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New York City Guide - Travelling in and Around Manhattan

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New York City Guide - Travelling in and Around Manhattan

edited 4 September 2012 at 3:59PM in Overseas Holidays & Travel Planning
6 replies 26.1K views
M4RKMM4RKM Forumite
5.1K posts
edited 4 September 2012 at 3:59PM in Overseas Holidays & Travel Planning
Updated Jan 2011

So, it is time for my mini travel guide. Enjoy

Chapter 1 - Getting to Manhattan


Getting to New York from the 3 major airports.

New York City is large, and most people stay on the island of Manhattan. The City is served by many airports, the main three being JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, with the latter actually being in New Jersey State.

You have many different choices to get to Manhattan, and it all depends on which airport you fly in to. LaGuardia is actually the nearest airport to Manhattan, but only serves domestic flights. So if you are flying direct, you won't even see this airport.

So, getting into Manhattan can be easy if you want it, you can plan and organise something ready for you, or just wing it, and organise nothing. Whichever way, you'll get into Manhattan, but how much it costs and how long it takes is something else!!


JFK is one of the busiest airports in the world. What a useless fact you've just read, because you don't want to stay there, you want to get into Manhattan.
At each airport there are a number of different options. Most options stay the same

Taxi - Not the cheapest way, but by sure the easiest. Walk out of the airport, and follow the signs for ground transportation. There is a uniformed taxi dispatcher who will ask you how many passengers, and where you want to go. Cabs cannot pick you up anywhere apart from these designated areas. The beauty about JFK, is you know exactly how much you are going to pay for your cab. $53 plus toll and tip. This is because, going from JFK to Manhattan is a fixed fare. There is nothing extra to pay. The tolls can be up to $4.80, which would then make your fare $57.80, plus a minimum 15-20% TIP. All in all, budget $65 if you use a toll free route or $70 for a taxi from JFK to your hotel, if you've used a bridge/tunnel with a toll. (Please don't insult the taxi driver with a small tip, us brits already are regarded by New Yorkers as tight/stingy for our supposed small or even no tips.) A Taxi will take up to an hour from JFK to Manhattan.

Public Transport - From JFK you can get the AirTrain. For $7.25 you get into manhattan, this is the cheapest way. You get the AirTrain which takes you to the various subway stations, You have to carry your own luggage, and MTA says that at times the subway does not have room for luggage. However, I've found there never normally is a problem. Also, with the subway, it is mainly stairs, not escalators, so difficult again to carry big luggage, but some stations now have elevators.

JFK-Airtrain.gif The AirTrain

The benefit to the the airtrain and subway, is probably time. it takes 45 minutes to get to midtown manhattan. Be careful when boarding the AirTrain, as there are different routes. There is an airline terminal route, this is only within the airport, and is free.
The other trains go to either Jamaica Station for the E, J, Z Subway lines and the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) or the train to Howard Beach station for the A Subway Line.
It also links to buses into Manhattan, but be warned you CANNOT take any luggage on MTA Buses.


Newark isn't actually in New York. It is in New Jersey. But it is so close to Manhattan it is a good airport to fly into.

Taxi - Taxi's cost between $55 - $65 plus tolls (around $10) and tips (20%) and can take anything between 35 minutes up to an hour. Works the same way really at the airport, get a taxi from the dispatcher, and sit back and enjoy.

I know this is a guide how to get TO New York, but bear in mind that a NYC Taxi will charge you the meter fare plus $10 when going to Newark, because it is "out of state". As it is in a different state, it is

Public Transport

AirTrain again, this time it takes you to Newark Liberty International Station. It takes 20 minutes, and costs $5.50.
Purchase a ticket from NJ TRANSIT or Amtrak and the AirTrain Newark fee of $5.50 will be included
Then from Newark Liberty International Station, NJ Transit trains into Manhattan.

Bus - there is a bus service, but it costs more than the AirTrain and PATH.


