of people committing petty crimes and some of the officers are reserves or temporary police staff. If you mix the two, sometimes you wind up with people paying their way out of fines or whatnot.
I would however warn you that you should definitely watch your speed when you are travelling to and from New Orleans... the officers like to hide on the highway and catch you when you least expect it!
Slow down, and have a safe Mardi Gras!
Look out - New Orleans is NOTORIOUS for handing out parking tickets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I remember the times when I considered myself lucky to get a ticket instead of a boot (lock) on the car wheel or worse - having my car towed completely. It happens all the time, anywhere and everywhere throughout the city.
Signs are not that clear for parking, but you basically cannot park on a main thoroughfare during business hours, you can't park in front of a business establishment, you almost NEVER can park at a meter because they're always covered, and you can't park on the neutral ground areas. Basically even the areas where you think it would be safe to park, are simply ticket or towing set-ups. (if you have any further questions about this, call Parking Enforcement at 504-826-1880.)
Also, if you come out of a bar or restaurant and can't find your car (trust me, it happens!), then you should immediately contact the Claiborne Auto Pound at 504-565-7450 to make sure your car was towed and not stolen.
I got so many parking tickets as a student, the city somehow appropriated my parents' address in Colorado and simply forwarded the citations directly to them. One semester I got in BIG trouble because of that!
Basically you should avoid driving in downtown/French Quarter New Orleans. There is plenty of public transportation, and much of the city is walkable.
Parking is expensive - ranging from $3 to $10 for the first hour, and up to $6.50 for two hours in some places. Hotels will have valet parking and a per day charge of $10 to $20, especially in the French Quarter.
Around Mardi Gras time, you also have to know the parade times - as this sign shows (somewhat blurrily as the photo was taken from a moving streetcar), there is NO PARKING two hours before and two hours after a parade.
So you are better off to leave your car at home and fly in. We flew in and avoided the whole hassle by renting a car AFTER we visited New Orleans.
A brochure entitled "Park Smart" shows the location of city parking areas and lots from the Department of Streets and during Mardi Gras should also be available from major hotels.
NOPD tips: "Don't leave suitcases or packages in your car or van, if possible. Keep valuables out of sight. Be careful where you park. Don't park in areas that are dark or deserted. Your best bet: Spend the extra few bucks and park at a lot that has an attendant. "
Basically the only place you can safely park is in a designated parking area, which will cost you anywhere from $5-$15 (but is worth it). Be sure to read the signs carefully - I was once locked out of a covered parking area in the Quarter, because the lot closed between 3:00am and 10:00am (or something like this). When I was finally done partying and needed to get back Uptown, I was out of luck. Doors were closed, and I had no access to my car. Streetcars don't run after 1:00 am, and, I'm not sure but I'm guessing I didn't have much money left for a cab after a night of binge drinking. Laissez les bon temps roullez, indeed…..
When you are stopped at a red light and the light turns green, look both ways before entering an intersection. People in New Orleans LOVE to run red lights. (Having previously lived where Big Brother tickets you for running a red light, this took getting used to!)
If you park on the street, be sure not to leave valuables in the car. When I lived there, a lot of my friends' cars were stolen or ransacked. It's best to park in a lot or garage. Harrah's used to offer free validated parking for 4 hours...I'm not sure if they still do this or not.
Meter maids are FIERCE. They get a commission based on the number of tickets they issue. If there's a 2 hour limit, move you car to the next block every 2 hours. (If you move it within the same block, they can still ticket you.) Also look to see if there's a chalk mark on your tire. They use chalk marks to track which cars they've checked. They are very vigilant!
Be sure to have a good map with you. Try to avoid "bad" neighborhoods. New Orleans has some very dangerous parts (trust me, you'll know one when you see it!). Try to stay on main roads.
Be sure to abide by the speed limit when "school crossing" lights are flashing. Cops stake these places out and you literally may have to wait in a line for your speeding ticket.
Enjoy the potholes!!!
If you're going to be sticking to the Uptown areas and the French Quarter exclusively, it doesn't make sense to rent a car.
Even if you plan to do a Plantation or Bayou Swamp Tour, transportation to and from the sites can be arranged from the city proper.
Streets in the French Quarter especially are quite narrow and a lot are one way. Pedestrians also walk down the middle of streets especially at night when it gets crowded. Parking meters operate from 8.00am to 6.00pm with usually only a maximum of 2 hours. Parking limits are policed regularly so don’t overstay your time. Car parks can very be very expensive in and around the city. Really if you drive into New Orleans, you are better to leave your car parked and just travel around by foot or by the trams.
Be careful when parking! We got two tickets for the same parking job. We parked at night, and then in the morning, woke up late to put money in the meter. Then, since we parked our car weird (we had to because the cars from the night before were parked weird), we got another ticket for improperly parking.
ALSO.....NEVER EVER EVER TRY TO MOVE AN ORANGE CONE. The street we were parked on was blocked off with orange cones at either end, and the only way to get out was to move said orange cones. I appointed myself orange cone mover, and grabbed a cone by it's head only to have it slip out of my hand....the reason.....IT WAS COATED WITH VASOLINE!!!! UGH!
Stay out of shadows in the Quarter. Stay in the crowds. Don't strike up any conversations with shady looking characters. Parking anywhere in the Quarter Disctict is horrible. Best to find a parking lot like the one on Decatur by Landry's restaurant. On the weekends, the meters are free, but you MUST park by one, cause the meter maids and tow trucks are out in force. If you plan on going down to the quarter during the day (for breakfast at Cafe du Monde, for example).. get there EARLY (by 7am or so)
The City of New Orleans is broke. Incompetence, corruption, and wholesale stupidity has placed the finances of this once great city in the toilet. The brain trust at City Hall, decided to install automated speed trap cameras all over town to raise revenue. The speed traps will automatically ticket you for small infractions no matter how absurd. Some traps are set up where you go from a 35mph zone to a 20mph area without sign notice. Ba-da-bing... you got a ticket. Tourists have driven around this third world town, only to return home to a mail box filled with tickets. This is not a case of public safety, but the powers that be admitted they need the money! This is a rigged town in every way. If the muggers and street hustlers don't get you, the city govt. will.