New York skyline Getting around New York City – Image courtesy of www.newyorkwelcome.net

How to get around New York City

Walking is the best way to explore New York City, and in Central Park you can stroll trails to discover wooded sections where you hardly even see or hear the city.

The New York subway is often the fastest and most reliable way to get around the city, and both the bus and subway system offer an inexpensive way of crossing town on longer sightseeing trips.

Taxis can be hailed anywhere… although don't expect to catch a cab during the morning and evening rush hours, and always make sure the meter is turned on at the start of the ride.

NYC is also a bike-friendly city: the popular bike-share program, Citi Bike, offers excellent access to get around Manhattan.


Transport options in New York City

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (www.mta.info) operates public transport in New York City.

The MTS's yellow-and-blue MetroCard is used for all of the city's public transportation.

A 7-Day Unlimited Pass (US$32) is handy for visitors – particularly if you’re roaming around town to several places in one day. Each ride on the subway or bus (except for express buses) deducts US$2.75 from the swipe card, which is available at self-service machines in subway stations.

The machines take credit or ATM cards (larger machines also take cash). Many Manhattan stations also have staffed information kiosks where you can load your card using cash.

Taxi: New York's iconic yellow taxis are hailed from the pavement curb. Private car services are typically arranged by phone for fixed-rate fares, and are especially useful outside of Manhattan, where it can be difficult to hail a taxi on the street.

Taxi meters start at US$2.50 and 50¢ for each additional one-fifth mile as well as per each one minute in slow and/or non-moving traffic, as well as a US$1 peak surcharge (weekdays 4pm to 8pm), and a 50¢ night surcharge (8pm to 6am), plus an MTA State surcharge of 50¢ per ride.

Passengers must pay all bridge and tunnel toll charges. Tips are expected to be 10% to 15% of the fare, but give less if you feel in any way mistreated; be sure to ask for a receipt and use it to note the driver’s license number. For more info, see www.nyc.gov/taxi.

The Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) operates under a Passenger's Bill of Rights, which gives you the right to tell the driver which route you’d like to take, or ask your driver to turn off an annoying radio station. Also, the driver does not have the right to refuse you a ride based on where you are going. Tip: get in first, then say where you’re going.

Green Boro Taxis operate in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan. These allow you to hail a taxi on the street in neighbourhoods where yellow taxis seldom operate. They have the same fares and features as yellow cabs, and are a good way to get around the outer boroughs. Drivers are reluctant (but legally obligated) to take passengers into Manhattan as they aren’t legally allowed to take fares going out of Manhattan south of 96th St.

Private car services are a common alternative to taxis in the outer boroughs. Fares differ depending on the neighbourhood and length of ride, and must be determined beforehand, as cars have no meters.

Note that it’s illegal if a driver simply stops to offer you a ride – no matter what borough you’re in. A couple of car services in Brooklyn include Northside (www.northsidecarservice.com, 718-387-2222) in Williamsburg and Arecibo (www.arecibocc.com, 718-783-6465) in Park Slope.

Ride-sharing app-based car services, such as Lyft and Uber are also available in New York City and now comprise nearly five times as many cars as yellow cabs. Tipping is highly encouraged; drivers may give you a low rating if you fail to do so.

Subway: The New York subway is fast, inexpensive and operates around the clock, although it is still best avoided late at night. The network serves over 400 stations and a single ride – regardless of the distance travelled – costs US$2.75 with a MetroCard, which is available at newsagents and station kiosks.

Various types of MetroCards are available, including pay-per-use, and 7-day unlimited travel.

Note: The subway can be hard to navigate, with not very user-friendly signage and sometimes baffling schedules – even for locals. Free wi-fi is available in all underground stations.

It’s a good idea to grab a free map from a station attendant or download a useful app (like the free Citymapper), which provides a subway map and alerts of service outages.

Bus: Bus services in NYC are extensive and run 24/7, with designated bus stops every few blocks. The route is shown on a small display panel on the pole of the bus stop.

Buses are a convenient way to cross town or to cover short distances when you don't want to take the subway.

Rides cost the same as the subway (US$2.75 per ride), and you can use your MetroCard or pay in cash (exact change in coins required) when entering the bus.

If you pay with a MetroCard, you get one free transfer from bus to subway, bus to bus, or subway to bus within a two-hour window. If you pay in cash, ask for a transfer (good only for a bus-to-bus transfer) from the bus driver when paying.

Rail: Long Island Rail Road (www.mta.info/lirr), NJ Transit (www.njtransit.com), New Jersey PATH (www.panynj.gov/path) and Metro-North Railroad (www.mta.info/mnr) all offer useful services for getting around NYC and surrounding neighbourhoods.

Bicycle: NYC is a bike-friendly city, with more than 640km (400mi) of bike lanes on the west side of Manhattan, on Broadway and across bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens.

New York's bike-share program, Citi Bike (www.citibikenyc.com), provides more than 14,500 of the iconic bright-blue and sturdy bicycles. There are 950 Citi Bike stations spread across Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City.

Rates are reasonable for short-term users, and visitors have a choice of paying for a single ride (US$3), or buying a 24-hour pass (US$12) or a three-day pass (US$24) at any Citi Bike station. There's also an annual membership.

Passes include unlimited 30-minute rides on a Citi Bike. There are extra fees for longer rides and if you upgrade to an ebike. The first 30 minutes of each ride on a Citi Bike are included in the pass price. An upgrade to an ebike (only available in the Citi Bike app) costs an extra US$0.15/min.

If you keep a bike for longer than 30 minutes at a time, regardless of the type, it's an additional US$4 every 15 minutes. To avoid extra time fees, keep your rides to 30 minutes each. You can take as many rides as you want while your pass is active.

Helmets aren't required by law, but strongly recommended. However, you'll need to bring your own as they're not supplied.

Elsewhere, Central Park Bike Tours (centralparkbiketours.com), offers bicycle hire.

For a guide to routes and bike lanes, visit NYC Bike Maps (www.nycbikemaps.com). Free bike maps are also available at most bike shops.

Car hire: Unless you plan to explore the outer boroughs, driving in NYC is not recommended. Heavy traffic, one-way streets, impatient and often aggressive taxi drivers, unmindful pedestrians and swerving bicyclists makes driving in this city a challenge. Additionally, parking fees are exorbitant and finding street parking can be very difficult. Parking garages can be expensive.

Recommended car hire companies in NYC, include include Alamo (www.alamo.com), Avis (www.avis.com) and Budget (www.budget.com). Drivers must be at least 25 years old.

Ferry: The New York City Ferry (www.ferry.nyc) service link Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. At only US$2.75 a ride (plus US$1 if accompanied with a bicycle) the ferry offers a more pleasurable commute than the underground on the subway.

NY Water Taxi (www.nywatertaxi.com) has a fleet of yellow boats that provide a hop-on, hop-off service with stops in Manhattan (Pier 83 at W 42nd St, Battery Park, and Pier 16 near Wall St) and Brooklyn (Pier 1 in Dumbo). An all-day pass costs US$37.

The bright orange Staten Island Ferry offers a frequent service across New York Harbour to and from Staten Island – the scenic views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan are worth the ride, which is also free-of-charge.


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Latest update: How to get around New York City: 16 July, 2020


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