We used to exclusively fly into LaGuardia Airport when we visited Manhattan because there were plenty of flights from Orlando and the price was about the same as flying into the other NYC airports. We could easily take a taxi into Manhattan from LaGuardia so I never gave much thought to other transportation options.
Airfares started to rise and I was able to find cheaper flights into JFK Airport instead of LaGuardia. That meant I had to figure out the best way to get to Midtown Manhattan from JFK, located in Jamaica, Queens. I knew that, unlike LaGuardia, connection to the NYC Subway was possible from JFK; I just didn’t know how to do it.
I tend to be an obsessive planner (Note from Sharon: No, really? Tell me about it…), so when I needed to figure out how to get to Manhattan from JFK, I looked to my main research tool, Google. Unfortunately besides the answer of “you can take the subway,” there really weren’t many detailed directions on making the trip. Hopefully, this article will fill the gap.
We were flying JetBlue on this trip so my instructions will be from Terminal 5 but you should be able to use the same directions once you get to the AirTrain from any location.
When you get off the plane, you just need to follow signs to “Ground Transportation” (of course, if you checked luggage you’d need to collect your bags first).
After getting to the baggage claim area, follow the signs to the “AirTrain, Parking & Taxis via Skywalk”
Keep following these signs to the up escalator that leads to the Skywalk. You want to get to the AirTrain JFK.
At this point, you’ll be at the entrance to the Skywalk, which leads to the AirTrain, Parking, Public Buses and Taxis.
You’ll know you’ve reached it because of the seemingly never-ending series of moving walkways. Hopefully they’ll be working when you’re there. Otherwise it’s a LONG walk, especially with heavy luggage. (Note from Sharon: Unfortunately, we speak from experience.)
At the end of the Skywalk, you’ll see signs for the AirTrain. Keep going onward.
You’re almost there. Just down an escalator, elevator or stairs to the AirTrain
The AirTrain Station
There’s only one line that departs from the station but it branches to different destinations. If you want to take the subway to Midtown Manhattan, you’ll need to take the AirTrain to Jamaica Station.
The other branch heads to Howard Beach station. This is where you can connect to the A Subway line which will take you to through Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan and then heads up to the west side. If you get on the wrong AirTrain, you’ll have to get off and backtrack to the Federal Circle Station and change to a train headed to Jamaica Station (Note from Sharon: Again, we know this from personal experience. Oops.)
After getting off the AirTrain, head towards the NYC Subway. The E train will take you to Midtown Manhattan. You’ll need to get a ticket to exit the AirTrain. The fare for the AirTrain is $8.00 and the Subway fare is $2.75.
You can get a MetroCard from the nearby vending machines, which you can use for the rest of your trip. A new Metrocard will cost you $1 but you can load additional funds to an old card, if you have one, if it’s not expired.
Once you’ve exited the AirTrain station, you need to get to the Subway. Follow the signs to the Subway E, J & Z lines. You’ll be taking the E train to Manhattan.
You’ll pass the LIRR train station and get to an elevator to head downstairs. From there, you have to go down one more escalator to get to the subway station.
At this point, you’ll know that you’ve reached the NYC Transit Subway system. The smell is unmistakable. It’s a mix of musty, hot, steamy machinery along with body odor and just a hint of pee. Well, maybe more than a hint of the urine smell.
From here, follow the signs to the E train headed to Manhattan. The last stop on the line is World Trade Center so you may see signs for a train headed in that direction. That’s the one that you want.
We exited at the 53rd St Station and the ride took about 40 minutes. This was the first stop in Manhattan and is on the East Side, a few blocks from Grand Central Station. The E train eventually goes across town to the Port Authority station on 42nd Street before heading downtown and terminating at the World Trade Center.
For $10.75, it’s a great price to get into Manhattan from JFK Airport. With limited drivers at the moment, other options are exceedingly expensive,
As a comparison, here’s how much an NYC Taxi would cost:
- To/From JFK and any location in Manhattan:
- Onscreen rate is ‘Rate #02 – JFK Airport.’
- This is a flat fare of $52 plus tolls, the 50-cent MTA State Surcharge and $4.50 rush-hour surcharge (4 PM to 8 PM weekdays, excluding legal holidays).
- Passenger is responsible for paying all tolls.
- Please tip your driver for safety and good service.
If you’d rather take an Uber or Lyft, here’s the current fare from JFK Terminal 5 to Times Square (from the respective websites in June 2021)
We’re a huge fan of using public transportation in major cities. When flying into JFK Airport, it’s easy to connect with the NYC Transit system and get a Subway into Manhattan. If you’re looking for a quicker option than the subway, you can also take the LIRR to Penn Station for a few extra dollars. Unlike taking a Taxi or Uber, there won’t be any chance of getting stuck in traffic and the price is cheaper than any other way to get to Manhattan from JFK.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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Great review of how to get from JFK to Manhattan. There is a cheaper way that costs $2.75. Take the Q10 Limited (or Q10) bus from either the Lefferts Blvd. Air Train station (cross the street where the bus stop is) or near the Terminal 6 Air Train. Get off at Kew Gardens, which is the end of the Q10 Limited bus line. From there, take the E train, the same one that you would take if you took the Air Train. Total cost with a Metro Cart is $2.75 or a little bit less because there can be a discount on the Metro Card if you load it with more than a few dollars.
Thanks for the info Derek. I made the decision not to include this option because I wanted the directions to be as easy as possible for those who have never been to JFK before and are not familiar with NY Public Transportation. Taking into consideration that people will more than likely have luggage with them and the longer travel time when taking the bus, the ease of taking the Air Train is worth the extra $5 IMHO.
Fantastic post!! Thanks so much.
Depending where in Manhattan you’re headed, the best bet is often to take the Airtrain to Jamaica station, then the LIRR to Penn Station. It’s often a non-stop train and is almost always faster than the Subway.
I did mention the LIRR in this post, but I have another post about the pros and cons of the LIRR vs. Subway.