capturing the world and my adventures

How to Get Around New York City

As many of you will know, I spent an amazing week in New York in August and I decided my first blog post would be about my NYC trip! I thought I would advance on the top things to do and give you some top tips on navigating around this concrete jungle. From subway tips, to getting to Manhattan from the airport, hopefully this advice will make your trip a whole lot easier.

Air Train from JFK to Manhattan

The first journey you will have to make in NYC is getting from the airport into the city. As daunting as it might seem, there are some easy solutions. You can take a taxi, which is a simple and stress free option, but this will cost you around $100. For this reason I would definitely opt for the Air Train!

Before you go, check whether you need to go to Jamaica station or Howard Beach depending on your final location. If you forget there are maps you can check! Once you have your luggage, the Air Train is well sign posted and easy to find. The only confusion I had was where to pay for your ticket, but I simply asked. If you are getting the Air Train from JFK to Jamaica Station then you pay at the exit (and at the entrance on your return journey). It will only cost you $5 for a single ride which will definitely save you money compared to a taxi. The Air Train doesn’t take you into Manhattan, so at Jamaica station you will have to change onto the subway E line. To get into Manhattan, the E line should be going in the direction of World Trade Center.

One thing you need to remember is that your $5 Air Train ticket is not your subway ticket. You will need to purchase this separately at the subway ticket machines in Jamaica Station (subway ticket purchasing explained below). There is an Air Train roughly every 5-10 minutes during the day, so there will always be one coming. I was dreading carrying my bags on the subway, but it was easy. We managed with 2 huge suitcases so it is definitely possible! I would give yourself an hour and a half to get from the airport to Manhattan. The Air Train is definitely worth it for the first peaks of the Manhattan skyline in the distance too!

Yellow taxi at an intersection in NYC

Embrace your New York subway map

Your map of New York will literally become your best friend. You can easily pick one up at the entrance of the subway station so make sure you do. You will take it everywhere and constantly check it to make sure you’re going in the right direction. As much as I spent the week feeling like a tourist, it is OK. You notice a lot of the locals checking it all the time too, but they can do it on their phone- a lot more subtle.

Which New York Subway Tickets?

Single subway tickets have a flat rate of $2.75. This means that whether you travel 5 blocks or 5 miles this is all it will cost you for your journey. This is a great option if you are only wanting to do a few journeys in NYC. I was there for a week though, so bought a 7 day unlimited pass for $32. This was great value as we definitely did more than 11 journeys throughout the week. Not only do you save money on all of your trips, you also save time by avoiding the queues for purchasing a ticket each time you get back on the subway.

Finding Subway Entrances

The entrances to the subways can be anywhere around where you think they’ll be. Sometimes they are on the corner of the street, exactly where you’d expect. Sometimes they are half way down the street, which you can’t miss. Occasionally though, they just appear between buildings rather than having an obvious entrance and you will walk past them a few times before you realise they are there. You can usually look out for the green globes and the green railings which will mark the entrance.

NYC subway entrance to 8th Street Station

Uptown or Downtown?

Which direction you are going in will determine which subway entrance you use. The Uptown and Downtown entrances can be on opposite sides of the street or around the corner on a different intersection so just watch out. The subway entrance will say uptown or downtown unless they service both. We fell victim to this on our last day, with our luggage (after navigating the city perfectly all week). In our heads, the E line to JFK went down and right on the map rather than up and right so we entered the Downtown subway entrance. This mistake is fine when you have an unlimited card as you can simply turnaround and leave. However, if you have a single ride ticket you will have to pay again once you have left through the turnstiles.

Express train or local train?

The main difference between the express trains and the local trains is which stations they stop at. The local trains stop at every station on the route so it will take you longer to reach your destination. We discovered how long this took whilst standing on a very long train from Yankee Stadium to 50th Street. As the name suggests, the express trains miss out some of the smaller stations on the route. If you are going somewhere away from the tourist areas, make sure you check your map. The smaller places are the stops most likely to be missed. On your map, black dots are local stops and white dots are express stops. All trains will stop at the white dots, but only the local trains will stop at the black dots.

NYC Ferry

I only used the NYC Ferry once, but it was such a great way to travel! We went from Smorgasburg Market to Brooklyn Bridge and saw amazing views of Manhattan. Plus you sailed under Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge which I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We took the ferry from North Williamsburg to Dumbo and it was $2.75 for a single ride. I would highly recommend you take the ferry at some point as you get to see all the iconic NYC views from a different perspective. Double check all the times before you travel as there is a bit of a wait for the next boat. Don’t forget that you can also use the free Staten Island ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island- a great way to see the Statue of Liberty for free!

View of Williamsburg Bridge and One World Trade Center from the NYC Ferry

View of Williamsburg Bridge from the NYC Ferry

View of Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge from the NYC Ferry

View of Brooklyn Bridge and One World Trade Center from NYC Ferry

Walking Around NYC

I stayed in CitizenM Times Square so I was very central and in walking distance to most things I wanted to see. To give you a rough idea, I was 2 minutes from Times Square, 5 minutes from Rockefeller, 10 minutes from Central Park and 15 minutes to Grand Central Station. The only places we couldn’t have easily reached by foot were Brooklyn Bridge and One World Trade Center. These are in Downtown Manhattan so it’s much easier to get the subway. I would recommend walking wherever you can, as you will stumble across lots of places you hadn’t planned to see!

I hope you found this blog post helpful and it makes your trip to New York City that little bit easier. Let me know below if you have any top tips for getting around The Big Apple!


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