NYC Subway Travel Guide

In this article I will share with you some of the most important things you need to know regarding New York City subway. The subway is the cheapest and fasted way to get around NYC. Sometimes it runs underground, sometimes above ground but no matter from where it runs it is always called The Subway.

First you have to take the subway card. If you are a couple you can ride together with one card, so you don’t need to buy two cards. Up to 4 people can check in through the swipe machine with one subway card.

It is simple, you just have to put some money on the card. You just swipe the card and let people through, and at last, you swipe once more and you enter the station too. If you are a family of four for example you can all travel with one subway card.

Be aware that this only applies to the yellow, paper swipe cards and not to unlimited rides cards. Because with the unlimited rides cards you have to wait 18 minutes between the swipes in order to enter the platforms.

The yellow subway card will cost you only $1. You need to keep the yellow part of the card facing you and the black stripe down while swiping your card through the machine. Do not swipe fast, do it slowly.

There are no zones in NYC subway, just one swipe through the machine and you can travel anywhere. You are paying for one ride, it doesn’t matter how far you go. So for the better understanding, you will pay the same amount for one minute ride and for two hours ride. It is just $2,75 cents for a single swipe or ride.

For example if you have only $1 on your new card balance, upload the balance of your card to $22,30 and it is enough for exactly 9 rides, or you can upload $27,25 and it is exactly 11 rides. In this case the balance on your card after the rides will be $0. You can always add value to your regular yellow card, just have in mind how much the single ride cost, how many people are using the card and how many rides you wish to take.

So my advice is do not buy single use metro card. You can chose from two types or the cards: unlimited ride cards where you are able to add time but is only for a single person and the regular yellow metro cards that works with pay for a ride system, where you can add value depending on how many rides you are planing to take and it can be used by up to 4 people at a time.

Since there are about 400 subway stations in NYC, there are some repeated subway stations names. For example, there are 4 stations named 96th street. So you need to know on witch one you are going before you step into the train. NYC subway is the busiest in US, with approximately 1,7 billion riders per year, even though it seems too much it is just 7th in the world. Tokyo is number one most busy subway in the world with almost double the amount of riders per year.

With the NYC subway you can mostly go uptown or downtown, there are not many options to move across Manhattan. There are a few options, like the L train that goes along the 14th street to Williamsburg, 7th or S train where the letter S stands for the shuttle that goes along the 42nd street.

Make sure you read well the signs at the entrance of the station that you are entering. If it says downtown only, that means that the subway from that entrance goes only downtown. You cannot go down and change to the opposite direction. You have to walk across the street and to enter at the entrance that says uptown only if you wish to go uptown. It is as simple as that. If you have that in mind you will never get lost in the NYC subway.

Please check one of my previous articles about Manhattan streets greed system, before you get into the NYC subway. It will help you understand the directions and what street number you have to get off of the train.

It is important to know in what direction you are going. Because if you wish to go uptown and you enter into the downtown direction subway station, and you swipe your ticket through the machine, and then you realize that you had made mistake, you have to go all the way back, and re-swipe again and it is like you are paying double ride, so please read the signs on the entrance very well in order to save your money and time.

If you wish to cross the Central Park from the Upper East side to the Upper West side, so you have to take a bus, cab, pedicab or car or you can even walk through the park like we did.

Some stations have local trains and express trains passing through the same platform, so before you enter any train first check the sign where this train goes, because you can easily find yourself suddenly in another town miles away from New York.

It is wise to have a look at the subway map and make sure that you know where you are going before you step into the subway station. You don’t have to buy the map, or have internet connection. Just download the PDF image of a map before your trip to New York from the internet to your phone. There is also a big grid map at the entrance of the each subway station if you don’t want to download the image, so you can check out which train goes to your desired direction.

While entering the platforms always stay on the right side of the escalator. Leave the left side free for the busy New Yorkers to pass by. If you have the luggage with you then keep your luggage on the step in front of you or back of you, do not block the left side of the escalator.

One more important tip if you travel with kids is that all children who are under 112 cm tall, no mater the age they don’t need to swipe the metro card through the machine, they are allowed to pass under the turnstile to enter the stations platforms, only if they are accompanied with fare paying adult.

At the end I can add that you actually don’t need the NYC subway to go wherever you want to go, you can walk all over Manhattan and see and discover more like we did most of the days of out stay. Walking around Manhattan is free and healthy, you just need to get used to the street noise and that’s it. While walking around Manhattan you can notice that local pedestrians do not respect the traffic lights much. You can actually recognize the tourists from locals very easily, because they are always waiting for the green little walking man to appear in order to cross a street. While the local pedestrians just look around and if there is no car coming they just cross the street fast without waiting. We prefer to wait for the green light anyway, because we were in a foreign country and we were there for fun and not in a hurry like the local New Yorkers.

I hope you will find this article helpful. If you wish to find a nice place to stay in NYC and Manhattan, please check the link NYC accommodation. There you can find all different kinds of hotels, reviews, prices and information about availability for your desired dates. We stayed at the Avalon hotel, I will describe our experience in one of my next articles. I would really appreciate if you book your accommodation through my affiliate link.

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