The Ultimate Guide for Navigating the Subway System in New York City

When you prepare to travel to New York City, there are a lot of details to consider; not only do you need to pack for your trip’s agenda (being mindful of the weather) and plan out what you’ll do and see, but you’ll also want to research transportation options before you arrive. In a city as packed and bustling as New York, finding transportation from one new destination to another isn’t the piece of cake you might think. On the one hand, New York offers many transportation options at frequent intervals (and plenty of ride services), but on the other hand, transportation is complex due to the many burroughs, streets, and transfers.

One of the cheapest and most frequent—and once you get the hang of it, straight-forward—transit options in NYC is the subway system. If you want to explore the city and see all the sights, the subway system will be your best friend. So before you head to New York to have that trip of a lifetime you’ve been planning, you should explore how to navigate the New York subway system and consider the destinations you’ll be moving between. This article can be your guide on all things working your way around NYC.

What to Know About the New York City Subway System

Prepare yourself for the NYC subway system by knowing these essentials. 

Know Some Basics

Subways are referred to as trains by locals, so if someone guides you to the “trains” and you think they’re talking about the subway, they probably are! Don’t get these confused with “commuter trains” which refer to railroad-running, long-distance trains. 

You can choose between express and local subway lines, with express trains (a.k.a subways) being faster but bypassing some stations. You can read the maps by understanding that when stations show as white dots, they receive express and local trains, while black dots are stations for local trains only. 

The borough of Manhattan is divided into uptown, midtown, and downtown sections; you may see transportation sites use these terms, as they refer to directions as well. Try to know which of your destinations are in each section to avoid confusion.

Download Apps for Guidance

The easiest way to understand how to navigate the subway system is to download an app that guides you along your route. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, has an app titled MYmta that covers all the basics. You can also opt for a more generic transit app that guides you through multiple transportation options. 

Give Yourself Extra Time

While apps, websites, and signs will give you time estimates for how long the subway will take to drop you at your location, they aren’t always the most accurate. Unfortunately, subway delays are common and unpreventable for you as a passenger. While you’re on your trip, you might not have many pressing time constraints, but if you’ve planned out your schedule to maximize the sights, remember to give yourself extra time to get to your stops. 

How to Make Riding on the Subway More Enjoyable

You can get the hang of the subway system during your trip, but to make the experience go a little smoother, follow this pro tip. 

Book Luggage Storage to Lighten Your Load

When you’re exploring a new city, it often takes on a kind of magical quality where even the most mundane things feel more special than they do back home. Riding the New York subway can be one of those things, but the excitement of it can be tainted if you have to drag your luggage around with you.

One of the first things you’ll learn about the NYC subway system is that it’s busy, fast-paced, and chaotic, considering the amount of people rushing around. Lugging your heavy belongings around the crowded subways will add stress to your trip. But since you have to live out of a suitcase while you’re traveling, the best way to free yourself to explore without baggage is to book luggage storage in New York

You can find a variety of luggage storage locations in New York City, where you can pre-arrange to securely drop off your possessions until you’re ready to pick them up. Simply pay by the hour and choose the location closest to you!

New York City is an amazing travel destination, and in order to fit everything you want to see and experience into your time there, you’ll want to use transportation like the locals do. Although it may seem daunting at first, the subway system is a great way to get around the city. If you know some basics about NYC transportation and prepare in advance, you can navigate New York like a pro, all while saving money and seeing how the locals live!

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