Getting Around New York City by Transit
Enjoying NYC on a budget
Using buses, subways, and taxis—in NYC and to and from its airports
Here you'll learn about using New York City's taxis, Uber-type companies, subways, buses, and parking.
You'll get tips to save money and time and to be more safe.
LaGaurdia, JFK, and Newark airports
No subway reaches LaGuardia Airport.
- Take a rather inexpensive airporter coach to Manhattan. Penn Station gives you the easiest subway connections if your coach does not have a drop off point near your hotel.
- Check Uber's price prior to your trip. It may be quite competitive to the above.
- You can reach Manhattan cheaply using a combination of a bus and subway train. Check the MTA NYC Transit site for those schedules.
Avoid traffic and pay much less than using taxis with JFK Airport's AirTrain connection.
In any JFK terminal, signs direct you to an Airtrain stop. Hop on a frequent AirTrain train to reach Jamaica station. Make sure that the train is destined to Jamaica. (Some trains go to the Howard Beach station and some to the Jamaica station. Board the right one).
MTA has staff posted at Jamaica station to help you make the connection and to understand the self ticketing machines. Ask about buying a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Metro Pass at this time, which will save you money if using buses and subway trains in the city..
At the Jamaica station, transfer to the MTA "E Line" express subway. It enters Manhattan Midtown and then runs south to Wall Street. In the process in comes near to most hotels and hostels in NYC.
The "E train" runs with limited stops all day and evening. At night it makes more stops.
ALTERNATIVE ONE: From Jamaica Station Long Island Railway trains run non-stop to New York Penn Station. If your destination is near that, you will save time with this option.
ALTERNATE TWO: You may also take the A subway line, which travels from Howard Station via Brooklyn to Manhattan with many more stops. It may bring you closer to your destination.
This one is a bit more complicated. Use the following link, which gives very clear instructions. Note that prices may have changed since 2017.
Points with a Crew
I suggest using the Newark Airport to Manhattan by train option mentioned.
Taxis and Uber
You can often walk faster than Manhattan's congested traffic moves in its commercial districts during daytime. If it's speed you want, use a subway.
We know many budget travellers have never considered using taxis or Uber, but In some New York City neighbourhoods, "cabs" can help keep you safe at night.
Make sure that your taxi displays a New York City taxi licence on its sides. Inside, you should also see the driver's taxi licence with her or his photo prominently displayed. Not only will you be safer in these cabs, you will have the information needed to complain if you believe overcharged, etc.
An even better option, in my opinion, is using the Uber app.
You book the driver on your smart phone after seeing the guaranteed trip price and then get a description of the vehicle & its licence number. Using the apps map, you then track the progress of the driver as he or she drives to you. I love it! love it!
A savings tip >
- Because many Manhattan avenues allow only one way traffic, if going north, for example, start your trip on a avenue going north. If you start on a southbound street your total fare will end up higher, as your taxi must go around.
- Instead of giving an actual destination, such as "Gotham Comedy Club" or "208 West 23rd Street," tell the driver that you're going to "7th and 23rd,"
Again, this may save the driver from having to go around the block and possibly having to queue in a line of taxis waiting to drop off others. It also hopefully tells the driver that you know the city and that he or she should make sure to take the most direct route.
MTA buses and subways
Pick up free maps for both buses and subways to use while sightseeing at major Manhattan subway stops, such as Grand Central Station or Penn Station, or at the Visitors Centre at 810 Seventh Avenue near Times Square.
The New York MTA NYC Transit subway route maps may look rather strange, as the current public system brings together a hodgepodge of routes from two once private and independent systems.
I highly recommends buying the combo bus and subway passes, "Metro-cards," available at major stations such as Penn Station and Columbus Circle.
These have per ride or per time period options, which save both money and not having to carry coins for buses. Get the per day type if you plan to explore a lot.
A major savings of the per ride and per time passes comes from free subway to bus or bus to subway transfers, which you do not get when you buy one fare at a time.
If you're not using a Metro card for a bus, be sure to ask for a transfer.
See the New York City section of th Metropolitan Transit Auhority site for more information about local buses and subways. You will get used to them really quickly and soon depend on them to get around.
Because weekday Manhattan streets are so crowded with traffic, subways are the way to go for speed.
However, if you want to see where you are travelling, or you are going east-west across Manhattan, where there are fewer subway routes, using buses, taxis, and walking are usually your best choices.
DO NOT >>>
- Board empty or nearly empty subway cars. If your car empties while enroute, change cars at the next station. It's usually better to use a mid-train car.
- Get off a subway train at night unless other people are leaving with you. Because the subway system is usually busy day and night, getting on or off should seldom be a problem.
- Use station platforms or stairs that are nearly empty. If necessary, take a taxi to or from another station.
- Not use extra care at these Manhattan stations at night > Lower East Side, Delancey Street/Essex Street, Houston Street, and East Broadway, unless with a group of friends.
- Carry a wallet or other valuables in your back pocket. Avoid carrying an expensive-looking purse or dressing in expensive looking clothing.
- Use the subway if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Stare at other people.
Forget driving on Manhattan Island. It's not a viable option.
On Manhattan, parking fees can be astronomical We have already mentioned the horrific traffic.
In what other city would you have seen a former U.S. president, the late Richard Nixon, commuting daily to and from work by subway? And, he came from car obsessed California.
If arriving in the New York City area by car, consider parking at some well-lighted suburban commuter rail station and then take a train to your accommodation in New York.
Or, use the cheaper long-stay Newark Airport or JFK airport parking and then use public transit or Uber to take you into Manhattan.
Trying to find some cheap parking lot or free street parking in Manhattan can bring trouble. Even if the area seems okay during the day, what is it like at night?
There's virtually no legal street parking in commercial areas of Manhattan, and violators are towed with high fees for ransoming back their vehicles..
Exploring Lower Manhattan
You will probably find visiting a wide area of the southern portion of Manhattan in a short time hard to do on your own.
If a first time visitor, consider using sightseeing bus that drops you off and picks you up at designated stops may be easiest for you. Citysightseeing New York City, Gray Line, etc. offer this service. These buses offer narrated commentary between stops.
Also, be sure to read my New York City walks pages.
>>> Learning NYC's street system.
Go to other pages in this section:
New York City orientation: starting on the water and introduction
New York City orientation: Manhattan neighbourhoods
New York City orientation: seeing the Statue of Liberty
New York City day trips
New York City walks
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