There are 4 bike rental locations in the downtown area (see website) and it's a great way to enjoy the city! You can ride in the midtown/downtown area or venture out to the museum district or follow the bike path to the Heights or from downtown to University of Houston. Bike path info here: http://bikeways.publicworks.houstontx.gov/index.php/maps
No way you can drive from IAH to downtown in 30 minutes, even if there's no traffic. It's a good 40 - 45 miles. If you rent a car, you can go to the Galleria for a couple of hours, or alternatively, go north to the Woodlands Mall or 1960, a major thoroughfare with lots of restaurants, bars, stores, etc. Not cheap, though, as you have to pay for a day's rental. At least parking is free in all the places I mentioned. Hope that helps.
Houston is a big city, spread out wide, and it takes awhile to get from one side to another, especially if you have to take the Katy Freeway (I-10 West). There is ongoing road construction all over town and the freeways are the only way to get from one side of town to another. Be prepared for heavy traffic, it's just a way of life here in some areas. But, it always beats public transportation, which can't really serve a city this big very well.
By Air : There are two major commercial airports in Houston. The largest is Bush International (IAHand about 23 miles north of downtown and the other is William P Hobby (HOU).
By Train: Amtrak runs through Houston between Orlando and Los Angeles. 902 Washington Ave- just north of downtown.
By Road: Houston is encircled by Interstate 610 which is known as The Loop. Interstate I-10 intersects it and then links the city to San Antonio (west) and New Orleans (east). Interstate I-45 comes down from Dallas (north) and continues on to Galveston (south). There were some major works going on when we were there. At one stage heading east and north of downtown we found we couldn't get off and travelled quite some distance before we could.
From San Antonio : 4 hours; Dallas : 4 hours 30 minutes; New Orleans : 7 hours.
By Trolley : There is a free Metro trolley service downtown which stop at remote parking, shops, major hotels/restaurants, the courthouse, Enron Field and the Convention Centre. The trolleys are replica vintage trolley buses.
Car rental. I strongly recommand that you rent a car in Houston. There is no common transportation, and the city is huge. You need a car to go everywhere. All the main rental car agencies are available at Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports. Go to http://iah.houstonairportsystem.org/rentalcars for details.
Taxi. Here are the rates (September 2003) depending where you go from Bush Intercontinental:
North Houston, 610 North $33.50
Galleria, Greenway Plaza, Medical Center, Memorial, River Oaks $43.50
Astrodome/Reliant Park $47.00
Hobby Airport $51.50
West Memorial, Bear Creek $57.50
Ellington Field, Westside $62.50
NASA, Space Center, Southern suburbs of Houston $73.50
Express Bus Shuttle Here are the rates per person (September 2003) depending where you go from Bush Intercontinental:
Astrodome/Reliant Park $20
Greenway Plaza $20
Medical Center $20
Westside Hotels $24
Hobby Airport $20
Children's Fare (5-12 years) $6
Limousine Here are the rates (September 2003) depending where you go from Bush Intercontinental:
Galveston, Texas City, League City, LaMarque, Hitchcock $30
NASA, Clear Lake, Webster, Ellington Field $25
Pelican Island $30
Regular Bus Line 102 departs from South of Terminal C at Bush Intercontinental.
The more relevant question would be how to get OUT of Houston. The best way is to avoid coming here in the first place. But if somehow you have erred in that regard, I advise that you take a car, take a plane, hop a bus, even a train, whatever you can find, and as soon as possible, too. One of Houston's best features is the ease with which one can leave town, as long as you don't try to do it between about 3:30 p.m. (or earlier just before holidays) and 7:30 p.m., or if you don't try to take I-10 westbound at any time during daylight hours, or I-45 northbound at practically any hour if you intend to travel further than the delightful berg of Conroe, Texas (which itself could merit another web page like this one), or if your freeway of choice has been shut down for overnight freeway construction.
