Getting from JFK to Manhattan (the airport to the city) is easy, thanks to public transportation and plenty of private transfer options.
We prefer JFK airport over LaGuardia (LGA) for its ease of access to the subway and additional train options, particularly when we travel to New York City.
But how do you get from JFK to NYC or vice versa? What does it cost to ride the AirTrain, how much time will it take to get between NYC and JFK, and what can you expect in AirTrain cars? What about if you want to hire a private driver or schedule a JFK shuttle?
We share that information, plus the details you need to know to prepare for your upcoming trip, below. Including what items we always have handy when we travel on public transportation in New York City.
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How to Get from JFK to Manhattan (and Vice Versa, Manhattan to JFK)
The options to get from JFK airport to Manhattan, or the opposite, on public transportation, are as follows:
- Trains: 1) JFK to Penn Station (midtown west); 2) Airport terminals at JFK to Grand Central (midtown east); 3) JFK airport to the NYC Subways
- Public buses
- Private car (via Uber, Lyft, BlackCar, rental car, shared shuttle, or ride from a family member or friend, of course)
You will need tickets to ride the subway, train, and buses in NYC.
But there's no need to buy them in advance because tickets are the same price every day, no matter when you buy them. They're easy to buy when you arrive in NYC. We’ll share how to get your tickets at train stations, below.
NYC to JFK Airport on Trains
There are three methods to get from Manhattan to JFK via train.
1. The first one we'll share is getting from Manhattan to JFK via Penn Station. If you’re staying in the Bronx or Staten Island and need to get to JFK, this is a good option to consider as well.
The first option, however, is not a good one if you’re staying in Queens or Brooklyn. This is because these two NYC boroughs are further east than where you’d pick up Long Island Railroad (LIRR) trains. If you’re staying in Brooklyn or Queens and want to take a train to JFK, the subways are likely easiest.
2. The second option is going from JFK Airport to Grand Central Station, on Manhattan's east side, or vice versa.
3. Third is the option to take the subway between JFK and Manhattan, and other NYC boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens.
➜ Taking LIRR to JFK Airport from NYC (Manhattan’s West Side)
Long Island Rail Road is the train system that travels from New York City to the island east of the city. Long Island, as it's called, extends westward into Long Nassau and Suffolk Counties (where our favorite lavender field is), Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up on Long Island, so I know it well!
Regardless, LIRR is a great train to take from JFK. It will significantly reduce your travel time instead of taking the subway if you’re going into the city and want to get to any point on the west side of Manhattan.
At Jamaica station (where JFK's AirTrain ends or begins depending on the direction you're traveling), you‘ll walk to LIRR (outside) and take a train to Penn Station.
All LIRR trains traveling to NYC (points west of Jamaica station) end at Penn Station. So they run often! You should be able to find a train going to LIRR’s Penn Station every 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day. (They’ll run less often overnight between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.)
If you’re only traveling between Jamaica and Penn Station, you can buy a “City” ticket. This specific ticket type is only $5.00.
Though it costs a little more than an NYC subway ride, it’s well worth the extra two dollars and 25 cents, because your travel time to NYC will be less than half the amount of time the subway takes.
JFK Airport to Long Island via AirTrain and LIRR
If you’re visiting Long Island and arriving at JFK international airport (as opposed to Islip Airport, an airport further east on Long Island), you can take Long Island Railroad to get to various areas on the island.
However, if you're going to Long Island you’ll take LIRR east from Jamaica station, which is the opposite direction of NYC.
➜ Taking LIRR to Get to JFK Airport from NYC at Grand Central (Manhattan’s East Side)
LIRR opened a convenient train route from Grand Central Station to Jamaica station. If you're heading to JFK airport from Manhattan's east side, take LIRR to Jamaica, then hop on AirTrain to get to your airline terminal for your flight.
Grand Central spans a few New York blocks, but its official address is: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
However, their website states, “The most direct way to access LIRR trains from the street is via the entrance at 383 Madison Avenue, on the southeast corner of 47th Street.” Which means you should enter from Madison Avenue and 47th Street. If you enter on 42nd street, though, you can walk to the LIRR area inside.
