How to get from JFK to New York City

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Located 15 highway miles from Manhattan, John F Kennedy (JFK) 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?

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 (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 often makes it more expensive than a taxi. 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.

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: TAXI

  • 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 the city. 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 of your safety.

NEED TO KNOW: SUBWAY AND AIRTRAIN

  • The subway connects to JFK via a 12-minute light rail 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 runs 24 hours per day, every day of the year. (Credit: Ed Coyle/Flickr)

Above 14th Street

Key stations (Above 59th Street): Columbus Circle, 72nd Street, 96th Street
Key stations
(Above 14th Street): Grand Central, Bryant Park, Times Square, Herald Square, Union Square

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 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.

Below 14th Street

Key stations: West 4th, Broadway-Lafayette; Canal Street; Wall Street

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 more time
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.

Only have a few hours?

If your layover is longer than five or six 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 six-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.

Brooklyn & Queens

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

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