After living in the city for almost two years, there are many, many things I’ve learned about the transportation system that I wish I would’ve known both as a tourist and when I first moved. I’ve decided it’s time to share my vast (well, sort of) knowledge with you all to make navigating the labyrinth that is this city a tiny bit easier.
Real talk, the subway is almost always the way to go. It can get you pretty much anywhere, it’s cheap and most of the time it’s going to be faster than a cab. I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy, but seriously have you seen New York’s traffic? Traveling underground is the way to go.
I know for tourists (and 2-year residents….) the subway can often be confusing and overwhelming. There’s so many lines, dozens of stops and transferring is sometimes a nightmare with weekend closures and schedule changes. But have no fear – I guarantee with a little planning and maybe the help of Google maps, you’ll definitely be able to figure it out.
The 123 and 456 trains run up and down Manhattan, on the west and east side respectively. The 1 and 6 trains are the local option while the 2/3 and the 4/5 run express, which means they make less stops, but are usually faster if you’re going a far distance.
Running sideways across Manhattan is the L train, which will also take you into Williamsburg and further into Brooklyn. The 7 train runs across midtown and continues deep into Queens. The S, or shuttle, also runs across Manhattan but only makes two stops, running between Times Square and Grand Central.
A few lines you generally need to beware of before you begin: The G and E train are notoriously terrible, but sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up if they’re the only trains that can get you where you’re going.
There are many, many other lines that will take you all over the city, but those are a few of the major ones. If you’re unsure of where you need to go and how to get there, don’t be afraid to ask someone. New Yorkers get a bad rap for being unfriendly, but generally people are on the subway are more than happy to help you out. Go forth and conquer.
In my opinion, buses are the unsung heroes of New York transportation. They’re fairly reliable, you can text an automated number to see if they’re on time, and they’ll get you to all of the places the subway can’t.
First of all, the M15 bus is my lifeline. Running up First Ave. and down Second Ave., this bus will get you to anywhere east of Lexington Ave. a lot faster than the subway if you’re not going very far. Since the bus is obviously affected by traffic, you’ve got to make a judgement call on this. I find it more convenient, even if it sometimes takes a bit longer, so it’s my go to.
Another good bus solution is the crosstown buses. These run across every major street in Manhattan – 14th, 23rd, 42nd, 66th, 86th, etc. Since most subway lines do not run east-to-west, the crosstown buses fill a major void in the underground system. Use them wisely.
Look up any bus route here.
Straightforward and awesome, cabs are one of the best parts of NYC. Their only downfall is that they tend to be a little bit pricey. If you’re impatient, need to get somewhere and don’t want the hassle of other public transportation, hop in a cab. More often than not, they’ll be about the same (and sometimes cheaper) than other car services like Uber.
But be forewarned: some cabbies are jerks and will try to intentionally take you a longer route for an increased fare. It’s best to have a general sense of the fastest route before you hop in.
Ride Hailing Services (Uber, Lyft, Gett, etc.)
For ease of transportation, this is obviously the way to go. For anyone unfamiliar with any of these services, you simply download the app on your phone, set your pickup and drop off locations, and voila! You’ve got yourself a driver.
These services will take you pretty much anywhere in the city and surrounding boroughs, but be cautioned that sometimes it doesn’t come cheap. Watch our for surge pricing, which can sometimes double the original cost. But if money isn’t a factor and you want a relaxing journey, this is the way to go.
Though not a very speedy form of transportation, the ferry is a fun way to get around and see new things in the city. I haven’t often taken the ferry, but it’s usually pretty cheap and will eventually get you to where you’re going. Try taking the ferry from the Seaport to Long Island City and then into Midtown. You get great views and it’s a fun adventure on a sunny day.
Find more ferry information here.
LOL, there’s a reason why no one has a car in New York. If you’re a visitor and you drove into the city, ditch the car for the duration of your stay. Parking can get expensive, but the hassle of trying to park everywhere you go combined with the insane traffic at all hours of the day will make for a miserable getaway.
This may seem obvious, but in New York walking is often the way to go. I’m not sure if this is 100 percent accurate, but someone once told me that 20 street-length blocks is equal to one mile – this can help you at least estimate the distance you’re traveling and see if walking is feasible.
In the nice weather, walking is also one of the best ways to take in the city. Even after living here for a few years, I love wondering around and stumbling on new shops, restaurants, and even neighborhoods that I’ve never really explored. If you’ve got the time and a good pair of walking shoes, I’d definitely recommend this as the way to go.
There you are, a comprehensive (aka long) guide to all things NYC transportation. Now you’re the experts! Go find your way to where ever you’re headed.