Easiest (and Cheapest) Way From JFK Airport to Times Square and Manhattan in NYC

Easiest (and Cheapest) Way From JFK Airport to Times Square and Manhattan in NYC

Thinking about the best way to travel from JFK to Times Square or the rest of Manhattan after you land? This New York City blog shows you the easiest way to get to Times Square Manhattan from JFK.

Flying into JFK International Airport to visit New York City? JFK is the major airport in New York City and one of the largest airports in the New York City Metro Area (the other two airports are LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey).

One of the most frequent questions first time visitors to New York City has is how to get from JFK Airport to Manhattan, especially Times Square. Even though I don’t really understand why, but many visitors love staying at Times Square, but that’s another story for another blog post.

There are many different ways to travel to Times Square and Manhattan from JFK, some are very easy (but more expensive) whereas others are cheap but a little more complex.

But don’t worry! In this super comprehensive NYC transportation post, I will show you all the different ways to get from JFK Airport to Manhattan especially Times Square for all different budgets and travel needs.

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How to travel between Times Square (Manhattan) and JFK Airport?

There are several ways to travel between JFK and Manhattan Times Square area:

  • Subway (with AirTrain)
  • Long Island Railroad (LIRR) with AirTrain
  • Shared Shuttle Services
  • Private Car (pre-booked)
  • Official NYC yellow taxi
  • Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft
  • Helicopter Ride
  • Renting a car and drive (don’t do it, you will regret it)

Below is a table showing you the different costs associated with each transportation between JFK and Times Square Manhattan.

TransportationTime to Times SquareEstimated Cost
Subway with AirTrain60 – 80 minutes$11.15
(AirTrain $8.25 + Subway $2.9)
LIRR with AirTrain50 – 60 minutes$13.25 – $15.25
(AirTrain $8.25 + Train $5 off peak
/ $7 Peak)
JFK Shared Shuttle Services40 – 80 minutes
(depends on traffic)
$30 – $50 per person for Shared Van
Private Pick Up40 – 80 minutes
(depends on traffic)
$80-100 for a group up to 4
$160 – $200 for a group up to 6
$300+ for more than 6
Official Yellow Taxi40 – 80 minutes
(depends on traffic)
$70 base fare + $9 Fees + Tolls + Tips
Uber/ Lyft40 – 80 minutes
(depends on traffic)
$65 – $100 + tips,
depends on if there is surge charge
Helicopter5 minutes$200+ per person

I’m not going to put a rental car on here because it is simply not practical and probably the worst decision you can ever make. It’s not just the rental car cost, but also there is no parking at Times Square. You are looking at paying A LOT for parking if you decide to park in a parking garage. By a lot I mean probably $45 a day.

Times Square NYC itinerary


What to Know Before Choosing the Best Way to Travel Between JFK Airport and Times Square/ Manhattan

Apps You Need to Get around New York City

You absolutely need to have Google Maps and Citymapper (yes both apps) on your phone in order to get directions.

Google Maps allows you to download offline map before you land in JFK in case you don’t have wifi after you land. Citymapper is far superior for public transportation than Google Maps because it tells you precisely when the next train/ bus will come.

If you want to take rideshare services, then you will need to download Uber or Lyft on your phone.

Paying for Public Transit in NYC

You should have either a credit card, debit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay to pay for the subway. You can just tap to pay at each subway station.

Or if you do not want to use your credit card, you can use the ticket machine to pay by cash (or credit card). Although some stations have now replaced these ticket machines with the shiny new OMNY card machine (so instead of getting a metro card you get a plastic OMNY card like the Oyster Card in London that is loaded with money, pretty neat!).

JFK subway machine

Each subway ride costs $2.90 regardless of distance so you do not need to tap out (this is very different from the London Tube).

NYC Subway Discounted Passes

There are two ways to save money on public transit in New York City:

  • 7 day unlimited pass
  • OMNY free unlimited rides after paying for 12 rides

7 Day Unlimited Pass

If you are spending at least a week in New York City (or you know you will be using A LOT of subway/ buses even if you are visiting for under 7 days), then you can purchase a 7 day subway pass for $34.

You can take an unlimited number of rides (for yourself) within 7 days with that pass. If you want to swipe someone else in, you will need to wait at least 15-20 minutes to swipe again since they don’t want you to swipe multiple people in.

NYC MTA Metro Cards | how to take the subway in NYC

OMNY Free Rides

If you pay with the same card 12 times within a week (a week is starting Monday and ending Sunday), you can ride for free after the 12th ride.

