With a little under 100 miles between the two cities, traveling between New York and Philadelphia is fast and easy and it's not uncommon for Philadelphians with full-time jobs in New York to commute every day. Whether you’re heading to New York to see a show, hang out for the night or weekend, or commuting back and forth for work, you should know all your options for getting there so you can pick the best mode of transport for your budget and timeframe.
The most luxurious and fastest way to go is the Amtrak train with trips that take from an hour to an hour and a half. Prices are much higher at peak times, so only the expendable income and business accounts will travel by train on a regular basis. However, if you have a flexible schedule and can find a ticket on the lower end of the price range, you can enjoy the smooth comfort and speed of train travel, along with bathrooms and a cafe cart on board.
If you prefer to travel by rail but can’t afford Amtrak, you can take a local SEPTA train to Trenton and connect there with the NJ Transit light rail. SEPTA departs from all the major downtown stops in Philadelphia, including 30th Street, Suburban Station, and Market East. Once in Trenton, you’ll have to wait about 20 minutes and transfer onto NJ Transit’s light rail to Penn Station in New York. The total travel time is about 2.5 hours and the trip costs around $20 each way depending on the time of day.
This costs a bit more than the bus, but is far less expensive than Amtrak. You still get the advantages of being on the rails (no traffic and no bumps), but with more flexibility in departure stations and times than Amtrak.
If staying on a budget is your first priority, then the bus is the way to go. You can get to New York for as little as $20 round-trip in around two hours depending on traffic. The cheapest buses are what many call “the Chinatown buses.” Originally used primarily by Chinese food purveyors buying products in New York to sell in Philadelphia, today it is used by commuters, students, and anyone on a budget. Service is from Chinatown in Philadelphia to Chinatown in New York. The buses are run by a variety of different companies.
Another option is the BOLT Bus, which departs from outside of Amtrak’s 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and drops off in mid-town Manhattan. Tickets start at $10 each way and go up depending on the time of day. The buses are generally a bit nicer than the Chinatown buses. However buses often sell out, so be sure to book a few days in advance. Depending on where you are traveling from in Philadelphia and to in New York, this can be a very good option.
In an effort to compete with low fares of BOLT and Chinatown buses, Greyhound offers $10 web fares, which is a deal compared to the standard $19 fare. This bus drops off in Port Authority and Penn Station.
Of course, there is driving, but unless you’re staying in one of New York's boroughs or suburbs, finding a place to park in Manhattan is a nightmare. In addition, driving amid the speeding cabs is only for the brave and experienced driver.