New York Airport to City Travel Options

By Stuart Bak

New York. So good they named it twice. So pretty it holds the Guinness world record for being the planet's most Instagrammed city. And so perennially popular with tourists and business travelers that it requires not one, not two, but *three* airports to keep up with demand. It’s not hard to understand why either: think household-name attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State building, a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene (looking at you, Broadway!), and some of the best shopping in the Western world. And that barely scratches the surface. Planning a trip to to the city never sleeps? Read on for our guide to the airport transportation options that will have you enjoying the bright lights of downtown Manhattan in no time at all.

New York Airports in Brief

Aeroplane descending over the brightly illuminated Manhattan skyline at night

The Big Apple has three international airports: John F. Kennedy (JFK), Newark Liberty (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA). Here’s the lowdown…

JFK is the main entry point for all arrivals in the US, making it the biggest and busiest airport in New York by some considerable margin. It’s located in Queens, around 26km southeast of Midtown Manhattan.

Newark Liberty Airport is 14km southwest of Manhattan and runs JFK pretty close in terms of annual passenger numbers.

LaGuardia is the baby of the three main New York airports, processing around half the number of annual passengers of its Queens neighbor JFK. It’s around 17km by road from Midtown Manhattan.

But what’s the best way to get to Manhattan from each airport? Read on to find out…

JFK to the City

AirTrain

The AirTrain at JFK Airport, New York

The JFK AirTrain provides a quick, easy and (largely) free way to navigate the airport’s eight terminals. It operates 24/7 year-round and connects you, the eager new arrival, to hotel shuttle pick-up areas, airport parking lots, and the rental car center. There’s an $8.25 fee if your AirTrain journey starts or ends at Jamaica or Howard Beach stations, which connect to New York’s public transportation network via the NYC subway system, the Long Island Rail Road, and public buses.

By Subway

Traveling on a budget? The NYC subway is your friend. Take the AirTrain to Jamaica station for subway connections to Brooklyn, Queens, Midtown and Lower Manhattan, or to Howard Beach for connections to Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and the Rockaways only. The subway takes around 50-60 minutes into Manhattan and costs only around $3 on top of your AirTrain fare.

By Train

The Long Island Rail Road is a commuter train that links Jamaica station with Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn and Long Island. It’s considerably faster than the subway, taking around 30 minutes into Midtown Manhattan. But you’ll pay for the privilege: an extra $5-11 on top of the AirTrain fare, variable depending whether you’re traveling during peak times or not.

Times Square street sign and yellow NYC cab

By Bus

There are more regional bus services out of JFK than we could possibly list here, but the majority don’t go right to the heart of New York and require a connection to the subway anyway. There is one Express Bus service that operates from terminals 1, 4 and 8 and will take you all the way to downtown Manhattan. It costs $19 and runs every 30 minutes between 11AM and 7PM.

By Cab

JFK Airport cabs charge a fixed fare of $70 into Manhattan. That’s per car for up to four passengers. A bargain. Watch out for extra charges though, including the peak period surcharge ($5), the airport pick-up fee ($1.75), the state tax (50 cents), the variable congestion charge, and the 75-cent add-on to rides that pass through Manhattan or end south of 96th street. Oh, and don’t forget to tip, will ya?

By Rental Car

There are stacks of rental companies operating after arrivals in each terminal: Alamo, Avis, Hertz and Thrifty to name just a few. Book your vehicle then hop on the AirTrain to the Federal Circle Station to pick it up. Be wise to road tolls in and around NYC and be sure to check your individual rental company’s policy regarding how these should be handled to avoid picking up a hefty bill later.

Grand Central Terminal in New York

Newark Liberty to the City

AirTrain

Like JFK, Newark Liberty Airport operates an AirTrain network that serves all three terminals, providing free transport to rental cars, hotel shuttles and parking lots. You’ll pay an $8.25 fee for AirTrain journeys that connect to the city via the Newark Liberty International Airport Station. This is included in the price of NJ Transit and Amtrak tickets purchased in the terminal. AirTrain runs every 3-5 minutes between 5AM and 11PM and around every 15 minutes through the wee small hours.

By Train

Regular Amtrak and NJ Transit trains run direct from Newark Liberty International Airport Station to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, and beyond to Philadelphia, D.C., and more. Journeys into Manhattan take around 25 minutes and cost from around $20 one way.

Brooklyn Bridge

By Bus

NJ Transit runs a regular Express Bus service between Newark Liberty International Airport and major NYC stations including Grand Central, Bryant Park and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It’s $18 one way or $30 for a return ticket. You can catch the bus at regular intervals between 5AM and 1AM, 365 days a year.

By Cab

Newark Liberty Airport cabs charge fixed fares that range from $60-80 depending where in New York City you’re going. As with JFK, there are several additional charges to look for, and tipping for good service is expected. 

By Rental Car

You’ll find all the regular car rental companies at the rental center on levels 1-3 of the Parking A Access Road, which can be reached for free on the AirTrain. Be sure to check about road toll policies with your chosen rental company.

LaGuardia to the City

Woman having a coffee and checking her phone in the airport

Being the smallest of NYC’s ‘big three’ means transport options are slightly more limited from LaGuardia Airport. But getting to the heart of the Big Apple action is still very straightforward.

By Bus

There are multiple options available via the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus network. You can go all the way to downtown Manhattan, or hop off en route to connect to the subway and Long Island Rail Road. One-way trips on the MTA network cost a mere $2.90, making bus hands-down the most cost effective method of getting from LaGuardia to Manhattan.

By Cab

Cabs from LaGuardia to Manhattan range from $30-38 and again, fares are fixed by destination, but with various add-ons including state taxes, peak-time surcharges and airport access fees. Please, as ever, do tip for good service.

By Rental Car

Car rental agencies including Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Thrifty operate out of all three terminals at LaGuardia and there are free shuttles in front of each terminal to take you to your vehicle.

Save on attractions, tours and activities in New York

Save on admission to New York attractions with the New York Pass. Check out @NewYorkPass on Instagram for the latest top tips and attraction info.

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