How to Successfully Use the Metro in NYC

Taking public transportation has always been out of my comfort zone because of how confusing it seems. Sometimes you have no other option which kind of makes me miss when my mom used to drop me off places. My first experience travelling by myself was to New York City, and the idea of taking the subway “by myself” to my Airbnb was really frightening. So many “what if” scenarios crossed my mind. But with good planning, I was able to get to my Airbnb without getting lost. So if this scenario sounds familiar to you, you should follow these steps to successfully take the metro in NYC.

 

Know where you are going

It's important that you know the trains you're taking and which train stations you need to get out at. An easy way to do this is to use Google Maps. You can put the address of your location and the address of the destination in Google Maps, click on transit and TA-DAA! you have the directions to the station and times of the trains you’re taking in your phone. 

 

Check the times

Another important aspect of using public transit is timing. Until last week, I didn’t realize that Google Maps offers the option for users to input the date and time of their trip and schedules directions accordingly. So, you can even plan the trains you are going to take a month before your actual trip. Sometimes, however, the subway schedule changes and by the time you realize, you're already running late. That is why I recommend you double check the timing of the trains a day before your trip. (I’m kind of paranoid about missing the train. I literally check the schedule every minute to make sure I’m not late.)

 

Downtown and uptown

Know what direction you're going. I’m not a New Yorker, so I’m probably not the best person to explain the downtown and the uptown concept. But it's pretty straightforward: if your destination is north of your current location, you take the uptown train, and if your destination is south of your current location you take the downtown train.

 

MetroCard

 Since now you know which trains you're taking, count the times you are going to swipe from a station and buy your MetroCard according to that number. Sometimes buying the unlimited pass (weekly) costs less than the normal MetroCard. 

 

Use apps

There are many apps out there waiting to make your lives easier. The ones I used when I was in New York were “NYC Subway” and “Transit”.

 

Ask people

I know sometimes you just don’t feel like talking to people and feel stupid asking questions. But it's a normal thing to ask for directions if you don’t know the area or want to make sure that you're on the right train. An important point is choosing the person to ask. So if someone is running down the stairs and you try to ask them a question, you're most probably not going to get an answer. Find someone who looks like they’re not in a rush. When I went to New York, I probably asked a minimum of 5 people to find the Q train (and I’m proud of myself that I didn’t get lost). If you are still not convinced, just think about it. Even if they judge you, you are probably not going to see that person in your life again. So just go for it!

 

Fake it 'til you make it

This is a big trick shhh. Try to act like a New Yorker and don't look clueless of where you are going. There are people out there who are waiting to prey on the luggage and handbags of obvious tourists. You'll be more vulnerable if you look like you don't know what you're doing. Be careful about leaving your stuff outside.

 

You have now completed the Basics level course of using NYC Transit and are ready to use it yourself. May the force be with you!