Everything you need to know about getting around New York City

Jan 1, 2020

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “Getting there is half the battle”? Well, in New York City it’s more like getting around is half the battle — if you don’t know what you’re doing.

From trains to planes to automobiles, the options for traveling around New York City are endless. But not all transportation is created equal, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide so you spend less time on your next visit to New York City stuck in traffic and more time, well, doing what you came to do.

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The best way to get from the airport to New York City

First things first: Getting from one of New York’s three major airports to wherever you’re staying. The good news is you have plenty of options. The bad news is, none of the city’s airports are particularly close or convenient.

How to get from Newark (EWR) to the city

You’re probably going to go from Newark, located in New Jersey, to Manhattan one of three ways: getting a taxi or car; take the AirTrain to NJ Transit; or take a shuttle bus if you’re staying in Midtown.

Getting a taxi or Uber is the quickest but most expensive option. You walk out of the airport and boom, you’re on your way to your desired destination. If you’re staying in Midtown, expect the trip to take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the time of day and traffic, and to cost around $80 if you’re taking a taxi or grabbing a car.

Related: From budget to luxe: Use hotel points at these 9 NYC hotels

The Newark Airport Express shuttle bus is a convenient and affordable alternative, especially for travelers staying in Midtown. There’s a pickup right outside each terminal at the airport, and you have a choice of drop-off locations: Port Authority, Grand Central and Bryant Park. One-way tickets are $17 and round-trip tickets cost $30. The only downside is if you get on the bus at one of the first airport pick-up locations or are getting off at one of the last drop-offs, as it will take a while. Also, make sure to budget enough time on the way back to the airport to accommodate for late buses or heavy traffic.

Taking a combination of the AirTrain to the NJ Transit, PATH or Amtrak might be the most inexpensive route, but requires multiple transfers. You’ll be able to access the AirTrain from each terminal for $7.75. Depending on where you want to end up, each of the three train methods of transportation will get you into Manhattan. This trip will take about an hour and a half. Consider the amount of luggage you’ll be dragging around before embarking.

How to get from New York-JFK to the city

JFK has a leg up on the airport competition in that you can take the subway all the way into the city after an easy AirTrain ride. It will cost you $7.75 plus $2.75 ($10.50 total) for the MTA and take about an hour to reach Times Square. You can also catch the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), which is a quicker, nicer ride, but will set you back $7.75. to $10.75, plus $7.75 for the AirTrain ($15.50 to $18.50). This takes 30 minutes.

Grabbing a car from JFK is neither inexpensive nor quick: You’re looking at $56 for a taxi, $70 for an Uber and about an hour on the road, depending on traffic.

Related: JFK vs. LaGuardia vs. Newark: Which NYC airport should I fly into?

How to get from LaGuardia (LGA) to the city

LaGuardia is the toughest airport to get to and from, due in large part to the massive construction project going on.

While cost-effective at only $2.75 per ride, catching the MTA bus out of LGA to the subway is a true test of patience and grit, because there’s a good chance you can walk faster than a city bus moves. It can be done, but be prepared.

Both a taxi and ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft from the airport to the city will cost you $40 plus tip and take about 45 minutes.

Catch a helicopter from the airport

Blade launched helicopter transports from Manhattan to New York-JFK in March of 2019 and expanded its service to all airports in the New York City area, including Newark and LaGuardia, that May. The routes are between LaGuardia and Manhattan’s Downtown/Wall Street Heliport, and passengers can reach Newark by helicopter from Blade Lounge East (East 34th Street Heliport). The route to JFK departs from Blade Lounge West (West 30t​h​ Street Heliport) across from Hudson Yards. A seat on a Blade helicopter to the airport costs $195, and the transfer (to JFK, at least) takes about five minutes.

Related: We tried Uber’s new helicopter service from Manhattan to JFK

The best ways to get around New York City

Once you’ve made it to the city, you’ll have to decide how you’d like to get around. The best, most inexpensive tourist attraction for anyone visiting New York City is simply walking around the city — which is free! — so pack comfortable shoes. But, if inclement weather strikes or it’s too cold to be outside, you still have plenty of options. We’ll, ahem, walk you through them all.

Subway

New York’s subway, the MTA, is mostly reliable and very affordable. A single ride will cost you $2.75, and the city offers unlimited seven-day passes for $33 which are great for. travelers spending the week. It costs $1 for a new subway card so, repeat after us: Do not lose it! Download the MTA app for service changes and the fastest routes.

Related: TPG’s guide to Penn Station

Taxi or ride-hailing service

One of the hardest lessons to learn in New York City is that it’s (usually) faster to take the train than a car. That said, we’ve all been there after a long day of sightseeing when you just want to get off your feet and into a cab. Plus, you get a better view of the city. Surge pricing (read: Drives on New Year’s Eve, during peak rush hour or a good rainstorm) can make an Uber or Lyft for expensive, but normally rates are competitive with a taxi.

For tips on how to maximize your ride and get deals on Uber and Lyft, check our guide to the best credit cards to use here. And if you have an early or late flight to catch lining up a car ahead of time is the way to go.

If you decide to go old school and hail a cab, look for one with its light on and make sure to exit on the curbside.

Bus

New York City has a robust bus system that’s especially great for getting you across town, from east to west. Be prepared, however, to make frequent stops. You can use the same card on the bus as you’ll use on the subway.

Related: How to get to New York City on points and miles

Walk

Arguably the best way to get around New York City is to walk. Walking is an excellent way to take in the sights and sounds of the city all while getting to your destination.

Boats, bikes and more

Chances are, someone’s told you about the free ferry ride from lower Manhattan to Staten Island, which gives you a fantastic view (twice!) of the Statue of Liberty. This is not a tourist trap — it’s actually really fun, especially on a beautiful day. But that’s not the only ferry in town. There are numerous other ferries you can catch to, well, ferry you around town. Check out the full list here.

Citi Bike is another great option. If you don’t feel comfortable biking the actual streets of the Big Apple (we don’t blame you), at least go for a spin down the West Side Highway path along the Hudson River. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can activate one free year of Lyft Pink membership, which includes three free bike or scooter rides per month (as well as 15% off rides and priority airport pickups).

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t get in a pedicab (no matter how many times they hassle you). The ride is bumpy and more expensive than a penthouse apartment in Tribeca.  

Related: These are the best times to visit New York City

Bottom Line

One of the greatest things about a trip to the Big Apple is that you definitely do not need a car. In fact, we would encourage you not to drive, as parking is exorbitant and traffic can be a nightmare. For short trips, don’t be afraid to pound the pavement, and for longer trips, get the full New York City experience by heading underground. When it comes to the airport, it’s worth the splurge to get an Uber or Lyft, especially if you can stack offers from a credit card.

Photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Image

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