Best Way to Get Around NYC: Your Must-Have Guide

Planning a trip to New York City? Move from one spot to another easily by using our guide to getting around the Big Apple!

Knowing how to get around the big and bustling New York City ahead of time is necessary, especially if you want to make the most out of your visit. The Big Apple is not a small city where you can hop on a bus or catch a cab, and that’s it. There’s a whole system to learn so you can save both time and cash.

We don’t want you to waste precious hours or spend extra money getting lost! So for a smoother and enjoyable trip, read our guide to navigating the complex, busy streets of New York City. Figuring out how to get around in New York just got easier with our ultimate guide!

How to Get Around NYC

Walking

When you think of New York City, towering skyscrapers and speeding taxis might come to mind. However, it’s important to know that NYC is among the world’s premier cities for pedestrians. In fact, it ranks as one of the top walkable cities globally!

Walking the city’s diverse streets provides an intimate, ground-level perspective of the city’s very heartbeat, from the rumble of the subway below to the chatter from nearby vending machines.

Related Post: 5 Boroughs of NYC: A Tourist’s In-Depth Guide 

For a digitally-assisted journey, apps like Google Maps are a lifesaver. Type your destination and what time you’d like to arrive at your destination, and voila! Weave your way through neighborhoods with ease. A friendly note: Always obey traffic signals and keep an eye on your surroundings. Even amidst the urban frenzy, remember that those red-hand signs aren’t just suggestions!

And if you’re keen on diving deep into the city’s stories, consider joining a walking tour. Starting your NYC adventure with one can be enlightening.

You’ll grasp the city’s layout and discover spots you might’ve missed. Plus, your expert guide isn’t just a fountain of knowledge—they’re often eager to share personal tips, from hidden gems to the best routes for your daily explorations.

Here are some of the best New York City walking tours to start your adventure:

Street View of Observation Deck sign at NBC Studios - NYC, New York, USABicycles and E-scooters

In the quest for how to get around NYC with a twist of adventure, bicycles and e-scooters emerge as a top choice. They’re eco-friendly and provide unmatched flexibility, allowing you to delve into the city’s numerous bike-friendly parks and pathways.

Thanks to the local government’s efforts (which haven’t gone unnoticed), strategic laws and ordinances have been put in place to make the city bike-friendly, supporting its people and visitors to cycle worry-free. Think dedicated bike lanes, clear signage, and specific traffic signals just for cyclists.

For newcomers, gearing up is crucial. Invest in safety gear, especially helmets. Adhere strictly to traffic laws, ensuring you’re not just safe, but also respectful of others on the road. But if you’ve arrived without wheels, don’t worry! NYC boasts abundant bike-sharing platforms like Citi Bike, alongside traditional bike rentals:

Remember that while many spots in the city cater to bike parking, carrying a sturdy bike lock is advisable for those unplanned stops.

Related Post: RiseNY – Discount Tickets and Reviews

For a structured experience, jump onto a bike tour! Like their walking counterparts, these guided excursions spotlight the city’s best, with guides offering a wealth of knowledge–insights you can leverage as you venture solo in the following days. Here are some of the best bike tours you can book ahead of your NYC trip:

Group of women on yellow bikes on the Central Park Bike Tour in NYC, New YorkThe New York Subway System

At the heart of NYC’s public transit system is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), boasting a sprawling subway system that intertwines beneath the city’s streets. Every day, millions of people—approximately 5.5 million on an average weekday—rely on the extensive system of subway lines, making it one of the busiest metro systems in the world. But what fuels its popularity?

Firstly, it’s the sheer breadth of coverage. The subway connects diverse neighborhoods, from the artsy enclaves of Brooklyn to the business hubs of Manhattan. This transport system is indispensable for residents who commute to work every day as well as for visitors who want to get from point A to point B with ease.

Related Post: Things to Do in NYC with Teens: 14 Exciting Activities to Try 

Secondly, the cost. Compared to taxis or car services, the subway is significantly more economical, especially for frequent commuters. Then there’s the speed. With dedicated tracks, the subway is designed to outpace road traffic, especially during rush hours.

But, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin. The subway can get jam-packed, especially during rush hours, and occasionally, unexpected delays can put a kink in your plans. That’s why it’s important to figure out other options!

Related Post: NY Subway: In-Depth Guide to Tips, Tricks, and Routes

Don’t forget to purchase a MetroCard, which is your ticket to hopping between subway stations. And, of course, familiarize yourself with the subway map, either a physical copy or via apps, to navigate the maze of routes.

street view of sidewalk entrance into subway station in NYC, New York, USA
photo credit: Edgar Moran via Unplash

Buses

New York City’s transportation prowess isn’t limited to underground rails. Above the ground, an expansive bus system is also a popular choice for resident commuters and visitors alike. These buses travel across boroughs and cater to routes that the subway does not directly reach, making them an indispensable part of NYC’s transit system.

