I am having to abandon my usual post layout in order to cover the modes of transport I used in getting around NYC. I am going to talk about;
- Getting from and to the airport (NYC & UK)
- NYC Metro
- Hop on/Hop off Bus
- Water Taxi
- By foot
- Other options that I didn't take.
To avoid it being too long a post I have split this into two parts. Numbers 1 and 2 on the list make up part 1 and 3-6 are part 2.
1. Getting from and to the airport
I was advised by my friend (the same one who recommended the hostel) to use the airport shuttle as it was straight forward and quick, she gave me a link to book online but I decided to wait until I was at the airport.
Sadly, there was no limo waiting to pick me up, no tall, dark and handsome stranger with a bunch of purple irises - none of that! I swiftly recovered from the shock of none of the above being there and went in search of the airport shuttle.
As it happens the airport shuttle bus is practically in the walkway when you come through into the arrival lounge, so it wasn't too hard to miss and in addition there was a lady stood nearby who was able to answer questions. I queued up at the desk and when my turn came I asked to book a seat on the next airport shuttle going to the upper west side. The lady, who was the first person I had spoken to since landing, was Polish! It amused me because where I live we have quite a large polish population. She told me it would be about 25 minutes and I would be called when it was time. There really wasn't anything to do to kill that time so I loitered with the best of them and waited to be called. When it was time, we all gathered and followed the driver (in a sheep like fashion) to the shuttle bus and clambered on.
Now, traditionally the drive from the airport to the hotel/hostel/b&b/whatever is the perfect chance to get an idea of what you have let yourself in for. You get to see the roads, the urban areas sometimes and then the build up in development as you head to the City. Well, the driver was manic! He zoomed off and straight onto the motorway (freeway? 6 lanes!) and it was bumper to bumper traffic. You wouldn't have known it though as the driver very kindly re-enacted an often seen car chase moment from all of your favourite action movies, he went all kamikaze and careered off, changing lanes as soon as there was a gap, not even indicating (there really wasn't time for that) and overtaking/undertaking at junctions.You would think that this would mean we would arrive in NYC quicker but alas no - just more shaken up. It took about an hour to get to Manhattan from the airport and it was not a gradual thing,one minute you couldn't really see it the next you were there. It was all quite overwhelming and I was very happy when I arrived at the Hostel (check back to Part 3 if you have missed the accommodation). It cost me $20 in cash and 3 grey hairs and a wrinkle in experience.
The return trip wasn't as dastardly and took less time and I paid a lot less attention to how the shuttle was being driven and just concentrated on the scenery as we went by.
That being said, I would use it again. It was easy to book from the airport side and easy to book at the hostel too. If I was saving money, I might be tempted to take the airport train and metro, provided I had a small bag again.
Getting to the airport from the UK was not too bad. In the past I have been fortunate enough to get dropped off at the airport before my flight. This time was different and I went to stay at an airport hotel the night before. It was very reasonably priced and was much better than I had expected. It was clean, bright, had all the amenities, and was absolutely perfect for one night.
There was a bus that you could catch to the terminal from right outside the hotel door and it took 10 minutes max to get to there. I never mentioned the hotel in the accommodation section because I completely forgot (mainly because it was a UK happening) and feel quite bad. All I can say is, the staff were friendly, the place was clean, it was popular and it was about £40 for the night. It was a chain hotel, the Ibis at Heathrow. I am glad I tried it because I would stay there again for an early flight.
When I arrived back in the UK it was early in the morning and after collecting my luggage, I had two options
- Take the Coach to the station in my town and then a taxi to my house
- Catch a train to London and then change and get the train to my town and then a taxi from the station.
The coach seemed the simplest option. I bought my ticket from a machine and then had a 15 minute wait for the coach and then was home in about an hour or so.
2. The NYC Metro
On the first night in NYC, I had walked from the hostel to Columbus Circle (CC) in an attempt to get a look around and I had thought that the road was shorter. By the time I reached CC I decided to turn around and go back to the Hostel via the Metro. I could have bought a card there and then but instead I opted for a one way ticket to 103rd street station which cost $2.50, I was a bit lost but a very nice station worker (is that the right name?) helped me and it was fine. I bought the 7-day Metro card for $27-$29 (I cant remember) the next morning and in the five days that I was there I definitely got my moneys worth and I would recommend getting one. As long as I could get myself to a station to catch the 1 train I was ok. It also saved me walking too much, not to say I didn't walk the soles off of my feet as well.
