the entrance sign for the Grand Canyon National Park in bright sunlight

Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon for International Travelers

The Grand Canyon is one of the world's most magnificent natural landforms. Every year, over 5 million visitors from around the world make the journey to experience this once-in-a-lifetime landscape. If you're planning to include the Grand Canyon National Park in your trip to the United States, this guide can help you prepare and plan the ultimate adventure! Learn what to bring, where to stay, and all of the best activities to make your trip to the Grand Canyon truly memorable and enjoyable.

The Grand Canyon South Rim illuminated orange by the sunset

Tips for Grand Canyon Vacation Planning

There are several aspects for international travelers to consider when planning a holiday to the Grand Canyon National Park, which is also known as the South Rim. To ensure that your trip goes smoothly, you'll want to prepare all of your reservations in advance and pack accordingly. Check out these tips:

Visa and Entry Requirements

You will need to present a valid passport to enter the United States, whether you're flying into the state of Arizona (the home of the Grand Canyon), or into Las Vegas - a popular starting point for Grand Canyon tourists.

You do not need to show identification to enter the Grand Canyon National Park on your own, but you will need a valid form of government identification if you choose to visit the canyon on a day trip from Las Vegas, like a Grand Canyon airplane tour.

Currency Exchange

There are several restaurants and bars scattered along the Grand Canyon's edge. If you plan to pay cash, be sure to exchange your currency before arriving. Remember that tipping waitstaff and bartenders is still an expectation in the United States, typically 20% of your bill.

Choose A Season

Despite its location within the Arizona desert, the Grand Canyon National Park experiences a great range of weather conditions and temperatures. In the summer months, visitors can expect powerful sunlight and temperatures up to 35 degrees C. Late summer is also monsoon season, and rainstorms are frequent.

In the winter months, the Grand Canyon South can often be seen coated in snow - a striking and beautiful sight but could affect activities like hiking or helicopter tours. If you'd like to witness the dazzling sight of the Grand Canyon in winter, be sure to pack warm clothes and jackets!

The best seasons to visit the Grand Canyon are in the springtime and autumn, but keep in mind that car and pedestrian traffic will be much heavier during these times.

Book Your Flights

Probably the most important step for planning a trip to the Grand Canyon is determining how you will actually travel there. There is an airport at the Grand Canyon (GCA), but it does not work with commercial airlines, only private planes and charters like Grand Canyon airplane tours. However, there are three nearby locations, all with major airports, that you can use as your starting point to travel to the Grand Canyon.

  • Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS): Las Vegas is a fantastic place to start your Grand Canyon adventure. In fact, you can book an airplane tour to the Grand Canyon National Park and enjoy a day trip with plenty of time for exploration and photography, leaving you plenty more time to experience Las Vegas!
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): The Phoenix airport is about 372 kilometers (231 miles) away from the Grand Canyon National Park. As an international airport, PHX is a great option for travelers from outside the United States. You can rent a car and enjoy the stunning desert scenery on the 3.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon National Park!
  • Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG): The airport in Flagstaff, Arizona is just 130 kilometers (81 miles) away from the Grand Canyon National Park. This small airport also offers rental cars if you plan to drive yourself to the Grand Canyon, which is about a 90-minute drive to the South Rim entrance.
an informative illustration mapping key areas at the Grand Canyon National Park

Where to Stay

There are five beautiful hotels within the Grand Canyon National Park, all offering stunning views of the canyon scenery. At the nearby Grand Canyon Village, you'll find restaurants, art galleries, museums, and plentiful shopping. Learn more about what each of these historic hotels offer their guests:

El Tovar Hotel: Titled a National Historic Landmark, the El Tovar has been in operation since 1905. This world-class accommodation sits right at the canyon's edge, and offers a fine dining restaurant, a lounge, and room service. This luxury hotel is the most in-demand accommodation at the Grand Canyon National Park, so book in advance if you plan to stay at the El Tovar!

Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins: This iconic hotel was designed by revered Southwest architect Mary Colter in 1935. One of its most unique features is the "geologic fireplace" in the Bright Angel History Room, built using genuine stone from the Grand Canyon itself to replicate the striped rock walls. The History Room also contains authentic documents and artifacts as well as an antique carriage. You can also stay in the Buckey O'Neill Cabin or the Red Horse Cabin on the property for an extra cozy experience.

