I hate the New York subway. There, I said it. It’s dirty, it’s confusing, and I don’t like the way the trains occasionally change lines for absolutely no reason (seriously, changing the F train randomly to the M train when I’m trying to get to JFK is not conducive for my stress levels!). That being said, once you get the hang of it it’s…dare I say… easy to navigate? It’s getting to the hang of it that’s the issue, but never fear, I’ve put a (hopefully) easy-to-use guide together to help you get up to speed! Read on…

OK, so, first thing you need to know about the NYC subway is that Manhattan is laid out like a grid. From north to south, you have avenues – and from east to west you have streets. Example below!

streets vs avenues.png


On top of this, the subway connects downtown (Brooklyn) through to midtown (Manhattan), up to uptown (Queens/Jamaica). See below for a *great* example of this, courtesy of my shoddy Microsoft Paint skills.


Once you know these basics, you can read the below map perfectly, right?!


OK, maybe not quite.

The NYC subway has 471 stations in total, across 4 of the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx), and 10 train lines – for ease of explanation, we’re going to focus on the subway line Sixth Avenue, which is one of the main lines in Brooklyn/Manhattan/Queens, and the line in orange on the map above. The same rule applies for all lines though – you need to focus on whether you’re going up- or downtown in order to get to where you want to go!

The F line was the line I used most during my trip a few weeks ago – we stayed about a 5 minute walk from the subway station 2nd Ave. If you take a look at the below map, you can see the route from downtown to uptown taking the F line (green is Queens, purple is Manhattan, and blue is Brooklyn):

f train line

Much like the Tube, you can transfer at different stations – and unlike the Tube, some stations service more than one route (F and M usually share the same routes, so you need to check which letter is on the train before getting on it!). There are slight differences between the routes, so it’s best to check to know where you want to go, but they all follow the same premise of “downtown to uptown”. The routes on the Sixth Avenue line are B, D, F, and M – I have no idea why those letters specifically (why not A, B, C, D? Or W, X, Y, Z? So random) – all with slightly different routes although they share the same stations occasionally as I mentioned.

To access any of these crazy trains, you need to buy a Metrocard. You can buy Metrocards at pretty much every subway station from a machine – and once you have a Metrocard, you can refill it using the same machine. Subway rides are $2.75 per ride using this method, regardless of where you go (as long as you don’t exit the stations). Technically, this means you can get to Brooklyn all the way up to Queens for only $2.75, which is a bloody bargain. Apparently they’re joining the 21st century at some point and introducing contactless at stations, although I don’t think this’ll be for a few years yet.

I hope that helped clarify slightly what the NYC subway is all about, and how you can navigate it successfully to get to where you want to go. Any questions, holla at your girl, and happy travels!

R xx

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