New York City Airports and Transportation Options

A question for many first-time travelers to New York City is which airport to fly into and an even bigger quandary is how to get to their accommodations from their arrival airport.

There are three major airports serving New York City and all of them are outside of Manhattan. They are: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). I have flown into and out of all three and taken nearly all the available transportation options into the city. Travel time into the city is roughly 45 to 75 minutes from any of the airports so there’s no significant time lost or gained by flying into any given airport.

My criteria for deciding which airport to fly into are 1) it services a direct flight with the earliest time of arrival possible (the earlier I touch down the more time I get in the city I love!)  and 2) budget. Next, I will give a brief overview of these airports and then share a few recommendations for transportation into the city from each of them.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

JFK is the primary international airport serving New York City and is located in Queens, roughly 16 miles from Midtown Manhattan. The JFK Airport Website www.jfkairport.com does a good job laying out the transportation options to/from the city, how much they cost and how long they take. JFK offers baggage storage in terminals 1 and 5 for storing your luggage during a layover if you want to leave the airport and come back. The following are my top three recommendations on how to get into the city from the JFK.

Taxi

Follow signs to ground transportation and get in the Taxi line. At the front of the line, the attendant will assign you to a taxi. There is a set fare of $62 to get into Manhattan and this includes all taxes, fees and tolls. Tell your taxi driver where you want to be dropped off. Instead of giving an exact address like 889 Broadway, give the closest intersection such as W 19th at Broadway.

Pro: Simple, direct door-to-door service.

Con: The length of your trip depends on traffic, which can be slow!

Subway

AirTrain and Long Island Railroad

The fastest way via public transportation from JFK to your destination in Manhattan is to use the combination of the AirTrain and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), both of which run 24/7 with varying service intervals. At $18.50, it costs about $8 more than the subway, but the total travel time is approximately 35 minutes. This $18.50 includes the $7.75 AirTrain exit fee plus the cost of the LIRR ticket at peak (rush hour) travel times. Off-peak travel times will cost $15.50. Follow the airport signs to the AirTrain. Take the AirTrain Jamaica Line to Jamaica Station where you will connect with the LIRR. The LIRR will take you into Penn Station at 34th Street in midtown Manhattan. Jamaica Station is a major hub for the LIRR and trains into Penn run frequently. Look to the scheduling monitors for the next arriving train and track.

AirTrain Jamaica Line and NYC Subway E Train

Follow the airport signs to the AirTrain, which runs 24/7. Take the AirTrain’s Jamaica Line to the Sutphin Blvd/Archer Avenue station. Here is where you will connect with the NYC subway system. From this station, take the E train toward Manhattan where you will have a variety of stops in Manhattan depending on where you need to go. Keep in mind, the E train will make several stops in Queens prior to crossing into the city. The most popular stops are at 42nd Street/ Times Square or the next stop, 34th St./Penn Station. At either of these stations you’ll have the option to transfer for free to other subway lines. Penn Station has a taxi stand if you plan to finish your journey in a cab. From JFK expect the ride to take about an hour and cost $7.75. The cost includes the $5.00 AirTrain fee and $2.75 for the subway ride. There is an addition $1.00 fee added to buy new MetroCard from an automated machine, but it is waived if you purchase it from an agent at the station.

AirTrain Howard Beach Line and NYC Subway A Train

Follow the airport signs to the AirTrain which runs 24/7. Take the AirTrain to the Howard Beach/JFK Airport Stop and connect to the A train to Manhattan on the NYC subway. The fee is $7.75. The cost includes the $5 AirTrain fee and $2.75 for the subway ride. There is an addition $1.00 fee added to buy new MetroCard from an automated machine, but it is waived if you purchase it from an agent at the station. The Howard Beach line takes longer to get into Manhattan but it may be preferable if your destination is in lower Manhattan, below 14th Street.

Pro: The cheapest ticket into the city.

Con: Hauling your luggage can be a big challenge.

NYC Express Bus

Purchase your ticket ahead of time and have it ready on your phone. Follow the signs to Ground Transportation and look for the red signs that say NYC Express Bus. The bus leaves the terminal every 30 minutes. The bus stops at Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Port Authority on trips into the city and only leaves from Grand Central and the Port Authority when heading back to JFK on the hour. Note: This bus runs only between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Cost of a one-way ticket is $19, round-trip is $35.

Pro: Bus is clean, comfortable and equipped with Wi-Fi.

Con: The length of your trip will depend on traffic.

Tip! An excellent choice for a family or larger party. Buy 3 tickets and the 4th is free. Children 5 and under ride free.

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

LaGuardia Airport is the third busiest airport serving New York City and is also located in Queens, 8 miles from Manhattan. The LaGuardia Airport Website, is a hub of information, outlining your transportation options to and from the city.

Taxi

Metered taxi service is available at all LaGuardia Airport terminal buildings. A taxi from LaGuardia to Manhattan is not a flat fee like it is from JFK to Manhattan. Since the ride is on the meter, costs will depend on your destination in Manhattan, the amount of traffic and overall, the amount of time spent in the taxi. Generally, a taxi from LGA to Manhattan can cost you between $35-$50, not including tolls, tip, and any applicable surcharges. The fare from LGA to Manhattan taxi fare can be significantly more during peak traffic times or if your destination is outside of midtown.

