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With its five working terminals and convenient location between Interstate 45 and US Highway 59, busy Houston International Airport is United Airlines’ largest hub, with the airline hosting 800 departures every day. Located just 23 miles from Houston’s downtown district, the airport offers onward transportation by taxi, bus, shuttles and hotel courtesy buses. America is the land of the car, with self-drive the preferred means of getting around for most arrivals intent on touring Texas.
Who to Book With
The airport has its own Consolidated Rental Car Facility, located on the complex’s east side, a five-minute shuttle trip from the terminals. Vehicle pick-up and drop-off is undercover just a short step from the booking desks, and nine companies including Hertz, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Thrifty and National serve renters with a wide choice of vehicles.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents will be requested at the vehicle collection point:
- Your UK, EU, home country or international driver’s licence
- The credit card used to make the reservation
- Your passport or a utility bill confirming your ID
- Your booking confirmation slip
America drives on the right, and rental cars almost invariably come with automatic transmission, meaning you don’t have to worry about changing gear, only about changing lanes. Interstates and US highways are great for motoring, but the downside to driving here is the rush-hour traffic clogging up the city roads mornings, early evenings and weekends. Off-street car parks abound in the city centre, and are more convenient that searching for scarce parking spaces. Petrol in the US is far cheaper than in the UK and most of Europe, and the extensive numbers of petrol stations are happy to take credit card payments. Seatbelts are compulsory for drivers and passengers, and drivers are only allowed to use a mobile phone if there’s a hands-free kit fitted.
Passengers arriving at the airport will find self-drive to their final destination is comfortable, convenient and fast outside rush hours. There is no train service and buses invariable take longer although they’re the cheapest option. Taxi travel is convenient but comparatively expensive, and shared minibus shuttles can be had at a price. There is no train service from the airport to downtown.
There is no train service directly at the airport but public transport runs to Houston’s Amtrak station, which is a stop on the Sunset Limited line.
Taxis at the airport are found outside each terminal’s arrivals exit, with uniformed officials guiding passengers to the correct cab for their journey. Charges are either flat rate or metered, whichever is cheapest. There’s a late-night surcharge and a £2 airport fee, and journeys take up to 45 minutes or more dependent on destination and time of day. Credit card payments are not accepted and tips are expected.
Houston Airport to Houston city centre is about £30
Houston Airport to Kingwood is about £20
Houston Airport to Houston Galleria is about £35
Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority offers the Metro Bus no 102 from a stop adjacent to the south side of Terminal C to the city’s main Metro station. Buses run every 20 minutes or so between around 05:00 and midnight, with the journey to downtown Houston taking an hour or so dependent on traffic and costing £1.25.The Super Shuttle shared minibus is another option, faster as it makes far fewer stops, but it’s much more expensive even if you’re travelling in a group.
Houston Airport’s five terminals are spread out along a half-mile stretch of airport road, connected by shuttle buses, people movers and automated underground trains and handling around 50 million passengers a year. United Airlines is very much the main carrier here, offering flights to London Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Tokyo, numerous Latin American cities and vast selection of domestic flights to large and smaller USA cities and towns. British Airways also offers a Heathrow flight and Air France flies from Paris.
Multi-storey car parks are found close to the terminals, with additional parking bays in the eco-park distant lots, with more than 25,000 spaces in total. Rates vary from around £2 for an hour to around £12 for 24 hours in the terminal car parks, with valet parking costing from around £7 to £17 for a full day. The long-stay eco-park bays are around £5 for a full day including a free shuttle to the terminals.
WiFi internet access is available in all terminals, free for 45 minutes, then via Boingo at a charge of around £3.50 per hour.
There are information desk at all landside and airside areas of the terminals.
Service Centre: +1 281 230 3100
The airport provides all the usual amenities for passengers with reduced mobility, starting with reserved spaces in all the terminals’ car parks. Adapted toilet facilities, designated seating areas with low-level phones, lifts, escalators and wheelchair-friendly inter-terminal transportation. Assistance can be had through your airline or by contacting the airport in advance.
Restaurants and Bars
The airport boasts over 50 restaurants, cafés and bar strung out in the terminals, as well as a food court in Terminal B, giving travellers a great choice of meals and refreshments. Most are close to the gates, allowing a chance to relax before boarding. Meat-heavy Texas barbecues are a feature, as is Tex-Mex cuisine, with Panchito’s a favourite. Fast foods, delis and coffee shops are found, and there’s a sports bar and café in Terminal D where you can catch up with the latest matches.
United Club Lounges
British Airways First Lounge
British Airways Executive Club Lounge
Money and ATMs
ATMs are found landside at all terminals, and currency exchange can be had in terminals B, C, D and E near the gates and also in Terminal E’s arrivals hall.
All the usual selection of airport retail opportunities are found here, both landside and airside, including upscale stores such as Brooks Brothers and a raft of Texas-style gift shops including the cutely-named Sue Venir’s. Sports gear and casual wear is well represented and the airside duty-free stores offer a huge selection of tobacco products, alcohol, cosmetics, perfumes and yet more Texas-themed souvenirs.