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I have been to New York City a few times with my family – once with my daughter for her birthday a few years ago and more recently a layover with my son on our way to Greece. Since we were staying in mid-town Manhattan (once at the Sheraton Times Square and once at the Wingate by Wyndham Midtown Manhattan), none of the 3 New York City airport options (JFK / LGA / EWR) were that much different than any of the others. Since JFK airport is quite a bit away from the main areas of New York City, we did a bit of research to help find the best way from JFK Airport to Manhattan. So I thought I would share with you some of my information to help you figure out the best way to get from JFK to New York City.
Getting from JFK airport to midtown Manhattan by taxi
You can surely take a taxi from JFK airport to Manhattan but it will be fairly expensive. The NYC Taxi and Limousine commission has set up the trip to / from JFK airport from anywhere in Manhattan as a flat fare. A taxi from JFK airport to Manhattan costs $52.80 plus a $4.50 rush hour surcharge from 4pm to 8pm on weekdays, in addition to tips and tolls.
If you do want to take a taxi from JFK Airport in Queens to Manhattan, you’re likely to save money by using a service like Taxi2Airport.com – plus you can save $5 off using this link with coupon code T2A5OFF
Another option that many people like is using a shared express bus – there are a variety of express buses that go from JFK Airport to Times Square or various other places in Manhattan, in the $15 to $20 (one-way) range. These are large buses designed for airport runs, so most of them should have plenty of storage underneath the seats for luggage. GO Airlink Shuttle is one such bus – it costs about $21 one-way. It runs every half hour on the half hour and they will pick you up at a variety of hotels and NYC transportation hubs (Grand Central, Penn Station, etc). Try promo code SHUTTLE to save 5%
And obviously you will be in a car, so subject to New York City traffic, especially if you’re traveling in rush hour (which seems like every hour!)
JFK airport to Manhattan by Uber or Lyft
Uber has an estimated price of $50-$75 to get from JFK to midtown Manhattan, though obviously that depends on your destination in New York City and probably time of day (how long it takes)
Lyft is similarly priced from John F Kennedy airport to Manhattan though both Uber and Lyft often are running promotions especially in New York City so be sure to check with them before you go
Step by step instructions for riding the Air Train from JFK to Manhattan
While taxi, Uber, bus and even other ride share services or limos are all options to get from JFK airport to Manhattan, in my opinion, just like the best way to get from Manhattan to JFK airport, the absolute best way to get from JFK airport to Manhattan is by train. You can either take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from JFK Airport to midtown Manhattan or you can take the subway. In either case, you’ll need to take the Air Train from JFK.
Here is a map of the Air Train at JFK from the Port Authority of NY/NJ website
There are actually 2 different Air Trains (they’re red and green in the map above but they’re not indicated by color – just by terminus, which is announced at every stop ). They both circle to all of the JFK terminals but have different end points. If you find you are on the wrong Air Train, just get off at any terminal stop and transfer to the other one with no additional charge. Depending on whether you want to go the Howard Beach station (subway A train) or the Jamaica station (subway E Train or Long Island Railroad / LIRR), just follow the signs from your terminal to the Air Train of your choice!
The JFK Air Train is free to ride between the terminals but there is a $5 charge per person if you are going to Manhattan at either the Sutphin / Archer / JFK stop on the E line or the Howard Beach stop on the A line. If you’re going from JFK airport to Penn Station, Times Square or anywhere outside of the airport you pay after you exit the Air Train at either the Sutphin / Archer or Howard Beach station. Children under 5 ride free. Note that you CAN use your pay as you go Metrocard (make sure to have enough money on it to cover the $5 fee) but that unlimited Metrocards (like the 1-day or 3-day passes that you can buy) do NOT work for the $5 Air Train fee. Trains run to JFK every 7 minutes during peak times or 10 minutes at other times.
How to get from JFK to Manhattan by LIRR (train)
You can get from Manhattan to Newark airport (or LaGuardia) by bus, but it’s not really convenient to get from JFK airport in Queens to most of Manhattan by bus.
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has a large route map, but if you’re going from JFK airport to Times Square (or anywhere in Manhattan), you’ll probably want to take the LIRR from JFK to Penn Station, which is between 7th and 8th Avenues and 31st and 33rd streets in Manhattan. (there are also stations in northern Queens or Brooklyn as well). You’ll want to take the Air Train from JFK to the Jamaica station and then onward to Manhattan or your final destination
The LIRR costs $10.25 one way at peak times (westbound from 6AM to 10AM and eastbound from 4PM to 8PM), and $7.50 in off-peak times. There is also a Family Fare of $1 each way (on Off-Peak and PM Peak trains) for up to four children (age 5-11) per traveling adult (18 and over); Child Fare (for AM Peak trains), with a discount of 50% off full fare. So if you’re traveling with a family, then the LIRR may be the cheapest way to get from JFK airport to Manhattan
Another advantage of taking the train from Kennedy airport to Manhattan is that you’re not on the road (duh), so you don’t have to deal with any of the famous New York City traffic.
In order to get from the actual JFK airport terminal to the Jamaica station, you will take the AirTrain JFK (see below)
The cheapest and best way to get from JFK airport to Manhattan
The best and cheapest way to get from JFK airport to Manhattan is probably the vaunted NYC subway. There are 2 different ways to go on the subway from JFK airport to Manhattan, and which one you want depends on your final destination.
If you are in lower OR upper Manhattan (or Brooklyn or the Bronx) it’s probably easiest to make like Duke Ellington and take the A train (blue in the picture above) from the Howard Beach / JFK Airport stop. If you’re in midtown Manhattan, it’s probably slightly faster to take the E train to the Sutphin Boulevard / Archer Avenue / JFK Airport stop. In either case the subway from JFK Airport to Manhattan will take between 45-60 minutes.
If you REALLY want to get the cheapest way from JFK to Manhattan, you can take the Q10 bus from Terminal 4 (take the Air Train for free to Terminal 4 from any other terminal). That will take you to the Lefferts Boulevard subway station where you can catch the A train. Because there is a free bus to subway connection, you’ll save the $5 per person Air Train fee.
I hope this guide has helped you travel from JFK airport to Manhattan or anywhere else in New York City – if you need to make it a roundtrip, make sure to check out my guide to the best and cheapest way from Manhattan to JFK airport
What are your tips for the cheapest and best way from JFK Airport to Manhattan?