MTA—Subways and Buses
If you can’t walk to your destination, mass transit is the next-best way to get around. The City’s rail and bus system is run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and known as MTA New York City Transit. It’s inexpensive, environmentally friendly and a great way to see sights throughout the five boroughs—and it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The system is accessible to passengers with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities. For more information, consult the MTA’s accessibility guide and its list of accessible subway stations. Consult as well our article on accessible transportation in NYC.
Purchasing a MetroCard is your first step to getting around on subways and buses; you must put a minimum value of $5.50 on the card, not including the card fee ($1), when initially buying it. You can do so at subway stations, from either automated machines (large machines accept cash, ATM bank cards and regular credit cards; the small machines do not accept cash) or booth attendants (cash only). If you already have a card, keep it and refill it to avoid paying a new card fee.
When you use a pay-per-ride MetroCard, a single subway or local bus ride costs $2.75. An Express Bus ride costs $6.50. Riders can buy a pay-per-ride card, an unlimited MetroCard or a SingleRide card—the latter of these costs $3 (cash only), is sold only at vending machines and must be used for a subway or bus ride (it allows for a bus-to-bus transfer but not a transfer between subway and bus) within two hours of purchase. An unlimited MetroCard allows users to ride as often as they like within a fixed time period: options include cards that last for seven days ($32) or 30 days ($121). The MTA offers a 50 percent discount for seniors (65 or older) and disabled riders (you must apply for and be approved to receive this Reduced-Fare MetroCard, which features your name and photograph), as well as a “bonus” credit of 5 percent for purchases of $5.50 or more on pay-per-ride cards. Also, up to three children with a maximum height of 44 inches each can get on subways and buses for free when they are traveling with a fare-paying adult; children under 2 can ride express buses for free if they sit in the lap of an accompanying adult. For the most up-to-date information on MetroCard prices, visit mta.info.
The easiest and quickest way to travel around NYC is by the subway. Riding the subway is also a fantastic way to feel like a local during your stay in New York.
• Subway trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• For $2.75 (the cost of a single ride when using a pay-per-ride MetroCard), you can use the system citywide and transfer to other subway lines as many times as you need, as long as you don’t exit through a turnstile.
• You can transfer from subway to local bus or vice versa within two hours of using your pay-per-ride MetroCard (all transfers are free with an Unlimited Ride MetroCard, but it cannot be used at the same subway station or on the same bus route for at least 18 minutes, nor can it be used on an express bus).
• Subway stations on the same line are generally about 8 to 10 blocks apart on local lines (the stops on express trains are usually farther apart).
• The subway does not travel to Staten Island. To get there, board the free Staten Island Ferry or take a bus.
You can get a free subway map from booth attendants or at the Official NYC Information Center, or download one from our Maps & Guides section. You can also use the MTA’s Trip Planner for a customized route (but it’s still a good idea to carry a subway map when you’re out and about). The Trip Planner offers routes for MTA bus lines as well. Sometimes subway routes change or trains temporarily stop running—especially on weekends and late nights during weekdays—so be sure to check for up-to-date MTA service information at mta.info or by calling 511 or 718-330-1234.
Public buses are a scenic way to see the City and reach destinations not convenient to a subway stop. It’s also worth noting that mass transit is central to New York City’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and a growing number of NYC’s buses are hybrid-electric and electric models. The MTA even announced in 2018 plans to have an all-electric bus fleet by 2040.
• All city buses accept the MetroCard and exact coin change (no pennies or paper money).
• Check the route sign on the front of the bus before boarding, and make sure you know if it’s making all stops or only “limited” stops (the limited buses don’t make all stops along the route).
• Enter and pay at the front of the bus. The exception to this is on SBS (Select Bus Service) routes, where payment kiosks are on the sidewalk next to the bus stop.
• A single fare will take you any distance until the end of the route (and you can transfer for free from one local bus to another within two hours of paying your initial fare); you may be able to remain aboard, however, if the driver is beginning the route again and isn’t scheduled to return to the bus depot.
• Many buses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but be sure to check whether your route offers overnight service. A schedule and route map posted at the bus stop indicate when the bus should arrive and where it will go.
• Buses run about every five to 15 minutes, or at longer intervals, depending on the time of day.
