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Getting Around New York City

The best way to get around New York City is by foot as traffic is fairly heavy around-the-clock. That said, the subway system is a convenient option, too, and it extends throughout Manhattan and into the other New York boroughs. Buses are another affordable way to get around, but keep in mind they traverse streets clogged with weaving cars and cabs. Picking up a car isn't the best mode of transportation, as traffic is heavy. To get from the two main airports — LaGuardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International (JFK) — into the city, we suggest taking a taxi. Although public transportation is available, the buses are usually more of a hassle than a help since they involve multiple transfers and are liable to gridlock.  

Many East Coast travelers tend to arrive to New York City on one of the cheap bus services like BoltBus or Megabus. Amtrak is another popular way of getting into the city and trains roll into Penn Station daily.

On Foot

Rush hour is so intense in Manhattan that walking is often the fastest way to get around. Plus, because most of the borough is mapped out on an easily navigable grid, you should be able to get around without a hitch. Make sure to buy a good street map. The other boroughs are much less crowded and much more spread out, making taxis or the subway a better option. When touring around at night in unfamiliar areas, you might want to play it safe and hail a taxi rather than walk.

Subway

New Yorkers and visitors alike descend below the ground to take the subway. Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the subway is an inexpensive ($2.50 base fare per ride) and efficient way to get around. You can purchase a MetroCard at any station (many machines accept credit cards), but a word of caution: If your card doesn't seem to work the first time you swipe it, do not move to another turnstile. This will null and void your card or charge it again. Instead, continue swiping at the original turnstile. If you're planning a longer visit, it might be worth getting a 7-Day pass, which offers unlimited rides for seven days from the first day of use and costs $30.

Understanding the subway is relatively easy. Refer to the various lines by the letter or number, but not the color (trains with the same color have very different routes). Look for the station's helpful maps, and keep in mind that most trains are marked as going "Uptown" or "Downtown." Also be sure that you're not on an express train, since it can be a hassle if it zooms right past your stop.

Bus

The bus, a flat $2.50 per ride, appeals to visitors who want an aboveground view of New York City. Using a MetroCard (available at subway stations) is the way to go since bus drivers won't make change and don't accept dollar bills. What's great about using the MetroCard aboard the MTA buses is if you need to transfer to another bus or the Subway, you can ride for free (as long as your transfer is within a two-hour span of time). What's not so great about the buses is that they're prone to traffic jams.

Taxi

Manhattan's streets are flooded with yellow taxicabs, and these can be hailed right off the curb. Once you jump in, tell the driver where you want to go by referencing the cross streets near your destination. For instance, if you were traveling to Lincoln Center, you'd say Broadway and West 65th. The meter starts at $2.50 and goes up from there based on miles traveled and/or time spent. You should usually tip the driver somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

If you're headed to one of the outer boroughs, make sure that you know where you're going. Some cabbies may claim that they don't know how to get to certain destinations in Brooklyn or Queens, etc., simply because they don't want to drive there. But they are required by law to take you where you want to go (within the five boroughs and a few outer counties). If they refuse, ask for their name and medallion number and you can report them to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Car

Don't even think about driving here. Not only will you encounter appalling traffic, you'll have to deal with expensive parking (if you can even find a place!) and out-of-the-way gas stations. Take a cue from New Yorkers themselves: They don't do it, and if they don't do it, you shouldn't either. Still, if you must, you can rent cars at LGA or JFK airports.

Next Steps: New York City

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