As we all know, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Champaign-Urbana. But sometimes—just sometimes—we understand that students might want to head up north to a quaint little town known as Chicago. Chicago is technically only about two hours away from CU by car, but if you don’t have a car it might seem as though Chicago and the moon are approximately the same distance from UIUC.
You’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t need access to rockets of any kind in order to visit the city. Thanks to a few different types of public transportation, traveling from Champaign to Chicago (and back again) can be quick, painless, and inexpensive, whether you’re going to O’Hare or Navy Pier.
Greyhound bus schedules offer a lot of flexibility, so it’s easy to find a route that matches your timetable and fits your budget. The Greyhound station is located at the Illinois Terminal, at 45 E. University Ave. in downtown Champaign, and can take you to one of several different dropoff points in downtown Chicago. You can choose between economy, economy extra, or flexible seating to get you where you need to go when you bus from Champaign to Chicago.
Cost: Varies. One-way tickets can range from around $17 to $50+.
The Peoria Charter is (unsurprisingly) a charter bus that can take you back and forth between CU and Chicago while also offering service in several other central Illinois towns, including Peoria (another surprise!) and Bloomington-Normal. The Peoria Charter has convenient stops on campus at ISR and the Armory building, and also stops at the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign, just like the Greyhound.
This bus is primarily used to take passengers to and from Midway and O’Hare airports, but it also has a stop at Union Station in downtown Chicago. Check their website for the set times they leave and arrive at each location.
Cost: A one-way ticket from CU to Union Station or O’Hare is $37 online, or $50 in cash.
Hopefully you’re familiar with the address of the Illinois Terminal by now, because that’s also where you can catch the Amtrak train from Champaign to Chicago. A bit like the Greyhound bus, the length of your trip might vary depending on the route you choose, and you might make multiple stops or only one or two before you arrive at Union Station in Chicago. Depending on your route, your train can offer several different amenities, including a cafe car and the option to bring pets, bikes, or even golf clubs. You can also choose what class you’d like to travel in, from coach to business and more.
You can buy your Amtrak ticket in person at the station, although it may be safer to make sure your train isn’t sold out by using the Amtrak mobile app to buy your ticket in advance.
Cost: Varies. One-way coach tickets may be around $17, while business class is often closer to $45.
Yes, it’s possible to fly from Willard Airport to O’Hare in Chicago! It probably won’t be your most cost-effective option, but it will be the fastest. UIUC’s own Willard Airport is technically in Savoy (11 Airport Road in Savoy, to be precise), but it is close enough to the Champaign border that you won’t know the difference. Willard Airport is small, which makes it great for anyone who hates long lines at airport security, and it might be the option you’re looking for if you need to get to Chicago within the hour.
Cost: Varies, but will almost always be upwards of $150.
What happens once I’m in Chicago without a car?
Good news: The public transportation options in Chicago are top-notch, too! Once you’re in Chicago, you’ll have access to taxis galore. Not all taxis are created equal, though. If you do choose to take a taxi, make sure the taxi is certified and has the proper documentation. If a taxi driver is being too pushy, refusing to use a meter, or claiming not to have change for large bills, walk away and find a different ride. Your driver shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable for any reason!
As well as taxis, Chicago boasts the inexpensive, easy-to-use L train, which has over 140 stations throughout the city and its suburbs. The L train reaches both O’Hare airport and Union Station, so however you choose to get to Chicago, you’ll be connected once you arrive. Happy travels!