It wasn't as scary as I had imagined (Who me?!) and it was always busy. It didn't seem to matter what time of day it was, whether early or late the place was packed. I think the only thing that was quite unusual was the proactive beggars. They would come on the train and introduce themselves and say that they are homeless and that they need money for whatever and then get off at the next stop. They had buskers too, and on one occasion there was a large band playing in a station with loads of equipment and such. They had drawn quite a crowd and were a bit country. Another time a musician/busker was playing on the train, he was young and pretty and he reminded me of Eric Hutchinson in music style, the ladies liked him and one even told me that she see's him a lot, he always seems to be on the same train as her. Another time, I acted like a total knithead and started chatting to a woman purely because she was crocheting on the train, as I have been trying to teach myself for ages - sadly I have still not managed this yet. But I had a lovely conversation regardless.
I did have one other incident that happened in a subway station. Iit was my last full day in NYC and I was desperate to actually see some sights and do some tours so that I would feel like I had done something during my stay. It meant that I was running here there and everywhere. Now, I haven't yet told you about the time that I thought I was lost and the panic that ensued but I had a repeat performance of that on this occasion. It involved me, panicking that I was going to be late for a tour of the NBC studios (I hate being late, 5 minutes early is late for me!) and so I was getting quite flustered. I had also taking my sweet time and was now going against the clock to get to Rockefeller centre.
So I was lost, somewhere near times square (I think) but I am not sure and saw a subway station and went in. It was unmanned but I just needed to swipe and go. This station didn't have the usual turnstiles but the ones that are like a revolving door made of horizontal cream iron bars. I swiped and started walking through. I don't know if I was walking particularly slow that day or what, but I never got through and the gate stopped. I swiped again but it said
and so I couldn't get through. Blind panic hit me and I huffed and puffed and walked around in circles for a bit until I saw a button on the wall that said, press for information. I wasn't sure exactly what information. But I pressed it anyway, tried to explain the situation, and the lady told me to go to the other side of the station. I was confused, where's that? apparently it was across the street.
I came out of the station, still stressing and turning into an OCD time lord, I may even have thought internal combustion was next. I found the other side and there was a long queue at the ticket desk. The woman at the desk was also in the middle of a shift changeover! So I continued to pace a little from side to side, check my watch, mutter under my breath and act like an addict needing their next fix. I decided that if there were two of them, then maybe I could quickly ask the woman leaving for advice. Because after all I didn't need a ticket. I went up to the desk and said, excuse me...she cut me off with the words I didn't want to hear,
please join the queue
After all, I am English, we live to queue and I knew there was one there. Obviously, if an English person goes to the front of a queue it MUST be an emergency, everyone knows that, right? I returned to my place that I had had saved, and kept huffing and muttering about not even needing a ticket, checking my watch and pacing, it must have been distracting because the girl in front of me very kindly let me go in front of her. How long do you think it took for me to explain my situation and have it rectified? 5 maybe 10 minutes? Nope, about 30 seconds. She told me to go through the gate.
So I went through the gate and had started to calm down, because I would get there in time and the planets would realign and it would be OK. But once I walked through the gates, I was confused - oh! Was I going uptown or down town, where was I? damn, So I looked left and then right and then left some more and then right and I saw some policemen. I thought, hmmm, should I ask for directions from them...I paused to think, looked back at the other side and looked round again. When I looked round, one of the police men called me over!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why did you go through the gate? he asked. I gave what was my now well repeated spiel, he looked me up and down (no smile) and said Where are you from? I said England and he dismissed me with a flick of his wrist. Now, I don't know about you..but this really really riled me. I didn't mind being stopped, like I said I was acting like a crazy person but what difference did it make as to where I was from? He wasn't asking me in a, so where are you from? England, are you enjoying your visit to NYC? No, he asked in an accusatory manner and I so wish I had said somewhere else. It was just so wrong, what does it matter where I am from...I made it to the tour with 10 minutes to spare, which were used waiting in the queue! Oh the irony :D
Apart from the policeman, my experience of the NYC Metro was a good one. Reasonably priced, clean and efficient.