JFK Airport to Manhattan

This post can help you figure out which is the best choice of transport from JFK Airport to Times Square and other Manhattan destinations.

 

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

JFK AIRPORT – Traveling between JFK and Manhattan

John F. Kennedy Airport is the largest and busiest of all NYC-area airports.

Located in Queens, about 15 miles (23 km) from Manhattan, it handles most international flights into the NYC area, and if you are traveling from overseas, this will likely be your destination!  

You have several options to get from JFK Airport to Manhattan once you arrive.


AirTrain + Subway from JFK to Manhattan

AirTrain JFK

This is by far the cheapest (and surprisingly easy) option to get from JFK to wherever you are staying.

Using a combination of the light rail AirTrain to connect with the subway system is a very easy way to reach Manhattan.

You can use this link to Google Maps and enter your destination address to get exact directions from JFK Airport.

The AirTrain circles the airport every day of the year, 24 hours a day, and stops at every terminal in the airport as well as stops from which you can connect to the subway system.

After you arrive, follow the signs to the AirTrain. There are two AirTrain lines – be sure to get on the correct one that will take you to the stop you need.

  • Jamaica Station line: This line will take you to Jamaica Station where you can connect to the E, J, and Z subway lines and also the LIRR (Long Island Railroad).
  • Howard Beach line:  This takes you to the Howard Beach subway station where you can take the A subway line.

Travel between airport terminals is free but you must pay for the AirTrain to the stops that connect with the subway.  

You will need a MetroCard to pay the AirTrain fare and also to ride the subway.

MetroCard vending machines are available just before the AirTrain exits at Jamaica Station and Howard Beach.  

Note: If you are buying a new MetroCard, there is a $1 fee for the card.  Hold onto that card!  It is refillable!

Read our posts on how to buy a MetroCard and tips on mastering the NYC subway system

  • Total Cost: $7.75  The AirTrain is $5 (children under 5 are free) and a single subway ride is $2.75
  • Travel Time: varies depending on your destination.  But plan on 60-90 minutes to get to Midtown Manhattan.
  • Pros:  The cheapest option by quite a bit!! Also, during rush hour traveling by subway can be faster than being on the roads in a taxi.
  • Cons: If you have a lot of luggage, be prepared to carry it up and down stairs because not all subway stations have escalators or elevators.

How to Use the NYC Subway

Air Train + Long Island Railroad from JFK to Manhattan

If speed is your priority then you can take the AirTrain and connect with the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), though it will cost you about twice as much as using the subway.

Again, in the airport follow the signs to the AirTrain and take the Jamaica Station line.

There you can get on an LIRR train and go to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan.

Keep in mind when calculating the total cost, that you will likely have to pay more for a subway, bus, or taxi to where you are staying.

  • Total Cost: $15.75 (includes the AirTrain cost of $5 and $10.75 LIRR fare.) Note: this price is for peak time trains, currently 6 am – 10 am and 4 am – 8 pm. Off-peak trains will be slightly cheaper.)
  • Travel Time: approximately 35 minutes
  • Pros: Quicker than the subway and still significantly cheaper than a taxi.
  • Cons: Same issues with large amounts of luggage as with the subway.
New York Travel Tips and Hacks

SHARED VAN

goairlink-van

Two companies, GoAirLink and SuperShuttle, are ride-sharing services that have the door-to-door benefits of a taxi but are significantly cheaper.

You can request GoAirLink and SuperShuttle from the ground transportation desk in the baggage claim area.

You will be assigned to a van with other passengers (unless you are lucky) heading to the same general area as you. 

 You can also book online in advance.

  • Cost: It depends on your destination from the airport. As a point of reference, the cost from JFK to Grand Central Station Terminal in Midtown Manhattan will cost you between $20-$25 per person. ($18/adult through Citysights if you use code save10)
  • Travel Time: Can vary.  If you are sharing a full van (11 passengers), you might be the first dropped off or you might be the last.
  • Pros: Has the convenience of a taxi and is much cheaper
  • Cons: Can take a very long time.  Passengers often have to wait at the airport until there are enough people for a mostly full van, so plan to sit and wait for a bit.