Though Grand Central is mainly a hub for MetroNorth trains, the new terminal for LIRR trains between Jamaica and the central east side of NYC, operates from a new area called Grand Central Madison.
It’s open on weekdays from 6:15 am to 8:30 pm and on weekends from 6:30 am to midnight. The new tracks LIRR trains run on within Grand Central Madison terminal are tracks 201-204 and 301-304.
If you’ve never been to Grand Central, you may be in awe of its beauty when you step into its grand hall. If you have time, consider a guided tour of Grand Central to understand its history and design, which make it an extra special attraction, food hall, and transportation hub in New York for millions of commuters each year.
Subway Lines that Go to Grand Central Station from Within NYC
Grand Central Terminal, on the east side of midtown Manhattan, is easy to get to on the following train lines:
- 4, 5, 6 (green line)
- N, Q, R (yellow line)
- 7 (purple)
- S (gray) – this is a shuttle subway that runs back and forth directly between 42nd Street/Port Authority on the west side to Grand Central station on the east side
Subway Lines that Go to Penn Station from within NYC
Penn Station, on the west side of midtown Manhattan, is easy to get to on the following train lines:
- 1, 2, 3 (red line)
- A, C, E (blue line)
How to Get to JFK from Manhattan, Once You’re at Grand Central Terminal Station
There are plenty of ticket machines at Grand Central to get self-serve tickets to LIRR. Make sure the ticket machine dispenses LIRR tickets, not only a MetroNorth machine, which is a different train line. (Look for “Green” colored machines, which dispense tickets for LIRR, AirTrain, and NYC subways.)
You need to buy a ticket from Grand Central to Jamaica station, where you’ll then switch to the AirTrain to get to your terminal at JFK. If you need assistance, you can ask for help at the information desk inside the terminal in Grand Central's grand hall (which is beautiful and very impressive) or ask for help at one of the open ticket windows.
Alternatively, you can buy a ticket on the MTA Train Time app. You’ll have to activate your ticket right before you board (don’t do it too far in advance because it's only valid for about an hour once activated if you buy a CityTicket) and show it to the train conductor when he or she asks to see your ticket onboard.
Train times to Jamaica are posted throughout the train station and on the app. The train ride from Grand Central to Jamaica is only about 15 minutes.
➜ Taking the Subway from NYC to JFK Airport
Taking the subway from NYC to JFK airport varies depending on what borough you’re starting from in New York City, whether in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, or Brooklyn.
However, simply stated, in order to reach JFK airport's subway station, you have to get to a train that connects to the E train on the blue line. The A/C/E runs on the blue line. However, only the E train goes all the way out to Sutphin Blvd–Archer Av–JFK Airport. This is the second to last stop on the E line.
Subway station to get to JFK Airport
The subway station that connects to AirTrain to get to JFK Airport is Sutphin Blvd–Archer Av–JFK Airport.
Only the E train (blue line) stops there.
If you’re starting your journey to JFK airport from a western point in NYC, like in Manhattan, you need to take the blue line eastbound. East is likely indicated by a sign that says in the direction of “Queens,” not the word “east.”
Remember, though, that the faster and only slightly more expensive way to get to JFK from Manhattan is via LIRR. The cost difference is minimal and cuts the travel time in half.
How to Find the AirTrain Station at JFK Airport Terminals
Once you land at JFK airport, no matter your terminal, you’ll want to exit the gate area and go towards baggage claim. Look for signs from there that say “AirTrain” – it’s usually a yellow, green or brown sign.
If you can’t locate any signs that say this, simply ask an airport employee how to get to AirTrain.
Once you find the signs that point you in the direction of where to go, you usually have to walk a bit, and take an elevator or escalator to the AirTrain area and platform.
How Much Does AirTrain from JFK Airport Cost?
AirTrain is free between terminals, parking, and to rental cars. But there is a cost to ride it between Jamaica station and Howard Beach.
The cost is $8.00 plus $1.00 for a MetroCard if you don’t already have one (this card can be used for the NYC subways too). This cost does not include LIRR if you take LIRR to Grand Central or Penn Station. It also doesn’t include a subway ride. This is only for the cost of the AirTrain between JFK and Jamaica station, for example.