LaGuardia is in Queens

Getting from LGA to Manhattan is easy, and probably the cheapest, as it is the closest to NYC. You'll only however experience LGA if you had to change planes in USA somewhere. (US Air fly from Manchester to Philadelphia, and then onto LGA). It is a small airport, so once you've landed, you pick up your bags, and I've never waited more than 10 mins at this airport for my bags, It is that good!

Taxi - Same as before, dispatcher, etc etc. Costs around $30 - $40 plus tolls and tip, and takes between 20 - 40 minutes. At LGA, you can do a group fare, where you share the taxi with other people, but won't be that fast!

Public Transport - No AirTrain here, No Subway (though there was going to be, but that never happened!). So, the M-60 bus it is. NO LUGGAGE ON THIS BUS!!! It costs $2.25 to 116th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. You can then transfer to the 1 train subway into Midtown and Downtown. You can get a transfer from bus to subway, if you have a MetroCard that is.

The following apply to all airports

Taxi and Public transport aren't the only way of getting into Manhattan.
Consider a Car Service, as these can be cheaper than a taxi, or even a Shuttle if you're on a budget, but have luggage to transport into NYC

Car Service - A Car Service is slightly cheaper, and there are plenty of choices. You prebook the service, and you can pay for them to meet you actually in the airport, however, the best way is to book them, and they meet you just outside the terminal in their car. You pay a flat fee, (plus tip), and you get a standard Lincoln Towncar to whisk you into Manhattan.

A Lincoln Town Car

Once you've cleared customs, you have your bag, you call the Car Service, and let them know you are waiting. Waiting is normally around 10 minutes, and the car will pick you up. When you call, you get told what car, and what number. Remember this number, as the driver will wave it out of his window, and you signal to him that it is you. He will check, so don't just randomly wave a car service down.
I've used car services in the past, and found them very reliable. Carmel (+1-212-666-6666) and Dial7 (+1-212-777-7777) are the two I've used, and found them very good. Tolls and Tips are NOT included

Average Costs of Car Service
To Manhattan from JFK
Between 5am - 8pm = $40
Between 8pm - 5am = $45

To Manhattan from EWR
Between 5am - 8pm = $43
Between 8pm - 5am = $50

To Manhattan from LGA
Between 5am - 8pm = $28
Between 8pm - 5am = $35

Currently (Jan 11) Carmel - - have a bit of a deal on. Go onto their homepage

Then Click on this image (on their page not here)


and it lets you choose a coupon to save some money. Normally $4 saving from the airport, making your $40 fare, $36 from JFK!

Now, when filling in the form, on the page before you click "RESERVE" there is a small tick box. YOU MUST TICK THIS BOX, and then a little popup appears with a code on it. Print out your coupon, write your code in, and you've just saved $4 on your fare!

Shuttle - This may save you a bit of cash, more so if you are a party of 1 or 2. Shuttles charge for first passenger at one rate, and a reduced rate per passenger after that, within your party. SuperShuttle ( 212-258-3826) is probably the best known shuttle service, and will take you from any of the airports to your hotel. Bear in mind, with a shuttle you will be sharing with other people, so it is murphy's law you'll be the last to drop off!!! They do require 24 hours notice, so book before you leave the UK, Also, there have been reports of sitting at the airport for the vans to fill up, wasting valuable time. Sometimes this has been up to 2 hours. With such good Public Transportation Links, the Shared Shuttle service is NOT recommended.

Chapter 2 - A Brief Guide to walking around Manhattan


Walking is an easy way to get around the majority of New York. However, it can be still confusing, even though most of the city is a grid pattern. If you have an address, say, 30 East 30th Street, you know what street it is on, but not between which avenues. This then could mean you're wandering for ages trying to find it!

