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How to get to Arizona, and get around when you're there

Phoenix's light rail links downtown with the international airport
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If you're flying to Arizona, chances are you'll arrive at the state's main international airport, Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix (PHX). It is one of the busiest airports in the United States, and among the 15 busiest airports in the world. Despite this, it is a spacious and generally efficient airport, although the immigration queues can be long when several flights arrive at the same time. There are three terminals (2, 3, and 4) connected by shuttle buses. Phoenix is the biggest airport in the south-west USA, so is used by many people who have connecting flights to other parts of the region.


For onward transportation there are taxis, while the Phoenix METRO Light Rail connects the airport with downtown. There are also shuttle services to local hotels, and bus transportation with the Arizona Shuttle to take you on by road to Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, and even the Grand Canyon. The Arizona Shuttle does not have to be booked in advance, although it is advisable.


From Phoenix there are connecting flights to Arizona's other regional airports in Flagstaff, Yuma, Kingman, and Page. There is also a small airport at Sedona. There are also connecting flights from Phoenix to Arizona's second-largest airport, in Tucson. This is called Tucson International Airport (TUS), but there are very few international flights, but good connections with many cities around the USA.


Phoenix has a second, smaller airport at Mesa, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, used by the budget carrier Allegiant Air, and two other small airlines. This and Sky Harbor are 30 miles (48 kms) apart, so it's important not to confuse them.


You can also rent cars at any of the airports, although this should be booked in advance to be sure the right kind of vehicle is available. It is very common in American car rental offices to try to persuade drivers to upgrade to a larger vehicle, due to a special offer. If you know the size of car you need, and have reserved that size of car, resist all attempts to make you pay for a larger vehicle. Only take a larger vehicle if it is a complimentary upgrade because your reserved car is not available for some reason.


Driving in Arizona is straightforward, although if you are renting a car at Sky Harbor you will be thrust out into busy Phoenix traffic immediately. Most of the state, though, is covered in quieter roads. There are only a few Interstates running through Arizona. I-10 goes from south-east Arizona to Phoenix, then turns west and goes straight to California. I-8 goes west from I-10 south of Phoenix and also then goes straight towards California. I-17 runs north from Phoenix as far as Flagstaff, where it meets I-40. I-40 is the Interstate which replaced the old route 66, going east-west across Northern Arizona from New Mexico to California. So Interstates apart, you will do most of your Arizona driving on regular highways and back roads, and through some of the most impressive scenery in the USA.


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