So if you are landing on a Monday, you don’t really need to get a 7 day Unlimited Pass. If you start using your credit or debit card to pay for subway or buses, after you use it 12 times ($34.8 total), you can ride for free for the rest of the week until midnight Sunday.

NYC Subway vs. Train (Long Island Railroad)

Do not get confused between the Subway and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

The subway is like the tube in London or the metro in Paris and Barcelona; it mostly runs underground, with multiple lines connecting the 5 boroughs of New York City (yes New York City is not just Manhattan).

New York City subway Train
NYC subway

The LIRR is a commuter train that goes between Long Island in the east to Grand Central or Penn Station in Manhattan. The train is much nicer and faster, with fewer stops than the subway but it does not come as frequently as the subway.

Long Island Railroad NYC
LIRR

The Subway is cheaper, costing only $2.90 per ride. The LIRR is more expensive, it charges based on distance and you pay more for peak hours. They do not use the same ticketing system, so you cannot use a subway metro card on LIRR.

You need to pay for LIRR at the station or purchase tickets on the app MTA TrainTime. You must validate the ticket when you get on the train. They actually have people checking tickets on the train and if you don’t have a ticket (or do not validate), you will get fined. Nobody checks tickets on the subway.

JFK AirTrain

LIRR Jamaica Station | JFK to Manhattan Train and AirTrain

There is no direct subway or train that goes to JFK terminals. Both subways and trains (the Long Island Rail Road) go to Jamaica Station which is about 4 miles from JFK. Subways can also go to Howard Beach Station which is about 2 miles from JFK.

Similar to San Francisco, there is an airport AirTrain that connects Jamaica Station (and Howard Beach Station) to JFK Airport terminals, making it easy to take either the subway or LIRR to reach JFK.

JFK MetroCard ticket machine

Therefore, in the directions below, you will see me mentioning AirTrain, which is just an airport train that travels between terminals as Jamaica Station or Howard Beach Station.

The AirTrain costs $8.25 each ride; it is separate from the cost of the subway fare or the LIRR ticket. If you want to take public transit between JFK and Times Square and the rest of Manhattan you will need to take the AirTrain.

New York City Subway Lines

The New York City Subway runs 24/7 everyday, so you can take the subway even at 3am in the morning. There are numerous subway lines, each with either a letter (A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.) or a number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

The main subway line that travels between Times Square and JFK airport is the E train, from Jamaica Station to Times Square.


JFK Airport to Times Square and Manhattan by Subway and AirTrain

Total Cost: $11.15 (AirTrain $8.25 + Subway $2.90)
Time It takes: 1 hour 15 minutes
Pros: Cheapest, Easy
Cons: Not best for late night, having tons of luggage, traveling with lots of kids, or if you are just bad with directions

The most common way and the cheapest way to travel between JFK Airport and Manhattan (at least for locals) is to take the AirTrain and Subway.

I say the most common because it is the cheapest way to get to Times Square from JFK but many tourists simply do not want to take it due to various reasons (too much luggage, too tired, traveling with kids or elders, too overwhelmed, etc).

As I mentioned above, the AirTrain has two final stops, one is Jamaica Station and another is Howard Beach Station.

If you are traveling to Manhattan (like Times Square) or Queens, you will most likely be going from Jamaica Station (red line on the AirTrain) then take the E train.

If you are traveling to Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan, you probably will take the AirTrain (Green line) to Howard Beach Station, then switch to the subway line A.

Example of Getting to Times Square From JFK By Subway

JFK to Times Square by Subway direction

After you get out of the luggage area into the arrival hall, look for the signs for AirTrain. Follow the signs until you get to the AirTrain terminal.

The AirTrain comes frequently but make sure you are taking the right AirTrain (the Red Line) to Jamaica Station. The AirTrain may stop at other terminals and Federal Circle (for rental cars and airport hotels) before reaching Jamaica Station.

JFK Jamaica Airtrain Station
Jamaica AirTrain Station

Once you reach Jamaica Station, get off the AirTrain and follow the sign for the Subway (Line E, J, Z). You will also see signs of the Long Island Rail Road (will discuss in the next section).

You can take the escalator or elevator down to the concourse level to pay for the subway. Wait for the E train towards Manhattan and you are good to go! Depending on where you go in Times Square, you can get off at a few different stops. Check your Google Maps or Citymapper for details.

