Friday, 11 August 2017

How To Navigate The New York Subway

how to navigate the New York subway

Before I left for New York there was only one thing that I was worried about and that was getting lost on the Subway. No matter how many blog posts I read and YouTube videos I watched, I just couldn't get my head around it. So I'm going to break down how to navigate the New York Subway into what will hopefully be easy to follow tips and tricks and here they are;

Use Citymapper to map out your route

After trying a couple of different apps including Google Maps, I found that Citymapper was the most useful and reliable. All I had to do was input my start and end destinations and Citymapper would provide several different suggested routes. What I really liked about it was the fact that they tell you exactly what Subway entrance to enter/exit. This might not sound like such a big deal but when several of the stations have NW, NE, SW and SE exits and depending on which one you leave via you might be going in the complete wrong direction, knowing which one to use was beyond helpful. It also displays how many stops you'll be travelling, which I always made sure to screenshot so I could keep an eye out for my station. Not all trains have a board or screen that displays the next stop so this was definitely instrumental in me not getting off a stop too early or too late. This post wasn't sponsored by Citymapper, just in case you're wondering. I just found it the most helpful out of all the apps I tried and really relied on it when I was planning my journeys each day.

Look out for the green globes

First and foremost you'll need to find the Subway station you're travelling from. Sometimes they're halfway down a street in a place you've just walked past (this happened to me more times than I would like to admit), sometimes they're clearly indicated like in Times Square where there's a huge flashing Subway sign but most of the time you should be looking out for the green globes. These indicate a station entrance/exit, as do the green railings around them, I found. If you're really struggling to find one, I would definitely stop someone who looks like they know where they're going or even a street vendor to ask. Everyone I approached was happy to help.

Tips using New York subway

Know if you're going Uptown or Downtown

Even if you think you've found the right station, so for example 23rd Street station (as shown above), make sure you know if you're going Uptown or Downtown. Uptown would include places like Central Park and Times Square, Downtown would include places like Battery Park, Brooklyn and the Financial District.

Sometimes they can be on opposite sides of the street, other times they may be on the same side but at different intersections but know which way you're going. There always seem to be exceptions to the rules so there are stations which service both Uptown and Downtown trains. Basically if it doesn't specify Uptown or Downtown you can enter and go either way and if it does, make sure you enter the right one as you'll need to swipe and pay twice if you enter the wrong one. There are plenty of signs and you can always ask one of the station attendants or ever a fellow commuter if you're going the right way.

Check if you can get the express train or need the local

This, again, was something I was really worried about before visiting. The trains whizz past you so quickly that sometimes it's difficult to tell if it's an express or a local but try and look out for the board on the train's exterior. Other trains will alert you that this is the local or express train as you board however others don't. If you're using the Citymapper app it gives you an exact time for the train you should be taking so if it says 2mins until the R train you need to take, I would feel confident getting on that train without even having to double check but if you've taken a note of the train but not which one, it's always worth double checking. Saying all that though, even if you do get on the wrong train you can easily disembark at the next station and catch another train so try not to worry too much about this.

Connect to the free WiFi

I did get on an express by accident on my second day but realised almost immediately that I was on the wrong train. It was going in the same direction but missing out certain, slightly smaller stops (ie. not big tourist/commuter stations), however it was stopping at these larger stations so I got off at the next one and quickly reconnected to the free Transit WiFi to see what train I should take next. I didn't feel flustered or worried at all because I knew I could quickly and easily check which route to take next thanks to the free WiFi. This is especially helpful if you don't have data in the US, which I didn't so I made sure to make use of the free Transit WiFi whilst waiting on the platform.

If you're not sure where you're going don't leave the station

I accidentally read the wrong screenshot, which felt like such a silly mistake at the time and as a result got off at the wrong station. By the time I had realised I had already pushed through the turnstile and left the station. This isn't too much of an issue if you've got an unlimited or weekly Metrocard but if you're paying per ride, as I was on one of my last days, you'll have to swipe back into the station at the $2.75 fare. If I had just stayed on the platform or even gone up the stairs but not pushed through the turnstile, I could have just caught another train on one of the platforms without having to pay again.

So there you have it, those are my tips for navigating the New York Subway system. Hopefully they were helpful, especially as I really struggled to find a blog post similar to this before I left, which broke down the Subway experience into separate and easy to digest points.

Have you ever visited New York? If so, how did you find the Subway system? Do you have plans to visit New York one day? And are you enjoying my New York blog posts?


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