There is a complex way of working out exactly how to find out, but making a quick phone call to the place, and asking - where are you - will normally suffice, and be quicker, because most New Yorkers will go on cross streets. So back to our address. 30 East 30th is between Park and Madison, so they might say, East 30th at Park, or at Madison, or between Park and Madison. Grab a map and look, and it'll make sense. You'll soon understand the importance of cross streets.

You go up and down avenues, and across streets. Broadway goes diagonally across Manhattan.

When you're walking downtown, the street numbers will be smaller, when you're walking uptown, the numbers will be getting bigger.
Going across town, the avenue numbers go down when going east, and up when going west, Plus just to confuse things, they will be some avenues with names, (Park, Madison, Lexington)

Chapter 3 - Taxi!!!!

The New York Taxi. An icon. Bright Yellow, and they are always whizzing past you, empty, apart from when you want one.


Actually, that last bit is a lie, unless it is raining heavily, freezing cold, or around rush hour.

How to hail a taxi isn't as complex and annoying as people make out, just stand on the kerb, and stick your hand out. Taxi is hailed. No need to whistle loudly, yell taxi, just stick your arm out. Hang on.. it drove straight past you. Why? Well here’s the lowdown.

The lights on the top of a taxi mean something.

As you can see, the taxi has the words OFF DUTY on either side of the number, in this taxi’s case 6M37.


When none of these lights are lit, the taxi has passengers on board, and won’t pick up anyone else. When either all the lights are lit, that is the 2 OFF DUTY and the 6M37, or just the off duty lights, the taxi is off duty, and won’t pick you up (probably). If the Middle bit, the number only, it lit, the taxi is available to hire, so stick your arm out.

New York Cabbies have to take you anywhere within the 5 Boroughs, without argument. That covers, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Now you’ve hailed your cab, and you know where you want to go, get in the cab, shut the door, and then tell the taxi driver. He will start driving, as you’re telling him. This saves valuable seconds, but also doesn’t annoy the taxi driver, the taxi driver behind him, and the other car behind that, that you’re actually holding up. Another hint is to plan where to hail your cab from, If you’re wanting to go downtown, and you’re on Eighth Avenue (which only goes uptown), you really should walk a block so the taxi’s are heading in the right direction, so towards 7th / Broadway etc etc, rather than having to take a detour, up a block, across a block, down a block. That’ll take a couple of minutes, and you could have walked it in that time anyway.

Cash is king when it comes to a NYC Cab. Even if they have a credit card swipe in the back, I’ve found that they hate using it, and come up with any excuse not to. Cash. Oh, and don’t even try paying for that $5 cab fare with a $50. Cabs only carry change up to a $20 bill.

The cost of a taxi is via the meter. $2.50 should always be the standard rate you see on the meter, and then it clicks up $0.40¢ for a unit.
A Unit is one-fifth of a mile (over 6mph) or 60 seconds (stationary or under 6mph)

There are some "extras" they will add on the meter

$0.50¢ if you hailed the cab after 8pm and before 6am
$1.00¢ if you hail the cab between Mon-Fri 4pm - 8pm
New York State Tax Surcharge of $0.50 per ride.

That short taxi in rush hour isn't cheap at all is it?!

Chapter 4 - The Subway

Guesswork really doesn’t help when it comes to the NYC Subway. If you’ve travelled on the London Underground, please forget everything that you can about the Underground, as the NYC Subway is substantially different.

Never call the subway lines by colours. No one in New York City will understand what you are talking about! Always use the letter or the number, so its the Number 2 Train, or the V train, not the Red 2, or Orange V. Let me repeat that, don’t use the colour, no one else does!

Getting into the Subway, right, first time, can be sometimes a feat in itself, because some smaller stations will have different entrances on different sides of the road.
One entrance can be for uptown, one for downtown. so check before you go in.

Other stations, have one entrance, and then you walk down to the up or downtown side that you need.

Some stations, not all the entrances are open all the time. There is a light at the top of the stairs, like a globe lamppost, if it is green, the entrance is open, if it is red, the entrance is closed.