You can buy tickets for AirTrain at Jamaica station.
- If you’re coming from JFK to get to NYC, you get on the AirTrain first, then purchase a ticket to leave the station.
- If you’re coming from NYC to get to JFK airport, you need to swipe your ticket before you enter the turnstiles to ride the AirTrain.
All in all, compared to something like an Uber, Lyft, or Taxi from JFK to New York City, AirTrain, and trains are very affordable options.
Where to Buy Train Tickets
➜ Tickets for LIRR and AirTrain
There are self-serve ticket stations by the AirTrain for MetroCards and AirTrain payments, and there are self-serve stations by LIRR at Jamaica Station, Penn Station, and Grand Central.
The self-serve stations have language options. If English isn't your first language simply tap another language icon on the screen as you do your transaction.
If you need additional assistance, there are info windows staffed with humans to assist at Penn Station and Grand Central.
There is also an app for LIRR, which is the easiest way to see train times, whether they're peak or off-peak (there are fare differences for peak and off-peak trains), and book tickets. You must have enough battery life on your phone to buy the tickets then show them to the train conductor who comes around to check them!
Download the MTA Train Time app for access to online tickets for Long Island Railroad.
➜ Tickets for NYC Subways
There are a few ways to get tickets or pay your fare for NYC subways.
- The easiest way to pay is to simply tap a chip-enabled credit card on the turnstile before entering.
- A second way is to use Apple Pay on your phone. Tap your phone on the same screen on the subway turnstile where you tap a credit card.
- A third way is to set a transit card in your Apple Wallet or on an Android. Once this is created, you can simply tap your phone or Apple Watch to a subway turnstile machine. Your entry fee will be charged to the credit card you assigned to your transit card.
- The fourth way is to use a physical MetroCard, though MetroCards will be discontinued by 2024, just as subway tokens were phased out decades ago. If you get a MetroCard for the AirTrain, you can load the same MetroCard with money to use on the NYC subways and buses.
To create a transit card on an iPhone, open the Apple wallet. Click the “+” icon on the top right of your screen, then select “Transit Card.”
To create a transit card on an Android, open the Google Wallet app then tap “Add to Wallet.” Tap “Transit pass” to create the pass.
There's an app for NYC subways, called OMNY, but we hear it's glitchy and unreliable, so we never use it.
What Does it Cost to Ride the NYC Subway? (The Cheapest Way to get from JFK to Manhattan)
The cheapest way to get from JFK to Manhattan is AirTrain + the subway.
AirTrain costs $8.00, and each individual subway ride is $2.75. This makes the total cost of getting from JFK to Manhattan (or Queens, or Brooklyn) via this combination of train lines $10.75. This does not include a $1.00 fee for a new MetroCard if you’re buying one for the first time.
However, don’t forget that if you’re going from JFK to Manhattan during normal hours (that is, not 4:00 am, for example, when trains don’t run regularly), it’s probably worth the additional few dollars to take LIRR and AirTrain instead of the subway. It will significantly cut down on your travel time. It’s up to you to decide if savings in time versus money is more important based on your circumstances.
AirTrain Map and Stops
AirTrain makes various stops along its route, not just at JFK airport terminals. It goes to Jamaica station, Federal Circle, Lefferts Boulevard, Howard Beach and JFK International airport terminals.
There are two AirTrain lines – green and red – so make sure you’re boarding the right train when the doors open to get on board. This is easy to tell from the television monitors above the doors to AirTrain.
If you’re a visitor to NYC, most people want the red line, which goes to Jamaica Station, Federal Circle, and the airport terminals.
➜ JFK AirTrain Map and Stops
See the image below for a map of JFK AirTrain stops.
Once you’re on the AirTrain, you’ll see the yellow “JFK Airline Directory” table, below, with the airlines and their corresponding terminals, in each car of the AirTrain.
The most major stop that AirTrain makes is in Jamaica. The AirTrain starts and ends here. You’ll find the pathway to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and NYC subway lines (E trains on the blue line and J and Z trains on the brown line) at Jamaica accessible via walkways, elevators, and escalators.
