New York City Subways 101

Your Ultimate New York City Subway Guide

New York City subway guide
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Newcomers to New York City (and, admittedly, even those of who have been here for a while) can sometimes feel a bit intimidated by our famous subway system. But not to worry: Happily, the New York City subway looks nothing like what you’ve seen in movies from the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the subway is clean (mostly), safe (usually), and the fastest way to get around Manhattan (almost always). Read on for everything you need to know to successfully navigate the New York City subway system.

Planning Your Trip on the NYC Subway

Take a few minutes to plan your trip before you set out, by taking a look at the latest MTA subway map online. You can also visit the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA's) TripPlanner site, or try ​Citymapper. Simply enter your current location and your destination details and find the easiest route via public transportation. You can select options like which modes of transit (subway, bus, walking) and whether you want the fastest route or the one with the fewest transfers or least walking.

If you don’t have a chance to plan and have to improvise, have no fear. There are subway maps in every subway station. You’ll find maps near the ticket booth and often on the platforms, as well. If there’s an actual human in the ticket booth (not always the case now that automated MetroCard machines have replaced people in many stations), he or she can also provide directions.

During severe weather or other emergencies, check the latest MTA service advisories for any changes in service. You can also ​sign up to get email or text message alerts whenever there is a service change on your regular subway line.

Paying Your NYC Subway Fare

You can buy MetroCards at convenient machines in every subway station, at station attendant booths, and at many neighborhood merchant locations.

Subway fare will cost you $2.75 per ride, though there are discounted fare options available. If you put $5.50 or more on your MetroCard, you’ll receive an 11% bonus. For example, if you purchase a $20 card, you’ll get a $2.20 bonus. You can also buy Unlimited Ride MetroCards if you’ll be traveling frequently by train and/or local bus – 7-day cards are $31, and 30-day cards are $116.50. (Find out what to do if your MetroCard doesn’t work or is lost or stolen.)

Up to three children under 44 inches tall ride for free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. Seniors and people with disabilities may be eligible to travel for a reduced fare.

NYC Subway Safety

The New York City subway system is pretty safe as long as you take logical precautions. Take special care when traveling late at night (especially since you may be waiting for trains for long periods on deserted platforms). If possible, travel with a companion if it’s late, and ride in a populated car or in the first car (where the train operator sits) or in the middle car (where the conductor sits). Use common sense – don’t run on the stairs or escalators and keep your bag closed and your valuables tucked away.

NYC Subway Etiquette

Etiquette is very important when so many people are crammed into such small spaces.

First of all, when preparing to board the subway, let people off of the train before shoving your way inside. Take only one seat when it’s crowded – don’t put your feet up, put your bag on a seat, or otherwise sprawl all over the car. Be gallant and give up your seat if you see a pregnant, elderly, or handicapped person standing. Most importantly, keep your hands (and the rest of your body parts) to yourself.

Essential New York City Subway Links