How to get to the city from JFK Airport: Air Train and subway step-by-step instructions

posted in: Blog, Destinations, New York, USA | 8

New York City–My biggest problem when researching how to get to the city from JFK Airport was a lack of step-by-step instructions. Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a basic guide how to do it yourself. (Click here to learn how to get to JFK Airport from the city.)

How to get to the Air Train

Once you’ve arrived and entered the airport, follow the “Baggage Claim” signs. (I know this is basic stuff, but if you don’t fly very often, it’s nice to have a reminder, right?)

After going through baggage claim and exiting the secure area, look for Air Train signs.

At this point, there’s no need to bother the employees at the welcome desk. (They were definitely bothered by my silly question about how to pay for the Air Train and where to acquire a Metro Card.) Just follow the signs and hop on the train heading toward the station you need! (More about this below.)

How to pay for the Air Train

Riding the Air Train within JFK Airport is free! You only pay when you externally enter or exit the airport. You can purchase your train ride and Metro Card (to ride the subway) in one simple step! Just use one of the dispensing machines available at any subway-Air Train hub.

The total cost for the Air Train and a one-time entrance to the subway is 7.75 USD.

How to get to the city

Here’s the sticky part: if you are taking the subway to the city, you need to know your route. If you download the NYC Subway app (AKA Embark), a fantastic map and route-planner is at your fingertips. Even when you’re underground with no service on your phone!

1. Know your final destination, and which subway lines connect closest to that area. Consult the NYC Subway, Google Maps, or other other navigational apps to determine this.

2. Use these apps, maps, or friendly passers-by to figure out which Air Train station connects to the subway line you need: Butphin Blvd-Archer Ave, Lefferts Blvd, or Howard Beach.

3. Type in the name of the Air Train station into the NYC Subway app, and then press the route symbol on the upper right of the lower half of the screen (iPhone). Here you can enter the name of your subway station destination. (Hey, that rhymed!) And press “route” again–this time the symbol should be in the upper right hand corner (iPhone)

4. View the route instructions (which subway line(s), where to transfer lines, etc.) that now should be displayed on your phone–available in list or map format.

5. Hit the road. Be sure to follow signs to get on the correct train from the correct side of the platform!

6. Ask for directions when necessary–don’t be ashamed!


Questions? Tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

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