How to Get From JFK to Manhattan: Cheapest to Fastest Way 🚖
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This post has been updated on February 11, 2024 to reflect the updated train and taxi fares.
New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. But even without us telling you this, you’ve probably already noticed that while you were booking your trip. The flights, hotel, tickets… it adds up! If you’re looking for ways to minimize your transportation expenses, look no further. Here’s how you can get from JFK to Manhattan, starting with the cheapest to the fastest option.
New York Subway
Duration: 1-2 Hours | Cost: $11.15+ per person
How to get from JFK to Manhattan… the cheapest way? Of course by taking the subway! Before settling for this option, we’d like to give you a little heads up though. It’s not the fastest option. It’s especially not the fastest option if you’re new to New York City and it’s your first time navigating through the public transportation system. It can be quite confusing! If you have time, definitely go for it. If you’re in a rush, avoid it and skip this section.
In any case, here’s how to get from JFK to Manhattan by subway. Let’s assume you’ve just landed, claimed your baggage and are now on your way to your hotel in Times Square.
First thing to look out for is the AirTrain. Don’t just hop into the next car though, chances are you’re getting onto the wrong train! You need to catch the lines that are leaving the airport. That would be either the red line to Jamaica (most likely the one you’ll need!), to catch the subway trains E, J or Z or the green line to Howard Beach, to catch the A train.
Note, that you have to pay for your ride after you’ve arrived at the AirTrain exit hall to be able to exit the system. There are tons of ticket machines in the exit hall where you can purchase a MetroCard and add money to it, so don’t worry. The AirTrain fare is $8.25 and your subway single ride will be $2.90 (last checked in 2024). That makes $11.15 but we usually recommend adding a little bit more to your card… just in case! Here’s how you can purchase a MetroCard.
New since 2023: You can now pay the $8.25 AirTrain exit fare with the MTA’s OMNY contactless payment method if you don’t want to purchase a MetroCard. Just tap your debit card, credit card, or digital wallet on the exit gate reader and you’re good to go.
Since this example is taking you to your hotel in Times Square, you would choose the red line from your terminal to Jamaica station. Once you’ve arrived at the station, look for directions to the subway system and keep an eye out for your subway train. In this case you want to look for the Downtown E train to World Trade Center that stops at 50th Street. To access the subway, you’ll need to swipe your MetroCard through the subway system at the turnstile. This will deduct another $2.90 from your balance (you’re able to switch trains in any direction for free for up to 2 hours if there isn’t a direct train to your destination). If everything goes well and there are no delays, you should arrive at your hotel within 1 to 2 hours.
You can download the official New York subway map here to select the best connection to your hotel or just check your Apple or Google Maps if you have a roaming plan/WiFi.
💡 When you shouldn’t take the subway: You have lots of luggage. You’re in a rush. You’re not confident navigating through the subway system (it can be confusing if you’re visiting for the first time!).
Long Island Railroad
Duration: 1 Hour | Cost: $16.50 off-peak – $19.50 peak per person
If you want to know how to get from JFK to Manhattan via the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), keep reading. This train takes you from Jamaica station straight to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan and is slightly faster than the subway, but still affordable.
To get to Jamaica station, you’ll have to take the AirTrain (red line) from any terminal at JFK airport. No need for a MetroCard to hop on the AirTrain. You’ll only have to pay for the ride at the exit gates where you can also find ticket machines to buy a MetroCard in case you don’t have one already.
New since 2023: You can now pay the AirTrain exit fare with the MTA’s OMNY contactless payment method if you don’t want to purchase a MetroCard. Just tap your debit card, credit card, or digital wallet on the exit gate reader and you’re good to go.
The AirTrain fare is $8.25 (last checked in 2024) but we suggest adding a little more to your MetroCard, if you want to get one, as you’ll likely need a subway connection train from Penn Station and a single subway ride is $2.90. So, at a minimum we suggest adding $12 to your MetroCard (here’s how you can purchase one).
Once you’ve arrived at Jamaica station, look for directions to the Long Island Railroad track to Penn Station. You really can’t miss it! The departure boards also show you when the next train is leaving and whether you are traveling within peak or off-peak hours.
