Navigating the New York City Subway System

Navigating the New York City Subway System

You’re planning your first trip to New York City and you are slightly intimidated by the Subway system. It’s the largest in the world, they say. They say you’ll get lost for sure. I don’t know who “they” are but you get the idea.

Have no fear I’m here to share my go-to tips for navigating the Subway. Well at least to all the places you really want to go to anyway. I’ve included the map I used to use, wrinkles and all (below).

Visiting Time Square

For many tourists visiting New York, Time Square is the first thing on their list. A word of caution: it’s the first thing on everyone’s list. And not for good reason. It’s popular, but it is merely lots of stores and flashing lights. If you’d like to check it off your list keep reading.

From the Grand Central Terminal: Take the “S” shuttle. This takes you down 42nd street right to Times Square. This shuttle’s sole purpose is to get you to Time Square, so there is no chance you will get lost.  It actually took me years of walking to Times Square to realize this.

The Best Train Number

The number 6 train is your friend. My favorite train is the number 6, simply because it takes you up and down manhattan. It’s simple, which can sometimes be hard to come by in a subway system that is over 100 years old. One of  my favorite stops is the 33rd street stop, which is where I stop to walk to Koreatown. Koreatown is primarily located one street over on 32nd street. There are surrounding streets as well, however I feel 32nd street gives you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of variety.

Navigating Streets

Get to know the difference between streets and avenues. Streets run horizontal, while avenues run vertical. Streets are shorter, since they run the width of Manhattan. Avenues can be extremely long, as they run the length of Manhattan.


Safety is important as you navigate your way through the Subway. Stay clear of the train tracks. Don’t be that person that sticks their head out into the tracks to see if the train is coming. The train is coming. You don’t want to get accidentally shoved onto the track. When taking the train during peak times, the trains will be very full. Keep personal belongings in front of you. Keep track of other people in your group. Have a plan if someone gets separated. Has everyone in the group agreed to meet at the next station, if left behind. Discuss this beforehand. When it’s really crowded it’s quite possible for someone to get left behind.

Know that if you can learn to navigate this subway system, most subway systems in the world will be of no difficulty at all.

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