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This post covers how to get around NYC with the NYC Subway, buses, bikes, taxis, Uber, boats, walking and even a sky-tram! We also have a guide for getting to and from NYC’s 3 airports.
The subway system is a very efficient way to get around the city. It may seem confusing when looking at the map, but as long as you know how to use it before you hop on a train, you will discover how convenient the subway is.
Read our post for everything you need to know about riding the subway, from understanding the difference between the local and express trains, transferring between stations and finding the right station when there are multiple stations with the same name.
It’s also good to plan in advance which New York City Subway MetroCard to buy so you can figure out which card is best for the length of your visit and the number of people in your group.
If you have a smartphone, there are many free apps that will make your subway experience incredibly easy. We’ve used a number of them and share our recommendations in our post about which NYC subway app is best.
HOP-ON-HOP-OFF BUS TOURS
Bus tours are a great way to get a taste of the Big Apple without having to navigate the busy streets on your own. However, occasionally that means quantity over quality.
Read our post to see all the info about the different bus tours and if they are right for you.
Many travelers don’t take advantage of the wonderful bus system – in fact, there are New Yorkers who have never stepped foot on a bus! That’s because they don’t know the benefits of using the buses.
Most often buses are used as a supplement to a subway ride as some destinations are easier to reach using both the subway and bus in tandem. The bus appeals to visitors who want an above-ground view of New York City and who have some extra time.
Very detailed instructions can be found on the MTA’s website. Here are the basics:
TAXIS AND RIDE SHARING
Manhattan’s streets are flooded with yellow taxicabs and you can hail one from the side of the street. The process is pretty much what you may have seen in the movies. Still, there are some guidelines that will help you get a yellow taxi to stop and what you should know once you are in the taxi.
Take the time to read our very informative post on using New York City Taxicabs.
Driving in New York City can be intimidating, so much so that we strongly suggest using other modes of transportation to navigate the city.
If you’re headed in from out of town via car, you’ll want to leave your car parked for the duration of your stay. Here are a few tools that might make your journey easier around NYC easier, and save you a few dollars on parking:
UBER is a private, app-based car service company that can be a good alternative to yellow taxis. The Uber app allows customers to pinpoint their location and also see the locations of Uber drivers nearby so you can decide if you want to request via app an Uber car or take some other mode of transportation.
Read all the details here and then download the app, create an account, and then order your order driver with just one click.
If you have the time and budget that allows you to take a boat tour or cruise, these tours offer you the chance to see the city from a whole different perspective.
There are many boat tours and options so we’ve gone through all the information out there and compiled it in our post Which New York City boat tour or cruise is best for you?
Keep in mind that if you have a tourist pass, some boat tours are included in these. If you haven’t decided about getting a tourist pass, check out our post to see if one of the New York tourist passes are for you.
For an alternative travel experience that will also save you time if traveling between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, the East River Ferry is a quick commuter ferry that costs $2.75 per person one way. While it costs more than a subway ride, it is a great way to admire the city from a different vantage point and pass right by or under our stunning bridges (like the Brooklyn Bridge).
One of the best free excursions you can have in New York City is taking the Staten Island Ferry from which you will get a phenomenal view of the harbor. Our post will give you all the details, schedules, and tips on making the most of this unforgettable ride.
If you find the cost of a boat tour doesn’t fit your budget, read our post on how to get out on the water for free or for very little money so you can enjoy those incredible views without spending a boatload of cash!
WALKING AROUND NYC
New York is known as one of the great walking cities of the world. Most of the city is flat and perfect for strolling. Exploring it on foot is the best way to get a real feel for the city. It’s also the cheapest way to get around.
Most of Manhattan (and some neighborhoods in the outer boroughs) are mapped out on an easily navigable grid system of uptown/downtown numbered streets intersecting with crosstown streets so you should be able to get around most of Manhattan without too much confusion.
We invite you to take a look at our pay-what-you-wish guided tours schedule. We offer over 35 different walking tours of New York City. Below is a list of our regularly scheduled history tours, but be sure to check out our New York food tours, shopping tours, street art tours as well as our Brooklyn tours. We also have self-guided New York Tours that you can use at your own pace.
The numbered grid plan, however, only exists above Houston Street on the east side and above 14th Street on the west side.
In Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, you’ll notice that the streets stop being numbered and have names instead and the lower you go in Manhattan the smaller and curvier the streets get. Here’s where apps and maps come in handy so you don’t find yourself on the corner of West 4th Street and West 10th Street. (An anomaly of New York that makes even New Yorkers confused).
In the days of smartphones and tourist books with great maps, you won’t have too much trouble walking the city, but here are some basics to keep in mind:
New Yorkers take the pedestrian ‘rules of the road’ quite seriously and you may innocently aggravate someone who is rushing somewhere and they may not-so-innocently snap at you. It’s good to know these few things about how to walk on the sidewalk:
Here’s a humorous article on Sidewalk Etiquette that covers the basic sidewalk dos and don’ts. In addition to strolling on your own, a great way to explore the city is with a walking tour. We have a wide variety of tours that highlight history, ethnic neighborhoods, architectural and historical landmarks, and food throughout the city.
With a growing number of bike lanes and an eco-minded mentality to rely less on public transport and travel by bicycle, NYC is increasingly becoming cycle-friendly. Traveling by bike can be fun and in some cases economically smart way of getting around New York City.
There are hundreds of shops that rent bicycles so looking at our post will help you see what choices are out there and what works best for you.
Also, you can use the city’s bike-share program, although not entirely suited for tourist sightseeing, there are some ways you can make it work for you, so read our post for all the information.
If you want to see the city from way up in the sky, you don’t need to take a helicopter ride. Instead, take the tram to Roosevelt Island. This ride is just $2.75 using a MetroCard and lasts approximately 2 minutes.
Because it is largely residential, there isn’t a huge draw for tourists to visit Roosevelt Island, though there are a few things that might be of interest. For sure, the tram ride might be two of the most exciting minutes you’ll spend in New York City.
GETTING TO AND FROM THE AIRPORTS
Of course, before you can enjoy any of these rides, you’ve got to get to New York City first, so see our advice on finding Cheap flights to New York City, and for your arrival Getting to and from the airports including JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports.
THINGS TO DO IN NEW YORK
Once you have settled in, and you’ve mastered the art of getting around New York City, where should you go? Our blog is packed with suggestions, for example, check out our list of New York City’s top attractions and how to get discounts. We also have suggested itineraries for 1,2, or 3-day visits, what to do with kids, and a comprehensive list of top free things to do in NYC.
We hope you enjoy your time in New York City!
Written by Courtney Shapiro