As a tourist, you probably will have a guide book. Most guidebook will actually tell you the nearest Subway stop. This can prove invaluable. Also, get a subway map, use the one in your guidebook, or on your first visit to a subway station, pick up a copy!

Now, you need to work out where you want to go. Find the station nearest to your hotel, and then have a look on the map. for a good midtown map

As you know your start and end points, you can now plan your journey, Check the type of dots on the stations, The reason I say this, is because you'll have different trains running on the same line, a local train, and an express train. An express stop is a white circle with a black outline, a local stop is a black circle. Now you can work out, what lines you need (letters and numbers, not colours) the way you want to go (downtown, uptown, cross-town) and can probably work out your journey.

As a general rule, don’t get an express train if you need to get off the train at a local stop. There are exceptions to this rule though.

If you have your map, you’re at 42nd Street Times Square, and want to go to Canal Street.
42nd Street Times Square is an express, Canal Street is a local. You will take the 1 train to Canal Street. That is the easiest, but the slowest way. The quicker way, is to take the Express 2 or 3 to 14th street, get off the train, and wait for the local, they way it works is that it always works out quicker to do this.

Crosstown travel - there are only 2 lines that go cross town, and this will be sometimes annoying, that you have to travel up to a station, to travel across, to travel down. It might be quicker, but it is fun!!! The L runs across town on 14th Street from 8th avenue across to 1st Avenue and then carries on into Brooklyn. The other crosstown is the S - The Times Square Shuttle, which will whisk you on a train from Times Square to Grand Central, and vice versa!

Did I mention not to call the subway lines by their colours?

How to pay
You need a MetroCard. Before you can hit the platform you need to pay. MetroCards are dispensed from vending machines in Subway stations. It is a touch screen system, and easy to use. The bigger vending machines accept cash and credit cards. When paying by credit card it may ask you for a zip code. I just use a NYC Zip (10007) and hope for the best. I’ve never had any issues though, and it has always worked. Cash is king though!


When you want to buy a MetroCard, you’ll be prompted with various options, as there are various MetroCards.

Firstly, you can get a simple Pay Per Ride MetroCard. If you don’t think you’re going to use the Subway that much, this might be the best option for yourself. You load it with a value, and it stores it on the card.

A single ride Subway fare is $2.50¢ however, you can get this cheaper by using a Pay-Per-Ride Metrocard
From the 30th December 2010, the fares are as follows.

Minimum loading on a pay per ride metro card is $5.00. An additional 7% is added to card with the purchase or addition of $10 or more.

Also, the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard can be used by up to 4 people at any one time. One card for the whole family! The first person can swipe it up to 4 times, and then the other riders can walk through the turnstile, as it knows how many people to let through. Once you have it, you can keep refilling it too, until the expiry date on the back anyway!

The next kind is a Unlimited Ride MetroCard. There is one of these that will interest a tourist, and I’ll explain these now.


The 7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard. This is my personal choice for trips over 4 days. This card is only $29 for as many rides as you want.

With the Unlimited Ride MetroCards, you can only use it by one person at a time. The turnstile locks out the card at that station, for 18 minutes. So, everyone in your party would need one. However, if you think you’ll take more than 14 subway rides each in your stay in NYC, this is the card to go for.

Bear in mind, that if you want to use the AirTrain at the airports, you can't use an unlimited ride card for that segment.

How to use the MetroCard

Yes, it is a weird thing to use, and again, forget the London Underground cards.
The MetroCard is thin plastic, and has a magnetic strip on it. As you can see from the picture, it tells you how to insert it. Insert is kind of misleading though, as you really swipe it as your walking forward. Hold it firmly, and with the arrows facing you, you swipe, Make sure it is deep in the reader, and don’t swipe too fast or too slow. There should be a little display in front of it, and also a green GO, which will light up, and the turnstile is unlocked and you can go through. If the display says SWIPE AGAIN, do exactly as it says, as you may not be able to use it at another turnstile, or it might have already deducted your fare off (important - you either lose money or are locked out for 18 minutes if it has!).


