If you’ve ever landed in New York City and splurged upward of $50 on an Uber to take you on from there, we salute your struggle.

So we propose another option: public transport. While this choice may seem daunting, in truth taking the train, subway and/or bus to and from the airport isn’t as scary as it seems.

And you might even get to your destination faster.

LaGuardiaJohn F Kennedy and Newark airports are all reachable via public transit – with NYC subways and buses to JFK and LaGuardia the cheapest option by far. However, since there’s no one-stop public-transit option to the center of town (as in many cities in Europe and Asia), a little bit of homework will go a long way toward making your journey as seamless as possible.

Here’s all you need to know about getting to and from New York City’s three airports. Even if you ultimately do choose to take that rideshare.

Read our full guide to transportation in NYC

LaGuardia Airport’s newly renovated Terminal B, Queens, New York City, New York, NYC
Budget some time to enjoy LaGuardia Airport, which has recently undergone a total, and totally fabulous, renovation © Timothy A Clary / AFP via Getty Images

Getting to and from LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

Minimum cost: $2.90

By public transit, take either the 7 train to 111 St/Roosevelt Ave, then connect to the Q48 bus; the 7, E, F, M and R trains to Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Ave/74 St, then connect to the Q47 bus; or pick up the M60 SBS bus in Manhattan, which meets the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, B, C and D subway lines at 125 St, the 1 line at 116 St, and the Metro-North Railroad at Harlem–125 St. 

The Q70 SBS also stops at LGA, with connections to the 7, E, F, M and R lines at 74 St/Roosevelt Ave and the LIRR’s Woodside station at 61 St/Roosevelt Ave. 

There are designated spots for rideshare pickups and drop-offs at each terminal, as well as queues for yellow cabs. Taxi fares are metered to and from LGA, so the total will depend on the distance to or from the airport. A $1 surcharge applies on weekdays from 4pm to 8pm, and a $0.50 surcharge weekdays between 8pm and 6am. A $0.50 tax for trips within New York State and a $1.25 fee for pickups also both apply. Tips are additional; 15% to 20% is customary.

Local Lonely Planet staff tips on getting to LGA

“Going to LGA from lower Manhattan, I often take the L train to Williamsburg and then Uber from there. It’s both more cost-effective and usually faster. Honestly, the same applies for JFK – it’s just a bit further.” – Katharine Leitch, Director

“If there’s an airport you want to get to early, it’s LGA – not because you need to get through security (it’s the fastest of the three airports in my experience), but because it’s shiny, new and painless to be in. The bathrooms here are also stunning.” Ann Douglas Lott, Associate Editor

“LaGuardia is a car service for me, but I use a local one instead of the big guys. It’s half the price – and if you pay in cash, it can be even cheaper. A popular one is Arecibo. There are others like Carmel and Dial 7 that only old-school New Yorkers like me know about, and while it’s a bit clunkier than Lyft or Uber, it’s so insanely cheap." Brekke Fletcher, Senior Director of Content

“I am obsessed with the Q70 SBS (aka the “LaGuardia Link”). The Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Ave/74 St subway station is only 15 or 20 minutes from Midtown on the express subway; you can it pick up from a dedicated bus platform right where you get out. (No need to get a ticket – tap to pay when you board). The bus then takes a dedicated lane on the freeway to whisk you on to the airport; in good traffic, you’ll be at your terminal in 10 minutes. Oh, and if you have time, grab a bite at a Colombian, Tibetan or Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights en route. It’s really one of New York’s most exciting neighborhoods.” – Brian Healy, Contributing Editor

An AirTrain passes the TWA Hotel at John F Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
If you take the AirTrain to JFK, make a stop at the TWA Hotel for a pre-flight cocktail © Markus Mainka / Shutterstock

Getting to and from John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Minimum cost: $11.40

Take a subway or commuter train to connect to JFK via the AirTrain, a dedicated people-mover system. First, take the MTA’s A train to Howard Beach or the E, J and Z to Sutphin Blvd; or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Jamaica Station, departing from Penn Station or Grand Central in Manhattan, or Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal. 

From there, the AirTrain, a shuttle on rails, will take you onward to the passenger terminals, airport parking lots, hotel shuttle pick-up areas and rental-car centers. The ride costs $8.50 to or from Howard Beach and Jamaica station; you can now a contactless method to pay the additional fare.

You can also take a city bus to JFK: the Q3, Q6, Q7, Q10, Q10 LTD and B15 lines all provide service to JFK. 

Each terminal at JFK has designated spots for rideshare pickups and drop-offs, as well as queues for yellow cabs. (Note that due to major ongoing construction, these designated areas can be quite far from the terminals themselves.) Taxis charge a flat rate of $70 – not including tip or tolls – for trips between JFK and Manhattan, plus a $5 surcharge on weekdays from 4pm to 8pm, a $0.50 tax for trips within New York State and a $1.25 fee for pickups.

