Getting into NYC from the Airports

Getting into Manhattan from the airports

There are three major airports that cover the greater New York metropolitan area:

Unfortunately, none of these three airports are conveniently located. It's always somewhat painful to get into Manhattan from these airports. The following sections outline the most popular ways of reaching Manhattan (also referred to just as "the city" by locals). All modes of transportation take at least 30 minutes. Note that I can’t really cover all possible alternatives (and there are many), and that depending on where exactly you want to end up, there might be some other train or bus service that will get you there faster.

If you have a lot of luggage, taking a cab or a rideshare is generally the most convenient way to get to Manhattan. You won’t have to take multiple trains, ride elevators, or climb stairs. However, cabs and rideshare can be very expensive and oftentimes take much longer than public transportation, especially during rush hour.

If you decide to take a cab or rideshare, be wary of people standing inside the baggage claim area who offer you transportation to the city. It's illegal and somewhat of a scam. Always go to the official taxi stands outside the baggage claim area or use your smartphone to hail a rideshare. The yellow cabs there aren't just famous, they're the real deal. As for tipping your cabbie, please note that the credit card machines in taxi cabs usually provide you with a default choice of a 20-25% tip. You can change this manually to a more standard tip of 15%-18%.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

JFK has one of the best train and railroad connections into the city. You have many options and the prices are fairly predictable and consistent.

Option 1: Taxi cab
Price: $52 + tip/fees; duration: ~1 hour

Taking a cab from JFK into Manhattan incurs a flat fee of $52 plus toll, tip and a possible $4.50 rush-hour fee (on weekdays between 4-8pm). Because of the flat fee, you do not have to negotiate with the cab driver (and the meter will display the $52 fee right from the beginning). The fee is the same regardless of how many people ride the cab (usually 4 up to 5 in a larger minivan). From the baggage claim area, walk outside towards the official taxi stand. There is only one, and it has a booth where people line up against. At the booth, you pay your fare and then enter the taxi. You can also ask for an accessible van, where you can enter the cab from the back with a ramp on a wheelchair. The ride might take you about 50-70 minutes (depending on traffic and destination).

Option 2: Ride share
Price: $80-$120; duration: ~1 hour

There are many rideshare companies that can legally pick up (and drop off) people at the airport terminals. The three big ones are Uber, Lyft and Revel and many others. The wait time can sometimes be long especially during rush arrival times, so it is suggested to start hailing a ride share as soon as you land.

Option 3: NYC Express Bus
Price: $19; duration: ~1 hour

As you exit the terminal, look for the NYC Express Bus (operated by Golden Touch). Those buses cost $19 from the airport and drop you off either at Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park or Port Authority Bus Terminal (all in Manhattan). You can bring your luggage onto these buses. Note that NYC Express Buses are not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible.

Option 4: AirTrain and subway
Price: $8.25 AirTrain + price of subway fare; duration: 1½ hour

Since it's likely that you'll be using the New York subway trains anyway, you might as well take this travel package. It's also one of the most cheapest way if you travel by yourself.

Unfortunately the subway system does not go directly to the airport. You have to take the AirTrain from the airport terminal to the Jamaica Station of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) first, from where you will be able to take the New York subway trains.

From the airport terminal, go towards baggage claim first and then follow the signs to the AirTrain shuttle:

The AirTrain is an elevated, fully automated train that connects the different terminals and parking garages. It looks like this:

The AirTrain has two final destinations (Howard Beach & Jamaica Station). Even though it's technically possible to get into Manhattan from either station, it's generally faster to take the route that goes through Jamaica Station. Look for the overhead monitors to wait for a train that is labeled "Jamaica Train":

You don't pay at the airport terminals to hop on the AirTrain (you'll pay later when you get off). Take the AirTrain to its very last stop at Jamaica Station (this ride alone might take up to 20 minutes).

As you exit the AirTrain at Jamaica Station, you will find turnstiles as well as MetroCard vending machines:

This is where you can tap your OMNY payment method against the turnstile to pay the $8.25 fee to exit the AirTrain system. Alternatively, you can also buy one of the old yellow MetroCards at a MetroCard Vending Machine here (Unlimited or Pay-per-ride) and then simply ensure that you have at least $8.25 on it to exit.

Note that there is also a 10-trip AirTrain card that you can buy for $25. This AirTrain card also looks like a regular MetroCard in the front, but has an AirTrain logo in the back. You can swipe that AirTrain card back-to-back if you travel with multiple people and use it for both exiting and entering the AirTran (for your return travel to the airport), but note that the card expires within 30 days of first usage. If you are going to use the AirTrain four or more times within 30 days, it is more economical to buy that card.

