The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is definitely what you would call “car-centric”: it is spread out across about 14,600 square miles. If you plan to visit outlying areas and lots of attractions that are far apart, renting a car is the best way to get around, and may even be a necessity. The good news is that the city is easy to navigate and there are plenty of convenient parking options. But, for visitors who’d like to get around without getting behind the wheel, vehicle, there are alternative options.
Valley Metro Rail
If you plan to stick around the Tempe-Mesa-Downtown Phoenix area, Light Rail is an inexpensive and reliable option. Since opening in 2008, its transformed Central Phoenix, and it’s continuing to expand with many future expansions in the works. Getting from the airport to downtown affordably is a highlight, though it’s just one of the perks of light rail.
The 26-mile line connects Phoenix to Tempe and Mesa, with stops at popular tourist destinations like the Tempe’s Mill Avenue District, the Talking Stick Resort Area, Chase Field and the Phoenix Art Museum. There are 28 stations along the line, and service is operated seven days a week, 18 to 22 hours a day. The Valley Metro website offers a Trip Planner that makes it even easier to navigate too.
The last train of the day starts its run at 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (11 p.m. the rest of the week), making it the best option for getting around when bar- or club-hopping in Downtown Phoenix, or along Mill Avenue in Tempe. Whatever you do, don’t drive after imbibing as DUI laws in this state are the strictest in the entire country.
Valley Metro Bus
Valley Metro also offers a network of city buses which travel the main traffic arteries. They’re cheap and easy to use, but it can be difficult to get around when the city of Phoenix itself covers over 400 square miles. As the system has not yet managed to figure out how to improve this, the bus is usually not the best option. To determine whether or not it will work, visit the Valley Metro website trip planner and enter your starting location and desired destination.
A number of cities in the Phoenix metro area offer free shuttle service for touring downtown areas, including Scottsdale, which operates a trolley that runs circular routes through its Old Town area. Downtown Phoenix offers the Downtown Area Shuttle, which will get you around to its many bars, sports venues and popular attractions. Tempe has the Free Local Area Shuttle known as FLASH that operates busses around Arizona State University. If you’re staying in a high-end resort, find out if it offers complimentary shuttle service, as many provide this service to spots like shopping districts and scenic trails nearby.
Taxi and ride share services
As the distances in the Phoenix area are so great, taking a taxi can be very expensive. While it used to be considered a must for those times when you’ve had too much to drink and the bus was no longer running, or couldn’t get you to where you need to go, that’s no longer the case.
In the Greater Phoenix area, both ride share services Lyft and Uber are available. They can easily be ordered via a mobile app and are typically cheaper than a taxi, and will pick you up quicker too. Just download the app, enter your desired destination and it will provide you with a rate as well as how soon your driver can be there.