Navigating New York City: Helpful Hints on Riding the NYC Subway

Do you find the task of riding the New York City subway to be a daunting one? When I first moved to Manhattan I felt the same way. Now after a few years, not only have I mastered it, I even feel comfortable giving others directions. Beyond knowing where you are going, there are some other things that are good to know when riding the rails.


Of course you need to know where the subway is before you can hop on. You can do this in a number of ways, the easiest being asking someone or reading a map. Once you are a the location you might notice there is more than one entrance. Many times you can use any of the entrances, especially at the most popular stops. You might notice though, at some entrances it says “Downtown only.” Well if you are going uptown you are going to have to look across the street for Uptown entrance. Other notes about the entrances: you can only enter some entrances if you already have a Metrocard or buy one from a machine and some entrances close during certain hours.


Does the subway still accept tokens? No they don’t. To ride, you must purchase a Metrocard. There are a variety of payment options available. There’s a one-time card for $2.00, daily passes for $7.00, weekly passes for $24.00, monthly passes for $76.00, and flat-fee cards for $10.00 or $20.00. When you buy the flat-fee cards you actually get an extra ride on the $10.00 card and two extra rides on the $20.00 card. The Metrocards are also good on the local buses. Don’t try to buy a card from a person in the booth, they will not sell you one, and in my experience, they will refuse to in a rude manner.


This is pretty easy and probably doesn’t need to be explained, yet whenever I go to a new city I notice their method is usually different. At the turnstile on your right there will be a place to slide your card. Once you do this, a screen will tell you to enter. In some stations there are card readers so you can check your balance if you think yours might have run out or expired.


Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because trains are the same color, they go the same places. While trains of the same color usually follow the same route in Manhattan, once they get out to the boroughs they can branch off. This doesn’t mean you are safe to get on any train if you aren’t leaving Manhattan. Make sure to pay attention to whether a train is a Local or Express train. If you accidentally get on an Express you might miss your stop. Be sure to read the signs above the tracks, and ask someone if you still aren’t sure. People are usually helpful about letting you know which train to take.


Imagine you are meeting someone on a specific block, say 14th Street and 8th Ave. You get off the A Train and exit the station. You find yourself at a corner on a busy block, how will you find your friend. A good trick is to talk beforehand about which street corner to meet on. You can do this by stating a direction such as the “northwest (NW) corner.” When you exit the station, look for the signs directing you to the NW corner of the intersection. If there aren’t such signs, don’t worry. You can easily figure out which way is NW by finding out where 15th Street is and walking towards it, and where 9th Avenue is and walking towards it. This will put you on the NW corner.

The subway doesn’t have to be a frightening experience. Once you get used to it, you’ll find it’s a great way to navigate New York City. It’s cheaper and often times even faster than taxis or buses.

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