Houston to the Galveston Port Without a Car
Flying into a Houston for your cruise? Or maybe you simply don’t feel like dealing with the hassles of driving and parking. No matter the reason, getting from Houston to Galveston is unfortunately the biggest headache in cruising from the island given the distance.
How far is Galveston from Houston? The distance between the two cities is anywhere from 45 and 70 miles, depending on whether you fly into Houston Hobby (closer) or Bush Intercontinental (farther). Fortunately, there are plenty of options for reaching Galveston, even when you don’t have a car.
Cruise Line Transfers
Most cruise lines will offer some sort of transfer service from both Houston airports to the port. For example, Carnival offers round-trip service for $74 per person from Hobby Airport and $94 per person from Bush Intercontinental Airport to Galveston.
For that reason, we suggest other modes of transportation from Houston to Galveston, unless you are traveling in a small group.
A small cottage industry has formed to transfer passengers between Galveston and Houston.
You are likely familiar with SuperShuttle — the big blue vans you always see around airports. Renting a van runs about $340 round-trip for up to 10 passengers if going from Houston Intercontinental. Rates are about $280 roundtrip from Houston Hobby. If you don’t have as many passengers, you can also reserve a smaller car for a slightly lower rate.
Galveston Limousine offers daily scheduled service from the Houston airports to the island as well. Rates run $100 round-trip per person from IAH ($70 for senior citizens) and $80 round-trip from HOU ($60 for seniors). The shuttles depart only three times daily, so you might be waiting for some time at the airport before leaving with this option.
Cool Tours offers a shuttle between Houston airports and the Galveston cruise terminal as well. Prices change regularly, but can be affordable compared to other options — especially if traveling with a larger group.
Island Breeze Shuttle provides a shuttle for $150 roundtrip for two passengers from Hobby and $190 roundtrip from Intercontinental.
Galveston Express provides both shared and private shuttle service from the airports to the cruise port for just $40 roundtrip per person from Houston Hobby and $50 per person from Houston Intercontinental.
Private Car Services
Private car services can often be your best bet getting to and from the airport. These services can meet just about any budget and accommodation level.
While still a little pricey, private rides will offer a comfortable car, personal driver, and can pick you up/drop you off at nearly any time. You also don’t have to share a car with anyone you don’t want to. As well, this usually offers the quickest route to the port since you aren’t sharing a ride. The distance from Houston to Galveston is 45 minutes to 1.5 hours by car with no traffic, depending on which airport you fly into.
There are dozens of services in Houston that provide private cars, and costs can range from $150 round-trip to several hundred dollars, depending on the car you wish to use. While the headline price may be higher, it is often cheaper to go this route when dealing with larger parties.
We can’t list all of the private services, but what follows are some of the more popular ones. If you search around, you might find others that have lower prices for the specific level of service you’re looking for.
(Note: All of these companies have “Limo” in the name, but offer more options than pulling up to the port in a stretch limousine!)
Always be sure to get a complete “out the door” price quote from any car service so that you aren’t hit with any unforeseen charges.
Taxi fare round-trip from the airport to the Galveston cruise terminal can cost upwards of $250-300 from Bush Intercontinental Airport and $150-200 from Hobby Airport. (Rates vary depending on traffic.) That’s on the expensive side, but remember that usually up to four or five passengers can ride for that price. That makes the cost cheaper per person than the cruise line shuttles. Plus, with a taxi you don’t have to reserve ahead and you can leave whenever you are ready, instead of waiting on a shuttle to fill up.
Houston to Galveston Car Rentals
The good news about car rentals is that you will have your own wheels if you want to explore the area before or after your cruise. The bad news is that you will likely have to pay for the rental and parking while you are on your cruise.
Enterprise is the only rental agency on the island, and the company is finicky about allowing one-way rentals from the airports. Instead, they want you to book a round-trip rental. However, you can rent from Enterprise locations away from the airport and book one-way rentals. Keep in mind that rental rates can vary dramatically based on season. We’ve seen rates as high as $60 per day to as low as $20. For more details on car rentals, visit this link.
These rideshare services may be unfamiliar to some, but can offer a cheaper way to get to the cruise port. You simply download the app to your phone, and request a ride. A driver will then pick you up in their personal car.
The city of Houston has approved Uber/Lyft use in the city, but the word is still out on their use in Galveston. Still, if you can find a driver willing to take you to the port, these services can offer a discount of 15-25% off of taxi rates. Given how far Houston is from Galveston, that can be a significant savings. We have more details here.
Update: The Galveston City Council recently approved new rules on ride-sharing services. In response, neither Uber nor Lyft will pick up passengers on the island. Uber seems to be willing to drop off passengers in Galveston from Houston. Lyft no longer operates in Houston or Galveston. You can read more here.