If you’re using a Pay Per Ride, the display will also tell you how much you have left on it.

There are a couple of rules to the subway, most of them common sense, but could lead to a fine if you don't adhere to them. They are graffiti, drinking alcohol, smoking, littering and panhandling. Listening to a loud radio is forbidden. So is lying down or taking up more than one seat. (but you can place a package or bag on the seat, as long as no one else wants it). They also state, do not place your feet on the seats. The fine can be $100, or even a jail term of up to 10 days. Honestly! So be careful out there!

New York is a fun place, and I hope this guide makes it easier for you to get around the cheapest, and the best way for you. If anyone has any queries, just post them in the main thread and i'd be more than happy to help. I'm back out in New York in March 2009 for a week!

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  • The information for travelling by train from Newark-Liberty airport into midtown Manhattan is wrong.

    The Newark AirTrain Mono-Rail only links the airport terminals with the airport train station, it does not go to Newark Penn Station. From the airport station, you can get either take a NJ Transit ($15) or AMTRAK ($30) train that will take you directly to Manhattan's Penn Station (stopping at Newark Penn Station and Secaucus along the way). The train journey takes around 25 minutes to reach midtown.

    There is no need to get off at Newark Penn Station and get a PATH train. On the return journey, I got an NJ Transit train heading for Bay Head New Jersey from Penn Station which stopped at the airport station where I got the AirTrain to my terminal.
  • A quick and cheap alternative to a Hudson river cruise is if you go on the Staten Island Ferry - it's free and offers great views of the harbour, statue of liberty, Manhattan too. You can walk off and walk round to take the return immediately too - so you dont have the hang around on Staten Island if you don't want to.
  • Hi Markymoo
    thanks for updating your thread. What would we do without you ?!
    Im sure i'll have lots more questions nearer the time..... but before i forget....

    How much do you advise to tip for taxis drivers? I was a little unsure last year when i went if i was tipping too much or too little.
    thanks :)
    New York ♥..........These street will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you.
    No place in the world that can compare ♥ 2nd October 2010 ♥
  • Thanks for the info here Markymoo,very very usefull to me,cheers.x
    Slimming World..Wk1,..STS,..Wk2,..-2LB,..Wk3,..-3.5lb,..Wk4,..-2.5,..Wk5,..-1/2lb,Wk6,..STS,..Wk7,..-1lb.
    Week 10,total weightloss is now 13.5lbs Week 11 STSweek 14(I think)..-2, total loss now 1 stone exactly
    GOT TO TARGET..1/2lb under now weigh 10st 6.5(lost 1st 3.5lbs)
  • Wonderful travel guide, full of useful tips! I land at Newark airport in a week, with a wife and two adult daughters and three large suitcases plus cavernous hand-baggage ready for an assault on Manhattan retail! Was originally thinking that the minibus shuttles were the best option to get into our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Chelsea) but having read the guide, am wondering if one taxi or car service vehicle would accomodate us all plus bags? It would be quicker by all accounts!
    Does anyone have experience of this please?
  • bexxie90bexxie90 Forumite
    376 posts
    Someone please give me some advice

    I am travelling alone with my 12 year old daughter the 16th.

    We will be coming from JFK to Broadway. I have been to NY before and got a cab with 2 other girls so was straight forward and nice and easy.

    Thing is this time just us two,not being tight but would prefer not to pay tons of dollars for a cab when I can do cheaper way.

    Can someone please explain in idiot terms whats an alternative way and how much,so I understand as keep looking on here and getting in such a muddle

    Thanks so much and really appreciate this

    Chloe 13 years old and Amelia-Rose born 4/4/07

    Gorgeous Harry born 18/04/10 5 weeks early after a nine minute labour!
    MFW currently paying £200 extra a month.
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