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Using the subway in New York City

Updated on August 1, 2012
New York City at ground level
New York City at ground level

Using the subway in New York City

Using the subway to navigate around New York City is the way to travel, as we talked about in our “New York City subway – how it works” hub; after a bit of practice it’s a piece of cake! But before you even need to start worrying about how to use the subway, you need to purchase your tickets.

Subway tickets

We (that’s our family) were staying in New York City for 7 days and 7 nights, and figured we’d need the subway everyday – probably multiple times each day. So the subway ticket for us was the one week unlimited Metrocard.

The one week Metrocard cost $29 dollars each (about £19) – so worked out about $4 per day (£2.75 per day); per person. You can use the card as many times as you want, with the only rule being you can’t use the same card within 20 minutes of a swipe through the machine. A sensible precaution to stop a family of four buying one card, and swiping through the machine 4 times to get everyone through.

The Metrocard worked a treat and is definitely the way to go if you’re planning on getting around New York City by subway.

Any Tips

We did come a cropper a few times, but that was just because of the user (me) being an idiot: the rest of the family has got through the turn-styles without any problems –with me bringing up the rear. Unfortunately I turned the turn style one click before entering, so the thing stopped. And I couldn’t get through. I tried swiping the card again, but as 20 minutes hadn’t passed (the card had only been swiped 15 seconds before), I couldn’t get in. The rest: we all had to leave the station and walked to the next destination. Two very grumpy children – and one very apologetic dad.

A tip for deciding which ticket to buy is to work out how many times you think you’ll be using the subway during your holiday. A single ticket costs £2.25 – so if you’re only going to use the subway once or twice, it’s probably worth buying a ticket each time your travel. I liked the idea of having a “one week Metrocard” because it gives you the freedom to jump on and off the trains as much as you feel fit.

Oh, and don't travel by subway all the time; you'll miss out some of those iconic buildings - such as the "Flatiron Building" (below)

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building in New York City - don't travel by subway too much, or you'll miss some iconic sights
The Flatiron Building in New York City - don't travel by subway too much, or you'll miss some iconic sights

A little bed time reading

I’d also recommend a read of the “Rough Guide to New York City” (see below for a link to Amazon). This has lots of good information about the subway, amongst other New York City related things. We never went far without it!


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