• Locate your bus stop’s six-digit stop code on the sign posted and text that plus the route number to 511123—or, if you have a smartphone, you can scan the QR code that’s also posted or visit the MTA Bus Time page—to receive information about when the next bus is expected to arrive.
• Buses generally stop every other block on avenue routes and every block on cross-street routes. Late at night and early morning, from 10pm to 5am, drivers for local and express buses will stop wherever you ask them to—as long as they can stop safely (and, if it’s an express bus, only when they are dropping off passengers).
• MTA service information is available at mta.info or by calling 718-330-1234.
The MTA’s Trip Planner is the most reliable source for up-to-date information about routes and fares.
The Roosevelt Island Tram
With the swipe of a MetroCard, the Roosevelt Island Tram gives you an aerial view of Midtown East along its path from East 60th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. The tram got its start in 1976. It provides direct service seven days a week (Sun.–Thurs., 6am–2am; Fri.–Sat., 6am–3:30am) for more than 2 million riders annually, with free transfers available to and from MTA subways and buses. Up to three children with a maximum height of 44 inches each can ride the tram for free when they are traveling with a fare-paying adult. For more information, visit rioc.ny.gov.
The City’s fleet of yellow taxicabs and green Boro Taxis are licensed and regulated by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission. Grabbing a cab can be ideal when tired feet, heavy luggage or shopping bags weigh you down.
• Taxis are available 24 hours a day.
• Hail taxis whose numbers are illuminated on top—they’re on duty.
• Board and exit the cab curbside.
• Hotel doormen can hail a cab for you; a $1 tip is customary for this service.
• Minimum metered fare is $2.50, which increases 50 cents every fifth of a mile or every minute, depending on how fast you’re traveling.
• There is also an MTA state surcharge of 50 cents per ride and a 30-cent improvement surcharge.
• An additional $1 surcharge is added to the meter Monday through Friday, 4–8pm (excluding holidays), and a 50-cent surcharge is added daily at night and early morning, 8pm–6am.
• All taxis accept cash and credit, debit and prepaid cards.
• Tip 15–20 percent at the end of a trip; bridge and tunnel tolls are extra and added to the metered fare.
• Yellow taxicabs pick up street-hailing passengers anywhere in NYC. Green taxis provide street hail service and prearranged service in northern Manhattan (above E. 96th St. and W. 110th St.) and in the other boroughs. Visit the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) website for more information.
• Dial 311 in NYC to inquire about lost items or other concerns; visit the TLC website for more info and the organization’s fare information page for additional fare details as well as specifics regarding different destinations.
• Drivers are required to take passengers to any destination in New York City. It is against the law for drivers to refuse a person based on race, disability or destination within the five boroughs. If you believe you have been subject to discrimination, file a complaint by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov/311.
In addition to cabs, there are numerous local car services, as well as popular app-based options like Uber and Lyft, to get you from place to place. For airport transport, choices include Kidmoto, which guarantees car seats for those with kids.
If you’re planning to drive around the City, use Google Maps to help you navigate New York City roads; there are also apps like Waze to help you get around. Make sure you know where to park. You may want to use an app like SpotHero to compare parking rates and locations and make reservations. If you need to rent a car (note that all the major car rental companies have locations at the airports and elsewhere within the City), it may be worth considering Zipcar and Enterprise, which offer car-share programs that allow members to book vehicles for as little as an hour and as long as a week (for Enterprise) or 14 days (for Zipcar), 24 hours a day. With use of either program, the City offers designated parking spaces—a pilot program running through mid-2020.
Walking and public transit are excellent ways to get around New York, but you can also travel the City by bike, pedicab, ferry or even helicopter if you so desire. Take a different route, and you just might see the City from a whole new angle.
NYC by Bike
Biking the City is good for the environment and your body, and can often be faster and cheaper than fuel-powered transportation. Cycling hot spots like Central, Riverside and Prospect Parks are great options for hitting the City on two wheels, as are bike paths along the Hudson and East Rivers and on many bridges—but just about all of NYC is bikeable. The NYC Department of Transportation publishes a downloadable bike map and a guide to biking in the City, and Transportation Alternatives provides additional resources for bicyclists.
