The best ways to get to and around New York City — which airport to fly into, how to buy a subway card, and more
As one of the most populous cities in the world and with over 8 million residents, New York City is also a major transit hub. Three major airports serve the city, which means there’s always a flight coming or going, and plentiful trains and buses to bring you into the core of the city and about town. Once here, the subway is an excellent way to get anywhere you need to go.
If you’re plotting out a trip to New York, these are the best ways to get to and around the Big Apple.
JFK International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, Queens, is New York’s largest airport. It’s about 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan and served by over 70 international and domestic airlines. From JFK, you can catch a cab to anywhere in Manhattan for a flat fee of $52, plus tax, tolls, gratuity, and a surcharge of $4.50 during peak hours from 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
If you want to skip the private ride, JFK’s AirTrain operates 24/7 and links the airport to several public transit options, for an $8 ticket. Hop on the AirTrain Red line to catch the Long Island Railroad or the J-Z and E trains at Jamaica Station, or take the Airtrain Green line to connect to the A train at Howard Beach station. Taking the Long Island Railroad from Jamaica Station will get you to Manhattan’s Penn Station in about 20 minutes.
LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst, Queens, is approximately eight miles from Midtown and serves mostly domestic destinations with a few flights arriving from Canada. From there, ride a metered taxi (which will also charge tolls and tip) or catch one of two city buses (the Q70 and the M60) to connect with the subway. You’ll need patience for the latter and the swipe of a MetroCard for $2.75.
Newark Liberty International Airport
Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey is 16 miles from Midtown and a hub for domestic and international flights. Metered taxis will transport you to the city, though it can cost around $100 with tolls and tips. AirTrain Newark, however, connects to NJ Transit for an easy, cheaper ride into Penn Station in under 30 minutes.
Various Amtrak lines connect New York to virtually every major city along the East Coast, and provide both regular and high-speed Acela service out of Penn Station. Check out the new Moynihan Train Hall, with a soaring atrium made of 500 glass and steel panels, and grab a bite at local favorites like H&H Bagels and Magnolia Bakery located in the station’s food hall.
Many bus lines serve New York City via the Port Authority bus terminal in Midtown. Retaining some of its gritty ’70s vibes, coach lines that stop here include Greyhound, Megabus, and regional carriers.
Taking the New York subway is the best way to get around the city. It’s easy to navigate and often quicker than a car, depending on where you’re going. Purchase a MetroCard at an in-station kiosk to use on MTA subways and buses; a single ride costs $2.75, while an unlimited seven-day MetroCard costs $33 (plus a $1 new card fee).
You can also pay directly per ride by tapping a microchipped debit or credit card on an OMNY contactless reader at station turnstiles, or by similarly tapping a card saved to the digital wallet on your smartphone.
New York City has benefited from an increase in ferries connecting lower Manhattan and the East Side with outer-borough neighborhoods for the same price as a subway ride. Ride the free Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan and enjoy a view of the Statue of Liberty.
Cabs, ride shares, and town cars
Hailing a New York City yellow cab is a staple, but when you can’t seem to flag one down, try calling your own car via Lyft or Uber. Just watch out for surge pricing. Blacklane’s upscale fleet of cars also provides seamless rides to all three airports. Go Airlink NYC is another popular shuttle service.
Citi Bike is the nation’s largest bike-share program with 24,500 sturdy blue bikes across more than 1,500 stations throughout the city. You can pay per ride or purchase a $15 day pass and pedal away.