Five easy ways to reach Manhattan, New York City from JFK airport

By Chris C., March 3 2015
Five easy ways to reach Manhattan, New York City from JFK airport

So you've booked your flights and taken care of your hotels – just one piece of the puzzle remains: reaching Manhattan from JFK airport, used by Qantas, American Airlines, United, and Virgin Australia’s partners Delta and Virgin America on one-stop journeys from Australia.

The same applies if you’re arriving on Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Emirates or Etihad, so whether your budget stretches to chauffeurs or was already pushed by the airfare, here are five easy ways to zip between JFK and your NYC hotel.

1. Uber Black

We’d peg Uber Black’s chauffeur-driven vehicles as the most popular option for busy business travellers between JFK and Manhattan, particularly with a flat rate fare that helps to keep your overall itinerary costs much more predictable.

You’ll pay an even US$100 in each direction plus toll costs of $5.33 if taking the Queens Midtown Tunnel, with no separate airport or credit card surcharges to worry about, no tipping required and a journey time of roughly one hour.

However, Uber Black vehicles can’t be pre-booked – you’ll need to have access to data roaming or a local mobile phone SIM to order up a car on demand via the Uber app, and you may need to call or SMS your driver with a more precise location than can be provided via the app.

You’re also at the mercy of Uber’s controversial surge pricing during peak periods of demand, although we didn’t find this to be an issue on our last trip to The Big Apple.

2. UberX

Want the convenience of a private driver at your fingertips but without the hefty price tag?

UberX is a similar concept to Uber Black and can be ordered via the same app, but rather than an executive-type vehicle you’ll get something more ‘everyday’ such as a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, or if you’re lucky, a Lincoln Town Car.

Flat rates of $60+tolls apply whether heading to or from the airport, and although tipping isn’t officially required, if the driver provides free bottled water, snacks or lollies, they’ll certainly appreciate even a dollar or two for going above and beyond.

You can also use the Uber app to find another user heading in your general direction to share a car and slash the fare to an impressive $36 each:

If you’re not yet on the Uber bandwagon, head to, register for free with the special Australian Business Traveller invitation code of uberAusBT and get $10 in credit towards your first ride.

(Disclaimer: we'll also pick up $10 of Uber credit when you take that ride, so it's a win-win.)

3. A genuine New York City yellow taxi

Widely recognised as an international New York icon and practically abundant whenever an umbrella isn’t needed, catching a taxi from the airport is an equally easy option and is a must-do for many first-time visitors.

NYC cabs also have a flat fare structure between JFK and Manhattan: $52 plus tolls, a 50c ‘MTA state surcharge’ and a 30c ‘improvement surcharge’, and passengers can pay by credit card without an exorbitant 10% fee whacked on top.

Crunching the numbers with a 15% obligatory tip on the fare (although not the add-ons) and a trip via the Queens Midtown Tunnel, you’re looking at $65.93, or a more realistic and even $66.

Comparing that to a $65.33 UberX ride, we’d suggest catching a cab when Uber’s surge pricing is in effect and ordering an UberX when the line at the taxi rank is frustratingly long or a cab is hard to flag down in the city.

4. JFK’s AirTrain + MTA Subway

If you’re counting every penny or travelling during rush hour when traffic jams are commonplace, jump on the JFK AirTrain for a faster and considerably cheaper journey.

Just $7.50 will get you from the airport to your hotel’s closest subway station – $5 for the AirTrain itself and $2.50 for the onward subway connection to anywhere in the city.

Commuters bound for Midtown Manhattan will reach their destination in roughly 50 minutes by connecting at Jamaica Station between the AirTrain and the E subway train, which travels via 34th Street/Penn Station at Madison Square Garden.

For Lower Manhattan, take the AirTrain to Howard Beach Station and jump on the A train, reaching the Financial District in roughly one hour.

Top tip: If you don't already have a MetroCard – New York’s stored value public transport card – there’s an extra $1 fee to buy the ticket, but you can then top-up and reuse that same MetroCard on future airport trips or when travelling throughout the city.

5. The NYC Airporter shuttle bus

Not comfortable tackling the subway system after a 24-hour flight? The NYC Airporter fills the middle ground with cheaper fares than a taxi or UberX and with more comfort than a train at just $16 one-way or $30 return, if booked online.

As an added bonus, there’s free on-board Wi-Fi, power outlets and reclining leather seats, with stops at Grand Central Station, Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Bryant Park – plus a free onward shuttle to hotels between 23rd and 63rd streets.

The downside? With several stops along the way and a shuttle transfer at the end, It takes up to 90 minutes to reach your hotel, and with services only running every 20-30 minutes between 5am and 11:30pm, that could easily push to two hours if you just miss the previous departure.

The cost for two passengers travelling together is on-par with what you’d pay for a taxi or an UberX ride, so unless you’re on your own, fork out the extra dollar or two for a car and reach your hotel an impressive 30-60 minutes earlier than you would on the shuttle bus.

Heading to New York City on business? Also read:

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 316

Slight variation but the Air Train plus the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) worked alright for me in December '14.  Slightly more expensive than the MTA option but also gets you to Penn Station / MSG which is great for connecting to Amtrak trains to other cities on the east coast.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2013

Total posts 17

Agreed.....  I prefer the AirTrain and LIRR option as you're not stuck in traffic and it's consistently been quicker - around 50 minutes from Penn Station to JFK terminals. There are escalators at Jamaica Station for the transfer so works ok even with luggage.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 243

I used Go Shuttle. Pretty good service. Easy to book online before getting there or book at the counter on arrival.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2013

Total posts 25

You really can't beat the Taxi, there is always millions of them, they know 99% of the hotels, they're cheap, drive like maniacs and you get to watch that annoying news channel repeat over and over again. 

17 Feb 2014

Total posts 8

With regards traveling around NYC, I found that the City Mapper app was an absolute life saver, incorporates all of the public transport / cabs and walking and got me between meetings very efficiently... 

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

I use the uber black service because it's a comfortable car ( 90% ) of the time and it's better than some of the doggy taxis and subway lines 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

Thanks Chris, I've got a trip to NYC later so very timely story :-)


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 203

Surprised to see a limo cost of $100+. Last year our hotel- organised limo from uptown Manhattan to JFK was only U$75, including tip.

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