With all the traffic and large crowds that you would have to deal with, getting around the Big Apple can be such a daunting endeavor. New York is a great place to visit, but getting around can be a daunting experience, especially when you’re going alone.

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The thought of getting lost in a crowd and being stuck in traffic can be scary, but it’s nothing you can’t get used to. It’s only a matter of knowing where you’re going and what you need to do to get there. With a bit of practice, you’ll be commuting like a typical New Yorker.

Getting to Know New York’s Subways and Buses

New York City’s public transport generally falls to two types: subways and buses. Once you know how to use them, they become by far the most practical way to get around the City. Generally, you’ll be taking the subway especially when you’re going around Manhattan and some of the suburbs. Otherwise, you’ll be taking the buses, especially at the far ends of Manhattan.

New York Bud and Subway Fares

Most single trip tickets for both the subway and buses are $2.75 per way. The ones that go farther, such as those that take people to and from the outskirts cost about $6 per way. The MTA used to have a “Fun Pass” which gave unlimited subway and bus rides, but these have been discontinued since.

Getting to Know the MetroCard

A MetroCard is a thin plastic card that is used to pay for bus and subway fares in New York City. You can buy them at a kiosk inside of nearly any subway station. They are also sold at some newsstands as well.

MetroCards are either unlimited or charged per ride. Both accounts, however, can be maintained on the same card, in which case the prepaid balance will be consumed first before the unlimited balance is used.

If you’re visiting for a couple of days and plan on going around a lot, you can get the unlimited MetroCard that’s good for a week for only $31. If you plan to stay for a month, you can get the monthly MetroCard worth $116.50. They last until the midnight of the 7th or 30th day of usage.

You can get these MetroCards at the stations where they are used. They can be purchased with cash, credit, or debit. Each purchase, whether per ride or unlimited, costs an additional fee of $1.

MetroCards are pretty useful in a sense that they are a hassle-free way of paying for your fare. This is because buses can only accept exact change. In some cases, you have to pay your fare in advance before boarding the bus. This is usually done along major routes in the Bronx or Manhattan where there are a lot of passengers. This system is known as the “Select Bus Service” where passengers pay their fare via a nearby kiosk.

Some MetroCards are auto-refillable, although they are more useful for residents who will eventually run out of their balance from time to time. However, if you feel that you will be using up your MetroCard a lot, this is good information to know.


As mentioned before, rides cost $2.75 per ride. However, topping up a balance of $5.50 or more will get you an 11% bonus, which means more consumable balance for you. So make sure that you always top up with that amount, since the bonus only accrues with every purchase that fulfills that requirement. Those who top-up on a pay-per-ride basis can share the card with three other people, allowing for four to benefit from a single card. Passengers simply need to keep swiping the card as each of up to four persons pass the turnstyle.

Unlimited fares are available for a set period of time. However, they cannot be used more than once within an 18 minute period. This was designed to prevent multiple people from using one card, as the unlimited MetroCard is only meant to be used by one person.

Children are given special rates. An adult can bring up to three kids not taller than 44” for free on either a bus or subway. Infants can be brought with an adult riding the express buses for free so long as they sit on the adult’s lap.

Tip: You might want to buy your MetroCards via ATM or Credit Card, as they would be insured against theft or loss. In case you lose your card, you can take steps to claim any unused credit with a new MetroCard.

Checking Your Balance

If you’re using a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, you will be able to see the balance on the turnstyle as you swipe the card. There are also MetroCard readers available at various booths. To check your balance or how much time you have left, just scan your cards there.

Getting Around New York City

Getting a MetroCard is only the beginning. Once you know where you want to go, you’ll want to start familiarizing yourself with the subway and bus systems. The best way to do this is to study the subway map and bus route index, both of which can be viewed and downloaded from the internet.

You will then want to learn about the trip schedules, which can also be found online. New York’s subways generally run every two to five minutes when it’s rush hour and five to fifteen minutes for the rest of the day. During midnight until 6:00 AM it only runs once every 20 minutes.

Be mindful of the regular service interruptions that happen on the subway as this might get in the way of your travel plans. Once you figure out which areas are subject to service changes allows you to avoid them and plan your trip accordingly.

Just like any other trip, knowledge and planning are key to a successful visit to New York. By knowing how to take the subway and the buses, you can pretty much go anywhere you like.