By Cailey Rizzo
March 12, 2019
Radharc Images / Alamy Stock Photo

You’ve done the impossible: you nabbed cheap airfare to New York City. Now comes the hard part: You have to navigate your way from the airport to wherever you’re staying.

Anyone who has traveled through New York City has lived through the ordeal as well. And frequent fliers who pass through NYC tend to agree that the metropolis has one of the world’s strangest airport situations.

The airspace above New York is among the busiest in the world. However, on the ground, the city’s airport links are notoriously difficult for out-of-towners to conquer. There isn’t a simple train shuttle that will whisk you downtown. And LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark — the city’s three main airports — are all flung in opposite directions from central Manhattan.

On top of NYC’s undeniable chaotic energy, the journey from the airport can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. But it need not be. Whether you’re flying into JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia, here’s what to expect as you’re navigating your way from the airport to your New York City vacation.

Newark Liberty International Airport

Let’s just say that Newark isn’t exactly known as a culinary destination — except for the Global Bazaar in Terminal C. The much-needed food hall opened in 2018 with an Italian deli, sushi, ramen, and more reflecting the many international destinations it flies to.

While many airlines operate to and from Newark, United claims the airport as one of its major hubs. The airline operates all flights in and out of Newark’s Terminal C.

Newark is fairly easy to access if you’re staying on the west side of Manhattan, but this option will be pricey or time-consuming if you’re traveling to and from Queens or Brooklyn.

How to get there: New Jersey Transit offers a fairly easy option for travelers to get between midtown Manhattan and Newark Airport. From Penn Station, jump on either the Northeast Corridor or North Jersey Coast lines. It will take about 30 minutes and $13 for this trip. Trains run 21 hours per day, stopping only from 2 a.m. to about 4:30 a.m.

The Newark Airport Express shuttle service runs from midtown Manhattan to all terminals at Newark. Round-trip fare is $30 or $17 for one-way. With minimal traffic, the journey takes about 45 minutes.

Taxi cost: A taxi is likely to cost anywhere from $50 to $70 if you’re riding to Manhattan. Tack on more if you’re going to another borough.

An uberX ride to Midtown from the airport starts at $42 and an uberPOOL will start at $29.

LaGuardia Airport

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LaGuardia is a frequent option for domestic travelers. American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and Southwest all operate flights from the airport.

After years of being criticized for its subpar facilities, the airport is undergoing renovations. At the end of 2018, LaGuardia unveiled its newly remodeled Terminal B, although renovation of all the gates won’t be completed until 2020. By 2021, the airport should finish construction on Terminal C, which will be the home base for all Delta flights.

For those staying in Northern Brooklyn (Williamsburg or Greenpoint) or uptown and midtown Manhattan, LaGuardia is the closest option. You’ll be able to take a cab the eight miles to the airport in less than 30 minutes, depending on traffic and your location.

How to get there: LaGuardia is one of the most difficult airports to access if you’re using public transit, mainly because you will need to take a bus. The two most popular routes are the Q70 LaGuardia Link and M60 SBS. If you’re riding the Q70, you’ll pick it up at a stop in Queens, accessible by the 7, E, F, M and R trains. The M60 SBS makes stops in uptown Manhattan and Queens. A bus trip will cost $2.75. We recommend loading an MTA MetroCard before attempting to catch the bus.

For easier access from midtown Manhattan, consider a ride on the NYC Airporter. The shuttle costs $16 one-way or $30 round-trip and will get you to central destinations like Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Taxi cost: If you’re headed to Manhattan from the airport, Port Authority predicts that you will spend anywhere between $25 and $40 to reach your destination (plus tip and tolls). However, as with most New York City journeys, traffic is the deciding factor in cost and if you’re traveling at rush hour, the meter will soar well above that price bracket.

An UberX from LaGuardia to midtown Manhattan will cost around $40, depending on traffic. If you’re going to northern Brooklyn, the price will drop to around $30.

John F. Kennedy International Airport

Patti McConville / Alamy Stock Photo

If your stay is based in lower Brooklyn (anywhere lower than Williamsburg) or eastern Queens, JFK will be your closest airport. New York’s most famous gateway is a preferred choice for many because of its lounges, shops and dining options.

JFK is also the home base for JetBlue. The airline has taken over Terminal 5 (or as they call it T5) and decked it out in blue. The airport is currently in the midst of a $13 billion renovation, which will add two new international terminals by 2025.

How to get there: JFK is one of the easiest options for those traveling to the airport via public transit. There are two options for navigating your way into the city.

The fastest is boarding the AirTrain (the airport’s terminal-to-terminal shuttle, $5 and payable by MetroCard) and connecting to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) at Jamaica Station. Service runs to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn or Penn Station in Manhattan for $7.50.

The cheapest option is the AirTrain ($5) to the subway (only $2.75). At Jamaica, you’ll be able to board the E, J, and Z trains. Take the AirTrain to the Howard Beach stop to board the A train. Preload a MetroCard to ensure easy access. It takes about one hour and 15 minutes to reach downtown Manhattan via this route.

The NYC Airporter Shuttle Service to JFK is available for $19 one-way or $35 roundtrip. It’s available to pick up at Grand Central or Port Authority.

Taxi cost: JFK is the only NYC airport that offers a flat-rate trip from anywhere in Manhattan. Passengers will always pay $52 per ride, not including tolls or tips.

Uber estimates that a ride from JFK to Midtown will cost about $79. A ride into northern Brooklyn starts at about $55 for uberX.