New York City has 3 major international airports, two of them in the borough of Queens, and one not far into New Jersey. They tend to have similar fares flying in and out, but JFK definitely handles the most international traffic.
For information on getting cheap airfare to New York City and which airport to choose, see the Flights to New York page.
The three airports:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (code: JFK)
- LaGuardia International Airport (code: LGA)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (code: EWR)
John F. Kennedy International
- Taxi — There is a $45 “flat fare” from JFK into Manhattan for up to 4 passengers, but that doesn’t include bridge tolls or tip. Expect to pay around $50 plus a tip of around $5, or more if the driver was helpful or nice. Sometimes gypsy cab drivers will try to get business in the long taxi lines at JFK. This is illegal for them, and they will often try to charge unsuspecting passengers even more than the normal price, so this tends to be a bad option.
- AirTrain — This is a bit confusing, but it’s the best and fastest way of getting into Manhattan from JFK. Outside of the terminals you’ll find an entrance to the Airtrain, which is free transportation connecting the terminals in the airport, but costs $5 to get to Jamaica Station on the railroad that goes to Penn Station in Manhattan. Take the AirTrain to its terminus at Jamaica Station. Then from the ticket window you’ll see when you arrive, or the automated machines in the same area, you’ll pay $10 for the train you just took, and a transfer to the LIRR train you are about to board. Follow the crowd, get on the next train, and about 10 minutes later you’ll be at Penn Station in Manhattan. The whole trip only takes around 30 – 40 minutes, including waiting time.
- Subway — If you have lots of time and not much luggage, you can get into the city for $2. Take the free long-term parking shuttle from in front of your terminal, and this will drop you off next to the JFK subway station on the A line. Buy a ticket or metrocard for $2 and board the next carriage headed to Manhattan. The whole trip will take almost 2 hours and won’t be much fun, but it is the cheapest way to do it.
LaGuardia International Airport
- Taxi — LaGuardia is fairly close to Manhattan, so the taxis run on meters and the fare will depend on the location of your hotel, and traffic. It will usually be between $20 and $30 for up to 4 passengers, not including the $3 bridge toll, or a tip. When traffic is bad near the airport or within Manhattan, this can still take up to an hour.
- New York Airport Service Express Bus — For $10 per person (paid to the driver, in cash) you can ride these buses that leave every 20 to 30 minutes from in front of the terminals. They stop at Grand Central, Penn Station, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square. From those locations you’ll be walking distance or a short subway ride away from wherever you need to go.
- Buses — The cheapest option can be done for only $2, but it’s no picnic. You can board a bus at LaGuardia and then transfer to another bus or the subway for the same fare, but they don’t make it easy on you. The best choice might be to take the B60 bus from LaGuardia to Columbia University at 116th and Broadway in Manhattan. From there you can transfer to another Manhattan bus or a subway using the same ticket.
Newark Liberty International Airport
A special note about arriving into Newark — New Jersey has gotten an unfair reputation for being a terrible place, but this all stems from the odd fact that the ugliest 10-mile section of the United States just happens to be the post-apocalyptic industrial area between Newark and Manhattan. Aside from downtown Newark itself, pretty much the entire rest of the state is lovely, so don’t judge it based on your ride from the airport.
- Taxi — These taxis use the meter, and will cost around $35 to $45 for up to 4 passengers, not including the $10 in bridge/tunnel tolls, and a tip. Expect to pay $50 to $60 total, and this will take from between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the traffic, which can sometimes be nightmarish.
- Newark Liberty Airport Express — These shuttle buses run every 15 minutes and stop at three different Manhattan locations: Grand Central Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal (near Times Square), and Bryant Park (at 42nd St. and 5th Avenue). The fare is $14, paid to the driver in cash, or $25 for a round-trip ticket. The trip should take 40 to 60 minutes, or a bit more if traffic is heavy.
- AirTrain — There is now an AirTrain combo from Newark, which works in a similar way to the JFK one, but it’s complicated and will cost over $20 per person. It might be the fastest way into the city if you can figure out the confusing details.