How to ride the NYC Subway like a local – A useful guide for tourists

While we know the best way to see New York, (by bike of course!), when coming to New York you will eventually

The subway system belongs to New York, and New York belongs to the subway system, and with these helpful tips, you’ll master it in no time!

Download An App

To get you started, there are a few transit apps for NYC that will tell you which lines to take or plan out routes for you.  We find that Google Maps is also very useful for visitors and locals alike, with real-time updates and information.

Local & Express Trains

Local Trains make ALL stops listed and Express Trains SKIP many stops. So check on the map – you can see the according to letter of trains below the station to make out if it stops at a station or not.

Keep in mind it can change late at night. Express trains may go local and local trains can go express. Usually, it is communicated by wallpapers, by conductors or through signage on platforms.

Rush Hour

For the full New York Subway Experience, brace yourselves and enter the stations during Rush Hour. Have your metro card out before getting to the turnstile and learn to swipe your card the right way.

Swiping the metro card is a challenge. Even for real New Yorkers. It is about the exact right pace, not too fast and not too slow. A tiny screen at the turnstile will let you know the issue, such as: ‘please swipe again’, ‘see agent’, ‘insufficient fare’.

Fare

$2.75 per single ride (2019) if you buy a refillable subway card for $1 in the beginning. Otherwise, you would pay $3 for every single ride. You can always refill your card with time or money. You do have the possibility of a 7-day unlimited purchase for $32 per person.

Directions

Trains in Manhattan go either uptown or downtown; this refers to Manhattan’s grid system. Therefore generally, going north: direction is uptown. Going south: direction is downtown.

Some trains do not only go uptown or downtown but eventually from Manhattan into another borough. So the direction could also be uptown & Queens/ Bronx or downtown & Brooklyn.

Thinking this is too complicated? Make it a little more simple by staying above ground with a bike. 

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