New York City - A Visitor's Guide

Living in NYC, we frequently get questions about visiting the city from friends, friends of friends, or someone who went to high school with one of our cousins.

Where should we stay?  How do we get around?  Where should we eat?  What shows should we see?  Can you get us tickets to "Hamilton"?

I can help you with the first four.

To a first-time visitor, NYC can be a bit intimidating.  So, to take some of the mystery out of it, this is the first in a series about the basics of coming to the Big Apple.  Whether you're planning a summer trip, or want to make the pilgrimage during the holiday season - which I highly recommend - I hope you will find this useful in your planning.

In the coming weeks, we'll chat about where to stay, getting Broadway tickets (except for "Hamilton"), the best way to see the city, etc.

This week, we'll start at the very beginning.  Assuming you stay in Manhattan - which I believe you should - here is how to get into "the city" from the three major area airports.

The airports are all outside of Manhattan (LGA and JFK are in the borough of Queens, and Newark is across the Hudson River in New Jersey), but you'll find a variety of ways to get into the city.

Only get a taxi at the taxi stand.  Avoid "touts" who supposedly offer a taxi, but take you to private car services. 

Only get a taxi at the taxi stand.  Avoid "touts" who supposedly offer a taxi, but take you to private car services. 

LaGuardia (LGA)

In all likelihood, you will arrive at LGA.  It is the closest airport to Manhattan.  It is also the most inconvenient via public transportation.

Several city buses run from the terminals, but you will have to transfer at least once to another bus or subway to get where you're going.  That means you have to try to find space for suitcases and bags on packed buses, and then schlep them up and down stairs in crowded stations.  I recommend this only if you are traveling with a light carry-on bag, time is not an issue, and you are comfortable navigating the logistics of the buses and subways.  You can get anywhere in the city for just $2.75 per person.  You can find details about it here.

The shared-ride NYC Airporter will drop you in Midtown Manhattan at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, or the Port Authority Bus Terminal for $14.  If you are staying in Midtown, one of these is probably walking distance to your hotel - or you can get off the bus at Bryant Park and continue to your hotel on their complimentary shuttle service that operates from that stop.

Another shared-ride option is the SuperShuttle, which offers door-to-door service from the airport to your hotel.  The cost is $20 to most Manhattan destinations.  If you have two or more people in your group, though, you'll save money by taking a taxi - and you'll get to your destination a lot faster.

While Uber and scheduled car services are also options, a yellow cab will likely cost less.  Also, if you are brand new to the city, it's a lot easier to locate the taxi stand than to find your driver in front of the crowded terminals.

From LGA, my advice for most people is to take a cab. Including tolls and tip, it will range from $40 to $50 to most locations in Manhattan, depending on traffic and your destination.  It is also the fastest way to get to your hotel. Just make sure you take a yellow taxi from the well-signed and staffed TAXI queue such as the one pictured above - not a black car from the car services lined up outside (see my note below).

More LGA transportation details here, including public transit options.

John F. Kennedy International (JFK)

JFK is farther out, so most transportation options will take longer and cost more.

Cabs from JFK have a flat fare of $52 to any destination in Manhattan.  Including tolls and tip, your total cost will range from $65 and $70.

You will pay about $22 for the SuperShuttle from JFK, and $17 for the NYC Airporter described above.

If you're comfortable with public transportation - and you are not schlepping heavy bags - JFK has decent options. The airport's AirTrain will take you to the "A" or "E" subway lines for direct connections into the city (total cost: $7.75). The AirTrain will also take you to the Long Island Rail Road, which will take you into Penn Station (total cost: $15). Ticket machines are located in the train stations.  These are affordable and convenient options, but only if you're traveling light and don't mind stairs, since not all NYC subway stations are accessible.

Here are more details on JFK transportation options.

Newark International (EWR)

Newark airport offers an easy public transit option into Manhattan. 

Your best bet from EWR is to take New Jersey Transit.  There is a station at the airport terminal, and a 20-minute train ride will take you directly to New York Penn Station in Midtown.  Buy your ticket ($13) at one of the ticket machines in the station.  If you're not staying with walking distance of Penn Station, you can then catch a cab at the station's taxi queue and spend a few more dollars to get to your hotel.

There are plenty of shared ride options here, including SuperShuttle for $21 per person and GoAirlink shuttle.

You can take a taxi, but depending on the time of day, it may take up to two hours.  It can also cost you more than $100.  Not only do you have the base fare of $50 to $75, but the airport imposes a variety of additional surcharges (handling luggage, paying via credit card, trips during rush hours).  You also have to pay the driver's round-trip tolls, plus any tip.

Here is the overview of EWR transportation options.

A final - but extremely important - note.

When you come down the escalators to baggage claim at any NYC airport - or head outside to the taxi stand - you will probably encounter "touts" asking if you need a taxi.

The only correct answer to them is "no."  Or do as I do and completely ignore them

These guys will NOT take you to the taxi line, but rather to private car services.  They may promise lower fares and faster service than taxis - but you may get taken for a ride, both literally and figuratively - and get stuck with a hefty tab.  These guys can be pretty aggressive, especially at JFK.  Just ignore them and head to the very-well-signed and staffed yellow TAXI queue at any airport.

For more details, you can check out the Port Authority's web site.  NYC by Natives also has a great overview (although some of the prices listed are out of date).

New Yorkers or frequent visitors - what other tips would you share?