After you swipe the AirTrain/MetroCard to exit the AirTrain system through the automated turnstiles, follow the large signs towards the "Street & Subway". In particular follow the signs towards the E subway:

It is a bit of a 5-minute walk from Jamaica station all the way to the subway station entrance requiring walking down an escalator, walking a bit, and going down a second escalator. There are also elevators available. Eventually you will arrive at Sutphin Blvd/Archer Ave/JFK Airport subway station, which is served by the E, J, and Z trains.

At this point, you might be approached by strangers trying to sell you used MetroCards. Don’t buy their cards; buy them from the official machines if you haven't already purchased a card earlier.

From this station, take the next Manhattan-bound E train (final destination World Trade Center). The trip from here into Manhattan can take up to 45 minutes. 

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

Even though LaGuardia Airport is the closest airport to Manhattan, it does not offer any train or railroad connection to Manhattan. It does however has multiple other options to get to the city.

Option 1: Taxi cab
Price: $50–$80; duration: 30 minutes

Unlike the JFK airport, there is no flat fee to take a cab from LaGuardia. You are going to have to pay the metered fare, which can fluctuate a lot depending on the exact location of your destination and how bad traffic is, plus any tolls you might incur going through tunnels and bridges.

First follow the signs to "Ground Transportation". Then follow the signs to the designated taxi queue.

Option 2: Ride share
Price: $50-$80; duration: 30 minutes

There are now many rideshare companies that can legally pick up (and drop off) people at the airport terminals. This includes companies such as Uber, Lyft and Revel and many others. If you are already familiar with them, you can save some money by using them instead of a taxi cab, especially if you use the carpool option where you possibly share a ride with other strangers (which is safe; New Yorkers do this all the time). The wait time can sometimes be long especially during rush arrival times, so it is suggested to start hailing a ride share as soon as you land.

Follow the signs to "Ground Transportation" then follow the signs to "Car Services / App-Based Rides".

Option 3: Q70 LaGuardia Link bus
Price: Free; duration: 40 minutes

The Q70 LaGuardia Link bus is a free bus that takes you from the terminal to the nearest subway station (in Queens). The bus runs 24/7.

From baggage claim, you likely need to go down a level to the "buses and shuttles". As you exit through the doors, you will find multiple bus lines. Look for the bus that says "Q70" or "LaGuardia Link":

The bus takes about 20 minutes and won't make any other stop until it arrives at the 74th St/Broadway/Jackson Hts/Roosevelt Ave. subway station in Queens served by many different trains. It is here where you need to buy a MetroCard or pay with OMNY to use the subway. From here, take the next Manhattan-bound train (the E, F, or 7 train) which takes about another 20 minutes to reach Midtown Manhattan).

Option 4: M60 Select Bus Service
Price: Price of subway fare; duration: 40-60 minutes

If your final destination is Astoria in Queens, or in uptown Manhattan, you might consider taking the M60 Select Bus Service instead. This is a bus that leaves LaGuardia airport and heads west towards Astoria, Queens and then crosses a bridge into Manhattan where it goes on 125th St through Harlem towards Columbia University/Morningside Heights. The bus runs 24/7.

In order to take this bus go down one level to "Buses and Shuttles". Right before you leave the terminal, locate the MetroCard Vending Machine (inside the terminal) and buy a MetroCard here:

After you have purchased the MetroCard inside, you can then step out to find the M60 bus stop. Boarding the M60 bus is slightly different than what you might be accustomed to with other buses. The M60 is a so-called Select Bus Service (SBS). SBS buses serve popular bus routes; to save time, they have devised a separate payment process. So instead of swiping the MetroCard in the card reader next to the bus driver on typical buses, you would actually have to pay the fare before you even board the bus. First, look for a Select Service Bus fare payment machine near the bus stop (outside of the terminal, next to the bus stop). They look very much like a small MetroCard Vending Machine, but have a distinct "Push to Start" button in the middle:

Push the round metal button first and then insert your MetroCard on the right side as pictured below. The swipe will be free if you have an Unlimited Ride MetroCard, or it will deduct the typical single-ride price if you have a Pay-per-Ride MetroCard.

The machine will dispense a receipt (on the left side). Take the receipt and board the next M60 bus using any available door. You do not have to show the receipt to the bus driver. The receipt acts as a proof-of-payment and only needs to be shown when a fare inspector asks you for it.

The bus will make many stops, with the following stops giving you access to subway trains:

Note that the times above are very rough estimates as it depends on the traffic, which can be notoriously bad depending on time of day. As you transfer from the bus into a subway station, the swipe through the turnstile should be free as it counts as a free transfer from bus to subway.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

The Newark airport is the furthest airport from New York City. In fact, it's located in the neighboring state of New Jersey. However, it's close enough that many New York City–bound flights land here as well.

