NYC Subway Metro Card

Go Underground in NYC

Hey y’all! By now, I think you know how much I love NYC!  I’ve written this post, and this post and this post about visiting the Big Apple, and have also shared great Native New Yorker tips in this post and this post.  A frequent question I get from readers is, “How long is the cab ride from Point A to Point B.”  Great question!!!  Riding in taxis is a common way to get around, that’s for sure.  But the traffic…lordy.  A good traffic jam can really mess up your plans and rob you of precious time better spent soaking up NYC, and cost a lot of money as the meter clicks away!  So why not ride the Subway?  “The Subway?!!” you exclaim.  Yup.  It’s fast and efficient, and today I’m going to teach you how to utilize the BEST way to get around NYC….the Subway!

NYC Subway 23rd Street Street Level Entrance

Typical Subway Entrance

NYC is organized in a very North-South and East-West grid at the street level, and the Subway is no different.  Just imagine that as street traffic is (slowly) moving people around on the surface, the same thing is happening underground.  Typically, you are never more than two or three blocks away from a Subway stop.

NYC Subway Map

Image Credit: MTA

There is a GREAT app I have on my phone that very clearly shows all the Subway lines.  I use it ALL the time (it’s called NYC Subway and the icon is a white train on a red circle), and I have included a picture of a similar map for you here.  The first thing you want to know is:  where am I, where do I want to go, and which line is closest to me:  the green line, the orange line, the yellow line, the red line, etc.  Find a street level entrance, gather ye courage (kidding….it’s not scary), and head on down.  Be sure to note if you are going Downtown or Uptown.  The entrances are typically on the opposite sides of the street, and are clearly marked.

NYC Subway Ticket Machine

Purchase your Metro Card Here

You need to purchase a Metro Card.  Sometimes, depending on the size of the station, there’s a MTA employee in a booth who can not only sell you a card, but can also give you a free paper map.  If the booth is unattended, not to worry, there’s always automated machines.  Simply follow the easy to understand steps to purchase your Metro Card.  If you are there for a weekend, I’d suggest a $20 card.  Each ride within Manhattan is $2.75, so you can get approximately eight rides out of one Metro Card.  It’s easy to add money to it later on if needed.  If you are venturing to Brooklyn or Queens, the rides cost more, but let’s stick with Manhattan for today.

Metro Card firmly in hand, you will proceed to the platform entrance, swipe your card, and go through the turnstile.  There’s a magnetic strip on the bottom of the Metro Card and arrows telling which way to swipe.  Don’t freak out if your swipe is not successful the first time.  There’s true skill and finesse involved, and after your first few times, you’ll be swiping like a real New Yorker.

NYC Subway Wall of Maps

Large Maps are in Every Station

Now you are on the platform, waiting for your train.  There’s illuminated signs telling you how long you have to wait…2 minutes, 3 minutes.  No biggie.  I enjoy looking at the unique tile work in each station!  The train pulls up, and you get on!  Voila!  Find a seat, or find a place to stand depending on how crowded the train is.  Do some people watching!  Don’t stare.  It’s rude. Do hold on if you are standing up.  The trains go fast, and might stop abruptly, and you do not want to go flying into someone!!!

Inside the train, sometimes there’s a working illuminated sign above your head that will show you which stop is coming next.  No sign, no worries! The conductor always tells which stop is coming next, but 9 times out of 10 the voice sounds like the Teacher in the Peanuts cartoons, so don’t panic.  Have a rough idea of how many stops until you get off.  You can also look out the windows as you pull into a station to see where you are.  Train arrives at your destination, you follow the crowd to the exit.  You ascend from the depths, and have saved yourself a TON of time stuck in traffic!

Enjoy those hours ( and money) you save by riding the Subway!!!!


  • For some reasons, tourists are always so worried about acting like a tourist.  News Flash:  we are.  We are never going to be Native New Yorkers.  No matter how many times you have been to the Big Apple, you are always going to be a tourist.  So get over yourself, and don’t worry about making a mistake.  If you miss your stop…get off on the next one.  You can take the Subway back, or jump a cab…all easily correctable.
  • Situational awareness is very important.  I have never felt unsafe riding the Subway, but I use common sense.  I don’t stand on the edge of the platform.  If someone near me feels creepy, I move away.  I carry small purses, and don’t make myself a target.  Late at night, we always take a cab.  Just be smart.
  • There are trains that are EXPRESS…meaning they don’t stop at every single stop.  I have only made that mistake once….and it was not big deal.  I rode the train right back, and started over.  If you are unsure, the illuminated signs on the platform tell you if a train is E (express) or L (local).  You can always ask a fellow passenger.
  • A great way to get tweens or teenagers involved is to let them help map out your Subway rides!  They love the challenge, and it gives them an opportunity to lead, when usually the adults do all the leading!
  • There can be lots of steps going into and out of Subway stations.  Upside:  you are working off that delicious bagel and cream cheese, so carry on soldier!
  • There is a HILARIOUS Instagram account called @subwaycreatures that showcases video and pics of funny characters in subway stations and trains around the world.  A very fun chuckle!



If you are planning to visit NYC, and would like help creating the perfect itinerary, please email me!

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