San Antonio has grown tremendously in the last few years, and though most of the tourist destinations are concentrated in and around the Downtown area and along the River Walk, those aren’t the only places worth a visit.
So how do you travel between San Antonio’s different neighborhoods? This is your typical car-centric Texas destination, so you might need a car to get to some of those outlying tourist attractions – not to mention San Antonio can become incredibly hot and humid in the summer, which makes an air-conditioned vehicle pretty tempting.
But driving isn’t the only way to get around San Antonio. There are sustainable, affordable and accessible options too. Read on for the full transportation guide to San Antonio.
Driving is the easiest and fastest way to hit spots like San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas © Kit Leong / Shutterstock
Zip around the Alamo City by car
In San Antonio, most people use cars. The city’s attractions are spread across different areas rather than centering on a single neighborhood, so driving is the easiest and fastest way to hit all the must-see spots.
Parking is plentiful throughout the city (more on that below), and you can find EV charging stations in the most popular neighborhoods and some suburbs. If you get on the highway, you can use the HOV lane if your car has two or more passengers. Motorcycles can access the HOV lane with just a single rider.
Taxis and rideshares, such as Uber and Lyft, are plentiful in the city. Then there is zTrip, which is almost like a taxi-rideshare hybrid – you can hail one on the street, call one to your location or book using an app. It has wheelchair-accessible options too.
Tips on driving the only toll road in San Antonio
San Antonio has one toll road, though it’s unlikely you’d use it during your visit unless you’re planning a day trip out of the city.
Designed to bypass the traffic of I-35, which runs right through San Antonio, SH 130 lets you drive up to 85mph along the city’s eastern outskirts, missing the major traffic that clogs up the main drags. Be aware that if your car or rental car doesn’t have a TxTag, you will be charged a fee for taking the toll.
Hop on a San Antonio bus and save money
The San Antonio public bus system is known as the VIA Metropolitan Transit. It runs seven days a week and has more than 90 routes.
Downtown has the most bus service and stops, making it easy for travelers to explore the most popular neighborhood at an affordable price. In addition to the regular bus routes, there’s an express service that offers six nonstop, direct routes from the suburbs to downtown San Antonio, on buses with reclining seats, overhead storage racks, free Wi-Fi and personal reading lights.
Prímo is the city’s premium public-bus service, designed to offer more comfort and faster travel times along three routes, via 60- and 40ft-long buses powered by Compressed Natural Gas. These buses go to stations – not bus stops – that have coverings, free Wi-Fi and digital signs with real-time arrival information. The VIA Prímo 100 bus connects to the downtown area and runs from 4am to 1am everyday.
Tips for taking the bus
The VIA goMobile+ app is your go-to for all information on bus stops and schedules, buying bus tickets and contacting customer service. You can always plan your VIA bus route through Google maps. All VIA buses have bicycle racks and free Wi-Fi.
Bus arrival times can be found on digital signs at stops and transit centers. You can also text the five-digit number on the bus-stop sign to 52020 for real-time information.
Transfers are free from one bus to another, but you’ll need to obtain a transfer pass, valid for 2½ hours, upon boarding.
Use Via Link in Northeast, Northwest and South San Antonio
San Antonio may not have a public subway system, but it does offer a really unique public transportation option called VIA Link. It’s basically an on-demand rideshare service that’s incredibly affordable – $1.30 per ride!
Unfortunately, VIA Link only services the Northeast, Northwest and South Zones of San Antonio. You can either order the VIA Link through the dedicated app or call to have one pick you up and drop you off within the same zone. It runs from 5:30am to 9:30pm, and three people can fit into one van.
These areas don’t have a lot of tourist attractions, so while it’s unlikely you’ll be in these zones, you can utilize this incredibly affordable and convenient public rideshare service if you do find yourself there.
You can explore the Downtown area on foot © aimintang / Getty Images
Explore certain neighborhoods on foot
San Antonio isn’t the most walkable city in Texas; however, there are quite a few neighborhoods you can explore on foot, including the popular Pearl District, Southtown and the Downtown area.
The iconic River Walk will be most helpful in getting around, a 15-mile-long path system that connects several neighborhoods – Downtown and the Pearl District, for example – with attractions like the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Just keep in mind that San Antonio weather can get to the mid-90°Fs in the summer. Add the season’s high humidity, and you’ll need to hydrate consistently and find places to cool off if you decide to walk around the city.