The screenshot above shows you what the direction looks like when you put it in Google Maps. The first one (circled in red) is usually the best option. The red portion is the AirTrain portion and the blue portion is the E Train.


JFK Airport to Times Square and Manhattan by LIRR and AirTrain

Total Cost: $13.25 – $15.25 (AirTrain $8.25 + Train $5 off peak/ $7 Peak)
Time It takes: 50 – 60 minutes
Pros: Cheap, Easy, best for people going to Midtown near Manhattan or Grand Central
Cons: May need to transfer to subway at Penn Station to other parts of Manhattan, not great if traveling with a lot of luggage, or if you are just bad with directions

If you don’t want to take the subway but still want to take public transportation then you should consider taking the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) with AirTrain from JFK Airport to Manhattan like Times Square.

As mentioned above, the LIRR is a commuter train that runs between Long Island and Manhattan, specifically Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

The LIRR is more expensive than the subway, but it is generally faster and cleaner and you have less chance of seeing homeless people or crazy/ weird people than on the subway.

There are different lines for LIRR but you do not have to worry about them too much, since they (generally) all end up in Manhattan from JFK.

All LIRR trains from JFK are at Jamaica Station, which you can reach from the terminals in JFK by AirTrain ($8.25). Unlike the Subway, there are Peak tickets and off-peak tickets for LIRR. Peak tickets are during peak commuter time

New York itinerary and travel guide | Hard Rock Cafe at Times Square

How to buy tickets for the LIRR

You can buy a paper ticket at any LIRR station or you can buy electronic tickets on the Train Time app. Do not pre-purchase the tickets on the app, because it can expire. Just buy it the day you are taking the train.

LIRR tickets options in New York

There are various ticket options for LIRR. Below are the main ones.

  • CityTicket Peak ($7): if you are riding the train between 6-10am or 4-8pm on a weekday, you have to buy this ticket. The “City” ticket only covers the New York City portion, not Long Island. But Jamaica Station is in New York City, so you can use this ticket.
  • CityTicket Off-Peak ($5): You can buy this ticket when you are not traveling during the peak hours mentioned above.
  • Family ($1): If you have a child between 5-11 years old, you can buy this ticket. However if you use this ticket on weekdays between 6-10am, you need to pay a surcharge to the conductor, or buy a Child Peak ticket instead for $5.50.
  • Peak ($11.25): Similar to the CityTicket Peak, it’s for weekday peak commuter hours. However you are not restricted to only travel within New York City. But this doesn’t apply to you since Jamaica Station (for JFK) is within NYC.
  • Off Peak ($8.25): This is for weekday non-peak period and weekends/ holidays. You don’t need this to travel between JFK Airport and Manhattan.

Other tickets include Senior, Military, Disabled/ Medicare, Child Peak and Child Off Peak.

Getting to Times Square from JFK Airport by LIRR

If you are taking LIRR to Times Square, there are 2 basic options:

  • AirTrain to Jamaica Station -> Take the LIRR train to Penn Station then transfer to the A, E, 1, or 2 subway line Times Square
  • AirTrain to Jamaica Station -> Take the LIRR train to Grand Central then transfer to the S subway line to Times Square
Location of Times Square, Grand Central, Penn Station

FYI: Times Square is between 42nd Street and 49th Street on 7th Avenue (or Broadway), Penn Station is on 34th Street. You can take the A, E, 1, or 2 Train from Penn Station to Times Square.
Grand Central Terminal is connected to Times Square by the S subway line.

JFK to Penn Station

Easiest and cheapest way to travel between JFK and Times Square Manhattan | JFK to Times square by LIRR

Use your Google Maps (or Citymapper), put in JFK to Times Square and load up the directions. In the photos above, I circled two options. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the colors, they simply show you the different LIRR trains you can take (they all end up at Penn Station anyway).

LIRR Station at Jamaica JFK to Manhattan

Take the AirTrain (Red line) to Jamaica Station. After getting off the AirTrain, look for signs for the Long Island Railroad and get on the first train that goes to Penn Station. From Penn Station, look for the sign for the subway and you can get on A, E, 1, or 2 trains to get to the Times Square area.

JFK To Grand Central Terminal

Jfk to Grand Central Terminal map

If you are staying around 42nd Street of Times Square, then another option is to take the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central, then transfer to the S train (the S subway line literally only runs between Times Square and Grand Central).

