6 transport options to help you get around in Atlanta

Atlanta has ignored pleas to build a more comprehensive public transit system that not only better connects Atlanta neighborhoods, but extends into the city’s sprawling metropolitan area. That means visitors to the city may have to get a little bit creative, using a mix of trains, buses and the occasional Uber or taxi, to be able to see it all. If you want the most freedom, you’ll want your own set of wheels.

Stretch your budget by taking MARTA

Marta’s trains go in four directions from downtown: north, south, east and west. These train stops are enough to get you into some of Atlanta’s neighborhoods – including Atlanta’s West End, Midtown, Buckhead, and Inman Park – but not enough to get you around within the neighborhoods. No trains make the trip to Old 4th Ward, Virginia Highland and Blandtown. Combining train stops with MARTA’s more precise bus system, renting an e-bike or scooter, or an occasional Uber is the most cost effective and efficient way to get around town.

The Atlanta Streetcar sits at Olympic Park Station with the city in the background
The Atlanta Streetcar hits many of the city’s major sights © Shutterstock / 4kclips

MARTA buses and trains use a Breeze card to pay for transport. A Breeze card costs $2, plus the amount of money you choose to load onto the card to pay for MARTA rides. MARTA fare is $2.50 one way for a bus or train, with up to four transfers allowed within a three-hour window.

Once you’ve arrived at your stop, combine your trip with a ride on an e-bike or scooter to get to your final destination. Lime and Bird offer e-bikes and scooters at 200 different stations throughout the city; use the apps to find their dockless bikes and scooters. Renting an e-bike or scooter usually starts with a base fare (a recent trip I took started with a $1 base) plus a per-minute charge (about $0.39) during the rental.

Check off the major tourist attractions with the Atlanta Streetcar

If you’re looking to tick off some of the major tourist attractions in downtown Atlanta and the Sweet Auburn neighborhoods, the Atlanta Streetcar is the easiest and fastest way to get around. Start at the Centennial Olympic Park stop, which puts visitors next to the World of Coca Cola, the Georgia Aquarium and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. For $1 one way or $3 all day, streetcar passengers can make a 2.7-mile loop that will also drop them next to the Sweet Auburn Market and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. The streetcar also connects to the Peachtree Center subway station. 

Explore the most neighborhoods by biking the BeltLine

The Atlanta BeltLine weaves walkers and bikers through Atlanta’s favorite neighborhoods, giving passersby a more intimate view of the A’s best places to live and play. The trails use an old rail line to make a 22-mile loop around Atlanta. If you don’t have time to see it all, prioritize the Southside trail and the Eastside trail for easy access to local restaurants and shops.

Atlanta also has bike lanes on several streets throughout the city. The cycle track along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Northside Drive and James P. Brawley Drive is protected with a concrete median, but most lanes run parallel to vehicle traffic.

Save car rides for nature hikes and district dining

Atlanta’s suburbs have a lot to offer when it comes to dining and hiking. If you’d like to explore the gastronomy districts in downtown Marietta, or in Chamblee on Buford Highway, it’ll be easiest for you to get around in a car. 

That said, Atlanta traffic is the stuff of legend, and there are a few hacks to navigating the city’s gridlock. The sections of Interstates 75 and 85 that pass through downtown Atlanta are consistently the busiest, and alternative street routes also tend to fill up. If you want to skip the heavy traffic, ride with other people or drive an electric vehicle so you can use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, the lane on the far left with its own left-aligned exits. This lane (found on I-75, I-85 and I-20) usually moves faster during slowdowns. Make sure you pay attention to the signs! North of downtown on I-85, the HOV lane turns into a Peach Pass lane, a lane local drivers pay for in order to move faster through traffic.

Since so many people get around in vehicles, you’ll find plenty of parking space at metro Atlanta’s outdoor recreation areas, including the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, Arabia Mountain and Stone Mountain.

You might also like:

The 10 best day trips from Atlanta
10 iconic Instagram spots in Atlanta (and how to get the best shot)
Everyday explorations in Atlanta: cultural capital of the South

This article was first published May 12, 2021 and updated Jul 4, 2024.

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