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Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and the largest in Texas with around 2.3 million people living in the city and almost 6 million in the metropolitan area. Houston was founded on August 28, 1836 near the banks of Buffalo Bayou (now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city was named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had commanded and won at the Battle of San Jacinto 40 kilometres east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-20th century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions - and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.
Houston has a humid subtropical climate, with occasional tornadoes in spring. Prevailing winds from the south and southwest bring heat from Mexico's deserts and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. In summer, temperatures regularly reach over 32 °C with an average 99 days a year. The humidity of the area results in an even higher heat index than the actual temperature. Winds in summer are often light and bring little relief. Air conditioning use in Houston is very heavy to cope with the high temperatures. Winters are quite temperate with an average high of 17 °C in January, the coldest month. Snowfall is rare. Houston receives a high amount of rainfall each year, averaging 1,200 mm annually. The rains frequently cause flooding in parts of the city.
|Avg Max||16.1 °C||18.5 °C||21.7 °C||25.8 °C||29.2 °C||32.3 °C||33.7 °C||33.6 °C||31.3 °C||27.6 °C||22.4 °C||18.2 °C|
|Avg Min||4.3 °C||5.9 °C||10 °C||14.5 °C||18 °C||21.4 °C||22.4 °C||22.2 °C||19.9 °C||14.2 °C||9.8 °C||5.7 °C|
|Rainfall||83.6 mm||75.2 mm||74.2 mm||81.5 mm||133.1 mm||126 mm||91.4 mm||88.6 mm||124.2 mm||108.5 mm||96.3 mm||87.6 mm|
The George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is Houston's primary airport and the 9th largest in the US in terms of total passengers. It is the headquarters of Continental Airlines and its largest hub. It's located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from downtown Houston.
To/from the airport
Amtrak stops in Houston along the Sunset Limited route from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The station is on the north side of the downtown area.
Houston is well connected to the rest of the state and country by many freeways/interstates.
Greyhound Bus Lines have intercity services from 5 stations in Houston and Houston suburbs. Other bus lines also operate from Greyhound's stations.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Currently, public transportation in Houston is limited to METRO, which operates bus lines as well as the new and very popular light rail line called METRORail. METRORail is a seven and a half mile light rail line that runs between downtown, midtown, the museum district, the Medical Center, Reliant Park, and the Fannin South Park & Ride (which is a handy place to park and is located near the 610 loop). It costs US$1.25 for a one-way ticket.
The city of Houston has 290 miles of marked bike routes, plus another 80 miles of hike and bike trails in city parks, with concrete plans for even more expansion. For more information on the Houston Bikeway program, including a complete map of all marked bike paths, visit the City of Houston Bikeway Program website.
Houston has outstanding dining options, and is widely considered the most restaurant-oriented city in the United States, with a thriving community of ethnic restaurants, superb Tex-Mex, classic Texas steakhouses and Gulf Coast seafood, as well as chain restaurants. Houston's fine dining scene has exploded in recent years, with Downtown, Montrose, Midtown, and the Heights (including the Washington Corridor) as the epicenter of what's hot-and-happening now.
Although high-quality, authentic Mexican food can be found just about anywhere in the city (for some of the best surprises, stop by any nondescript taqueria and order nearly anything at random), the best ethnic dining is generally found in West Houston - in particular the area west of Highway 59 and south of I-10, with everything from Middle Eastern to Ethiopian to Bosnian. The bustling Mahatma Gandhi District around Hillcroft St. is the place to go for top-notch Indian and Pakistani cuisine. In years past, you'd go east of Downtown or to Midtown for your Chinese or Vietnamese fix (respectively); nowadays the new Chinatown (or sometimes "Asiatown") is the new one-stop shop for your cravings. Lying just north of I-10, Long Point Drive and North Gessner sport crowded Korean joints, fantastic taco trucks, and hidden Thai gems.
Like any city with a respectable, trendy food scene, Houston's top restaurants seem to be all about what's seasonal and local these days (oh, and Houston is just now getting into gourmet food trucks), as well as becoming increasingly prominent in stores as well. Fresh produce to seek out include tomatoes, sweet "1015" onions (not as sweet as the Hawaiian variety, but pretty impressive), watermelon, strawberries, peaches, corn, carrots, and squash blossoms. Look for local cheese from the Houston Dairymaids - who make just about any variety you can think of - and bread baked daily and shipped to restaurants from the Slow Dough Bakery. Houstonians are just as crazy for crawfish (no "crayfish" down here, Yankee) as Louisianans are, as well as catfish and Gulf seafood such as red snapper, blue crab, and shrimp; gaining in popularity are local species that were previously overlooked, such as blackfin tuna, tilefish, grouper, almaco jack, and black drum. Houston has always had a steady supply of oysters from Galveston Bay, but the program of oyster "appellations" has only recently been revived, meaning high-quality specimens are labeled with their reef of origin, just like the well-known varieties from the east and west coasts - look for varieties such as Ladies Pass and Pepper Grove.
|Houston International Hostel||5302 Crawford St. Texas||Hostel||73|
|Friends Cottage Hostel – Downtown||1818 Lubbock||HOSTEL||-|
|Americas Best Value Inn & Suites||12170 North west freeway||HOTEL||-|
|Space Pod Houston||10046 Rosbrook Drive Houston, Texas 77038||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Motel 6 Houston Reliant Park||3223 South Loop West Houston||Hotel||-|
|Motel 6 Houston - Westchase||2900 West Sam Houston Parkway South Houston||Hotel||-|
|Knights Inn Humble/Houston||15319 Eastex Freeway Humble/Houston||Hotel||-|
|Baymont Inn & Suites Houston IAH Airport||18032 McKay Blvd Humble||HOTEL||-|
|HI-Houston: The Morty Rich Hostel||501 Lovett Boulevard||HOSTEL||86|
|Carefree Inn Houston Medical Center||10015 South Main St||Hotel||-|
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the seventh-largest in the United States and has 112 campuses. Some of the major universities include:
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Houston searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Houston and areas nearby.
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