Tip: They also offer single shuttle rides from all airports for as low as $18/adult with code save10


Direct Bus from JFK to Manhattan

NOTE: This service is no longer running as of 2021 and we are awaiting an official replacement service. The info below is to explain how the system works. 

NYC Express Bus is the official bus operator for the NYC Department of Transportation. At JFK, you can find the bus at Terminals 1, 4, and 8. Look for the red signs. 

Travelers arriving at other terminals can take the Air Train to Terminal 1, 4, or Terminal 8 to take the Express Bus.

The bus goes into Manhattan and drops passengers at TWO locations:

  • Grand Central Terminal (corner of 41st Street & Lexington Ave)  and 
  • Times Square / Bryant Park (42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue) 

To both destinations from JFK: 

Cost:  $19.00 per person (Children 5 and under are free)

  • The price covers two suitcases and one carry-on bag.
  • More than that and you must pay an additional fee. 

Travel Time: Approximately 90 minutes – 2 hours

Hours of Operation: 7 days a week, 11 am – 7 pm, every 30 minutes

Pros:

  • Reasonable price for a comfortable ride. Children under 5 are free!
  • You can book online which saves you time instead of purchasing your ticket at the airport when you arrive.
  • With online reservations, you can take any bus on the day of travel and the reservation is good for 90 days from the date of purchase. 
  • Both stops are in Midtown Manhattan and near many subways and lots of taxis that you can use to get to your hotel. 

Cons:

  • Traffic is unpredictable. Your trip could be as short as 60 minutes, but if the traffic is very bad, you may be on the bus for up to 2 hours.
  • Not located at all terminals. But you can easily take the Air Train to get to the terminals where bus stops are located.

 


YELLOW TAXI OR PRIVATE CAR SERVICE FROM ALL AIRPORTS

taxi-at-airport

Yellow taxis (also called “cabs”) are definitely the most hassle-free option but it is also the most expensive of the public transport services.

JFK to Manhattan by Yellow Taxi

  • Total Cost: There is a set fare from JFK to any destination in Manhattan, which is $52 (plus any bridge or tunnel tolls and a surcharge of $4.50 during peak hours 4 pm to 8 pm weekdays). Also, you should tip your driver 15% of the fare- about $8. Taxis will take cash or credit card.
  • Travel Time: Expect a minimum of 45 minutes, but it could take twice that long depending on traffic conditions.

Note: City regulations restrict the number of passengers in yellow taxis to 4 (or 5 in a minivan), so if you have a larger party you may need to split up into different cabs or opt for a shuttle.

You should only use official yellow taxis and not accept rides from solicitors in the terminal. Many of them are operating illegally.  

Taking a taxi has several pros and cons:

Pros: Super easy door-to-door transport. This is an easier option for travelers with a lot of luggage. You don’t have to think too much!

If you are tired after your flight, you can take a taxi, sit back and let the taxi driver do all the thinking.

Cons: More expensive than the other public transport options listed.  After tip and bridge tolls you will pay over $60 to get to Manhattan.


FREE NEW YORK WALKING TOURS

Once you have arrived, made your way from the airport to your accommodations, take a look at our free walking and food tours.  

We offer over 30 different NYC tours.

Check out our full tour calendar below for exact walking tour offerings and dates.

These are just some of our tours

  • If you are interested in the history of Manhattan back to its roots as the Dutch settlement or just would like to see sights like Wall Street and the World Trade Center, then consider taking our Lower Manhattan Tour.
  • Our most popular of the New York Tours is our SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown Tour, as it covers three neighborhoods in a manageable amount of time.
  • We also offer guided tours of Harlem and Brooklyn.
  • In town for a day trip or a short weekend? Look at our free self-guided tours.

HAVE  A GREAT STAY IN NEW YORK CITY!


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About the author

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers.

Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.