If you’re a visitor, one key benefit of opting for the bus is the view. Unlike the subway trains, buses offer scenic views of the city’s iconic skyline, streets, and neighborhoods. It’s a picturesque journey where the commute itself becomes part of the experience!

Navigating the bus system is straightforward with a little prep. A MetroCard is required, offering both single ride and unlimited ride options. Familiarize yourself with bus routes before you board, and for an edge, use real-time tracking apps that pinpoint exact bus locations, so you’re never left guessing at the bus stop.

Aside from regular buses, there’s the Big Bus Tours New York. Think of it as the best way to get around NYC as a tourist. This hop-on, hop-off service operates on a predetermined loop, making it a breeze for visitors to explore key attractions at their own pace.

South Ferry 15 New York City Transit Bus surrounded by trees and a building - NYC, New York, USAFerries

Beyond the hustle and bustle of streets and subways, NYC’s waterways offer another dimension to transportation in NYC. The city’s ferry system connects Manhattan to surrounding boroughs and sails across the likes of the East River, presenting an entirely unique commuting experience.

Aside from getting to your destination, traveling via ferry becomes another highlight of your trip since you will get panoramic views of the city’s iconic skyline and landmarks in the comfort of spacious seating. Don’t be surprised if you come across commuters in business attire! Professionals, especially those residing in areas like Brooklyn or Staten Island, often take ferries to reach Manhattan’s business districts.

Tickets for the ferry can be purchased at kiosks located at ferry terminals or even through specific mobile apps. Typically, you can buy tickets in advance, sometimes up to a month or more, especially for popular routes or tourist-oriented rides. While there are single ride tickets available, many services offer round-trip and even monthly unlimited ride passes for frequent commuters.

Related Post: Circle Line Cruise Discount Code – Ultimate Savings Guide

And while on the topic of waterborne travel, NYC cruises deserve a mention! These voyages offer breathtaking views of famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Bridge:

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises - NYC, New York, USA
Jet off on a sightseeing cruise in NYC this summer

Taxis and Ride-Shares

The iconic yellow cab has been an integral part of NYC’s streetscape for decades. While they are still around, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft which operates 24 hours a day have emerged as strong contenders in the realm of getting around NYC. In addition, ride-sharing apps let you use a debit use or credit cards for contactless payment.

The cost difference between taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft in NYC can vary based on several factors. While prices surge in ride-sharing apps during high demand, taxis have regulated fares and do not have surge pricing, but they do have higher rates for late-night rides and rush hours.

For longer trips, particularly outside of Manhattan or to areas less frequented by ride-sharing drivers, taxis might be more cost-effective because ride-sharing prices can be elevated due to the distance and potential lack of return rides. But either way, Either way, the ride costs much more compared to if you would take a subway train or a bus.

Wide shot of a busy NYC street with lots of people and taxis in New York
photo credit: Fabien Bazanegue via Unsplash

Cars and Parking

You might be thinking of driving your own car or renting a vehicle for your trip to New York City. After all, one of the undeniable perks of driving is the sheer convenience.

You won’t have to wait for buses or worry about the unpredictability of taxis and ride-sharing. However, getting around New York City with a car comes with its own set of challenges. And many will agree that the cons outweigh the pros.

Traffic congestion can be a frequent adversary, especially during peak hours. Parking, another significant concern, isn’t just costly but is also regulated by perplexing alternate-side parking rules which can leave even seasoned drivers frustrated.

To navigate these challenges, we recommend using parking apps that help you find and reserve parking spots. If you’re only considering a car for a part of your stay, think about car rental alternatives.

Traditional car rentals, typically available at the airport, can be convenient but remember, they often place a substantial hold on your credit card as a security measure until you return the vehicle.

Wide shot of One World Observatory with Manhattan spreading out in the backgroundComplimentary Shuttles

Many hotels in New York City offer a complimentary shuttle service. These shuttles frequently offer free transfers to popular attractions, shopping districts, and even airports.

We recommend taking full advantage of these services. After all, they’re part of the benefits that come with your stay. Check out some of the best affordable hotels in NYC that offer complimentary shuttle service.

Plan Your New York City Vacation

Embarking on a New York City adventure requires planning if you want to make the most out of your time and money. While you might already have a preferred method of transportation, it’s important to have a backup plan. If the subway is your go-to, familiarize yourself with the parallel bus routes to ensure smooth sailing if Plan A hits a snag.

And remember, you can always kickstart your NYC experience with guided walking, bike, bus, or ferry tours. These not only offer invaluable insights but also provide a fantastic orientation of the city’s layout. There are dozens of New York City tours available on Tripster, whether you prefer to walk, bike, ride a bus, or cruise around.

And for an even more worry-free experience, take advantage of the NYC vacation package on Tripster. It allows you to bundle a hotel stay with tours, offering significant discounts and the convenience of booking your accommodation and excursions in one go. Navigate, explore, and get the most bang for your buck with a well-laid plan!

What Did We Miss? 

Do you have anything to add to our guide? Leave us a comment below!


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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...


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