New Orleans Travel Information
When to Go
New Orleans' climate is influenced by its subtropical latitude and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. It's hot, wet and sticky for most of the year - other times it's just wet. February through April is the best time to visit, when easygoing weather coincides with the city's two most spectacular events, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. The city is hoping both will be start the engines of recovery and return. May sees the heat begin to intensify, and June marks the official beginning of hurricane season, which lasts through September. The oppressive heat and humidity of the summer months are a misery, driving many residents away from the city.
If you're visiting in summer, prepare for the 'oven' effect of going from chilly air-conditioned interiors to overwhelmingly tropical 35°C (95°F) streets. September and October tend to be much more agreeable. Christmas is an off-peak period with discounted accommodation, although the winter temperatures during the large New Year's Eve celebration can be chilly.
The Gulf of Mexico provides New Orleans with plenty of moisture - the city receives about 150cm (60in) of rainfall annually and no season is immune from it. In March, April and May the weather is quite variable, with plenty of rain; but spring has sunny, mild days that are perfect for the festivals. Summer is hot, sticky and steamy, often with thundershowers. September and October days are the most likely to offer clear, temperate weather. Winter temperatures average a comfortable 12°C (54°F), yet occasional drops in temperature, combined with the damp atmosphere, can chill you to the bone. Snow is rare but December's short days, fog and rain conspire to allow only a few hours of daily sunshine.
Featured New Orleans Hotel
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, 18km (11mi) west of the city, handles mostly domestic flights.
Interstate 10 is the nation's major east-west route along the southern boundary linking Jacksonville with Santa Monica via New Orleans. The north-south routes, I-55 to Chicago and I-59 to Chattanooga, meet I-10 to the west and east of New Orleans on either side of Lake Pontchartrain.
A car is a good thing to have in New Orleans, but if you're planning to spend most of your time in the French Quarter or CBD, don't bother. You'll just end up wasting money on parking. That said, all the big rental companies can be found in the city or at the airport.
The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) offers decent bus and streetcar service. No buses run through the heart of the French Quarter, so most visitors only use them when venturing Uptown or out to City Park.
The RTA operates three streetcar lines. The historic St Charles streetcar is running only a short loop in the CBD due to hurricane damage to the Uptown tracks. The Canal streetcar makes a long journey up Canal St to City Park, with a spur on Carrollton Ave. The Riverfront line runs 2 miles along the levee from the Old US Mint, past Canal St, to the upriver convention center and back.
If you are travelling alone or at night, taxis are highly recommended. United Cab is the biggest and most reliable company to call for a pick-up, unless you are in a central part of the French Quarter, where it is relatively easy to flag down a passing cab.
There's an information booth at the airport's A&B concourse; most visitors take the Airport Shuttle to and from the airport. The Regional Transit Authority runs the local bus service. The RTA also operates three streetcar lines.
Try to avoid bringing a car to downtown New Orleans as it can be a costly and frustrating proposition, dealing with the narrow one-way streets, congestion and parking. Don't forget, you can always rent a bicycle too!
The Canal St ferry operates between Canal St and the West Bank community of Algiers daily. Another ferry stops at Jackson Ave, near the Irish Channel, and leads to the suburb of Gretna. The ferries are free for pedestrians and cyclists, and just 1.00 for vehicles.
All US visa information is highly subject to change. US entry requirements keep evolving as national security regulations change. All travelers should double-check current visa and passport regulations before coming to the USA. Although you can also access visa information through www.usa.gov, the US State Department (www.travel.state.gov/visa) maintains the most comprehensive visa information, providing downloadable forms, lists of US consulates abroad and even visa wait times calculated by country.
Health and Safety
Be careful walking too far north of Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater (St Claude Ave is a good place to stop), south of Magazine St (things get dodgier past Laurel St) and too far west (Rampart St) of the French Quarter. Stick to places that are well peopled, particularly at night, and spring for a cab to avoid dark walks. In the Quarter, street hustlers frequently approach tourists - just walk away.