NYC transfers



Wherever you’re staying in New York City, you usually have four options for transfers between JFK airport and NYC hotels; taxi, shuttle bus, train and subway. Choose your transport according to the number of people in your party and the amount of luggage you have, and you could save yourself plenty of both time and money. 

Your options (assuming you're transferring to Manhattan; info for other boroughs is below)

- Taking a yellow cab from outside the terminal means a fixed rate to Manhattan of $45 plus tolls (plus a tip), so $50 to $55 in total. A ride into central Manhattan usually takes 40 to 60 minutes; sometimes longer if expressway traffic is gnarly. 

Tip: if anybody in the terminal building asks if you need a taxi, ignore them – they’re an illegal (and therefore uninsured) cab driver. Follow the signs and head for the yellow cab rank outside.

- A shuttle bus can be arranged before you fly and usually costs about $20 per person. Transfer time depends on where the other bus passengers are staying; it can take over 90 minutes to reach your destination.

- There’s no subway service at the airport but there is 
the JFK Airtrain which links all the airport terminals to both Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. The Airtrain costs $5 per person and you pay at the end of the ride. The subway is currently $2.50 per ride (there are no zones on the NYC subway) but if you're intending to buy an unlimited subway pass for your trip, you can use it immediately - you’ll therefore only pay the $5 Airtrain fare. The Airtrain takes under 20 minutes to reach the subway, then it’s around 35 - 45 minutes into Manhattan, so can still beat a cab if traffic is bad.

- The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) also runs from Jamaica station to Penn Station in Manhattan's Midtown. It takes just 20 - 25 minutes for the LIRR to reach NYC. These services are very regular (you can check LIRR timetables 
here) though unless you're stopping in Midtown Manhattan, it may be impractical. This is a good option when returning to JFK since you can plan when you set off from Penn Station. 

Tip: tickets are cheap - $6.75 off-peak / $8.25 peak - but always buy them from the machines in the station; they can be bought on board but you'll pay nearly double.

With both the subway and LIRR, you're still likely to end up several blocks from your final destination. There'll be no danger if you want to walk, or you could hail a cab once you reach NYC and spend a few dollars; cab fares are reasonable so it’ll still be cheaper than the other options.

Which option is right for you?

Yellow cab
Best for: Groups of 3/4 people with checked luggage, families, couples on their first visit (the first view of the city through the cab windows is magical)
Pros: Door-to-door service
Cons: Expensive for single travellers or couples, not necessarily the fastest for transfers

Shuttle bus
Best for: Single travellers with checked luggage
Pros: Door-to-door service
Cons: Usually the longest transfer time of all options

Airtrain / Subway
Best for: The frugally minded, travellers with cabin luggage only
Pros: Cheapest option available, can be quicker than a cab
Cons: Usually means a walk / cab after reaching the city

Airtrain / LIRR
Best for: Affordable transfers from NYC to JFK, travellers with cabin luggage
Pros: Very cheap, can be quicker than a cab
Cons: Only suitable for transfer to addresses in Midtown Manhattan

Transfers from JFK to Brooklyn / Queens / Bronx / Staten Island

If you're staying in Brooklyn, you can expect to pay between $30 and $40 for a cab; from JFK to Queens it's likely to cost $20 to $25 (the airport is also in Queens, but it's a pretty big borough). If you're alone and travelling light then the Airtrain / subway option is a no-brainer. It probably won't be faster than a cab, but it'll be much cheaper.

Transfers to the Bronx (to the North of Manhattan) take an age by anything other than cab, which will cost between $40 and $55 depending on your destination. Connecting to the subway once you reach Manhattan is a possibility but it's painfully slow. It may be worth checking Metro-North maps and timetables since several train routes run through the borough; these depart from Grand Central Terminal. 

If you're one of the rare breed choosing to stay on Staten Island, a cab from JFK will cost at least $50. The cheaper alternative is to take the Airtrain to the LIRR, transfer to the 1 line on the subway from Penn Station to South Ferry station and hop on the Staten Island ferry (free, runs every half hour) and finally take a bus/cab if required. If you're travelling light, it's a serene and picturesque route once you reach the ferry but it'll take you at least two hours.


"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in Spring 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.