Grand Central Terminal New York City best things to do and itinerary
Grand Central

I personally like going to Grand Central way more than Penn Station because I don’t really like the Penn Station area (there are a lot of homeless people as well as random people just walking around). Grand Central is much nicer!

But ultimately if you do decide to take LIRR to Manhattan, you should just take the train that’s coming up next. On the Train Time App I mentioned above (where you can buy your train ticket), it literally tells you which train is coming when.

The LIRR is faster when traveling between Jamaica Station and Manhattan than the subway, because the LIRR makes fewer stops than the subway. If you don’t care about the few dollar differences, LIRR would be my top choice.


JFK to Manhattan Shared Shuttle Services

Total Cost: $30 – $50 per person for a shared van
Time It takes: 40 – 80 minutes, depends on traffic
Pros: Easy, good for those with luggage, cheaper than taxi or private car
Cons: Traffic is bad in NYC, so it could take longer than the subway or LIRR

Don’t feel like navigating the New York City public transportation system especially when you are sleep deprived and have large luggage? Also don’t want to pay a ton on a taxi? Then a shared airport van may be the best and cheapest way to get to Times Square/ Grand Central or other parts of Manhattan from JFK.

There are a number of airport shuttle services in New York City that allow you to book a shared van from JFK to Manhattan at a reasonable cost. The most popular NYC airport shuttle companies include Go Airlink, Super Shuttle Express, and ETS Airport Shuttle.

Go Airlink is generally the cheapest option and they have a Grand Central Express that goes directly from JFK Airport to Grand Central.

If you have a New York Sightseeing Pass, then the Go Airlink one way airport shuttle is included.

Since the shuttle is generally a shared ride, you can expect to have to wait for others in the car at the airport and during drop off. Depending on the traffic condition, it can take quite a bit of time to get to your destination.


Private Transfer at JFK Airport

Total Cost: $80 – $300+ depending on the size of your party
Time It takes: 40 – 80 minutes, depends on traffic
Pros: great for parties of 3 or more; pre-booked transfer means no need to worry about finding a taxi or Uber after getting off
Cons: Traffic is bad in NYC; not worth it for one person since it can be expensive

If you are traveling to New York City with a large party (like at least 3 people), then it is worth it to consider booking a private transfer ahead of your trip.

Sharing the cost of a private transfer potentially makes it cheaper than booking a shared van if you have a large number of people. You usually get a driver holding up a sign with your name on it to greet you at the arrival hall of JFK.

With a private transfer you also don’t have to worry about waiting for other passengers or dropping off others in the busy midtown area. So this is perfect especially if you have young kids or traveling with older family members.

I would suggest checking Klook or GetyourGuide to see your options.

Keep in mind that traffic conditions can be really bad in New York City, especially during peak rush hour. If you are arriving late at night then you can get to Manhattan quite quickly in about 40 minutes, but if you are arriving at 5pm, then it can take up to an hour and half (or even more) to get into Manhattan.


New York City Yellow Cab from JFK to Manhattan

Total Cost: $95 – $100+
Time It takes: 40 – 80 minutes, depends on traffic
Pros: Official, flat rate (with some fees), convenient, available 24/7
Cons: Traffic is bad in NYC; max 4 passengers (5 in minivans) allowed

Metered taxis, otherwise known as Yellow Cab, are actually super famous in NYC! You probably have seen them in tons of Hollywood movies and TV dramas and now you can ride one to check off your NYC bucket list.

Times Square yellow Cab | Best New York City Itinerary

Metered taxis are available at Terminal 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 at JFK Airport. Note that Terminal 2 and 3 have closed down at JFK and there is no Terminal 6 right now as they are still constructing it (expected to be open in 2026).

It is very easy to take the yellow cabs from JFK. You just have to follow the sign in the arrival hall for ground transportation. There is a line to get a taxi. If you are not sure if it’s the official taxi, just ask any JFK employees.

The official JFK airport website shows you how long you have to wait for the taxis (go to the website -> Taxi Wait Times). In general you don’t need to wait more than 15 minutes and usually it is a lot shorter than that, unless you are arriving right around Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday.

You definitely should NEVER take an unofficial taxi because you will probably get ripped off. If someone approaches you asking if you need a taxi, you should ignore them. The official NYC metered taxis don’t need to come to ask you for business, they simply line up outside of each terminal and wait for people to come to them.