Pro: Simple, direct service to your destination.

Con: Fare is on the meter; more traffic means a more expensive trip!

NYC Express Bus

The Express Bus service has 3 drop-off locations in Manhattan: Grand Central Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal and Times Square. The Express Bus is not door-to-door service so, unless your destination is near one of the stops, you’ll need to walk, hail a taxi or take the subway to your destination. The good news is these 3 drop-off locations have easy access to taxis and the NYC subway. The Express Bus costs $16.00 for a one-way ticket and $30.00 for a round-trip ticket and reservations can be made ahead of time online. Keep in mind, round-trip service is only available from Grand Central and Port Authority Bus Terminal. There is no return service from Times Square. Note: Express Bus Service is available 7 days a weekbut only between the hours of 11 am-7 pm. Buses depart on the hour. This means if you just miss a bus, you’ll have to wait about an hour until the next departure.

Pro: Bus is clean, comfortable and equipped with Wi-Fi.

Con: The length of your trip will depend on traffic.

Tip! An excellent choice for a family or larger party. Buy 3 tickets and the 4th is free. Children 5 and under ride free.

Shuttle

Another option for getting from LGA to your destination is by shuttle or shared van transport. GO Airlink NYC is an official partner with the New York and New Jersey Port Authorities and is known as the most trusted New York airport shuttle among NYC hotels. Their LGA to Manhattan shuttle allows you to share the cost of transportation with other travelers. But unlike a bus, this NYC airport shuttle provides door-to-door service. No need to connect to a subway or take a taxi once you’re in Manhattan to get to your hotel.Shuttle transportation from LGA to NYC is available24/7and can be reserved ahead of time. Disclaimer: I have not personally used this shuttle. The online reservation system is clear and easy to navigate and pricing is reasonable. However, reviews on this service are mixed with some giving glowing reviews and others claiming their wait at the airport for their shuttle was extraordinarily long.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Newark Liberty International Airport is located 9 miles southwest of Manhattan in the state of New Jersey. I flew exclusively into the New York based airports for my first ten trips to the city before I found the courage to try Newark. Flying into a different state just sounded complicated but it isn’t! Now I almost always fly into Newark because it services reasonably priced, direct flights from my favorite airline that get me into the city with plenty of daylight left to see some sights.

Taxi

Newark Airport has taxi stands at every terminal and posted signs show you the way. Depending on your destination, a taxi from Newark to Manhattan can cost between $50-$75, not including tolls and possible surcharges for oversized luggage. The local taxi commission will also add a surcharge of $5.50 for credit card payments.

Pro: The simplest way to get into Manhattan.

Con: The most expensive option.

AirTrain and New Jersey Transit

The train from Newark Airport to Manhattan begins with the AirTrain, which is available from each of the three terminals. It runs 24/7 and arrives/departs every 3 minutes from 5 a.m. to midnight and every 15 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. From your terminal, follow the signs to the AirTrain, stopping at the NJ Transit ticket machines at the AirTrain entrance to purchase tickets.  The ticket you buy is for your complete journey on both the AirTrain and the NJ Transit train. Tip! Save time and download the NJ Transit app to buy your tickets on the go. Purchase a ticket to New York Penn Station, NOT Newark Penn Station,for everyone over age 11. Tickets are $15.25. Head up to the AirTrain platform and take the train going to the Newark Liberty International Airport Train station.The ride takes less than 10 minutes. At the Airport Station, get off the AirTrain and connect with the NJ Transit train going to New York Penn Station. Look for signs and screens directing you to the correct platform. The ride to New York Penn will be about 30 minutes. Be sure you get on a NJ Transit Train, not an Amtrak Train. The conductor will check tickets once you’re on board. The train will likely make a couple of stops but don’t get off the train until you reach New York Penn Station.Once you arrive in New York City, access the NYC subway system or get to a taxi line for a cab to your destination.

Pro: The most budget-friendly option for travel between Newark Airport and Manhattan.

Con: A difficult option if you have more luggage than a rolling suitcase or single bag.

Newark Airport Express Bus

This Express Bus runs daily, approximately every 30 minutes, from Newark Airport to Manhattan and back. The first bus departs from EWR at 4 a.m. and the last bus of the day is at 1:45 a.m. There are three drop off locations in Manhattan. They are: The Port Authority Bus Terminal, Bryant Park, and Grand Central Terminal. One way tickets are $17 and round-trip tickets are $30. They offer significantly reduced fares for children, students, military personnel and seniors. Follow the signs to Ground Transportation and look for the Newark Express Bus sign. If you purchase your tickets ahead of time and have them ready on your phone, you can get right on the bus and the driver will verify your ticket before you take off.

Pro: Comfortable bus, driver takes care of your luggage for you.

Con: Length of time to the city depends on traffic.

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