If you live in New York City, taking the subway will inevitably become your primary mode of transportation. Even if you’re just visiting, chances are you’ll find yourself taking public transit because it’s so much cheaper (and faster) than taking a cab or car service throughout the boroughs. Understandably, as with any large cosmopolitan city, navigating the public transportation system can be intimidating if you’re not used to it. So, for anyone out there who has yet to explore Gotham underground – here’s our NYC subway guide for beginners that will have you traveling around town like a pro in no time.
The current fare for a subway ride is $2.75. When you purchase a MetroCard (a $1 fee is charged for each new card), you add money and refill it as you go along. Depending on how often you plan on using the subway, you may choose to invest in a 7-Day Unlimited Pass for $33 or a 30-Day Unlimited MetroCard for $127 – both, which also include local bus rides. MetroCards are available to purchase and refill through MTA vending machines, and some subway stops have station agents available as well.
Bonus Tip: When you refill your MetroCard, the machine automatically gives you options in increments of $10, which includes a 5% “bonus,” but will leave you with an ending balance once you use as many rides as your current fare will cover. Every penny counts when you’re in NYC, so get the most out of your MetroCard by choosing “Other Amounts” when adding money to your card. Adding $10.48 will buy you exactly four rides, $20.95 buys eight rides, and $26.19 buys ten rides.
How to swipe a Metrocard.
When you see hordes of New Yorkers behind you during rush hour, the last thing you want is to be stuck at a subway turnstile, scrambling and trying to figure out how to swipe your card correctly and enter the platform. Make sure ‘MetroCard’ is facing left with the black bar on the bottom, and swipe it through the turnstile in a forward direction. If the card doesn’t read properly, the turnstile will prompt you to swipe again. Swipe slowly, and the card should read.
For riders who can’t be bothered with a MetroCard––the swipe can be annoying at times––there’s OMNY or One Metro New York, a system that allows you to “tap-to-pay” with your smartphone, smartwatch, and contactless debit or credit card instead of swiping.
Multiple subway entrances.
Each NYC subway stop has multiple entries on different corners, and not all of them lead to trains going in the direction you need. Be sure to read the signs to check if that entrance is specifically for uptown or downtown trains, and check signs when exiting the station as well. Eventually, you’ll want to learn which end of the train you should be riding, since it’ll be closer to your exit. Leaving through the “wrong” exit isn’t detrimental, but some subway entrances and exits span several blocks underground – so using the exit closest to your destination can save you a lot of time and mileage on your feet.
Express trains vs. local trains.
Some trains run express instead of local, meaning they skip several stops along that subway line and are the quickest way to get to some of the transit hubs in the city. With the 4, 5, and 6 trains, for example, the 6 train runs local while the 4 and 5 are express, but on weekends and late nights, the 4 and 5 run local too. Again, it’s always your best bet to read the signs and check for updates. Due to construction or technical issues, trains will often change tracks, skip certain stations, or stop running altogether.
Use transit apps.
Smartphone apps like Moovit are a huge help when mapping out a subway route, and are handy for keeping a relatively updated schedule of trains and alerts.
Beware of empty subway cars.
If a crowded subway pulls up and you see one empty car, do not – I repeat, do not – go inside. You’re not outsmarting anyone or scoring the one miraculously people-free spot on the train. It’s empty for a reason. Whether it’s a stench or a pile of something worse, don’t torture yourself by finding out the hard way.
Of course, your MetroCard allows for free transfers between subway lines while you’re underground, but your fare is also good for one free transfer to a local bus. As long as it’s within two hours of swiping your card, you can transfer from subway to bus, bus to subway or bus to bus without paying an additional fee.
Enjoy the ride!
For schedules, directions, service advisories, and more subway info, visit MTA.org.
Do you have any tips to add to this NYC subway guide? Please feel free to add in the comments. 🙂
Also, a post about playing it safe in the New York subway, and funny (but practical) subway riding for dummies. And wow! The NYC subway has come a long way. Plus, have you taken the long-awaited Second Avenue line? You must!
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