You might as well ask what is the best way to eat without using your mouth. The buses here are generally on or ahead of schedule, but very slow, owing to the number of stops, and there is no other form of mass transit. There are plenty of taxi cabs but given how area sprawls that could be quite expensive. Driving yourself would be most convenient and economical, provided that you have a lot of patience and that you already know your way around. Traffic is heavy and only gets worse with each passing year; much of the congestion is due to the large number of what must be the most inefficiently managed road construction projects in 'progress' in any modern industrialized country today. Highway and surface street layout is frequently anything but intuitively obvious, with the largest collection of convoluted freeway ramp schemes I have ever seen in in one place. Traffic signals on surface streets are frequently unsynchronized and signage is often pathetic. It is not unusual to encounter intersections of eight to ten-lane boulevards where the only indication of street names is the familiar tiny sign of the type originally conceived on the order of 100 years ago for two-lane streets, and set on only a single corner. It is ironic, perhaps, that Houston's countless apologists pride themselves that they live in the 'Space City,' because even when you can find one of these diminutive signs, you need something approaching the capabililty of the Hubble Telescope to read it from where you are sitting waiting (often for the second or third time) for the light to change. On some occasions, you will need some form of optical enhancement equipped with an X-ray feature, because the Public Works Department has the most amazing facility for erecting them behind utility poles. And for all of that, it is not surprising to encounter multi-lane intersections with NO visible signage at all. It is scant exaggeration to say that any 14-year-old from California with a B+ grade point average could do a better job. Finally, it would be wise to keep a canoe or some other similarly buoyant conveyance in your garage - or better yet, your attic - for getting around during flash floods.
Houston has two major airports. There is Hobby and Intercontinental (I think it's called Bush International Airport). They are located on the opposite sides of town. Hobby is closer to downtown than IAH.
Once in Houston, you will want a car. The bus system is horrible so I don't recommend it at all. Since Houston is so spread out the only way to get to anything is by car. There is plenty of parking anywhere you go, so it really isn't an issue. Just be prepared for traffic. Houston is going through a beautification process (it needs all the help it can get), so the city likes to close down freeways a lot.
Houston has two airports. I flew into Hobby which is closer to downtown. Cab fare to my downtown hotel wa $20 US.
This city is so spread out. I really suggest renting a car, although traffic is horrendous if you are not used to driving in a big US city. You can take cabs to get around, but it seems like anywhere you go is going to cost you $15-$20.
I do belive flying is the best way to go. It's fast and you don't have to worry about folding maps. However, if you do decide to take the road trip route (and there's nothing wrong with that!), remember tht Texas is BIG. Especially for those coming from the western part of the United States. It's a 13 hour drive just from El Paso to Houston! If you're driving, make sure you bring your Travel Yahtzee!=0)
If you can afford it, renting a car would be the best thing. Houston is very spread out and you will cover a lot of ground getting to all of the sites. True, Houston does have a bus system, METRO, but if you are staying on the outskirts it's hard to find a bus line. Not to mention you would have to get a ton of transfers and it's easy to get confused. The good thing that Metro does provide is service called Paerk and Ride. This way if you are planning to go to one part of the city (especially downtown Houston) you can park your car, ride the bus downtown, and come back whenever you like! It really makes going downtown easy.
'Bush Intercontinental Airport' (IAH) is the international airport here in Houston, so - if you look carefully - you can find a direct flight to IAH from many places in the world. If you're flying from another state in the U.S., keep in mind that Southwest Airlines flies into another airport - Hobby Airport - that's actually much closer to downtown and will save you about half of your cab fare. And, speaking of cab fare, ALWAYS ask the cabbie about the 'zone rate' ... That means there's a maximum rate they can charge you depending on which zone of the city you're trying to get to. By virtue of asking that question, most taxi drivers will figure you know what you're talking about and will be less inclined to cheat you!
Everybody drives in Houston and the rent car rates are relatively cheap. The public transportation consists of a bus system that is efficient, but not the best option. That's because 6 months of the year the climate is extremely warm and you'd have to wait outside at the bus stop so long, you'd constantly sweat through your clothes. Plus there's always the chance you'd get lost and end up in a 'not-so-safe' neighborhood.
Traffic is pretty brutal too, especially during peak rush hours. So keep in mind there's a tollway that encircles the city that will assist you in getting around the traffic if you need to get to particular areas of town.
We flew to Houston (IAH) and then rented a car once we got there. We found a great deal on Expedia....3 days for $40 for a midsize car.
I drove to Houston, but you can fly there and arrive at Houston Intercontinental Airport.
You definitely need a car, as public transportation seemed almost nonexistant, and distances are very far.