How to Ride the New York City Subway

Published on June 1, 2018 by

A DETAILED guide on how to ride the subway in New York City. Topics include: General New York City Subway Information, planning your trip, tickets, getting in the station, finding your train, riding the train, exiting the station, transfers, and wash your hands! The NYC Subway has 472 stations serving 27 subway lines and runs 24 hours a day. Routes are identified by letters (A,B,C), or numbers (1, 2, 3). In many stations you can’t simply get out of the train and go the other direction. You have to exit the station and re-enter. Make sure you are going the correct direction.

Uptown is typically “North”
Downtown is typically “South”

Express vs Local Trains:
Local trains stop at every stop
Express trains skip stops
The map will show white circles, which are express AND local stops. Black circle only local trains.
New to the subway? Just take the local trains.

Planning your trip:

Get an app: Citymapper
Google Maps works too
Or look at the subway map — free printed ones are available

Tickets: Buy a metro-card for $1, and load it up. Each subway ride is $2.75. Or a single ride ticket is $3.

You can buy or load the metro-card at any subway ticket machine with cash or credit card.
Cash machines are big, but only return $9 in change. Credit/debit machines are small.

There is no “daily” card, but a weekly unlimited ride card is $32

Getting In the Station
Entrance that are always open have green lights
Exit only or part time entrances have red lights or no lights
Be careful of single direction entrances

To get in the station you’ll swipe your metro-card on the turnstile. Either waist high, or full height turnstile. Swipe at a medium speed, then push the turnstile.

Wheelchair, stroller ask the station attendant to open the gate.

Finding your train

Look for the route (letter or number) and direction. In big stations you may be walking for up to 15 minutes.

Make sure its the correct direction, Uptown/Brooklyn is typically “up” (North), Downtown/Brooklyn is “down” (South)

Riding the train
Don’t bother listening to the announcements, think new york accents, lousy microphones, and lousy speakers make it hard to hear. It’s best to count your stops. Know the name of the stop just before yours.

Don’t stare at people
Don’t get on an empty car. It either smells, or the AC is broken.
Remove your backpack, if you’re sitting put in on our lap.
Stay awake… you might miss your stuff, and your stuff might get stolen. Yes, pickpockets operate on the NYC subway.
If you’re standing, hold on to the railing. Locals might not be, but they are used to the motion.

Exiting the station
Simply push on the turnstile, you don’t need to swipe out

Your Metrocard swipe is valid for two hours for transfers to buses from the subway, bus to bus, OR bus to subway. But not SUBWAY to SUBWAY. You need to take a “bus” to make this work.

Wash your hands or use some hand sanitizer when you leave the subway. Definitely don’t eat anything until your hands are clean.


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