Citi Bike is New York City’s bike-sharing system, and it has gained a quick adoption since its inception in May 2013. There are about 10,000 bikes at around 600 stations, available 24/7 every day of the year. Unlock a bike at any station, ride wherever you want and check in the bike at any other station. Daily, three-day and annual passes are available.
Plenty of operations rent bikes by the hour, two hours, half-day and full day, with many such companies located near the major biking destinations mentioned above. Some, like Bike and Roll New York and Blazing Saddles, also offer guided tours or suggested itineraries for independent exploration.
If you want someone else to do the pedaling for you, hop in a pedicab (sometimes called a “bike taxi” or “bicycle rickshaw”). You won’t have to look too hard in the busier parts of Manhattan—the drivers aren’t shy about offering their services.
NYC by Ferry
As a waterfront city, New York is home to an extensive ferry system that can get you uptown or downtown in Manhattan and across the rivers to Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey.
The Staten Island Ferry, operated by the City since 1905, is a staple of many morning and evening commutes—and taking a ride on it is a must-do on any sightseeing itinerary. In use since 1905, the route between Staten Island and Manhattan’s Whitehall Ferry Terminal is a glorious 5-mile, 25-minute mini-cruise with great views of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan—and it’s free.
NYC Ferry is an extensive waterway transportation network, with East River docks at 34th Street and Wall Street, multiple stops in Brooklyn and Queens as well as Roosevelt Island, Governors Island and Rockaway Beach. NYC Ferry is hoping to launch two additional ferry routes—one that stops in the Soundview section of the Bronx and in two parts of the Upper East Side and another with stops at Stuyvesant Town and Corlears Hook—by the summer of 2018. You can take a boat ride for the cost of a subway ride (and there is a 50 percent discount for senior citizens and those with disabilities)—and children under 44" ride for free. For the route map and schedule, visit the NYC Ferry website.
NY Waterway operates four commuter ferry routes between points in Manhattan (along the Hudson River at West 39th Street and at World Financial Center and Pier 11, near Wall Street) and various points in New Jersey, and various harbor and sightseeing cruises. Free shuttle buses in Midtown and downtown Manhattan and in New Jersey transport riders to and from ferry terminals.
NYC by Helicopter
Seeing New York by air is an unforgettable experience, and the City offers helicopter tours for the adventurous and just plain curious. Here are some choices:
Liberty Helicopters (800-542-9933) runs several tours of the City and even special private flights for proposals and marriage ceremonies; Helicopter Flight Services, Inc. (212-355-0801), offers a few ways of seeing NYC from above, including The Deluxe Tour (one of the longest around, clocking in at 25 to 30 minutes of flight time); and New York Helicopter Charter, Inc. (212-361-6060), allows you to choose from three options: the Liberty Tour, the Central Park Tour and the Grand Tour, which combines the first two tours and also flies over other essential NYC attractions.
NYC Cruise Information
New York City is one of America’s top cruise ports. Passengers from New York City can cruise to the Caribbean year-round and may also cruise to the Northeast, Canada, Bermuda, England and many other destinations.
Recent infrastructure improvements ensure smooth sailing for the cruise passengers who pass through New York City. In Manhattan, the renovated Manhattan Cruise Terminal welcomes some of the world’s most prestigious ships, while the state-of-the-art Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook is the port for Cunard and Princess Cruise ships, including the luxurious Queen Mary 2 and the Regal Princess. Below is a listing of information for each terminal.
Piers 88 and 90
711 Twelfth Ave. (at W. 55th St.)
New York, NY 10019
Pier 12, Building 112 (at Clinton Wharf)
72 Bowne St. (at Ferris St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Traveling with Pets
If you’re bringing a dog or cat along on your NYC adventure, you’ll have no trouble getting around—but it’s important to know the rules.
Only pets enclosed in containers or carriers are allowed on MTA buses, subways and trains, as well as in taxis. Properly harnessed service animals are also permitted on mass transit. Taxi drivers may, at their discretion, pick up passengers who have dogs without carry cases. The City is also home to several pet-taxi companies that can help transport pets, especially those that are not allowed on ordinary public transit.
Pet Chauffeur: 212-696-9744
K9 Cars: 718-683-2152
For more information, see our detailed guide on visiting NYC with your four-legged friend.