The New York City subway system has a pretty crazy reputation, and yet every day millions of New Yorkers take the subway to and from work. Every weekend, people use it to get to brunch, to go out clubbing, to get to the park, and/or to get out of town and take a trip to the beach or the forests of upstate New York. In other words, the NYC subway really isn’t that scary, and it can be your friend if you know a few handy tips for surviving your first ride and making the subway work for you.
Get an App and Map Your Route
First of all, there are subway maps in all train stations, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t painted over them with some really great (or terrible) graffiti. So, instead of relying on a map that might be defaced, go ahead and download an app to help you on your way. Google Maps (available from the iTunes store or Google Play) can be extremely helpful, or you can download the New York Subway MTA Map and Route Planner. Either way, you’ll have the train schedules you’ll need, and you can easily find where you’ll need to transfer to get where you want to go.
Buy a Subway Map
While those apps are really useful, sometimes you aren’t going to have cell reception because most of the subway system is underground. You can avoid a navigational crisis by buying a subway map at one of the many newsstands you’ll pass on your way to almost any station.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – But Do Be Specific
New Yorkers are notoriously busy people. They’re not really rude, but they don’t waste a lot of time answering questions that people don’t ask. In other words, if you step onto an L train and ask, “Is this the J train?” people are just going to say, “No.” If you ask, “Which train do I need to take to make the transfer to the 7 at Grand Central?” you’re more likely to get a more helpful answer.
Avoid Eye Contact – But Don’t Worry If You Accidentally Look at Someone
Riding the subway is a practice in being packed in tight with a bunch of strangers. To make things easier for everyone, most New Yorkers avoid eye contact with other people on the train. If you accidentally lock eyes with someone, though, it’s not a big deal. Just don’t continue to stare – that’s creepy.
Don’t Fall Asleep
You see all kinds of pictures and videos of people falling asleep on subway trains, and it’s understandable. Sometimes you’ve just had a really long, rough day at work, and the movement of the train is enough to lull you to sleep. While the subways are much safer than they once were, they’re not moving guest bedrooms. Don’t fall asleep, and you’ll be a lot less likely to get your pocket picked or lose your laptop bag.
Take a Good Pair of Walking Shoes With You
While you’ll find stations all over New York and you can get almost anywhere for $2.75, don’t forget that you’re going to have to do some walking. If you look around, you’ll notice that everyone in New York brings an extra pair of shoes with them wherever they go. High-power executives wear comfortable walking shoes on their way to the office and then change into more appropriate dress shoes when they get there. If you don’t, you’ll be sporting a lot of blisters, and you won’t enjoy your commute nearly as much.
Surviving the NYC subway really isn’t that hard. Just be aware of your surroundings and have an app or a map to help you make your transfers and get where you want to go. Follow these tips, and you’ll do just fine!