Worried about finding your way in New York? With roads, sidewalks, and subways your worries should be put to rest. Yes, traffic and parking can be a challenge, but have no fear, New York City has one of the most extensive mass transit systems in the world—making getting around getting around New York City as easy as owning a Metrocard.
Public Transportation: The best way to get around New York is undoubtedly public transport. NYC’s mass transit consists of the subway and buses that cover all five boroughs. It is an inexpensive means of travel with a ride costing $2.75. You can buy a Metrocard at almost any subway station, which can be used for both trains and buses. Metrocards can be refilled and can also be purchased in the form of weekly or monthly unlimited rides.
For newcomers, this system can, at first, feel overwhelmingly complicated, but it is easily mastered. Keeping a map on your person to look over is always handy. It’s important to remember that each subway line has a “local” and an “express” train. Generally, the local trains stop more frequently than the express trains, which only stop at the most popular destinations. Before jumping on the subway, make sure your train is stopping at your intended destination. Also, pay attention to notices posted in the subway stations or online for subway cancellations and changes—they are not often broadcasted and you can find yourself waiting forever for a train that isn’t coming.
Buses usually take longer than the subway, but cover the last mile where subways sometimes don’t reach. Crosstown buses are particularly useful for travelling East-West (or the reverse) in Manhattan. Buses also offer a more scenic option of travel for those looking to avoid the underground subways.
For planning your trip, there are a number of online tools such as Google Maps or MTA Apps on the go. They will consider the fastest route given time of day, subway/bus schedules and even the number calories burned and carbon dioxide saved. They will not however account for safety or the weather. So use your judgment!
Taxis: or should I say, “TAXI!” While the infamous “Taxi!” shout is commonly seen in movies, hailing a cab in New York is really not as dramatic as they make it seem. In reality, a raised hand and a look of impatience will do the trick. Only flag down a cab whose rooftop light is illuminated—if it’s not illuminated it already has people in it and if it’s only lit on the edges, the cab is off duty. Only at cab stands around big public arenas like Madison Square Garden will the cabs come right to you, but you do have to wait in line.
Using cabs to go everywhere (a common trap for newcomers) will put a hole in your wallet, but for those days when you’re rushing to a meeting, avoiding bad weather, or coming home from a late night out, cabs are the best solution. Cabs are everywhere in New York, easy enough to find, and moderately priced.
Always give yourself enough time when taking cabs—traffic at rush hour can be brutal. Also, try to have an idea of where you are going and be alert. Once in a while, a cabbie might try to take advantage of an ignorant passenger—taking complicated routes to rack up a higher tab.
If you have Uber, a lot of the messy side of a cab ride is eliminated, but you will need to set up the ride in advance through the app. Uber drivers in NYC are extremely plentiful and pose a real threat to the viability of the taxi industry in general, but if you’re looking for safety, low-price, and convenience there’s nothing better.
Walking: For short distances or long distances in nice weather, it’s easiest to get around just using your two feet. Not only is this good for the environment and for your health, it gives you a chance to really enjoy New York’s hidden gems—the architecture, the shops, the cafes, and the people. Walks in Central Park, down Madison and 5th Avenues, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and all around Soho and the West Village will give you those postcard NYC views that a subway just can’t compete with.
Biking: Like walking, biking is a healthy and green alternative for quick commutes in the city. Biking can be dangerous on busy city streets, but many areas now have designated bike lanes. For those looking to cycle recreationally, New York also has plenty of bike paths. If you do not want to investment in a bike, try the Citi Bike sharing scheme. Bike Safety is especially important in NYC—so wear your helmet, know the rules of the road, and keep your bike locked or indoors to avoid theft.
Driving: If you’re living in or around Manhattan, owning a car can be more of hassle than an advantage. Most apartments do not come with a parking space, and full time garages are costly and inconvenient. Not to mention, driving in New York City can be an absolute nightmare, especially for people unfamiliar with the area. However, if you decide to live on Long Island or Westchester, commuting into the city by car is doable but not recommended.
What about those times when you just need to get out of the city for the weekend or need to move furniture to a new apartment? The occasional car requirement can be met by a number of car rentals in the city. Hertz alone has 25 outlets in Manhattan. If you know that you will need a car in the city from time to time, consider becoming a Zipcar member. You can reserve and use a Zipcar on an hourly or daily basis once you’ve paid an application fee and a monthly/annual commitment. But if you are trying to leave the city for a brief trip, your best bet is to take a train or bus from Grand Central, Penn Station, or Port Authority Bus Terminal.