How to get from JFK to Manhattan (and General JFK transportation)

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Recently, I’ve been flying a lot. In January I went to Cary, North Carolina and Ft. Myers, Florida. Hubby and I love the thrill of getting a low plane fare- we have lots of great tips and tricks for getting cheap & free flights (Which I really need to share soon!). We are lucky to have three airports that serve our area, LaGuardia, JFK and Islip-MacArthur. That alone gives us lots of travel options – but with all things being equal we always try to fly out of JFK. There are so many options to get there, it’s really the most convenient for us. And for that reason, people are always asking me about getting from JFK to Manhattan, or about transportation from JFK to NYC! So I put this post together to help making getting to and from JFK airport a breeze! I’m so excited to share all these great tips for getting to and from JFK like true New Yorker!

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How to get from JFK to Manhattan: And everything else you wanted to know about JFK Transportation

John F. Kennedy airport is located in the Southern part of Queens, an outer borough of New YorkCity. JFK is located 18 miles from midtown Manhattan and is the international airport to service Long Island and New York City. There are several options for JFK airport transportation to Manhattan. For each method, you have to balance where you are coming from, cost, time and how much luggage (and little ones) you might have to schlep!


Taking AirTrain from JFK to Manhattan

If you are taking public transportation to Manhattan from JFK airport, you will need to ride the AirTrain. The AirTrain is the monorail that circles the entire airport and connects the airport to other transportation hubs – the A train in Howard Beach and the Jamaica train station. If you are taking the AirTrain to the terminals around the airport, there is no fare.

Looping around JFK airport, the AirTrain stops at Terminals 1, 2/3, 4, 5, 7 and 8. From within the airport, you can follow the signs to the AirTrain.

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The AirTrain then splits, there are some that head to Howard Beach and some that take you to Federal Circle and then Jamaica. You pay for the AirTrain at Jamaica or Howard Beach (so either when you get on, or when you get off).  You will need to pay the $7.75 fare with a New York City Metrocard. A Metrocard is a subway card. You can buy one in the machines at the station before entering or exiting the AirTrain.

NOTE: A new subway card will cost you a $1 fee. If you have an old one, you can refill its value at the machines.

During the day, the AirTrain runs about every 5-10 minutes. At night, the trains come about every 10-15 minutes.

Click here for an AirTrain map.


Taking the NYC Subway from JFK Airport to Manhattan:

JFK airport is accessible by the A, J, E, and Z lines. To reach the subway you will have to take the aforementioned AirTrain.

The A train is accessible via the Howard Beach station. The A train rides through Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and to the Far Upper West Side. You can also take the A train south to the Rockaway’s. The A train is your best bet if you are coming from/going to Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan. The A train is local in Brooklyn and makes many stops so it is a long ride into the city.

The E, J and Z trains can be picked up at Jamaica station after a ride on the AirTrain. After exiting the AirTrain, you will have to walk across the Long Island Railroad station and go down two flights on the elevator. This will take you into the subway station.

The E train runs express in Queens and brings you into Manhattan on the East Side (Midtown). If you are heading to Queens, midtown or the Upper East Side, the E is your best bet.

The J and Z train can take you from Jamaica station to various parts of central Brooklyn and Queens.

Taking the subway is definitely the slower option, but the most economical choice. Another consideration, is that you will have to go up and down several sets of stairs, so the subway might not the best choice if you have a ton of luggage. However, the subway is the cheapest way to JFK from Manhattan. A ride will cost you a $2.75 subway fare (with a Metrocard, see above) and $7.75 for the AirTrain.

Click here for a NYC Subway Map.




Taking Long Island Rail Road from JFK Airport to Manhattan:

It is possible to take a train to JFK airport. The AirTrain will take you to Jamaica station, which is a hub for the Long Island railroad. From here you can connect to all of the Long Island Railroad lines (except the Port Washington branch, for service to these stops, see below).

The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) services Brooklyn to Atlantic Terminal, Penn Station in Manhattan, several Queens stops (Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Woodside) and all of Long Island. This is a commuter train, so expect crowded trains during rush hour.

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The fares on the LIRR vary by zone and time of day. Fares are peak for trains arriving in Manhattan between 6 and 10am and trains leaving Manhattan between 4 and 8pm (weekends are always off-peak).