If you have take a luggage cart from JFK airport to transfer your belongings from the airport to the next point you’re getting to (whether LIRR or the subway or bus or car) at Jamaica, there is a baggage cart drop-off area at Jamaica.
Additionally, there are restrooms here (between AirTrain’s exit/entrance and LIRR) and some small areas to get limited food and coffee.
Rental cars, hotel shuttles and cargo shuttles are at Federal Circle station. Pre-paid parking is also here.
Lefferts Blvd (AirTrain’s Green Line)
If you want to connect to NYC buses B15, Q3, and Q10, you’ll go to the Lefferts Blvd station. It’s also the station to go to if you want to access long term parking A/B.
Howard Beach (AirTrain’s Green Line)
This station connects to the A subway line (blue) and long-term parking C.
JFK Airport Terminals
There are various terminals at JFK international airport, though the terminals skip some numbers. There is Terminal 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8.
Terminal 5 is where you’ll find the famous TWA hotel and JetBlue terminal. Terminal 8 connects to the Q3 bus, and it’s currently how you get to Terminal 1, which is under construction, as of 2023.
Experience On the AirTrain
AirTrain is an efficient mode of transportation and it's usually busy. However, one trip where we traveled between JFK and Manhattan on a Sunday morning was particularly less busy. We were surprised that AirTrain was almost empty, in fact, and we snapped the images in this post.
But during rush hour, especially, and weekdays, expect the AirTrain to be very busy. Sometimes it's even shoulder-to-shoulder standing room only, much like New York City subways.
Seats in AirTrain cars are groups, with three seats bundled together in a row. There are 8 blocks of seats for a total of 24 seats, with standing room in between and numerous poles to hold onto as the train moves. Four small “luggage only” areas are available per car.
There is ample space for wheelchairs and a designated wheelchair area in the train car. Each AirTrain is three cars long.
It takes around 8 minutes to get from Jamaica to Federal Circle once you’re on the AirTrain, and takes approximately 10 minutes to get to Terminal 8, the first terminal stop if Jamaica is your starting point. It's just a couple of minutes between terminal stations at that point.
Wi-Fi on NYC Trains
There is no WiFi on board AirTrain. The same is true of LIRR and MetroNorth, though you may be able to connect to an open Wi-Fi network at Penn Station and Grand Central. While there isn’t Wifi on the subways, there is free open network wifi at subway stations.
How Much Time to Allot to Travel Between NYC and JFK Airport
The answer to this question will ultimately depend on what route you’re taking between the two locations. It also varies depending on how much cushion time you’re comfortable with padding for things like trains potentially running late, navigating the stations if you’re never been to the stations, and the like.
We’re experienced travelers and know the NYC subway lines and trains well. And we still add at least 30-45 minutes of cushion time just in case trains aren't running on time.
Below is our suggested timing for each transportation option. The train and subway options do not include time to get from your hotel or accommodations to the main stations (like Penn Station or Grand Central) or the initial subway station where you'll start your journey to JFK Airport.
But the times below do include time for the walk from Jamaica station to the AirTrain, and time on AirTrain, including buying a ticket.
If you’re unfamiliar with the city, we recommend adding another 30 minutes to your travel time.
- LIRR from Penn Station to JFK (Penn Station LIRR train to Jamaica, switch to AirTrain to terminals): 55 minutes
- LIRR from Grand Central to JFK (Grand Central LIRR to Jamaica, switch to AirTrain to terminals): 45 minutes
- Subway from Queens or Brooklyn to JFK: At least 1.5 hours. Though these locations are closer to JFK on a map, it’s faster to get from midtown Manhattan to JFK airport. This is thanks to the LIRR train options that significantly help reduce travel time between JFK and Manhattan.
- Private car: It very much depends on where you’re traveling to/from and what time of day because of traffic. If we travel to JFK from Manhattan by car, we allot at least 2 hours.
Taxi from JFK to Manhattan
There are taxi stands outside JFK terminals. Simply follow the signs from your gate to the terminal exit, where ground transportation and taxis are.
