Only a short jaunt from downtown Austin, getting to and from the US Grand Prix at COTA should be easy. And it is—at least in theory. There are many ways to get to the circuit and few connections to make. But all too often the local roads strain with the volume of traffic. Fans usually enjoy only minor delays going to the track, but post-race it could be time to break out the Travel Scrabble and settle in for a long wait.

Arrival in Austin for the US Grand Prix

The state capital of Texas, Austin is located about 250km northwest of Houston, 130km northeast of San Antonio and 330km south of Dallas.

Most F1 fans coming to Austin, from the US and abroad, touch down at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). From here, taxis, rideshare, and buses are available to get to your hotel or the circuit.

Cap Metro runs the MetroAirport shuttle service that ferries passengers to several pick-up/drop-off points in Austin. It costs $1.75 wherever you’re going and there’s no surcharge for luggage. You’ll need to have exact change to buy a pass on the bus or use the CapMetro app (available for Apple and Android).

There are 12 stops in locations downtown, UT, the Capitol and Riverside Drive. Buses run every 15 minutes and you can expect it to take about 35 minutes to reach downtown Austin. Follow the Cap Metro signs beyond the baggage claim on the ground floor that leads to the blue neon guitar-shaped bus stop.

If you can’t find a flight to Austin that suits you, try San Antonio (SAT) or Houston (HOU). The latter especially caters to cheaper international flights.

For onward travel from either hub, as well as many other North American cities, Megabus provides low-cost transport to Austin.

Kiwi.com lets you search for the lowest cost flights and shows you route combinations that often don’t show up on other search engines. If you miss a connecting flight due to delay the Kiwi guarantee means you can take the next available flight at no extra cost.

austin f1 transport
© Miles Bintz | Flickr

Getting around in Austin and Transport to Circuit of The Americas

The Circuit of the Americas is located about 25km southeast of Austin city centre, and 15km from Austin Airport. Most visitors opt to drive or take a shuttle bus.

Recent improvements to infrastructure should help to alleviate the often glacial flow of traffic. For 2022, roads have been widened and shuttle buses now use dedicated lanes; all of which should improve the situation.

If you plan to come straight from the airport, you can fly in early and go straight to your grandstand. There’s no luggage storage at COTA though and large baggage (over 12X12X20 inches in volume) won’t be allowed past security. If flying out Sunday night, make it a late flight to allow yourself time to clear the gridlock.

Driving to COTA

Whether you’re driving your own car to Austin or not you can choose to get around by car. There are more than a dozen car hire companies at the airport as well as car sharing programs throughout Austin.

Car hire in the city is going to set you back about $30 a day but parking at the Grand Prix circuit doesn’t come cheap. If you’re thinking of renting a car for the daily commute to the circuit you should take this into consideration.

The alternative to hiring a car is car sharing. Charged on an hourly or daily rate, it works by using an app to find and unlock a nearby car and return it when you’re done. Companies such as ZipCar operate in Austin.

Driving directions to COTA

  1. Drive southeast out of Austin on US-183 S.
  2. After 9.2km turn left onto Farm to Market 812.
  3. After 6.4km turn left again onto Circuit of the Americas Blvd.* and follow signs to your car park.

*Any vehicle without a pass for the official parking won’t be able to access Circuit of the Americas Blvd.

Parking at COTA

In Austin, about the only thing steeper than the run-up to turn 1 is the cost of parking at Circuit of The Americas. Parking passes are available for individual days in parking lot F, or for all 3 days in lots G-R.

There are on-site and off-site park and ride options. On-site ensures the shortest walk from your car to the gates but is also the most expensive. These parking lots are the most popular and tickets sell out fast.

Park and ride locations 2-3 miles from the entrance, are less expensive but leave you at the mercy of the shuttle buses which ferry fans back and forth to the gates. This is a free service for off-site parking pass holders but buses are not well organised if they show up at all. It has been noted that the shuttle for Lot Q is particularly unreliable and should be avoided unless you’re happy to make the 3-mile trip on foot.

Official parking tickets should be reserved in advance. If you haven’t pre-ordered a parking pass you won’t be able to buy one when you arrive.

