The Absolute Beginner's Guide to the New York Subway

By Minh T. Nguyen


Let's face it --the most convenient, cost-effective way to travel in New York City is by subway. For many first-time visitors, tourists, and even locals, however, the complexity of the system can be very intimidating and confusing.

Time and time again, I see tourists step on the wrong train, wonder why a train does not stop at their desired destination, or become stranded at some station with no clue where to go.

I don't blame them. The New York subway system is not the simplest in the world. What many native New Yorkers take for granted can be very confusing and unintuitive to outsiders.

Seeing so many visitors struggle with the system, I decided to write a guide to set them at ease. I make absolutely no assumptions about what you know about taking public transportation in New York and explain how to use it from top to bottom, sometimes in excruciating detail. I've added a lot of photos to help illustrate the subway system. My goal is to make an easy-to-read, step-by-step guide that allows you to overcome your fear and frustration with taking the trains and maximize your time and money while you are here.

I very much welcome your suggestions, feedback, and corrections. Please e-mail me if you have ideas on how to improve this guide.

Minh T. Nguyen
[email protected]
New York, October 2013

This guide was last updated in September 2016.

Next: the Basics