In order to board the train, you obviously need to get a ticket first. You can purchase a ticket at one of the many ticket machines at the station or online in advance via the MTA eTix app (App Store | Google Play). During peak hours the fare is $11.25 – during off-peak hours it’s just $8.25 (last checked in 2024). As soon as the train leaves the station, it takes about 20-30 minutes to arrive at Penn Station.
Chances are, you’ll need to connect to a subway train or take a taxi to your hotel from Penn Station. A single subway ride is $2.90. Make sure to check your Apple or Google maps for the best connection to your hotel or download the subway map in advance here. If you feel safer taking a taxi, rest assured, there are tons outside Penn Station that’ll drive you to your final destination. And that’s how you get from JFK to Manhattan via the Long Island Railroad!
💡 When you shouldn’t take the LIRR: You’re traveling in a group of 3+ people (it may be even cheaper and more comfortable to take a taxi/Uber/Lyft straight from the airport and split the cost). You have lots of luggage. You’re not confident about how the subway system works (it can be confusing if you’re visiting for the first time!). You live too far away from Penn Station and have to take an expensive taxi ride/multiple subway trains to reach your hotel from Penn Station.
Duration: 1-1.5 Hours | Cost: ~$20+ per person
If we gave you a little anxiety attack when we described the process of how to get from JFK to Manhattan by subway or Long Island Railroad, don’t worry. There are also connections from JFK to Manhattan that are still affordable but not as complex to access. Such as an airport shuttle.
When you exit your airport gate at JFK, follow the green “Ground Transportation” signs. These will guide you to the parking area where also a bunch of airport shuttles depart from. Unless a bus is fully booked, these shuttles accept passengers on the spot without ticket reservations. For example, we never booked tickets in advance and were always able to find a bus right away that would let us board. In case you still want to book in advance, feel free to contact us and we’ll help you select the best shuttle.
Airport shuttles usually make several stops in Manhattan. From Grand Central Terminal to Times Square, pretty sure they’ll make a stop within your hotel’s vicinity. Depending on traffic and how many people are on the bus, the ride takes about 1-1.5 hours.
💡 When you shouldn’t take an airport shuttle: You’re traveling in a group of 3+ people (you may be better off with a taxi/Uber/Lyft straight from the airport as it could be cheaper and more comfortable). You’re in a rush.
Private Transfer (Taxi/Uber/Lyft)
Duration: 1-1.5 Hours | Cost: ~$70+ total
Many of our readers have asked us how to get from JFK to Manhattan the fastest way. The answer is by taxi, Uber, or any other private transfer company for that matter. If you read the other options, you know why. Because you’ll get directly to your destination from your terminal at JFK airport. And don’t worry, private transfers are not that expensive. Especially if you’re traveling in a group. Here’s how to get from JFK to Manhattan with a private car service.
Taxis and Uber cars usually pick passengers up in the parking area of their terminal. You can get to the parking area by following the green signs that say “Ground Transportation”. From there, you can either look out for a yellow cab or order a car from your Uber or Lyft app (make sure to download and set up the apps at home while you have WiFi). Your car should arrive within minutes to take you to your hotel in Manhattan. Tip: Don’t schedule a ride in advance. You never know what kind of delays you will be expecting.
Now, about the price. It depends… Just like the LIRR, there are peak (surge pricing) and off-peak hours. However, on a normal day, you can expect to pay between $70 – $100 for your Uber/Lyft trip from JFK to Manhattan. If you’re sharing the car with, for example, two more people, that’s only $23-$33 per person. Yellow cabs offer a flat rate of $70 ($75 during peak hours, 4 PM-8 PM weekdays), plus 20% tip (price last checked in 2024). All in all, the prices are totally reasonable considering the comfort and direct drop-off at your final destination! Depending on traffic, it’ll take approximately 1-1.5 hours to reach Manhattan.
💡 When you shouldn’t take a private car: You are traveling by yourself/group of two and you are on a budget.
We hope we were able to shed some light on how to get from JFK to Manhattan. Those are the most common ways but if you’re interested in another option (e.g. by limousine), drop us a quick note and we’ll help you arrange your transfer.