The Budget Way to Travel to Warm and Friendly Chicago

Good customer service and friendly people are around every corner of the Windy City. Chicago is a busy town with lots of people – whether it is a cab driver, a front desk person, or a restaurant server – everyone is packed full of smiles and helpful attitudes. 

Stay at the International Hostel

One of the warmest and welcoming places in Chicago is the HI hostel. It is located in “The Loop” on Congress Parkway at Wabash Avenue and is within easy walking distance to many attractions. Per night rates start at $30.00 for a dorm bed and run up to $79.00 for a two-bed private room. Bathrooms are shared and breakfast is included. More information about the Chicago Hostel may be found at

For lunch, try Cafecito, connected to the hostel via the main lobby area. This Cuban-style coffee shop offers yummy treats for reasonable prices. The HI Michigan Board recommends the “Chivito” pressed sandwich for only $5.99. Visit to see a full menu, a video of how they make a sandwich, and printable coupons.





All Aboard!

Travelling by train is something everyone should try at least once. Michigan has three lines that run to Chicago starting in Pontiac, Port Huron, and Grand Rapids. Using Amtrak to travel from Oakland County to Chicago can be relativity easy as there are several stations to choose from.

Pontiac, Birmingham and Royal Oak are all good options. The Rochester area (and most of North Oakland County) may start in Pontiac. Train stations vary from a booth along the tracks to a full-service station, and the Amtrak website,, offers descriptions and parking information for each location.

Passengers can read, use laptops, work, watch movies on portable devices, sleep, or eat while riding the train. Amenities include a snack bar that offers food and refreshments. The cost varies with weekends being the most expensive and midweek being more cost effective. One-way tickets run from $28.00 – $81.00 depending on where in Michigan you begin your journey. Book well in advance for the best prices and be aware that they often sell out.

Be advised that Amtrak has been experiencing delays in the last several months due to track-work, as well as heavy traffic that requires Amtrak trains to move aside to allow freight trains to pass. Some Amtrak routes have been up to two hours behind so be prepared to have flexible arrangements.

Take the Mega Bus

Another way to travel to Chicago is on a big blue double-decker bus, commonly known as the Mega Bus. Service was recently established from the Detroit’s new Rosa Parks Transit Center to Downtown Chicago. You may also board at Cass Avenue & Warren Avenue or in Ann Arbor. Travel time is 5 1/2 hours from Detroit and 4 1/2 hours from Ann Arbor.

The bus is quite comfortable and is equipped with an on-board restroom, reclining seats, and free Wi-Fi. One-way fares range from $15.00 – $40.00. For the best price, book early and ask about special promotional offers. Visit for all the details.



Free Attractions

What better way to budget your dollars than to visit some of the many free sights in Chicago. Navy Pier is packed full of shops and restaurants, but the savvy traveler can enjoy the free scenic walk. Open every day of the year without an entry fee is the Lincoln Park Zoo with over 200 species to learn about. Amuse yourself cost-free with interactive sculpture at the Millennium Park or view the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Explore the official web site for Chicago to learn more about all the freebies at



Tips to Save Money

  • Purchase the train or bus tickets early
  • Get a ride to the train or bus station instead of parking your car
  • Book accommodations early for best price and choice
  • Research before you go for online coupons and specials
  • Ask a local for recommendations once in Chicago


By Michael Dwyer & Sonya Julie

About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

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