Kachina Lodge: Located in the center of the Grand Canyon Village, the Kachina Lodge offers a more modern take on Grand Canyon accommodation. Many of the rooms also offer a partial view of the canyon. The Kachina Lodge is located right on the Rim Trail - perfect for hiking enthusiasts!

Thunderbird Lodge: Also situated on the Rim Trail is the Thunderbird Lodge, a modern hotel in walking distance of restaurants, shops, and other Grand Canyon attractions. Several rooms also offer partial views of the canyon landscape.

Maswik Lodge: The Maswik Lodge is settled within the Kaibab Forest and surrounded by stunning greenery and pine trees. Located just a quarter of a mile from the canyon's edge is the Maswik Lodge, a large hotel offering 90 guest rooms and 30 suites with kitchenettes. If you don't plan to cook for yourself, you'll find a food court and a pizza shop on the property.

A red helicopter flies over the expanse of the Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon Trip Planning: Customize Your Itinerary

The most exciting part of Grand Canyon vacation planning is determining all of the activities you will experience when you arrive. There are many ways to experience the beauty of the canyon aside from just looking across the rim. Whether you're spending just a day or a full week at the Grand Canyon, you can fill each day with a brand-new adventure in America's most treasured national park. Here are our top tips on how to explore the Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon Village

The Grand Canyon Village offers plenty of shops for souvenirs like Verkamp's Visitor Center, art galleries like the Kolb Studio, the Yavapai Geology Museum, and a variety of restaurants. You can spend an entire day exploring these historic buildings scattered along the very edge of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

Soar over the deepest and widest sections of the national park on a Grand Canyon helicopter tour! You can capture photos of the broad canyon expanse and the Colorado River below you. You'll see aerial views of the oldest exposed rock known to man and the lush greenery of the Kaibab Forest.

Hummer Tour

Ensure that you visit all of the most famous Grand Canyon lookout points with a Hummer ground tour. This adventure takes place aboard a customized open-air Hummer vehicle operated by a knowledgeable guide who will transport your party to the most stunning areas of the South Rim. You'll have time at each location to explore and take photos. You can even book your Hummer tour at sunset for an even more magical experience!

Hiking at the Grand Canyon

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just looking to go for a stroll, there is a Grand Canyon hiking trail for you. The Rim Trail is a paved walkway that leads from Bright Angel Lodge to Hermit's Rest, a National Historic Landmark. You can enjoy a casual walk with sights of the Grand Canyon the entire way. You can also find Bright Angel Trail just outside the Bright Angel Lodge, which offers up to 12 miles of hiking.

If you're interested in more difficult hikes, inquire at the Visitor's Center or ask a park ranger for advice. Remember to always pack plenty of water for a hike and protect your skin from the sun.

Colorado River Rafting

If you have an extra day on your Grand Canyon holiday, this river rafting adventure cannot be missed! This tour flies from the Grand Canyon Airport to the nearby city of Page, Arizona - home of the world-famous Antelope Canyon. You'll get to explore the depths of this canyon on a guided tour before you board a motorized raft and traverse the Colorado River between the walls of Glen Canyon. You'll even stop off at Petroglyph Beach to see authentic ancient petroglyphs. This Colorado River rafting tour also floats through Horseshoe Bend, the famous near-perfect circle made by the river.

A red helicopter soars over the Grand Canyon South Rim landscape

Book a Papillon Grand Canyon Tour Today!

If you're planning to visit the United States, the Grand Canyon is the ultimate bucket list destination. If you're visiting Las Vegas and want to experience the Grand Canyon on a day tour, we can bring you there on a sightseeing airplane. If you're staying at the Grand Canyon, we offer helicopter tours, hummer excursions, and Colorado River rafting adventures to make your trip even more memorable!

Locally Owned & Operated

Papillon Airways has been transporting passengers over, across, and through the Grand Canyon since 1965, making us the world's oldest and longest-running air tour company. We have been proudly family owned since our first day in operations and have air terminals in Las Vegas, Boulder City Nevada, the Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon West, and Page Arizona.

Over 600,000 Happy Customers Every Year

Each year, Papillon is honored to bring guests from around the world to the Grand Canyon. Our helicopters and airplanes offer headset narration in many languages for our international guests to enjoy. We look forward to sharing the adventure of a lifetime with you at the Grand Canyon National Park.