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Travel to NYC, Part 4: Getting Around the City of New York

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Part 4: Getting Around the City of New York

Arriving to NYC and getting to your lodging is one thing. Getting around to see the sights is another. As you will read in many, many guides, the best way to see the sights is to use mass (public) transportation and then, once you reach your station, walk. Here are our tips for getting around the City of New York, as in all 5 boroughs.

If you are touring Long Island, up past the Bronx or towns near New Jersey, some of these places are accessible by LIRR, Metro North or PATH, but the ultimate destination might be a little ways from the station. A car might be better but make sure you investigate renting a car before you venture off.

Mosaic tile art, New York City Subway
Subway Art, New York

BONUS Tip #1: Read the NYC Official Guide and the MTA website for safety tips.

BONUS Tip #2: Be aware of your surroundings, do not take your valuables out in crowded locations. Take your carfare or ticket out in a secure location and keep it in a front pocket to use when you get close to your destination.

BONUS Tip #3: Put a strap on your camera. Use a phone case that keeps it secure.

BONUS Tip #4: Carry bags that can close up completely, can be put close you, like a crossbody or waist pack and are RIFD secure. Try to carry credit/debit cards rather than cash. Even better, make sure your electronic version is set up in your phone. Carry photos of your passport and keep the original in the safe in your lodging. You will need to carry one real piece of ID.

Atlantic Terminal Train Station, Brooklyn, New York
Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn: Subway and Long Island Rail Road

Here are your transit options for getting around the City of New York

1. Car: as we mentioned in Part 3, Arrival to NYC, driving in many parts of the City of New York is only for the most experienced and bravest of drivers (and this goes for all 5 boroughs). And it may not be because of navigation, but because of traffic and parking. Manhattan Island is only 22 miles in length and it can take you more than an hour to get from the Battery to the end at Broadway and West 220 Street, probably two. If you drive to NYC, invest in parking the car for your stay. If you drive a rental to NYC from another state, return it to the airport and then rent it again to return home.

2. Subway: subways run in all five boroughs. Staten Island has a subway line that runs on the island only. To get to and from another borough involving SI, you must take a bus or ferry. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has a website and an app, which has been upgraded. You can enter your starting point and destination and it will tell you how to get there (and how long it may take). You will need a metro card (which is being phased out) or you can use the new OMNY system, which links to your credit card or digital wallet. As of this writing, simply tap a debit or credit card (that can be tapped) on the subways or buses and you're on your way to getting around the City of New York.

MTA Bus, New York City, Manhattan
New York City MTA Bus in Manhattan

3. Subway lines are color coded and use numbers (1-7) and letters (A-G, J, L-N, Q, W, Z). The letter S trains are shuttles and there are 3. Visitors most likely will use the 42nd street shuttle to go from Port Authority to Grand Central.

4. Bus: The buses are great for shorter trips. There are now bus only lanes. The nice part about a bus in any city is that you can see the city. Use the MTA website and app to plan your trip. Beware of express buses. You must purchase the ticket at the machine at the bus stop before you board. Express buses are best for going from one borough to another or to LaGuardia Airport.

5. Cabs and car services: cabs can be hailed (waved down in the street)in Manhattan, called by phone in the outer boroughs, can be caught by standing on line at the can stand at the airports or ordered via an app. Car services work the same way as any other place. Local cars, such as the "dollar vans" are used by locals (if you happen to be traveling with one) and they take cash (only).

Sign on Cross Island Parkway, New York
Cross Island Parkway, Queens, New York

6. Walking: For all the glamour that is in NYC, everyone walks, even rich folk. Try getting off the bus or subway a couple of stops from your destination and walk the rest of the way. If you're stuck in traffic, it might be best anyway. Have a good map app on your phone. We use Google Maps.

7. Cycling: Bicycling around town increased tremendously in NYC during the pandemic. It can be a great way to see the city. However, if you are using it as a method of transportation, there are a few guidelines:

~You must go with the traffic, have a bell, have lights for dusk and night.

~Children under 16 must have a helmet and adults are strongly urged to wear one also.

~You should have 3 locks: one for the frame to the parking place (trees, poles and street lamps are illegal) and one each to lock each tire to the frame.

~Bike maps are free in bike shops.

~You can rent one from a bike shop or use Citi Bike and return it to a kiosk when you reach your location.

Cycling emblem painted on the ground
Cycling in New York City

8. Tour buses: you will see people in red jackets selling you tour rides in sightseeing buses. Hop on, hop off buses are great ways to see the sights and they plan the route for you. Some tickets include a location, like the Empire State Building. Since it is difficult to determine who is legitimate or not on the streets, it is best to buy your ticket online or through your travel consultant.

9. Private tours are also available. Make sure you research very carefully consult your travel consultant or hotel concierge.

10. Local friends and family: asking a friend about getting around NYC can be valuable and you may end up with a tour guide. Many times, locals have not been to all of the sightseeing places and it could be fun for both of you.

Happy Travels!

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