Yellow Cabs in NYC have a flat fee to take passengers to/from JFK international airport to Manhattan, plus fees. The flat rate is $70, plus fees like a rush-hour fee of $5 if you’re traveling during peak times.
The meter in your taxi cab should read, “Rate #2- JFK Airport.”
If you’re taking a taxi from JFK to Manhattan, or the reverse, budget for $85 or so, including tip, once your total is tallied up after your ride. This estimate is from the base fare of $70, flat fee. It's customary to tip NYC taxi drivers and Uber/Lyft drivers.
It’s important to note that there is not a flat rate if you’re taking a taxi from JFK to other NYC locations, like JFK to Queens or JFK to Brooklyn. Those trips are metered, not a flat rate.
Lyft or Uber to JFK Airport
The price of either Uber or Lyft service from JFK airport to Manhattan varies based on the time of day, what kind of car you choose (whether a shared ride or UberXL, for example), and precisely where you’ll be picked up (or dropped off if you’re doing the reverse trip).
Prices vary from $70 to $200.
If you’re leaving JFK Airport to go to Manhattan via Lyft or Uber pickup, here’s where to go:
- Terminals 1 through 4, 7 or 8: Go to ground transportation from arrivals/baggage claim and look for the JFK rideshare pickup signs.
- Terminal 5: Go to the arrivals or departures level, and look for rideshare pickup signs.
JFK Airport Shuttle
If you don’t want the variable price of an Uber or Lyft from JFK to Manhattan, then we suggest booking a transfer that has a flat fee.
For example, you can book a sedan for up to three people, or a VIP SUV transfer for up to 6 people. With a private car, gratuities are often included. A $151 trip for three people works out to be approximately $51 per person. That's worth it!
Private Car Transfer
If you're multiple people or traveling for work, a private car is definitely worth it. Treat yourself and click to book your private transfer.
NYC Car Rentals
If you’re only staying in NYC we don’t recommend renting a car. It’s a pain in the butt to park in NYC (though not impossible). And public transportation, taxis, and rideshares are prevalent and readily available.
However, if you visit areas outside of NYC, like Long Island and its great beaches, or north of NYC to places like the Hudson Valley, you’ll want to rent a car. You can take the AirTrain to the car rental area for free. The rental stop on AirTrain is Federal Circle.
We recommend renting from Discover Cars. It’s easy to navigate, and they have great customer service.
Bus to JFK Airport
You can take a public NYC bus to get to JFK airport from Manhattan. Buses B15, Q10, and Q3 will take you to Lefferts Station. From there, you can take the AirTrain to JFK Terminals.
Q3 will also take you directly to Terminal 8.
Lastly, many buses travel to Jamaica station, where you can take the AirTrain to JFK terminals. The buses that go to Jamaica are: Q6, Q8, Q9, Q20, Q24, Q25, Q30, Q31, Q34, Q40, Q41, Q43, Q44, Q54, Q56, Q60, Q65.
JFK to Manhattan FAQS
➜ How Do You Get from JFK to Penn Station?
The easiest way to do this is to take JFK’s AirTrain to Jamaica station, then hop on the LIRR to Penn Station.
➜ What’s the Best Way to Get from JFK to Times Square?
If you want to get from JFK to Times Square quickly and relatively cheaply, we recommend going from JFK to Penn Station, then taking the subway up one stop to Times Square.
To do this, take JFK’s AirTrain to Jamaica station. Then take LIRR to Penn Station. Once at Penn Station, do one of the following:
- Take the blue line (A/C/E subway) uptown one station to 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal.
- Take the red line (1/2/3 subway) uptown one station to Times Sq–42nd Street.
The blue line is one avenue west of the red line. So, for example, if you want to be on 8th Avenue or any points west of it (9th, 10th, or 11th Avenues are west of 8th Ave.) take the blue line (A/C/E subway) uptown one stop to Times Square from Penn Station.
If you need to be on 7th or 6th Avenue, take the red line from Penn Station uptown (1/2/3 subway) one stop to get to Times Square.
How Much Does it Cost to Get from JFK to Times Square?
