Is there a New York Subway Pass for Tourists? 🚇
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This post has been updated on January 1, 2024 to reflect the updated MTA fares.
If you’re visiting New York only for a few days, you might be wondering what the most affordable way is to get around the city. Taking the subway is a great option. The different lines connect New York seamlessly – 24/7. However, you don’t want to get a pass that is more expensive than single rides and vice versa.
The question is: Is there a New York Subway Pass for Tourists? And the short answer is: No.
While there used to be a so-called “1 Day Fun Pass” and “14-Day Unlimited Pass” until 2010 available, it is now up to the visitor to decide what other ticket option serves their needs best. Get your calculators out, here are some options that could qualify as a New York subway pass for tourists.
Single Ride Ticket – $3.25 per ride
OK, single rides are really only the right option for you if you’re planning on taking the subway as a backup option in case you get tired of walking or you need a last minute ride. The price per ticket is $3.25 (2024). If you already know that you’ll take the subway at least three times, skip this section!
However, if you believe this comes close to the New York subways pass for tourists you were looking for, here’s how it works:
Once your payment has been accepted you’ll get your single ride ticket. As soon as you’ve swiped the card through the turnstile, the ticket remains valid for 2 hours. During this time you are allowed to change lines but you can’t re-enter the subway system again once you’ve left a station, even if 2 hours are not over. Since you can’t reuse the ticket, feel free to dispose of it after you’ve reached your destination.
Single Ride Contactless (OMNY) – $2.90 per ride
In December 2020 the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) completed the rollout of the contactless payment option OMNY at subway turnstiles and in busses. NEW since 2022: There’s now a weekly fare cap ($34) when you use OMNY. Once you’ve paid 12 single rides with the same card or device, you’ll ride free for the rest of the week.
If you want to rely on single rides/tickets, this is a slightly cheaper option than the one mentioned above and may be enough to qualify for you as a New York subway pass for tourists.
Here’s how it works (same steps apply when you enter local busses):
Single Ride Pay-Per-Ride (MetroCard required) – $2.90 per ride
If you already know that you’ll take the subway more than three times but still not too frequently and you don’t want to pay contactless, the Pay-Per-Ride option might be the right choice for you. Note that you’ll need a yellow MetroCard first to take advantage of the reduced single ride fare. Here’s how it works:
You don’t have a yellow MetroCard
You already have a MetroCard and want to top it up
⭐ Our Favorite
7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard – $34 per week
NEW since 2022: There’s now a weekly fare cap ($34) when you use the contactless payment option OMNY. Once you’ve paid 12 single rides with the same card or device, you’ll ride free for the rest of the week.
The 7-Day Unlimited MetroCard is probably the best alternative to a New York subway pass for tourists, especially if you already know that you will be heavily relying on public transportation. The weekly pass costs $34 per week (2024). With this pass you can also take advantage of the many local busses. Depending on whether you already have a MetroCard or not, here are the purchasing steps:
You don’t have a yellow MetroCard
You already have a MetroCard and want to add a 7-Day Pass
30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard – $132 per month
Last but not least, there is the 30-Day Unlimited MetroCard for $132 per month (2024). You probably won’t need this option unless you’re really spending a whole month in New York. However, even then we don’t recommend the 30-Day Unlimited MetroCard as a replacement for a New York subway pass for tourists. Not even many New Yorkers purchase this pass as it’s a huge monetary damage if you lose the card. As a tourist who will rely on public transportation, you’ll always be better off with weekly passes ($34/week). However, if you still want to get a monthly pass, follow the steps described in the “7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard” section and select “30-Day Unlimited” instead of “7-Day Unlimited.”
Kids Ride Free
We frequently get asked if parents need to purchase tickets for their children as well. Not necessarily. Up to three children below 44 inches can join you for free if you have a valid ticket or pass.
Wow, that was a lot of information! We understand that taking the subway for the very first time can be overwhelming and confusing. Because there is no New York subway pass for tourists available, many visitors are worried that they won’t pick the right option and end up spending too much on transit.
So here is an interactive example! The tourist couple Max and Lisa are visiting New York for 4 days and they don’t want to use the subway too often. They believe that single tickets and a couple of contactless rides will work for them. Let’s have a look at their daily itineraries.
Day 1: First they travel from JFK to their hotel in Manhattan ($3.25). Once checked in they decide to explore the neighborhood by foot, then they get tired and take the subway back to the hotel ($3.25).
Day 2: The couple discovers that they can also use the contactless option because their credit cards have the contactless icon on them. They take advantage of OMNY for their sightseeing trip to Brooklyn (probably 2x $2.90) and then back to Manhattan ($2.90).
Day 3: Lisa and Max want to explore Manhattan from Harlem to Battery Park. To make the most of the day they decide to take the subway to move around faster. They use the contactless option at least 3 times (3x $2.90). Once back at the hotel they feel like celebrating their trip at a nice rooftop bar. They dress up and head straight to the bar ($2.90) and then later back again to the hotel ($2.90).
Day 4: The couple still hasn’t seen Central Park! Before they head to the airport in the evening, they decide that there’s still time for a quick trip to the park (2x $2.90). Afterwards they go back to the hotel, grab their bags from the lobby and take the train back to JFK ($3.25).
Total: $38.75 per person
What ticket option would you have recommended to Max and Lisa instead?
You see, even if you’re only visiting New York for a few days, single fares can add up and a weekly pass quickly becomes a much better option. While there is no New York subway pass for tourists, you can still be spontaneous with a weekly pass instead of calculating all the time how much money you have left on your card or how many more times you can use single rides so you stay below $34!
We hope you were able to pick an option that qualifies for you as a New York subway pass for tourists. If you’re still having doubts or questions, reach out to us or post a comment below and we’ll help you pick the most suitable option.