Chicago is one of the top international destinations in the
U.S., and it's a great city for travel professionals and tour operators to
sell. If you're booking a trip to Chicago, start your planning process here,
with this helpful guide for international visitors. Need information on
navigating the city? Looking for foreign language tours and activities? It's
Before You Arrive
Chicago is ready and waiting for your clients, but before
they start exploring, here are some quick facts to get them familiar with the
Chicago saw nearly 1.38 million overseas
travelers in 2013
The city has 77 distinct neighborhoods
representing more than 100 ethnic groups.
Time zone: Central Standard Time (CST), GMT
Tipping: Gratuity is not automatically added to
the bill. Taxicab drivers, bartenders and waiters generally
receive a 15% gratuity for standard service, though it is appropriate to leave
a 20% gratuity to restaurant waitstaff for exceptional service, particularly in
fine dining establishments. Hotel doormen and valet park attendants should be
tipped about $2, and bellhops should be given $2 per bag. Chambermaids usually
are given $2 per day, which can be left on the pillow.
Legal drinking and gambling age:
21 (photo ID or passport required)
Legal car rental age: 25
Anyone traveling to the U.S. from another country must have
a valid passport. Nationals are also required to have a visa-unless they are
from a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program. All visitors from a
Visa Waiver Country need authorization to come to the U.S. through the U.S.
government's Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Please visit our international
page for more information on Visas and travel requirements.
Getting to &
International visitors to Chicago will feel welcome the
moment they step off the plane. Two major airports serve the city: O'Hare
International Airport and Midway International Aiport. Travelers arriving at O'Hare will
experience the brand new International Terminal 5, featuring luxury retail and
dining destinations – including 11 local Chicago brands – and redesigned TSA
checkpoint and cutting-edge design.
Both airports offer foreign currency exchanges, and there
are many other locations around the city. Read more about Chicago's
foreign currency exchanges.
Shuttles and taxis are available from both airports to downtown with rates from
$40-50 (from O'Hare) and $30-35 (from Midway). Car rentals are also available,
and groups can get to the city from both airports via Chicago Transit Authority
buses and rail lines. The Blue 'L' Line takes groups straight to downtown from O'Hare ($5) and the Orange 'L' Line takes groups straight from Midway ($2.25).
Read more about Chicago's
We Speak Your
Chicago features a number of foreign language tours, as well
as top attractions that offer tours and information in other languages. Here
are just a few tours to choose from:
Free Chicago Greeter Walks: Locals know Chicago the best, so let one give your clients a free
2-4 hour walk in their native tongue. The Chicago Greeter service matches
guides to each group based on their language and expertise. You can register online
at chicagogreeter.com 10 business days prior to the visit.
Bobby's Bike Hike: See Chicago from a bicycle seat. Bobby's
offers private group tours in a variety of languages (French, Spanish, German,
Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and more). Just call ahead to reserve your
tour and get ready for an exciting adventure around Chicago.
Chicago Architecture Foundation: Get up close to Chicago's famed architecture with CAF, one of the top attractions in the city. A number of self-guided and specialty foreign language tours are offered, including Historic and Modern Skyscrapers (available in French, Spanish and Italian).
360 CHICAGO: Located in the heart of the city, 360 CHICAGO offers stunning views of the lake and skyline. Groups can learn about Chicago's history, architecture and natural scenery through multi-media audio tours, available in several different languages, including Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.
You can also view the Destination Management Companies page in the Travel Professionals Guide (pg. 110) for a list of DMCs that offer step on guides that speak a variety of languages. (Specific languages are indicated in the guide.)
Our travel professionals page offers even more helpful tips to help through the planning process. To stay up-to-date on everything going on in Chicago, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.