How to get from JFK airport into New York City

Whether you're heading to Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, we explain how to navigate the AirTrain, subway and Long Island Rail Road so you can get moving as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Located 15 highway miles from Manhattan, John F Kennedy (JFK) Airport is New York’s busiest airport. More than 58 million passengers passed through its gates in 2016; almost 32 million of whom travelled via international flights. For most visitors, it’s their first glimpse of the NYC energy that locals love. And like any New Yorker, when you land you’re going to want to get moving, quickly and efficiently.

Where are you headed in New York City?

The first big question is: where do you need to go? NYC is massive! It’s a city of five boroughs and 8.4 million people. Your transport options will change depending on where you plan to stay.

Most travellers make their home base in Manhattan, but not everyone stays near Times Square. Find out if your hotel is located above or below 14th Street, and identify the closest subway stop. That will help you sort through the options below.

PDF map of JFK airport, New York City
PDF map of JFK airport, New York City (Credit: Port Authority of NJ & NY)

What kind of traveller are you?

Short on cash but long on time? Then the subway is your best choice. Running late and looking to lighten your wallet? Then a taxi is the way to go. Keep in mind how much luggage you have as well: most subway options include stairs or a transfer, so navigating with hefty bags could be difficult for some.

Either way, skip the car rental counter and the bus stand. You won’t need a car, and buses aren’t cheaper, quicker or easier than either of the above options.

Uber is a good backup; but surge pricing can make it more expensive than a taxi (although it’s still worth checking the app for your estimated trip charge when you get to JFK – it can be a few dollars less than a regular taxi as Uber charges include tolls). The regional Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) only makes sense if you are staying near Penn Station. Otherwise, the subway runs more frequently, takes nearly the same amount of time and is less than half the price of the $7.50 to $10.25 LIRR fare.

No transport needs to be booked in advance. Taxis and the subway are available 24/7.

yellow cabs and green bro taxis JFK to New York City
Green boro taxis cater specifically to travellers outside the central Manhattan system, which is covered by traditional yellow cabs. (Credit: Z22 via Wikimedia Commons)

NEED TO KNOW: TAXIS IN NEW YORK CITY

  • Travel from JFK to any location in Manhattan is a flat rate ($52.80) + tolls (which range from $0 to $8.50, depending on the route).
  • A $4.50 rush hour surcharge applies weekdays from 4pm to 8pm.
  • Passengers may pay cash or credit/debit/prepaid card. There are no minimum fares or additional fees; tips can also be paid by card.
  • The hardest times to find a cab are between 4pm and 5pm (when drivers change shifts) and during heavy rain.
  • Yellow taxis can pick up and drop off anywhere in Manhattan. Green boro taxis that serve the outer boroughs can take you to the airport, but might seem unwilling since they can’t pick up new passengers once there.
  • Avoid the unlicensed drivers who roam the arrivals area offering rides. Since they’re unregulated, there’s no guarantee of fare or your safety.

NEED TO KNOW: SUBWAY AND AIRTRAIN IN NEW YORK CITY

  • The subway connects to JFK via a 12-minute elevated rail line called the AirTrain.
  • Subway passes (called MetroCards) are available to buy from vending machines before boarding the AirTrain.
  • The $5 AirTrain fare can be added directly to any MetroCard option (ie, if you add $10 to your MetroCard, $5 will go towards the AirTrain; $5 will be left for the subway).
  • Choose a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard ($2.75 each way) for fewer than 13 rides per week. Choose the 7-day Unlimited ($32; less than $2.46 each way) for more than 13 rides per week.
  • Check here for subway maps, service updates and fare information, and here for up-to-date AirTrain information and maps.
The New York subway Brooklyn
The New York subway runs 24 hours per day, every day of the year. (Credit: Ed Coyle/Flickr)

If you’re heading from JFK Airport to above 14th Street in Manhattan:

Easiest Trip:

Taxi
Duration: About 60 minutes; allow 90 during rush hour
Price: $52.80 + tolls
Frequency: Always available at the arrivals hall taxi stand
Transfers: No transfers
Rome2rio Tip: Avoid an additional $5.76 to $8.50 in tolls by telling your driver to take the free Queensboro or Williamsburg bridges; be aware this may take more time

Cheapest Trip:

AirTrain + Subway
Duration: 75 to 90 minutes
Price: $5 AirTrain fare + $2.75 subway fare
Frequency: Every 4 to 12 minutes, 24 hours a day
Transfers: 1 to 2 transfers, depending on final destination
Rome2rio Tip: Take the Jamaica Center-bound AirTrain to Sutphin Blvd/Archer Av. Transfer to the E subway train towards World Trade Center. Transfer to uptown or downtown subway trains at Lexington Av/53 St, 7th Av or Times Square if needed.

Sample AirTrain + subway journeys from JFK to above 14th Street in Manhattan:
JFK Airport to Grand Central Station
JFK airport to Bryant Park
JFK airport to Times Square
JFK airport to Herald Square
JFK airport to Union Square
JFK airport to Columbus Circle
JFK airport to 72nd Street
JFK airport to 96th Street

If you’re heading from JFK Airport to below 14th Street in Manhattan:

Easiest Trip:

Taxi
Duration: About 60 minutes; allow 90 during rush hour
Price: $52.80 + tolls
Frequency: Always available at the arrivals hall taxi stand
Transfers: 0 transfers
Rome2rio Tip: Avoid an additional $5.76 to $8.50 in tolls by telling your driver to take the free Williamsburg, Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridges; be aware this may take quite a bit more time, especially at rush hour.

Cheapest Trip:

AirTrain + Subway
Duration: 75 to 90 minutes
Price: $5 AirTrain fare + $2.75 subway fare
Frequency: Every 5 to 20 minutes, 24 hours a day
Transfers: 1 to 2 transfers, depending on final destination
Rome2rio Tip: Take the Far Rockaway-bound AirTrain to Howard Beach/
JFK Airport Transfer to the A subway train towards Inwood – 207 St. Transfer to uptown or downtown trains at Jay St-MetroTech or Fulton Street, if needed.
You can see the route here. Note, for locations between Houston and 14th Street, the ‘Above 14th directions also work.

Sample AirTrain + subway journeys from JFK to below 14th Street in Manhattan:
From JFK airport to West 4th
From JFK airport to Broadway-Lafayette
From JFK airport to Canal Street
From JFK airport to Wall Street

Only have a few hours in New York?

If your layover is longer than 5 or 6 hours, then you may have time to make it to Manhattan and back. Depending on the weather, both Central Park and the Museum of Modern Art are great for stretching your legs before your next flight. The MOMA is accessible by following the above 14th Street instructions to 5th Av/53th St. Central Park is then an easy 6-block walk north along the city’s famous 5th Avenue. JFK offers baggage storage in the pre-security arrivals area of Terminals 1, 4 and 8; Call (718) 751-2947(718) 751-4020; and (718) 995-9292 respectively for hours and pricing.

Getting to Brooklyn & Queens from JFK Airport:

Unknown to even most locals, JFK is located in Queens – though on a map, it may look closer to Brooklyn. Regardless, travel times to these two boroughs will be shorter than to Manhattan. For travel to Queens, follow the Above 14th Street instructions, transferring from the E subway when necessary. For Brooklyn, follow Below 14th Street instructions, transferring from the A subway when necessary.

Brooklyn Bridge Dumbo Manhattan
Brooklyn Bridge joins the towers of Lower Manhattan to Dumbo in Brooklyn. (Credit: Pixabay)

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at rome2rio.com