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Tips from a Real New Yorker – How to Survive the NYC Subway

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I used to work in the Hilton on 6th avenue and 53rd street. I was a marketing executive for Hilton Grand Vacations. That job exposed me to people from all over the world. While it was not my dream job, I learned that most tourists who visit New York – do zero homework on how to travel around efficiently. The majority of people who travel to New York, think that cabs are best – when actually the subway is. Taxis in New York are often extremely expensive, mostly attributed to the horrific traffic in Manhattan. Secondly, cabs in NYC are notorious for running scams (especially if they know you are a tourist) so I highly suggest taking the subway.

*Click here for more information on how to avoid taxi scams.

While the subway is not perfect, it is still the fastest way to get around the city. Below are my homegrown native tips on how to get around New York City via the NYC subway. You’re welcome.

#1 – Do not stand too close to the platform edge
It’s dangerous. Some nut may pass by and think it proper to push you on the tracks. Yes, I am serious. It is best to wait far behind the lines on the platform. Just do not lean on the wall. It may have been a urinal in its past life.

#2 – Buy a pay per ride MetroCard using a credit/debit card
Metrocard machines are available in any subway station. The safer ones are near the toll booth with an attendant. You can use cash but just keep your eyes open for potential purse snatchers. Also, the machines can act funky at times and spit the cash out. Further, if you use too high of a bill, you may not get your change back. Be careful.

#3 – Use a newer credit/debit card to buy a Metrocard
Those machines get funny if your card strip is old.

#4 – Do check out the map
NYC Subway Map is confusing as hell!  giphy (6)
But here are my quick tips:
Blue lines  runs along 8th Avenue in Manhattan.
Red lines runs along 7th Avenue in Manhattan.
Yellow Lines  runs along Broadway in Manhattan.*N train eventually runs along 2nd Ave.
Orange Lines runs along 6th Avenue in Manhattan.
Green Lines  runs along Lexington Avenue (the east side)in Manhattan.
The #7 train  runs between the avenues along 42nd Street from Grand Central Terminal on the east side of Manhattan to 11th Avenue in Manhattan.  If you take it past Grand Central on the east side, you will end up in Queens which is fine, if you want to take a trip to Citi Field.
S train is a shuttle train on 42 Street that runs between Grand Central Station and Times Square 42nd street.
L train is another crosstown train that runs along 14th Street between 1st Avenue and 8th Avenue.
The J/Z train runs downtown from the financial district to parts of the lower East side of Manhattan. It also runs into Brooklyn.

*The trains run well into Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.  I didn’t touch on outer boroughs because we will be here all day.

**Bonus tip: You can use your Metrocard on the path if you are going between 33rd and Christopher street. It runs along sixth ave on the westside. It’s cheaper. Don’t ride too far though, you may end up in Hoboken.

#5 – Look confident
Do yourself a favor and look like you know where you are going, even when you do not. You will less likely be a target for scammers and robbers.

#6 – Don’t wear touristy stuff outside
Unless you are with a tour guide and I still think it’s a bad idea. Again, bad guys target tourists. That statue of liberty sponge crown may invite unwanted attention.

#7 – Do not make eye contact on the subway
Wear sunglasses if you have to. The crazies or scammers will think it is okay to speak to you.

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#8 – Do wear headphones
But don’t blast music. You need to know what is going on at all times but you want to pretend you don’t hear the subway beggars. Panhandling is illegal in NYC on the subway. If you want to help, donate your travel toiletries from the hotel, food or at a local charity. Local charities will not solicit on the train. They may not take it, but it’s better than pulling out your cash on the train for the world to see.

#9 – Sit in the conductor’s car
The conductor’s car is to the center of the train. Anything crazy happens, you can notify the conductor and they will call the police.

#10 – Avoid squeezing on the train with crowds
These are perfect conditions for pickpockets and low-key sexual predators who like to grope in a crowd.

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#11 – Avoid backpacks
Backpacks are easy access for pickpockets.  Also, they take up space on the train. If you have one make sure it is locked and secure between your legs. Keep your bag in front of you at all times. I use this one when I travel.

#12 – Never sit near the door with electronics out
Unless you want someone to grab it and run, keep electronic devices secure and out of sight at all times.

#13 – Walk to one side of the stairs 
Going up, stick to your left. Going down, stick to your right. There are typically arrows on the stairs if you forget. Or you can just follow the crowd.

#14 – Walk quickly
Do not get in front of the subway doors and stop or risk getting pushed!

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If you think these tips are excessive just to take the train, I found them especially helpful when I traveled to Paris. I researched the subway system in advance and I kept my wits.  Being informed wherever you travel will help to keep you safe. I hope you found this useful. Please like, share, comment and subscribe!

And lastly, welcome to New York!

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Categories: Travel and Tourism

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