To ride to LIRR, you MUST buy a ticket before boarding the train. If you purchase on-board you will be subject to a $5.75 or $6.50 step-up fare. You can purchase tickets at the convenient machines located in the stations or via the MTA e-ticket app. Just punch in your starting station, destination and whether you will be traveling peak or off peak.

NOTE: If you have an off peak ticket and find yourself on a peak train, you can pay the difference on the train, without being subject to the step up fare.

LIRR trains to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan’s Penn Station will depart every 5-15 minutes. Eastbound trains may depart every 10-60 minutes, depending on the time of day. So best to check the schedule.

If you are traveling to a destination on the Port Washington (red) branch, you will have to take a LIRR train WEST to Woodside, and then transfer to an EAST-bound Port Washington train.

A LIRR ticket will cost you $10.25 from Jamaica to Manhattan (peak) or $7.50 (off-peak). One-way tickets to other destinations will range depending on distance. LIRR stations are handicap accessible so you can count on an elevator to help lug your stroller or luggage.

Taking the LIRR to Manhattan will be a much quicker ride than the subway. An off-peak ride from Jamaica to Penn Station will run about 21 minutes. It’s also worth noting that from Penn Station you can easily transfer to the A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 subway trains in addition to NJ transit and Amtrak.

Click here for a LIRR map

LIRR FROM JFK AIRPORT TO MANHATTAN: $18 (peak) or $15.25 (off peak)



JFK Airport to Manhattan: Shared Vans/Private Vans

There are several shared ride/bus services from JFK to Manhattan. The most popular, is Go Airlink. Through GoAirlink you can book a private car, van or a shared ride. They service all of the area airports, hotels, cruise terminals and transportation hubs. Prices will vary depending on number of passengers, type of service and distance traveled.

If you want a car service, and prefer to pre-book and pre-pay (don’t worry about surge pricing or meter fares) this would be your best option. You can book your GoAirlink here or click on the banner below!

GO Airlink NYC


Taxi from JFK to Manhattan or taking a taxi to JFK airport

Now if you find yourself with a ton of luggage, you are short on time, traveling with kids or to/from a destination not really accessible to the public transportation options there is always taxi cabs and ride share services, like Uber.

A yellow, NYC cab FROM JFK will cost you a set $52 fare to any point in Manhattan, in addition to tolls, an $0.80 surcharge, and a $4.50 rush hour surcharge from 4-8pm (plus an optional, but expected tip). You can pick up a taxi at the airport-sanctioned cabstands. Just look for the signs when you exit baggage claim.

Taking a taxi to JFK airport (from Manhattan or from any other point in the city) is subject to the meter fare. This fare will vary greatly depending on distance, time and traffic conditions. The rider is responsible for all tolls, and again the driver will expect a tip of 10-20%.

Taking an Uber from JFK or an Uber to JFK airport

From where we live, on the south shore of Long Island, Uber has proven to be the cheapest ride to JFK. Last week, I took an Uber to JFK for less than $30 – and scored a $1 off by using my Ibotta app.


If you want to take an Uber FROM JFK to Manhattan, exit baggage claim, order your Uber (using your Ibotta app of course) and the app will confirm with you one of the lettered passenger pick up locations. When in doubt, you can always call your driver to confirm the pick up location. The roadways outside JFK can get very congested, and are one-way thoroughfares, you don’t want your driver to pass you by!

One thing to be mindful of, Uber at JFK is subject to surge pricing. I was talking with a neighbor the other day who mentioned he paid over $100 for a ride home from JFK… so if you are nervous about the price fluctuation, you might want to have a back up plan in mind. In fact, on that same trip where I paid less than $30 to GET to JFK, I was quoted a price of $60 to go home from the airport. I opted to take the train home instead.

EDITORS NOTE: NYC is serviced by several other ride share companies, since we only have Uber where I live, that is what I am most comfortable mentioning!

Another disadvantage to traveling by cab or ride share is NYC is an area with a serious traffic problem. Depending on time of day, public transportation can be the quicker option.

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An hour to go 18 miles? That sounds reasonable…

Off Airport Parking at JFK Airport

So not really public transportation, but one more option, that I’ve used often, is long term, off airport parking. For a short trip (I’d say about 3 days or less) you can spend less money on parking your car than taking an Uber each way.

In the past, I have used the Parking Spot at JFK airport, which looks like it has recently closed. A quick Google search notes that this service is offered through several other companies.