The cost of any of the above will be the cost of AirTrain, plus LIRR, plus 1 subway ride. (Approximately $15.75 per person. AirTrain = $8.00, 1 subway ride is $2.75, and a CityTicket for LIRR from Jamaica to Penn Station is $5.00, which is good for off-peak hours.
You'll have to pay a little more for a ticket on LIRR during peak hours. Check the MTA Train Time app for train times and off-peak or peak trains.)
➜ How Do I Get from JFK to Grand Central?
The quickest way to get from JFK to Grand Central is to take AirTrain and LIRR from JFK.
To do this, take JFK’s AirTrain to Jamaica station. Then take LIRR to Grand Central, which will end at the new Grand Central Madison terminal area.
Handy Things to Have for AirTrain, the Subway, and Other NYC Public Transportation
After a lifetime of traveling on NYC subways and trains, we know what you need to bring for a peaceful journey and to enjoy a little “you” time as you travel.
Below are the things we have on us
The Best Refillable Travel Water Bottles
I first purchased a Kindle when I lived in NYC and wanted to read the Steve Jobs biography. It was a massive book, and I wasn’t about to lug such a weighty book around NYC. No one needs that much additional weight and on their morning and evening commute.
Millions of people – and their germs – ride the NYC trains. We recommend carrying around hand sanitizer for your use at your discretion.
Get a travel-size gel on a carabiner for carry-on baggage or a backpack/handbag. A carabiner is convenient for easy access.
I have headphones in my ears 99% of the time when I’m riding the subway. I’m particularly obsessed with my AirPods. Whatever your preference to connect to your phone – wired headphones included – have them handy for your rides.
Apple AirTags or Tiles
If you’re worried about where your luggage, backpack, or purse will be – whether on AirTrain or a shared shuttle if your things are in the back of a car or van – throw an Apple AirTag or Tile into your bag. We have them in all our bags to track them, just in case!
They’re especially wonderful for peace of mind if you get to your hotel but can’t check in yet. Drop your bags at the hotel, and you’ll be able to see where the bags are if you have a tracker inside.
If you don't have an iPhone, try Tile trackers.
⚪️⚪️ Buy Apple AirTags to Track Your Bags; we have them in All our travel bags! ⚪️⚪️
Battery Pack and Charge Cord for Your Phone
If you used your cell phone during your airplane ride, or you drained your phone battery on the way to JFK airport, you’ll want to be able to charge it.
You may need to access apps, like the MTA app for LIRR tickets, if you take a route between JFK airport and New York City that allows online ticket purchases or for you to look up the train schedule online.
There's nothing like arriving in New York City, excited to explore…and your phone is dead, so you can't document the first day of the trip. Never mind, use your phone to navigate.
There are very limited outlets on LIRR trains though you may get lucky and find an available one. And if you get to the airport and want to charge your phone, you’ll want to be able to easily locate the cord.
Because the subways don't have any power outlets at all, and it's so difficult to find any on LIRR, we recommend carrying around a portable charger. We travel with one everywhere in NYC because we tend to use our phones more there between documenting things, looking up train times, restaurant hours, maps, and the like.
Solar-Charge Power Bank
Not only can you recharge this battery pack with the sun (just clip it onto your backpack as you walk around NYC), but you can simply lay a phone on it to charge if you don't want to hook a cord up between the two. It's also a flashlight.
If you’re not coming from the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, or any other country with a type A or B plug (standard voltage of 120V – A is two-prong, B is three-prong), you will need an outlet converter as well.
Hotels Conveniently Located in Manhattan for JFK Travel
If you’re traveling between JFK and Manhattan, look for hotels in easy-to-get-to locations. This would be airports in Manhattan near Times Square, Penn Station, or Grand Central. That also puts you in a Central NYC location.
➜ Times Square Hotels
➜ Grand Central Area Hotels
➜ Penn Station Hotel
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Penn Station (Marriott)
Conclusion for How to Get from JFK Airport to NYC
It’s so easy to travel between JFK international airport and New York City on public transportation and private transportation. You’ll be enjoying the sites and sounds in Manhattan in no time after you land at JFK!