If your eyes are watering at the price of parking at COTA, there are some independently run parking lots. Many are within a mile or less from the circuit entrance and further away ones usually provide a shuttle bus. These are much cheaper than the official car parks and generally suffer less congestion after the race. Passes can be purchased on the day or in some cases in advance. Selling 3-day tickets for $75, one of the most popular is Chris Taylor Racing, less than a mile from COTA’s Turn 1 gate.

COTA Shuttle Bus

To get to COTA, F1 fans can avail of one of the shuttle buses operated by the Grand Prix organisers to and from the circuit.

There are three routes. One from downtown Austin has optional parking nearby for an extra charge. Two suburban routes; one from the east (Travis County Expo Center) and one from the west (Barton Creek Square Mall) include free on-site parking.

The drop-off and pick-up points at COTA for the suburban routes are McAngus Lot. This is about a 15-minute walk away from the Grand Plaza gate. Most of the buses on these routes are air-conditioned.

If you want to skip that walk, the more expensive downtown route terminates at the COTA Grand Plaza entrance. From here you can go straight through the gates to your grandstand. This route offers a more comfortable arrival in luxury, climate-controlled coaches.

Shuttle buses normally commence at 8am and the last buses leave for COTA at 6:30pm on Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. Leaving the circuit, the shuttle buses continue to run for about an hour after the concerts on Friday and Saturday, and according to demand after the race.

Return tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are available here.

Waterloo Park Shuttle (downtown Austin)

  • Pick-up/drop-off locations in Austin: Waterloo Park.
  • Pick up/drop-off location at COTA: Grand Plaza box office entrance.
  • Days available: Friday to Sunday.
  • Return ticket prices: $130/3-day Weekend Pass or $45/Day Pass. Day Passes can be purchased on the day for $55 (subject to availability). 
  • Parking: $20/day at garages between Trinity and San Jacinto.

Travis County Expo Center (east Austin)

  • Pick-up/drop-off locations in Austin: Travis County Expo Center
  • Pick up/drop-off location at COTA: McAngus Lot.
  • Days available: Friday to Sunday. 
  • Return ticket prices: $100/3-day Weekend Pass or $35/Day Pass. Day Passes can be purchased on the day for $45 (subject to availability).
  • Parking: Free parking on site. 

Barton Creek Square Mall (west Austin)

  • Pick-up/drop-off locations in Austin: Barton Creek Square Mall
  • Pick up/drop-off location at COTA: McAngus Lot.
  • Days available: Saturday and Sunday. 
  • Return ticket prices: $85/2-day Weekend Pass or $45/Day Pass. Day Passes can be purchased on the day for $55 (subject to availability). 
  • Parking: Free parking on site.

Taxi and Ride Sharing Services in Austin

Only shuttle buses and vehicles with parking passes will be able to access McAngus Road and COTA Blvd. so Del Valle High School parking lot is the designated pick-up and drop-off point for taxis and rideshares. At 3.5 miles from the circuit, you can complete your trip on a free shuttle bus (no booking required).

Ride Sharing

Getting an Uber or Lyft between the airport and downtown Austin should set you back about $20. Rides from downtown to COTA are usually in the $25-30 range, though during busy periods on a Grand Prix weekend this can peak at up to $40.

Taxi Services

Taxis in Austin start at $2.50 for the first 165 metres or 1/6 of a mile and every subsequent unit of the same distance after that is $0.40. The maximum number of passengers a taxi will take is four. In some parts of downtown Austin you won’t be able to hail a cab in the street so arrange one by phone if you plan to go to the airport or the Grand Prix.

Trips starting at the airport have a minimum charge of $13.10, and to get downtown will be about $35-40. To get from downtown to the circuit you can expect to pay $45-50. All taxis accept credit cards.

Austin Cab Company+1 512 478-2222
Yellow Cab+1 512 452-9999

E-bikes, E-scooters, E-mopeds and Peddle Power

Perfect if you’re looking for a cost effective, sustainable way to get around Austin when you’re not at the track, companies Lime and Bird offer a range of 2-wheeled electric vehicles. CapMetro, Austin’s public transportation provider, also provides MetroBike. This works in a similar way and includes e-bikes and standard push bikes.

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About Me

I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.