city during day

8 Ways To Move Around in New York City

How to get around New York City? What is the cheapest option? What is the most convenient option? All these questions answered in this article.

Arriving to New York City can feel very overwhelming to say the least, and you might feel lost if you think about how big this city is.

yellow taxi parked beside curb
Photo by Scott Gummerson on Unsplash

As absurd as it might sound, you will quickly learn how to orient yourself in New York City, and this is because of the canonic layout that this metropolis has.

Before you start considering which is the best mean of transport to get from A to B in New York City, It is extremely important to understand and familiarise yourself with the actual layout of the city.

Manhattan is essentially a big rectangle internally divided by a grid system where the horizontal roads are called “Streets” and the vertical roads are called “Avenues”, and they have a numerical order. The rectangle made with the intersecting avenues and streets is called “Block”. The 5th Avenue traces a middle line to divide the eastern part of the city from the western part of the city.

The road that cuts Manhattan diagonally is called “Broadway”.

It sounds crazy, but it is very unlikely to get lost in New York City for many reasons: as stated before, you can either be on a street or an avenue and they have numerical orders. So, if you are on the W 47th street and want to reach another a street which has a greater number than the street you are in now all you need to do is to walk northbound along an avenue. Likewise, if you want to reach a street which has a lesser number than 47, you just need to walk southbound along an avenue. Or if you want to reach an avenue with a number which greater than the one you are in, you need to walk eastbound, and with a lesser number you would need to walk westbound. Also, the big, unique skyscrapers will always give you a reference point.

Now that we know how the layout of the city is and how to properly orient ourselves, let’s discuss what transports you could use to get from A to B in Manhattan.

Walking

Manhattanhenge on Times Square
Photo by Luca Bravo / Unsplash – Walk around New York City

Let’s start with the less obvious one, and at the same time more common means of transport: your legs! I know it sounds absurd, and the first word in the “Big Apple” should give us a hint that New York City is not not a tiny village. But trust me, it is walkable. Pretty much all the major attractions are close to each other. So, if you are planning to organize your tour splitting uptown, midtown, downtown in different days… let me tell you, it is absolutely and with no doubt doable.

Walking is a very valuable, cheap, and easy way to get around New York City.

Subway

Time is an illusion
Photo by Joshua Newton / Unsplash – Subway

One of the best ways, if not the best way, to get from A to B in New York City is with the Subway. It is cheap, fast, reliable, and efficient. At the time of writing this article (2020), the MetroCard can be used on all MTA buses and subways in the five boroughs, except for express and private buses. You can get free access to the tramway that connects Manhattan to New Jersey.

You can purchase your MetroCard at any subway station. You can either top-up your MetroCard with a set budget (if you know approximately how many rides you will need), or you can purchase an unlimited ride subscription that comes with different plans depending on the length of your stay.

The MetroCard can be purchased at the MetroCard vending machines or at a Station Booth and it can be used for the NYC Transit subways, local buses, select buses, and express buses as well as Staten Island Railway

The card comes with a $1.00 fee for every new card and a standard single ride will cost $2.75 if you decide to for the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard and top up the card with a minimum of $5.50 to a maximum of $80. The ride comes with automatic free transfers, within two hours, between the allowed means of transport that accept the MetroCard. If you decide to buy only a single ride it will cost $3.00.

Unlimited Ride MetroCard

Fixed price and unlimited rides – Bargain. Choose from a 7-Day, 30-Day, or 7-Day Express Bus Plus card. If you decide to go for the 7-Day and 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards, be aware that you cannot use it for PATH, AirTrain, and Express buses.

7-Day Unlimited MetroCard

Cost: $33

30-Day Unlimited MetroCard

Cost: $127

This plan comes with a protection against theft and loss when purchased at a vending machines with a credit or debit/ATM card.

If you don’t live in the USA and you are asked to enter the ZIP code when you purchase your MetroCard, enter 99999

Bus

Photo by Tomas Eidsvold / Unsplash

Taking the bus is a valid alternative to the subway if you want to see more of the city.

Just bear in mind that traffic in New York City is horrible and could take you triple the time compared to the subway.

For pricing and fare see above.

Taxi

Photo by Courtney Cook / Unsplash

This is definitely an experience to do if you are traveling to New York City for the first time, but I wouldn’t recommend taking the “yellow cab” as your main transport to get around the city for many factors: it can be expensive, and subject to the hectic traffic.

Uber and similar

The ride-sharing wars! Uber and Lyft conceptual road concept using toy cars.
Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash – Uber / Lyft

Uber is a big thing in the United States. It is not necessarily cheaper than a normal taxi, but it comes with the convenience of booking it from an app and also it minimises payment hustle as the ride fare will be automatically deducted from the credit/debit card you have registered on the app once your ride is over. An alternative options to Uber is its competitor Lyft.

This is particularly useful if it is late at night and you don’t feel like taking a public transport like subway/bus or don’t feel safe walking.

Bike

Photo by Shengpengpeng Cai / Unsplash – Bike Ride in NYC

New York City is full of cycle paths, encouraging you to use a bike to get around the city. However, as biker friendly as it can be, caution and prudence are a must. The traffic can be extremely dangerous, people (including elderly and children) can be suddenly pop along your way and it might be difficult to cycle with a constant speed enjoying the cityscape and the skyline without constantly stopping and being mindful or traffic and people. This is very annoying because sometimes the best instagrammable spots are in the way of cycle paths.

Also, as appealing as it can sound, try not to cycle over the Brooklyn Bridge if you are going there for the first time or if you want to enjoy the skyline view that it offers. It will be just way to busy for you to get smoothly around the crowd, and if you want to take some photos you will need to stop and step aside from the cycle path.

Renting a bike is a great option if you decide to get lost in Central Park. This is an experience that I highly recommend.

Rent a car

Photo by Pauline Bernfeld / Unsplash

Can’t really think of one single reason of why you should rent a car when visiting Manhattan. No cheap parking, no easy drive, crazy traffic, and super expensive. Renting a car might end up to cost you a lot more than the holiday itself.