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The Easy NYC Subway Travel Guide For Tourists: Travel Tips

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Author: Nicole Mungo

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Ever wanted to travel on the New York Subway? Ever been intimidated by it? Check out our guide to New York’s Subway on the YOTEL blog.

If you ask a first time visitor to New York City what they’re most apprehensive about, most people will mention riding the subway. It’s big and crowded, often chaotic, sometimes confusing… and if you’re not used to riding large metro systems, can be very overwhelming. But the subway is a fast and affordable way to get around the city, and if you know your stuff there’s no reason to worry.

Read our YOTEL guide to the NYC subway and you'll be travelling like a local in no time, or for an alternative method of travel check out our YOTEL bikes!


(Photo by Neal Cavanaugh)

NYC Subway: Tips and Important Information

First off, let’s cover the important stuff. The New York City Subway System is the largest in the world, with 468 train stations and 26 subway lines. The subway covers four of the five NYC boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, but not Staten Island. There are 700+ miles of tracks, and each weekday about 2.5 million people ride the subway.

One of the great things about the NYC subway – aside from how brilliantly bonkers some of the commuters are – is that unlike other metro systems, it never closes. New York is a city that never sleeps, after all, so neither can the subway system.New Yorkers never refer to the subway as the “metro”, “underground”, or – heaven forbid! – “the tube”. Most people just refer to it as the "trains."

Subway stations are usually found on street corners, with a large green light hanging over the staircase. If the light is red, it means you already need to have a MetroCard to enter, otherwise you can buy a MetroCard inside. MetroCards can be purchased from the mezzanine area –the entrance of the station that has a ticket booth and turnstiles. Make sure to check out the subway system map on the walls; there’s usually a neighbourhood map too, so have a look and get your bearings.

(Insider tip: You can get your own free subway map if you ask at the booth!)

So, now you’re in the subway and have a MetroCard. What next?? Next you need to figure out how to use your MetroCard. There’s one flat rate to ride the subway: $2.75 per ride. It doesn’t matter if you’re only travelling two stops or are heading to the end of the line – the fee is the same. A MetroCard allows you to make one free transfer within the first two hours of swiping your card. This means you can leave the station and transfer from different buses and subways without paying anything extra. Handy!


(Photo by Andreas Adelmann)

YOTEL NYC Subway Guide

New Yorkers have a (rather unfair) reputation for being rude, but don’t let those stereotypes fool you. Train etiquette is very important in NYC! Keep your bags (and your feet!) off the seats. No matter how far you’ve walked or how much your feet hurt, the subway gets very crowded, very quickly. No one wants to sit in a seat that’s just been vacated by someone else’s feet! If you don’t manage to get a seat, grab a pole when the train is moving or risk falling sheepishly into someone’s lap.

Before you hop on a train, take the chance to really familiarise yourself with the subway map. If you’re new to the subway, always have a map in your bag, or download one to your phone. Remember that trains are referred to by their names or numbers, never their colour. The only colours you should look out for are black and white, because these signify which trains are express and which are local. Express stops are indicated by a white circle or bar, local stops by a black circle or bar.

Remember, if you get lost, ask! Contrary to their sometimes-frosty reputation, New Yorkers are a friendly bunch, and they love giving visitors directions. You may find that you don’t even need to ask anyone… examining a subway map with a slightly furrowed brow will usually result in a local approaching you and offering help.

Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, YOTEL NYC is ideally situated for exploring the city via the subway system. Check out our prime location here.

Author: Nicole Mungo

Nicole Mungo contributes to YOTEL New York’s marketing team. She enjoys cooking, hiking, reading & a good glass of wine.

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