New arrivals in Baltimore will find that it is fairly easy to get around the city. While most people who settle down in Baltimore for the longer term will invest in a car, it is by no means essential. While driving will certainly give new arrivals more freedom to explore Baltimore and its surrounds, the city's public transport is more than efficient when it comes to the daily commute.
Public transport in Baltimore
The Maryland Transport Authority (MTA) oversees Baltimore’s integrated public transportation system. This system consists of buses, light rail, and subway networks, which get commuters to all corners of the city.
Purchasing a daily, weekly, or monthly transport pass allows commuters to utilise all modes of public transport in Baltimore over the designated period at discounted rates. CharmPass is the city's official mobile ticketing app. Here, residents can purpose one-way fares that are valid for 90 minutes, during which they'll be able to transfer between different transport networks. New arrivals will also be able to purchase other fare options right from the app, including multi-day and CharmFlex passes, the latter of which are most suitable for those with a flexible schedule.
The light-rail system in Baltimore helps connect the suburbs to the centre of Baltimore. Commuters often drive to stations located outside the city – where they are able to park at no cost – and then make use of the light rail to travel into the centre.
Baltimore has a single-line subway that runs from Johns Hopkins Hospital through the city centre and out to the northwest suburbs. The subway is frequently used by commuters travelling from their homes in the suburbs to the centre of Baltimore.
Bus routes in Baltimore cover most of the city and help connect areas that aren't sufficiently covered by the subway or light-rail networks. Unfortunately, buses rarely run to schedule, so it’s best to allow plenty of time to account for these delays.
There is also a free bus service known as the Charm City Circulator. It consists of four different routes connecting downtown Baltimore to selected neighbourhoods. Visitors find this particularly useful as it covers tourist areas near the harbour and most historic sites.
Taxis in Baltimore
Checker and zTrip are two of the biggest taxi companies operating in the Baltimore area. Fares are competitive and drivers use a meter to calculate fares. In busy tourist areas and parts of the city centre it's easy to hail a taxi, but it is often better to pre-book when travelling from the suburbs. Both Checker and zTrip have an app which residents can use to book taxis. Lyft and Uber are also available.
Driving in Baltimore
Most Baltimore residents, especially those with families, do tend to own a car. While driving offers greater freedom to explore different suburbs and to travel beyond the city at weekends, it is not always the most efficient way to get around the city. Traffic can be terrible during the week and parking is notoriously expensive, so it may be best to drive to a light-rail station and use public transport to get to and from work.
Expats can drive in Baltimore for up to one month with a valid driver's licence from home, or for up to a year with an international driver's permit. They will then need to apply for a Maryland licence. Expats from certain countries with a reciprocal agreement with Maryland will not need to take a driving test, but those who are not from these countries will need to take both a written and practical driving test in order to obtain a local licence.
Cycling in Baltimore
While Baltimore hasn’t always been the most cycle-friendly destination, the city has made significant strides in improving the cycling infrastructure in recent years, including designated cycle routes and safe bicycle storage facilities.
For those who wish to cycle or scooter around Baltimore but don't own one themselves, there are a number of private companies that have launched bike and scooter share programmes in the city over the last few years. These include Lime, Spin, Bolt and Jump.
Walking in Baltimore
Baltimore is a large city so walking as one’s sole means of transport is not practical. That said, it is possible to walk around within particular suburbs. Areas that are popular with tourists such as Fells Point and the harbour precinct are especially safe and pleasant for those who enjoy a walk.
►Find out about the best neighbourhoods in the Charm City by reading our Areas and Suburbs of Baltimore page
Are you an expat living in Baltimore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Baltimore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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