When the bus dropped me off in New York City, my first move (after bumping into about five people) was to hail a taxi. I stepped to the edge of the sidewalk, careful not to slip into oncoming traffic, and raised my hand. I felt like I was in a movie scene, waiting for my mechanical chariot to whisk me away. However, I watched as a stampede of yellow taxis charged towards me, and then raced past, disappearing into the city. Wave after wave of occupied taxis passed by as I stood awkwardly on the sidewalk with my hand up, feeling like a child in class that the teacher never calls on. I wondered if I was doing it wrong.
This was my first mistake in when I arrived in New York City. Riding in a taxi as a means of reliable transportation can be a risky and downright expensive decision. I know people take taxis into the city from the airport, which is fine, and I’ve certainly done it, but it’s a different story once you’re in the city and need a dependable and relatively inexpensive mode of transportation. Depending on how far you want to go and what the traffic is like (usually VERY heavy in NYC), you could be spending anywhere from $15 to $50 USD or more for a single taxi ride. The first thing I should have done when I got off the bus is look for the nearest subway entrance. If you’ve never been to NYC and are unfamiliar with what one will look like, here:
Notice those colored dots on the subway sign? They aren’t just decoration. They indicate which subway line you’ll be riding. So the green, “4, 5, and 6” train travels north and south. So if you are on 96th street and you want to get to Union Square on 14th street, you will want to ride the green line. And the red, “1, 2, and 3” train also travels north and south but can also go east to Brooklyn. There are also transfer lines such as the L train which will take you across Manhattan and into Brooklyn, and there’s also a purple and blue line and a few others. Confused yet? I was when I first started using the subway, but my advice is to look at the map, study it and the more you use the subway, the more comfortable you will become with the system. It’s the best and most reliable transit system I’ve ever experienced.
Once you’re down in the subway, you will need to purchase a Metrocard. You will see a yellow and blue vending machine against the wall, not dissimilar to an ATM. Here, you will have the option to purchase either a pay-per-ride card or an unlimited card. The pay-per-ride card is $2.50 per ride and up to four people can use the same card. This is fine for if you are just in the city for the day and may only have to make one or two transfers. My advice, if you plan on staying in the city for any length of time, purchase the unlimited card. Buy it, wave it around, and show it off to your friends and family: it’s great. For $30 USD you get a seven-day pass. And unlimited MEANS unlimited. Ride your heart out. Go to Times Square, then the MoMa, then over to Williamsburg and back. Thirteen trips would be equivalent to $2.31 per ride! Taxis simply can’t beat this price.
Sometimes, the subway system can have its downsides. If it’s the summer season, for example, the subway is usually packed with tourists and the temperature on the train is right around a balmy ninety-five degrees or higher. You may want to steer clear from the subway if you don’t want to broil yourself waiting for the subway and ruin every shirt you own with sweat stains. My favorite alternative to the subway is Uber. Download the app on your phone, select a pick-up spot and a destination and wait for your ride. The price is reasonable and usually much cheaper than a taxi, and if it’s your first Uber ride, you get a major discount. My first ride was completely free.
Getting around New York City can be absolutely daunting. With time and experience, you will master the transit system and get to your destination on-time, stress-free and with a bigger wallet