Traveling to and from the airport can be pricey, especially when taxi fares come into play. Luckily, Chicago is a city with great public transportation, which you can use to access the city's Midway International Airport. Taking the "L" train is a budget-friendly option that is much easier than you might think. It'll get you from the terminal to downtown Chicago in no time, which means you'll be enjoying the sights at Navy Pier even sooner. The "L" is typically at least $20 cheaper than a taxi.
Finding the Train
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)'s Orange line "L" train connects Midway Airport (MDW) with downtown Chicago, Illinois. Follow signs out of the terminal building to the station, which is east of the airport via an enclosed walkway. Signs will read “CTA Trains” or “Trains to City," and you will see an orange line on the ground to help lead the way. The train operates all day, every day, except during overnight hours (between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.) and after 11 p.m. on Sundays. It offers a fast travel time, many transportation options and times, and a way to experience being a true Chicago commuter using public transit instead of a rideshare like Uber.
Paying the Fare
You have three options for paying the "L" train fare from Midway to the downtown of the Windy City. Buy a Ventra ticket, selecting between a Single-Ride CTA ticket (which includes two transfers to a bus and/or another train ride within two hours) or a 1-Day CTA ticket (which includes unlimited rides for 24 hours). This is the best choice for most visiting travelers, and you should pick the ticket that's best for your itinerary. Alternatively, purchase a Ventra Card, which allows passengers to load it with money to cover the fare for up to seven people. This is a good option for families or larger groups. You can also use a Contactless credit or debit card to tap into the turnstiles without purchasing an actual ticket or card.
Pay for the ticket or card using cash, coins or credit and debit cards at one of the automated vending machines inside the station. Tickets cost between $2.50 and $10, while you can fill Ventra Cards for your chosen amount. Check the Chicago Transit Authority website for a full list of fares to decide which option is right for you.
Navigating the Route
The CTA orange line train makes several stops between Midway and Chicago's downtown Loop. It takes approximately 20 to 25 minutes to reach downtown from the airport. Check the Orange line route guide on the CTA website if you're unsure which stop will get you to your accommodations. Transfer to one of the other "L" lines, like the Blue line, if needed to complete your journey. The Washington/Wabash and Adams/Wabash are two of the main stops in downtown Chicago, and they are the best points of access for the Loop and several sightseeing experiences from the elevated tracks of the metra.
Download the Citymapper Chicago app onto your phone before traveling if you're nervous about understanding the CTA network of the train station or bus services. The app allows you to input your pick up and destination and offers specific, step-by-step instructions on navigating public transportation to get there, including which airport shuttle to use at Midway Station, which CTA buses or train services to board, and what your fastest options are during busy weekday times. It's available for most major cities, including the city of Chicago, and also works online using a computer.