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This post covers how to get around NYC by subway, bus, bike, taxi, boat, on foot, and even a sky-tram! Be sure to check our separate guide to traveling 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.
Be sure to read our in-depth post on navigating the New York City subway.
In that post, we explain everything from how to tell the difference between local and express trains, how to transfer between stations and how to find the station you need 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.
Bus tours are a great way to get a taste of the Big Apple without having to navigate the busy streets on your own.
Read our post to find out about the different bus tours you can take and if one of them is 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 taking a bus.
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:
TIP: Newer buses now include USB outlets that allow you to recharge your phone while you are riding. How cool is that!
Manhattan’s streets are flooded with yellow taxicabs and you can hail one from the side of the street. The process is just like what you may have seen in the movies.
There are some guidelines that will help you get a yellow taxi to stop. There are also some important rules to know once you are actually inside the taxi.
Our post on using New York City taxicabs has many helpful hints.
Most people by now are familiar with Uber and Lyft, private, app-based car service companies.
Taking an Uber or Lyft can be a good alternative to using a yellow taxi.
We explain the pros and cons of using these companies in our post using Uber in NYC.
We compare Uber cars and yellow taxis and also information on how to take an Uber from the 3 major airports.
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:
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 on 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!
New York is known as one of the great walking cities of the world. Most of the city is flat and perfect for strolling. It’s also the cheapest way to get around.
Exploring NYC on foot is also the best way to get a real feel for the city.
Consider one of our pay-what-you-wish guided walking tours We offer over 35 different walking tours of New York City!
Finding your way on foot in most Manhattan (and some neighborhoods in the outer boroughs) is fairly easy.
Streets are mapped out on an easily navigable grid system of uptown/downtown numbered streets intersecting with crosstown avenues.
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 are named rather than numbered.
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 even confuses New Yorkers).
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 of NYC.
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.
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, as well as our guide on getting to and from NYC’s airports including JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.
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.