If you’re planning on visiting Philadelphia for the first time, you’re probably on the hunt for easy ways to navigate the historical city. As a lady that’s been there and loved it, I’m happy to give some sound advice for your vacation using tips and tricks that worked well for me. From the best apps to using public transportation, and what to do if you get lost, here’s how to get around Philadelphia the easy way.
I know this is telling my age, but I remember a Brady Bunch episode where one of the boys had a delivery route and Mr. Brady told him, “The fastest way between two points is a straight line. “ that sentence has stuck with me for my entire life and I consider it a way of optimizing how I travel, whether walking or driving.
So, with that in mind, here are my top tips for getting around Philadelphia safely and what works for me.
How to Get Around Philadelphia – Getting to Philadelphia
Depending how far away you are from Philly might depend on what kind of transportation you take to get there. I’ve driven via the PA Turnpike and taken Amtrak and Philadelphia was my layover spot while connecting trains.
You’ll also need to think about the cost-effectiveness of your travel and your budget when planning. Do you want to spend a bunch on travel and be budget minded when touring the city or maybe the opposite comes into play for your travel needs. And what about the time it takes to get there? Do you want to explore along the way or just get there and hit the ground running?
If you want all of the options from here to there, Rome2rio has them and can save you some serious cash, too. It narrows down options from fastest to second fastest and cheapest to second cheapest while giving you both prices and timelines with either option.
How to Get Around Philadelphia – Use Public Transportation to Save Money
As a general rule for me, parking in large cities is not great. First, you have to find a place to park. Then, if/when you’ve found one, it can cost an arm and a leg to park there. Then, you have the worry of something happening to your vehicle while it’s parked. My advice? Use public transportation whenever possible.
The last time I visited Philadelphia with my family, we drove from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and stayed just outside of the city proper and. I drove the car to a transit parking lot, we jumped on a bus to the city, explored, and headed back to the parking lot the same way. Not only did I feel safe, I loved the fact that I didn’t have to drive in heavy traffic and then have to traverse unknown roads to find a place to park.
Additionally, I’ve always loved using public transit whenever I’m able. I’ve taken the Philly Subway during the day and had no issues. Now, of course, that’s not an excuse to not keep your wits about you. As a traveler in a city you’re not used to, always play it safe and mind your property, bags, etc.
Pro Tip: Become familiar with the transit lines before you go and make notes in your phone so you can pull them up quickly.
Must-Download Philadelphia Apps
These days, when my phone is not in my hand or pocket, I feel downright lost, and I’m sure you can relate. So, before you visit Philadelphia, make sure to download these 4 apps to help with getting around:
onTime: SEPTA Transit Tracker
This free app is priceless in the fact that it gives you real time Philadelphia transit information for all of its services including the subway and buses.
Philadelphia Travel Guide
This guide offers everything a travel book would without having to carry one around, making you look obviously touristy. With the ability to use 100% offline, it offers augmented reality and zoomable maps.
Indego Bike Share
With 70 stations and 700 bikes, Indego bike share will give you the ability to tour the city by bike using either a purchased pass for multiple uses or single use via credit card. Each bike location is listed in the app in real time and offers close-to-you navigation.
Philadelphia Airport: Flights
Pretty self explanatory, but there’s everything you need about flights coming in and out of Philadelphia. Download this one to keep an eye on your outgoing flight.
GPS My City – Philadelphia
If you’re up for a Philadelphia walking tour, check out GPS: My City. Each walk comes with a detailed tour map as well as photos and background information for the featured attractions. The app’s navigation functions guide you from one attraction to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.
There are in-app purchases, but they’re definitely less expensive than paying for a guided tour.
Pro Tip: Learn the functions of each app before you travel and make note of the benefits of each so you can navigate them easily.
Getting Lost in Philadelphia: What to Do if it Happens
Getting lost can be super scary, so here are some tips to remember if you do:
Think like a child: Remember our parents telling us to look for people in uniform if you’re lost? Same thing applies as an adult. I remember getting lost on the Philly Subway once and the first thing I did was walk up to a gentleman with a badge and ask where to go. He was so comical that it’s one of my fondest memories during that visit.
Try not to panic: Take some deep breaths, make sure you’re safe, and then find out how to get where you need to be. And that can be from asking an employee in a convenient store to finding an employee to checking an app for directions. If you’re on the street walking, pop into a safe place like a bank or store and work out the details.
Don’t traverse unknown neighborhoods after dark: The odds of something untoward happening increases after dark, especially in an unknown city. Stick to the touristy spots if you do need to be out late and remember, there’s safety in numbers.
And if you’re in an emergency, don’t forget to call 911!
And that’s it – 4 super easy tips on how to get around Philadelphia safely!