While a taxi is the most comfortable way to travel from JFK airport to Manhattan, it isn’t exactly cheap. (Unless, of course, you are traveling from the UK. Then it must seem like a bargain). The trip will set you back a flat fee of $45 plus tip. If you have more than 3 people traveling, it makes sense. New York taxis don’t charge you by the person or by the luggage, unlike some places. (Hello Panama! Hello Rome!)
The good news is, you can take the subway from JFK airport straight into Manhattan for $7. The bad news is, it will take you at least an hour, maybe more during peak times. It is not the smoothest system out there. You first have to take the air train to the subway terminal. Here comes the tricky part, which confuses a lot of people. You have to figure out if you want the Jamaica subway station or Howard Beach subway station.
Here is how I decide: If I have to go downtown Manhattan (south of 14th Street), I take the A train from Howard Beach. If I have to go to midtown or uptown (north of 14th Street), I find the Jamaica Station E train to be faster.
Taking the subway from the airport into the city is a good way to prepare yourself for the urban jungle that awaits you in Manhattan. Most escalators in subways don’t work, so you might find yourself schlepping your bag up 50 stairs. There are other subway joys, such as the turnstiles, which are absolutely incompatible with wheeled bags. Then there is the problem with limited space, which seems to only bother you, not the other 15 people who just squeezed their butts into an already packed train.
When you finally arrive at your hotel (or your friend’s tiny studio), you will be drenched in sweat and the phrase “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere” will take on a whole new meaning. This is when a nice chilled Manhattan comes in handy.