NYC Manhattan Times Square Broadway Sign

Taxi cost from JFK to Times Square/ Manhattan

NYC taxis charge a flat fee of $70 from JFK airport to Manhattan (doesn’t matter where in Manhattan). However there are additional fees you have to pay on top of it:

  • $5 surcharge during peak hours (4-8pm weekdays)
  • $0.5 NY State tax
  • $2.50 NY State Congestion Surcharge
  • $1.75 Airport Access Fee (for pick ups only)
  • $4.5 toll (there is a route without toll, but takes even longer)
  • Tips (at least 15%)

So in reality a taxi from JFK Airport to Manhattan costs about $100 for a trip.

Taxis in New York City accept cash or credit/ debit cards. You do not need to pre-book the metered taxi since they are always available at JFK airport.


Rideshare: Uber/ Lyft from JFK Airport to Times Square in Manhattan

Total Cost: $65 – $100+
Time It takes: 40 – 80 minutes, depends on traffic
Pros: Convenient, available 24/7, could potentially be cheaper than taxi, fits up to 6 people
Cons: Price varies drastically, so you could also end up paying more.

Uber and Lyft are popular options to get to Manhattan from JFK, but it requires you to have internet on your phone when you order it.

At each terminal of JFK, there are designated areas where you can wait for your Uber or other ride shares. They are generally further than where the taxi lines are.

JFK Airport Uber pick up section

When you order an Uber or Lyft, you will need to choose which terminal you are at and which “zone” they should pick you up from. You need to follow the sign at the airport to go to those designated areas (generally in the parking lot area) to wait for your Uber.

How much it costs to Uber from JFK to Manhattan

Unlike the official taxi (yellow cab), Uber or Lyft do not have a flat fee to Manhattan. Their prices change based on demand and traffic conditions. So if you want to take Uber or Lyft to Times Square from JFK, you are looking at a huge range from $65 to $100+ before tip.

Below are two examples of different prices (same day, different time) using both Uber and Lyft to get to Times Square from JFK Airport. When I checked again at 10pm the price was even cheaper, about $67!

One thing to note is that the price you see on Uber or Lyft is the estimated total price you pay, including:

  • Estimated Tolls
  • Estimated surcharges

If you make your driver wait for more than 2 minutes there are extra costs associated with that as well. After you finish the trip you can add tips to the driver in the app (but it’s better to give them cash because I was told by a driver they don’t get all the tips you give in the app).

Uber/ Lyft vs. Metered Taxi from JFK to Times Square, Manhattan

Uber can fit more

If you have 6 passengers, you can take an Uber XL. However with a taxi you are capped at 4 passengers.

You may wait longer with Uber

Every time I land at JFK it actually takes at least 5-10 minutes for my Uber to arrive. For yellow cabs you could end up waiting for longer but in general the line for the yellow cabs moves pretty quickly.

Uber vs. Taxi cost

If you are getting into JFK around rush hour, then I would recommend taking a yellow cab over Uber because of the flat rate. But if you are landing super early in the morning or late at night, Uber or Lyft might be cheaper than a yellow cab.

You should always check Uber prices after you land to see which one is cheaper!


Helicopter Transfer From JFK to Times Square Manhattan

Total Cost: $200-275 per person (starting $175 if you have more than 3 people)
Time It takes: 5 minutes flight time (additional time for transfer)
Pros: Fast and very cool
Cons: Expensive; need to take Uber or subway to Times Square after landing in midtown; pay for large size luggage

If you want to have the coolest (and fastest) arrival to NYC then you should consider taking a helicopter from JFK to Manhattan. Yes there is actually a service that flies you directly from the airport so you can avoid traffic (or feel like those characters in the movies).

BLADE is the company that operates commercial helicopter flights in the US, Canada and Europe (mostly in the French Riviera).

It generally costs between $200 to $275 per person for flight but if you buy 3 or more seats you get a slight discount. You will get transported from the JFK terminal to the helicopter, take your 5 minute flight, and land in midtown to either East 34th Street or West 30th Street.

Once you land you can pay for Uber Black (via BLADE) to go to your final destination or you can call your own Uber, take the subway or walk to Times Square.

Is it worth it? I don’t know. But it’s certainly a cool experience to have and also saves you a ton of time so you don’t have to get stuck in traffic.

My Other New York City Travel Guides

If you are planning a trip to New York City, be sure to check out my other blog articles on the best itineraries and things to do in NYC.

New York City Itineraries & Things to Do

Christmas and Holiday Season in New York City

New York City Seasonal Articles

How to Save Money Traveling to NYC

New York City Food Guide

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