Tips for utilizing the San Antonio River
Rather than stroll along the banks of the San Antonio, take a GO RIO river shuttle. The boat operates daily from noon to 8pm, up and down the river from Downtown to Museum Reach (north of Downtown, starting at Lexington and ending at the Pearl). If you’re staying for more than one day, consider buying the three-day shuttle pass rather than the one-day. Both passes allow you to get on and off the shuttles as many times as you’d like.
San Antonio features almost a 150 miles of bike lanes throughout the city © Shutterstock / Lorenza Ochoa
Biking: the sustainable way to see San Antonio
San Antonio introduced the San Antonio Bike Plan in 2011, and in 2022, it was reevaluated and updated to make San Antonio a more bikable city. To utilize the extensive biking trails of San Antonio, and to learn all about the city’s bikeshare program, start by downloading the San Antonio BCycle app.
There are a variety of BCycle docking stations with bikes for rent that run in a north-south line between Brackenridge Park and San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. You can rent a BCycle bike through a Day Access Pass ($15), which provides unlimited 60-minute rides over the course of a single day, or a 30-day Membership ($25) for unlimited 60-minute rides and the option to purchase and use a B-card for faster checkout.
Cyclists will find a wide number of bike routes in San Antonio, including portions of the River Walk, the Hike-and-Bike Trail, which connects all five missions in San Antonio, and the Greenway Trails. The City of San Antonio is a great resource for bike trails throughout the city.
What to know about parking in San Antonio
San Antonio is a car city, so you will find plenty of parking in San Antonio’s most popular neighborhoods. On-street parking fees depend on the location, though for the most part it’s $1.80 per hour at the meter or in the SAPark app and $2 to $10 for parking in city lots and garages. EV charging stations are available in some garages.
Metered parking is free after 6pm in Downtown San Antonio on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 7am to midnight on Sunday. Every Tuesday, city-operated parking garages, parking lots and parking meters in Downtown are free from 5pm to 2am. (There are a few exclusions, including the Alamodome and, on Majestic Theatre show nights, the Houston Street Garage.)
Parking is also free on certain city holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr Day, Cesar Chavez Day, Fiesta San Jacinto Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Accessible transportation in San Antonio
Many – though not all – VIA bus routes and stops are accessible and welcoming to service animals. Almost all buses have ramps for easier boarding and audio announcements inside and outside the bus. Wheelchair users will find that VIA buses offer rear- and forward-facing positions. Prímo buses have space for two wheelchairs – a forward-facing space and a self-restraining rear-facing one – and VIA Link can accommodate wheelchairs upon request.
One (and in our opinion, entirely unfair) thing to note about VIA’s accessibility policies: if a patron refuses to give up their seat, even after an operator asks them to, passengers who use wheelchairs will be asked to catch the next bus.
There’s also the VIAtrans paratransit fleet: 25ft vans that can fit up to eight passengers whose accessibility needs are beyond what VIA buses can provide. These vans can pick you up and drop you off anywhere with no need for transfers. Potential visitors must apply to use VIAtrans and, once approved, have to schedule their trip at least one day (and up to seven days) before their day of travel.
Beyond the public bus system, San Antonio is working to make the city more accessible to travelers and locals with disabilities. There are elevators and ramps for those who wish to access the River Walk, and most of the River Walk pathways are wheelchair accessible (just be mindful there aren’t always handrails). GO RIO’s river cruises and shuttles are accessible to wheelchairs, too.
If you want transportation that’s a bit more on-demand, call San Antonio Wheelchair Taxi. The taxi is wheelchair accessible and can carry up to four other people, in addition to the wheelchair user, at no extra charge. If you need assistance to and from the taxi, the driver can offer help. Ztrip has wheelchair-accessible cars too.
Those who would like to rent a mobility scooter or wheelchair (or need a new battery or small repair) while in San Antonio, Tom’s Wheelchairs is your go-to.
VIA Transport Passes
The easiest way to manage your VIA transportation passes is through the VIA goMobile+ app, though you could also get a reloadable goCard from retail outlets, like H-E-B stores, or any VIA customer service center.
Prices vary depending on which type of bus service you select. In addition to single-use fares, VIA offers one-day, seven-day, and 31-day passes, which provide unlimited rides on all VIA services – VIA Link and regular, express and Prímo buses. (It’s unlikely you’ll need a semester or annual pass, but those are available too.)
Discounts are available to seniors, riders with limited mobility or certain disabilities, children ages 5 to 13, active-duty US military, students and Medicare recipients.