Option 1: Taxi cab
Price: $70–$120; duration: 50–70 minutes

Naturally, the cost of taking a cab from the Newark airport is expensive. There is a $10 taxi fuel charge, and the cab has to pass through a few toll booths, you'll end up spending upwards of $90. Traffic into New York through the tunnels can take a lot of time too, so it's not always the fastest way. If you want to take the cab, exit the terminal/baggage claim area, cross the street and look for the official taxi stand area:

There will be a taxi dispatcher inside a booth. Tell the dispatcher where you are going and they will assign you a numbered space. Go to that numbered space and wait for your taxi.

Option 2: Ride share
Price: $70-$120; duration: 50-70 minutes

There are now many rideshare companies that can legally pick up (and drop off) people at the airport terminals. This includes companies such as Uber, Lyft and Revel and many others. If you are already familiar with them, you can save some money by using them instead of a taxi cab, especially if you use the carpool option where you possibly share a ride with other strangers (which is safe; New Yorkers do this all the time). Just like with taxi cabs, the ride can take a lot of time depending on traffic, especially around the tunnel getting into Manhattan. If you want to take a ride share, exit the terminal/baggage claim area, cross the street and look for the "Passenger Pick Up" areas. These will be numbered, and your ride share app might tell you at which exact pick up areas you should stand:

Option 3: Newark Airport Express shuttle
Price: $21.20 for adults and $8 for children (0-16 years); duration: 50–70 minutes

The Newark Airport Express shuttle is a large coach bus that runs every 30-45 minutes and is operated by CoachUSA. First, follow the "Express Bus to NYC" or "Newark Airport Express" signs to the bus stop outside:

The bus does not run 24/7 so you have to look at the signs for updated travel information:

The bus itself looks like this:

You have to buy tickets using your mobile phone at and then show your QR code as you enter the bus. The bus trip itself takes about 50-70 minutes to reach Manhattan, but it really depends on traffic. It drops you off in Midtown Manhattan at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Bryant Park, or Grand Central Terminal. Note that if you take this bus from NYC to the airport, the pick up spot at Port Authority Bus Terminal is somewhat hidden inside the 41st Street tunnel:

When you take the bus from there, be wary of scammers who try to sell you tickets in person. Instead, buy them online at

Option 4: AirTrain and New Jersey Transit
Price: $15.25; duration: 40–60 minutes

The New Jersey Transit (often abbreviated "NJ Transit") is a commuter train serving the Newark airport. Because this train comes at set times and is not subject to car traffic, it is often the fastest way to get into New York City during the weekday. However, it runs infrequently at night or on weekends. I usually take the NJ Transit when I arrive during the weekday and the Newark Airport Express bus at night or on weekends.

In order to get to the NJ Transit stop, you first have to take the AirTrain (an elevated, fully automated train system that connects the different terminals):

First, follow the signs to the AirTrain:

The AirTrain entrance is easily recognizable inside the terminal:

You don't need to buy a ticket at the AirTrain entrance here (you'll pay later when you exit). Take the escalator to the AirTrain platform and look for the next AirTrain that goes towards "RAILink":

Take the AirTrain to its very last stop (labeled "Newark Liberty Airport Station" or "Rail Link"). Exit there, take the escalator up and you will find the NJ Transit ticket machines:

At this machine, buy a ticket to "NY Penn Station". This should cost $15.25. The ticket has a QR code on it and you have to place the QR code against a scanner to be able to go through the turnstiles. Hold on to the ticket though, as you'll need it later on the actual NJ Transit train.

Follow the signs to Track 1, A (New York and Newark). You can then wait at the platform for the next train into New York ("New York-SEC"):

Once you are on the NJ Transit, a conductor will ask to see your NJ Transit ticket again (he or she will also probably keep the ticket). You won’t need the ticket to exit.

The NJ Transit makes a few stops before it reaches New York. One of the stops might be Newark Penn Station, which is still located in the state of New Jersey. Do not confuse this Newark Penn Station with New York Penn Station (they sound similar). New York Penn Station is the final and only stop in New York for this train.

As you exit Penn Station in New York, try to remember where the NJ Transit area is. Penn Station is a highly confusing and chaotic station serving multiple train systems. You’ll want to remember where the NJ Transit area is in case you want to take it back to the airport after your trip. If you do use the NJ Transit to get back to the airport, you will need to use your NJ Transit ticket twice: first to show it to the conductor on the train, and second to enter the Newark AirTrain system to get to the airport terminals.

Next: Afterword