Local Lonely Planet staff tips on getting to JFK

“Whenever I take the AirTrain to JFK, I try to stop at the TWA Hotel for a drink or a snack, regardless of which terminal I’m actually flying out of. You can’t really do that if you’re taking an Uber.“ Laura Motta, Senior Director of Content

“If time is your main concern, cars are not faster. From my apartment in Brooklyn, I love taking the LIRR to Jamaica and the AirTrain. (It’s closer than Penn Station.) Another great option is the A train to Howard Beach. It’s trickier because you need to get on the correct A train, and sometimes it doesn’t run.” – Brekke Fletcher

“Certain terminals at JFK are undergoing construction for the foreseeable future, which means not all terminals are open for Ubers. By the time you get on the AirTrain to change terminals, you may as well just take the subway.” – Serina Patel

A United Airlines airplane flies in front of the Empire State Building and One Vanderbilt in New York City as it comes in for a landing as an AirTrain passes, Newark Liberty Airport, Newark, New Jersey, USA
The AirTrain connects all of Newark Airport’s terminals with public transit © Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

Getting to and from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Minimum cost: $6.25

The fastest route from Manhattan to Newark – located just across the river, in New Jersey – is usually via NJ Transit to the Newark Airport stop (about a 25-minute ride), then the AirTrain monorail on to your terminal. Your NJ Transit fare will include the $8.25 AirTrain access fee; scan your QR-coded ticket at the exit to connect to the AirTrain, on a separate platform. If you’re coming from points farther afield, Amtrak also serves the Newark Airport station, which is along its busy Northeast Corridor line.

If you’re not in a hurry, you can take the Port Authority’s PATH train from lower Manhattan to the end of the line, at Newark Penn Station. From there, switch to an NJ Transit train (this is a separate fare; purchase your ticket in advance with the app, or allow time to buy from a kiosk at on the station platform), then transfer to the AirTrain (as described above).

You can also take the PATH to a local or express NJ Transit bus – a longer but cheaper option, as well as an accessible one. NJ Transit trains only run between 5am and 1am, so you should plan to use the PATH or the #62 bus if you’re traveling outside those hours. 

Taxis to and from EWR are pricey. If you take a taxi from EWR, there’s a $10 surcharge from the airport to all destinations in New York State on weekends (12pm to 8pm) and during weekday rush hours (6am to 9am; 4pm to 7pm). There’s also a $1.25 fee for pickups, a charge for each piece of luggage 24 inches or bigger, and a $5.50 surcharge for all credit card transactions. Yellow New York City taxi fares to EWR are subject to a flat $20 surcharge.

And don't forget about the tolls: whether you're driving yourself or taking a cab, the Port Authority charges a fee to enter New York by bridge or tunnel, starting at $12.75 per car at off-peak hours. (Traveling in the direction of New Jersey is always toll-free.) Since the pandemic, many toll plazas have suspended cash payments or gone fully cashless permanently, so you – or your driver – will need an E-Z Pass, unless you want to get hit with the bill later.

Local Lonely Planet staff tips on getting to EWR

“I go through Penn Station, where I love the new Moynihan Train Hall food court. I especially love Irish Exit. It’s by the same people as The Dead Rabbit, and I seriously go out of my way to stop there – they have great cocktails (also lots of beer, of course). And Pastrami Queen or Alidoro for sandwiches to go.” Caroline Trefler, Destination Editor

"If I have to go to Newark, it’s only because the flight is cheaper and in a terminal that has a lounge (big win). Living in Williamsburg, sometimes it takes two hours and $100 to get to EWR in an Uber – and if you know driving in NYC, it means a 100% chance of getting carsick. If I have the time, I’ll take the M or F to the city and transfer to the PATH to Jersey City – then call an Uber from there.” – Serina Patel

“I actually really like the NJ Transit route to Newark, especially from Midtown. I used to plan all my flights to leave post-work so I could commute in and head to the airport afterward. I also would try to red-eye back and go straight into work to maximize travel time as much as I could...but that part’s not for everyone. That bit was always rough.” – Pia Peterson Haggarty, Photo Director

More tips for your journey

“I pick my flight based on the cost of travel to the airport and safety — because I don’t want to take my usual and very inexpensive AirTrain to the A train at 1am. So if I have to take a $100 Uber to get home on a cheaper flight because it’s super late or early, maybe it makes more sense to take the slightly more expensive flight during daylight.” Deepa Lakshmin, Social Media Director

“For all of these, the Transit app is the most reliable when you’re not doing the usual routing. Also, stay away from yellow cabs. They charge lots of extra fees.” – Brekke Fletcher

“If you’re coming from Brooklyn, the best case is to fly out of LGA or JFK and take the A, C or J train and transfer to the AirTrain. It’s even nicer now that they take Apple Pay.” – Serina Patel

“I’ve saved so much money scheduling Ubers and Lyfts a day in advance, but it really depends on the time of day you will be en route to the airport. Rule of thumb: if it’s going to be rush hour, book ahead of time.” – Ann Douglas Lott

“I always take the train to the airport – since you always know how long it will take, even if that’s longer than by car (though with NYC’s horrendous traffic, that’s hardly a given). Then, after a long day of flying, I always splurge on a rideshare or taxi back home.” – Brian Healy 

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