Arriving in any big city can be daunting especially if you are sleep deprived, have arrived at some ungodly hour of the morning or night and are burdened down with luggage. It may be tempting to think, “stuff it, I’ll get a taxi” and that’s a fair enough decision, but be aware that it will set you back approx. US$55 to get to mid-town Manhattan. A shuttle may seem like a simple hassle-free forward and simple option but it has two major down sides. At approx. $20/person it is significantly more expensive than public transport and not much less than a taxi for 2 people. Secondly then ride can be frustrating long if you are the first on the shuttle and the last to be dropped off.
By taking a combination of the JFK AirTrain and a single MTA Subway pass you can travel into the heart of Manhattan for only 8.50/person. It will probably take you 1-1.5 hours but if you are on a budget that is a significant saving. Depending on how many days you are staying in New York you may choose to buy a 7 day MTA pass which costs US$30. If you are going from JFK to Brooklyn or lower Manhattan you need to take the Air Train to the Howard Beach subway station and catch the A train. If you are heading to mid-town Manhattan then take the Air Train to Jamaica Station and catch the subway to 34 th St Penn Station.
It’s a good idea to have studied at the subway map online before arriving. You can check it again at the subway station and every train carriage has one too. On every train route there are both “Express” and “Local” trains. “Express” trains do not stop at every station and are therefore faster while “Local” trains stop at every station and therefore gives a slower commute. On the map express stops are represented by a white dot and local stops by a black dot. Passengers on an express train need to swap to a local train if their end destination is only a local stop. It makes sense to do this at the last express stop before your local one. This is easy to do as the local and express trains are just across the platform from each other.
If you plan to take the subway from JFK into Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens it is best to consider where the subway stations are in relation to the accommodation you are looking at booking. Preferably book something within a short walking distance of a station. If it is too far away then you might need to catch a MTA bus across to your hotel or take a short taxi ride or uber which should be less than $10.