How to Travel From Austin to Houston by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Houston Downtown Aerial at Sunset, Angled View with Highway
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Houston may be best known for NASA’s Space Center, but the city is also replete with world-class museums, restaurants, and parks. Conveniently for those living in—or traveling to—Austin, Houston is 162 miles away, making it the perfect weekend getaway. And you have three options when it comes to transportation: driving, taking the bus, or flying.

Houston is just under three hours away by car, but for those who don't want to drive, there are three bus operators (Vonlane, Megabus, and Greyhound) that can take you directly from one city to the next. Flying can be a quick, convenient way to make the trip as well. A nonstop flight is an hour long, and a round-trip ticket typically costs anywhere from $200 to $300, depending on what time of year you book. 

How to Get From Austin to Houston
  Time Cost Best For
Plane 1 hour from $119 Travelers with frequent flyer miles to spend
Bus 2 hours, 45 minutes from $23 Eco-conscious travel 
Car 2 hours, 41 minutes 162 miles (261 kilometers) Traveling in a group; exploring the local area

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Austin to Houston?

Driving from Austin to Houston usually takes about two hours and 41 minutes, depending on traffic and stops. There are two routes you can take: Highway 290 or TX-71 to I-10. If at all possible, you should avoid driving during rush hour at either end of the day, as traffic is notoriously awful in Houston.

In the mood for a road trip? If you’re taking the TX-71 and I-10 route, be sure to check out Timeless Texas Classics (a cool, old car museum) or the Berdoll Pecan Farm for all kinds of pecan goodies. Alternatively, if you’re driving along Highway 290, Elgin has excellent BBQ, and the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham makes for a delightful stop.

How Long Is the Flight?

A nonstop flight from Austin to Houston takes one hour, making for a quick, painless way to get between the two cities. Although, when you factor in the time it takes to get to and from the airport, check your bags, and clear security, it could take you longer to fly than drive.

If you have miles to use or you simply prefer to fly, there are two carriers that offer nonstop flights between Austin and Houston: Southwest and United. Fares aren't the cheapest; they tend to start at around $200 for a round-trip ticket and top out at $300. Other carriers offering service from Austin to Houston include Alaska and American, although these are connecting flights (and in Alaska’s case, the connection is usually a very long one). 

Keep in mind that the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston is seriously massive, with a whopping five terminals and 25 airlines offering service. It isn’t hard to navigate, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution: When flying back out of Houston, allow yourself more time to get through security and to your gate than you think you need.

Is There a Bus That Goes From Austin to Houston?

Taking the bus from Austin to Houston can be a cheap, stress-free way to travel (and, not to mention, this is the most eco-conscious way to make the trip). Greyhound, Megabus, and Vonlane all offer direct routes between the cities. Greyhound operates three buses per day, while Megabus and Vonalne operate four.

In Austin, the Greyhound buses depart from 916 E. Koenig Lane. A one-way ticket can cost anywhere between $23 and $35; it’s recommended that you purchase yours in advance. The main Megabus station is located at 1500 San Jacinto Blvd; just be aware that your bus will depart from the parking lot next to the Dobie Mall on Whitis Avenue (between 20 and 21st Street, less than a block from the University of Texas campus). Megabus one-way fares fall between $17 and $28.

And, for those who prefer to travel in pure luxury, Vonlane is a high-end bus operator that’s based in Texas and offers service from Austin to the Hyatt Regency Houston every four hours. Every Vonlane bus is decked out with private conference rooms and desks, complimentary noise-cancelling headphones, Wi-Fi, and full attendant service. Tickets are $99.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) Bus 102 can get you from IAH to downtown in 50 to 90 minutes. You can pick up the bus on the south side of Terminal C, at the Baggage Claim Level. Tickets cost $1.25 and must be purchased with cash.

Some hotels offer pick-up and drop-off shuttles, and ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Wingz are also available.

What Is There to Do in Houston?

While you should certainly visit the Space Center, there are plenty of other things to do in Houston. Be sure to leave enough time to check out the city's plethora of vibrant museums, restaurants, and parks. Some of Houston's standout museums include the Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children's Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum, and the Menil Collection. The outdoor space and parks scene in Houston is also impressive. From signature parks like Buffalo Bayou and Hermann Park to off-the-beaten-path gems like Bethel Church Park and Sam Houston Park, there's something for every outdoor lover.

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