New York Subway

New York Subway

The New York subway (Metro) is the most customary means of transport amongst New Yorkers. The subway is an easy and safe way to get anywhere in New York City. The New York Subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year. With a MetroCard, a single ride costs $2.90 and is, therefore, one of the cheapest ways to explore the city.

New York Metro Trains

New Yorkers call the subway lines “trains”. The New York subway has 472 stations and 24 different lines. They are identified by letters A, B, C, etc. and by numbers 1, 2, 3 etc. These lines serve the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

The trains run every 2 to 5 minutes during peak hours, every 10 to 15 minutes during the day, and about every 20 minutes at night. The busiest times are usually on weekdays between 07:30 – 09:30 and 16:30 – 18:30. However, late at night, I would recommend a New York taxi especially if you are travelling alone to/from the outer boroughs.

How to ride on the New York Subway

Using the New York Subway is easy. Firstly, you’ll need a subway map to give you an overview of all of the trains and stations. You can download my free Eric’s New York app for an offline map on your phone or download one here as a PDF. Free maps are also available at many of the stations. On the map, you can find your destination and the closest subway stop. If the stop has a black dot it’s a local train, if it has a white dot it’s an express train. Local trains stop at all stops, express trains stop at a few stops. If you need to travel to New Jersey, check PATH Train.

Once you’ve figured out which line you need to take, you can head to the nearest subway station. All stations are clearly marked with the entrance to the track heading north (Uptown and Queens) or south (Downtown and Brooklyn).

Note: The schedules can change a lot during weekends due to planned construction works. Always read the notices carefully that hang at stations. They will guide you to an alternative route.

Interactive Maps

To make travelling even easier, several stations now have interactive maps: large touch screens that can help with navigating. You can also see if there are any delays or power outages that may affect your journey. There’s also a live MTA subway map available online. On this map, you can even see the trains running.

New York Subway - Subway Platform New York Subway - Eric's New York App

What MetroCard to buy?

You can buy a New York subway pass, this is called a MetroCard. If you buy one ride, it will cost $3.25. If you buy a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (MetroCard with a balance), you only pay $2.90 per ride. Note that the destination doesn’t matter: it’s $2.90 however far you travel. There is also an Unlimited Ride MetroCard available for 7 days that costs $34 plus $1 for the card itself. This is handy if you plan on using the subway frequently. Children who do not exceed 3 foot 7 inches in height can travel on the subway for free, regardless of their age. Senior tourists pay the same rate as adults.

You can buy or add credit to your MetroCard at any station, either by using a machine or at a ticket booth. You can pay by cash or credit card. When paying at a machine you will be asked to fill in your ZIP code, simply fill in “99999”. For every new MetroCard, you will be charged a $1 fee, after that you can recharge it as often as possible without additional costs. You can purchase a maximum of two MetroCards per credit card. If you need more, I recommend you order them through my site before you leave.

Unlike in London, you can use your Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (NOT the unlimited) for several people (up to 4). All you need to do is swipe the card, then hand the card back to the next person. This is legal! It gives you a lot more freedom as well. Want to buy MetroCards before you go? Buy your New York MetroCard here


New York is currently implementing a new subway payment system called OMNY. This stands for One Metro New York and is intended to replace the MetroCards in the future. However, we’re not there yet and you can still use the plastic metro tickets. With OMNY you pay for your metro ride contactlessly, using Apple Pay on your phone (linked to a credit card). The ‘Pay-Per-Ride’ rate of $2.90 per ride applies here.

Entrance Subway Stations New York New York Subway - Canal Street

Subway Etiquette

As in other international cities, New York has a subway etiquette. These are a few of the things that you need to bear in mind:

  • Offer one’s seat to pregnant women, families with children or an elderly person if no other seats are available
  • Don’t stare at people on the train, or the platform (or pretty much anywhere else)
  • Don’t block the doors/aisle space with large items of luggage
  • Don’t stand in front of the turnstile trying to find your MetroCard
  • Stay on the right side of the escalator so people can pass on the left
Eric’s Tip: I used to advise people to get the Unlimited Ride MetroCard for $34 + $1 for the card itself, which is easy and great if you plan on using the subway a lot. Now I encourage more people to take a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard. And here’s why: If you’re in New York for 4/5 days you’d have to take the subway at least 3 times a day to get your money’s worth. Some days this will be fine, but other days you’ll just want to stroll around or take a taxi.

New York Subway Train Seats 42nd Street Subway Station

How much is a subway ride in NYC?

A single ride with the New York City Subway costs $2.90, making it one of the cheapest ways to explore the city.

How do you pay for the subway in NYC?

You pay for riding the subway by swiping your MetroCard at a turnstile. You can buy your MetroCard at the subway stations or in advance via my site.

How do I get a MetroCard in New York?

MetroCards can be bought at subway stations in New York. Buy your New York MetroCard in advance and save time and hassle.

Where can I buy tickets for the NYC subway?

You can buy MetroCards at the subway stations in New York. You can also buy your MetroCards before travelling to New York here.

Is there a day pass for New York subway?

There’s no day pass for the New York City Subway, but you can buy a 7-day Unlimited MetroCard or a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard. Read all about the options here.

About the Author

Hey there, I'm Eric! I'm a true New York fan with over 20 years of experience visiting and living in NYC. Here on my website, I share all my tips and valuable information to help you make the most of your trip. I personally test and regularly re-test everything on my site to ensure that what I write is useful, honest, and always up-to-date.
If you have questions, need more free tips, or want me to check your itinerary, please email me at You can also follow me on Facebook to get daily updates from New York.

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