Manhattan is pretty big, and it’s just one part of New York City, so you’ll have to rely on public transportation in NYC during your trip.
That’s not a problem since New York’s transit network is expansive, efficient, and inexpensive. There are plenty of ways to get to Brooklyn and the other boroughs in NYC, including Staten Island across the harbor.
As much as we don’t mind walking, sometimes public transportation is the best way to get around New York, and we had no trouble navigating the city’s buses and subways. I have no doubt that you’ll get the hang of it in no time!
To put your mind at ease, this guide will help you find the best way to travel through the city. Not only will you learn how to get around in NYC, but you’ll feel better prepared for your trip. That means less time worrying and getting lost, and more time visiting the most popular attractions in New York City!
Best way to get around NYC
Driving in the Big Apple is exhausting and overwhelming, so public transportation will become your best friend during your time here. So, if you’re not sure how to get around NYC without a car, don’t worry because the transit system is great.
In this guide, I’ll tell you what you need to know about each mode of transportation, including schedules, pricing, NYC transit passes, and other helpful tips.
Without a doubt, the NYC subway system is the most popular and fastest way to get around the city. It’s also the most practical since subway lines run 24/7 and you don’t have to worry about traffic unless it’s rush hour, in which case, you should be prepared for crowds.
New York has one of the oldest and largest subway networks in the world, with over 450 subway stations connecting Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. You can get a better idea of the subway routes with this NYC MTA subway map:
Generally, the subway runs every 2-5 minutes during peak hours (6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.) and every 5-15 minutes outside those hours. Currently, the New York subway fare is $2.75 per ride and $3 if you purchase a single ticket.
If you’re going to be in the city for more than a day, it’s worth getting a Metrocard. A 7-day Metrocard costs $33 and gives you unlimited rides on the subway, New York City buses, the Roosevelt Island Tram, the Long Island and Metro-North Railroads, and the AirTrain airport shuttle. You can check our guide to the New York subway here.
While the subway is the most popular way to get around Manhattan, NYC’s bus service is more common in the other boroughs. If you plan on visiting the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens, you’ll probably end up taking a bus at some point.
The bus fare in NYC is $2.75 for a single ride, and you can use your Metrocard. The buses typically run every 5-15 minutes, but you can check the exact routes and schedules here.
Remember, buses take longer than the subway, and there are often delays, so plan for extra travel time. For an express route, check out the Select Bus Service, which costs $6.50 per ride and makes fewer stops.
Also, if you want to maximize your time and see several landmarks and attractions in one day, consider taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour in NYC. These buses take you to the most popular parts of the city and they’re included in most New York city passes.
Rail service in NYC
Most people who visit New York City do just fine taking the subway or the bus, but if you want to go further out of the city, you can take the Long Island Railroad or Metro-North Railroad. These NYC train services are more popular with locals and commuters coming from or going to New Jersey or Long Island.
Bike rental in NYC
NYC isn’t very bike-friendly, but there are some great areas to enjoy a bike ride, like the Hudson River Greenway. Central Park is another beautiful place to ride, and a bike can help you see more Central Park attractions in less time.
Outside of Central Park, you’ll find Citi Bike kiosks across the city. This bike-sharing system is perfect for cruising around the neighborhood, and it’s popular with locals and tourists. A single 45-minute session costs $3.99, although you can get a day pass with unlimited rides for $15. Simply pay with a credit card at one of the Citi Bike kiosks or on the app.
Ferries in NYC
New York is a port city, so there are several waterways, including the Hudson River, East River, and New York Harbor. Fortunately, there is water transit in New York, so you can easily cross over to Staten Island, New Jersey, and more.
The NYC Ferry runs every 30-45 minutes from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Roosevelt Island. One-way tickets cost $4, or you can get 10 trips for $27.50. The NYC Ferry doesn’t accept the Metrocard, so get your tickets at one of the landings.
If you want to visit Staten Island or get a better view of the Statue of Liberty, I recommend the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is it one of the best free things to do in NYC, but it also passes several landmarks like Governors Island, Ellis Island, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. The Staten Island Ferry operates 24/7 and departs every 20 minutes or so from Whitehall Terminal near Battery Park.
There is also the NY Waterway and the New York Water Taxi, but these two options are more expensive, and the latter is a private charter for large groups. In other words, the best way to get around NYC’s waterways is via the NYC Ferry or the Staten Island Ferry.
The yellow taxicabs are an icon of New York City, and while they’re popular in TV and film, they’re not the most convenient way to get around. A taxi can be useful if you’re traveling a short distance in bad weather or late at night, but otherwise, it’s not my first recommendation.
If you do want to take a taxi, you should know that fares start at $2.50 and increase the longer and further you travel. Taxis operate all day and night, and you can pay with cash or card.
Alternatively, a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft is often a cheaper way to get around. You can also find a Lyft or Uber in NYC 24 hours a day, and the rates vary depending on where you’re going and whether you opt for a private or shared trip with other passengers.
Walking is definitely the cheapest way to get around NYC, and while it’s not always practical, it is a great way to explore a neighborhood and experience the local culture. Best of all, it’s free!
Another way to take advantage of walking around New York City is to take a tour. There are all kinds of walking tours in NYC, including tours through the Financial District, Central Park, and Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.
Roosevelt Island sits in the East River, between Manhattan and Queens. There are some historic landmarks on Roosevelt Island, but the aerial view from the tram is the main reason people make the trip.
The Roosevelt Island Tram runs every 7-15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. (3:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). It departs from 59th Street and 2nd Avenue on the Upper East Side and drops you off at the Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island.
While driving in the Big Apple is a headache, a car is super useful if you want to take a weekend getaway from NYC. We’ve used Rentalcars many times and haven’t had any problems. You can rent a car or SUV for a day or two to easily get around NYC and the surrounding areas.
Renting a car is also a great idea if you want to take a road trip from NYC.
Airport transportation in New York City
Finally, if you’re flying into one of the airports near New York City, I recommend planning ahead of time, so you don’t get overwhelmed once you land. There are airport shuttles in NYC that depart from all three major airports: JFK, LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark Airport (EWR), and we tell you everything you need to know in our guide.
City buses and taxis also depart from the airports, but if you’d rather avoid NYC’s public transport while carrying your luggage, you can opt for a private transfer. I especially recommend this option if you are traveling with small kids or large luggage.
FAQs – Transportation in NYC
Finally, here are some common questions about New York City’s transportation system:
The best way to get around NYC as a tourist is by taking the subway or the bus since it’s cheap, efficient, and goes to most parts of the city.
Fares start at $2.50 and increase with time and duration. If you look at NYC taxis vs. Uber or Lyft, it’s generally more expensive to take a cab.
Overall, the subway is safe. Just use common sense by staying aware of your surroundings and keeping your belongings out of sight.
The NYC subway system operates 24/7, so you can take the subway even if you’re out late at night.
Aside from walking, the bus or the subway is the cheapest way to get around NYC since a single ride costs only $2.75.
That’s it for this guide to getting around NYC! I hope you feel better prepared to take public transportation in New York City. As you can see, it’s not as overwhelming as you might think, and if you plan ahead, you’ll have no issues exploring all the places and attractions in the Big Apple.
Before I go, I’d like to remind you to check out our tourist maps of NYC, especially if it’s your first time in the city. Of course, if you have any questions about NYC transport, feel free to leave me a comment below. Until then, have an awesome time in New York!