If you choose this option, be sure to leave extra time for the shuttle ride to the terminal. It is also worth noting that the driver will help you load your luggage onto the shuttle, but if you have an excess of stuff, off-airport parking might not be the best option!

PRO-TIP: Families will have to fold strollers before boarding the shuttle bus.

Save on Airport Parking


No matter your timeframe or budget, going from JFK airport to Manhattan (or wherever you are heading in the NY area) should not be stressful! Of course, if you can rope a friend into picking you up, that’s probably the best option!

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Oh and one more important tip – plan to arrive at JFK at least 90 minutes before your flight (longer for international). In the last two years, the lines for security are ALWAYS long and some of the terminals (like Delta’s terminal 4) require almost a mile long walk from security to your gate! I actually really recommend applying for TSA pre-check if you are flying out of JFK, will definitely save you time!


Have you flown out of JFK airport? What is your best tip for getting from JFK airport to Manhattan? Or from Manhattan to JFK? What is your favorite JFK transportation method?


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Photo credit: DaveCrosby on / CC BY-SAPhoto credit: Daniel Mennerich on / CC BY-NC-NDPhoto credit: Joe Shlabotnik on / CC BY-NC-SA





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48 Comments to “How to get from JFK to Manhattan (and General JFK transportation)”

  1. Tara

    Great guide! People tend to overlook some of the small details of travel planning! Getting to the airport in the most convenient method would really set the tone of the trip!

  2. Fantastic post but I almost laughed out loud that getting to JFK shouldn’t be stressful! 😉

    I remember flying out of JFK before the Airtrain was there — it was always the choice between expensive cab that might get caught in traffic or a lengthy subway or train ride that required hauling your bag up and down stairs. Things have improved so much.

    One thing I really like about the Airtrain is that the MTA always seem to have helpers standing near the machines for tickets, ready to offer advice — perfect when you’ve just gotten off an overnight flight and are wrangling kids and luggage. #MondayEscapes

    1. harmskills Author

      yes! This is so true! Back in like 2003, I went to Barbados and flew home, solo arrived super late, I had like no money and had to take the A train all the way home. Took forever and was totally sketchy! The airtrain is a big improvement!

  3. I’ve heard such amazing words about NYC rail network and now I know why. I always thought I’ll be overwhelmed even getting through the airport when I land in NYC for the first time. You’ve present such a detailed guide, bookmarking it for my future US travel!!

  4. Jean

    Oh I wish I had seen this before I went to New York. I ended up paying a small fortune for shuttle bus services. :\ But now I know next time I can just get the air train. So much easier.

  5. These tips are so helpful! I have to be honest, when I lived on the East Coast I would go the extra distance from Newark just to avoid JFK. Now I don’t need to, it looks much easier than I remember.

  6. A great guide to JFK! I have only ever had stopovers in the airport, and absolutely loved the view of the city from take off. I hope to visit the city oneday and will use this guide for transport!

  7. These are such great tips! We usually hire a car, but I love that you have outlined how to use public transportation. Is there an easy way to get from LaGuardia to JFK? Often we can fly into one really cheaply but need to get to the other for a cheap overseas flight.

  8. Great tips for those who are in the city or on Long Island going to JFK. Coming back from Las Vegas last year the walk through the Delta terminal was wicked long. I live in a section of Queens called Locust Manor and I could take a cab to JFK but the number Q3 bus goes right there as well. If tourists aren’t staying close to where the E or A train stops, the F train will take them to 179th Street and they can transfer for free using their Metro Card to the Q3 bus to JFK . It stops at Jet Blue’s terminal but you can connect to the air train for free there .

  9. Good to know stuff. This is the sort of article we search for when planning a trip. We try and use public transportation in cities we visit as often as possible. It lets us interact with people and it saves money. Thanks for the info.

  10. Brittany

    This is a great post full of tips! I have to admit, JFK and Manhattan intimidate the heck out of me, but this is a helpful guide so thank you for posting it.

  11. Great guide! When I was there twice I was quite reluctant to take the public transport as I felt I’d miss my flight if I get lost finding the right platform. Haha! So to the airport, I took the shared van one time and the yellow cab in the next. I thought I’d pay loads for that yellow cab from Manhattan, but it wasn’t really! I also got to the airport pretty fast as there was no heavy traffic at 3am!


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