Chicago has the largest public transportation system in the country and getting around the city is fast and easy with an extensive network of train and bus routes. The train system is known as the El; most visitors only use the El, but buses also cover every part of the city including the suburbs, albeit less regularly. Most trains run 24 hours a day, with Overnight or Night Owl services taking over between midnight and 5am on some lines. The Metra commuter trains link the city to the outer suburbs, including Lake Michigan, Hyde Park and McCormick Place. During the summer months, a free trolley system operates in the downtown area, connecting Chicago's top cultural attractions, shopping areas and visitor destinations. Taxis are easy to find, and the metered rates are reasonable for short journeys. Although traffic is not as bad as in other major cities (outside rush hour), parking is expensive and difficult to find.
GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter.
The official currency is the US Dollar (USD), which is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
The international country dialling code for the United States is +1. Mobile networks cover most of the country, including all urban areas, however unless you have a tri-band phone it is likely your cellular phone from home will not work in the United States. Internet cafes are prevalent in most towns and cities.
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Chicago has an extreme climate with very hot summers and bitterly cold winters; its lakeside setting only slightly moderates the temperatures and adds some humidity to the atmosphere. Chicago has distinct seasons, with a short spring, when temperatures are moderate and nights frosty. Summers are hot, sunny and humid, from June to the end of September, and are prone to thunderstorms. August is usually the wettest month of the year. Autumn is a lovely time of year when the air is crisp and cool, with blue skies and sunshine. Winters in Chicago are icy and prone to cold, harsh winds. Snow is common.
Blue Line trains run every few minutes between the airport and downtown Chicago; the journey takes around 40 minutes and the fare is around $5. For safety reasons travellers are advised against using the Blue Line at night. Taxi ranks are situated outside the arrivals hall in each of the airport terminals; the fare is around $40 for the 30-45-minute journey from the airport to downtown Chicago. There are two airport express services, Continental and Omega, which have coaches leaving from all the terminals every 10 minutes to central Chicago; the Omega Airport Shuttle also links O'Hare to Midway Airport.
Companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and National.
There are plenty of metered taxis outside, and a taxi to the centre of Chicago takes approximately 30-45 minutes and costs about $40. But be prepared to pay twice as much during rush hour.
A free automated rail system connects all terminals.
Facilities at the airport include restaurants, bars, shops, duty-free shopping, bureaux de change, a bank and ATMs. The Hilton Athletic Club provides a health club, sauna, steam room and massage. Laptop Lane, in Terminal 1, offers fax, internet and photocopying services. The nearby Hilton Hotel provides more extensive services. There is a medical centre, baby-change facilities, a play area and a 24-hour interfaith chapel.
Parking at Chicago O'Hare is divided into the main lots, international lots, economy lots, and valet lots, with an additional free Cell Phone Lot for pick-ups and drop-offs. Fees range from around $2 per hour at the main lots, or $6 for two hours at the international lot, to $9 per day in the economy lots. Valet parking is also available.
Wifi is provided throughout the airport by Boingo, and passengers can purchase prepaid cards for $6.95, giving them unlimited browsing time for 24 hours.