5 Tips for Riding the Subway in New York City
The New York City subway.
This is all but an NYC institution to tourists.
Even veteran straphangers marvel at the complex of tunnels, trains and platforms located in a subterranean lair deep below the city.
After riding the subway train hundreds of times I want to clue you in on New York City subway etiquette.
1: Learn How to Squeeze into Tight Spots Aka Find the Space
Be mindful of the space you take up.
Learn how to squeeze into tight spots.
Especially during rush hour.
My first few times on rush hour subway trains alerted me to how many people can physically fit in a tiny crowded steel tube barreling through the earth under NYC. I would plaster myself against a pole or shoehorn myself into a corner.
I also learned during one particular subway ride how my backpack – worn on my back – could slam into co-riders, being alerted to this fact by a kindly gentleman behind me. Knowing this, I subsequently dropped the backpack and held it under rush hour conditions.
Give up your seat to elderly folks or moms with little kids. Learn how to squeeze into tight spots during busy periods of the day.
Find the space available on a crowded subway as a courtesy to fellow travelers.
2: No or Little Eye Contact
The NYC subway code; make no eye contact.
Or make little eye contact.
Tight spot. Crowded subway. Folks just mind their own business, ocularly.
This rule applies on empty subways too. You can exchange pleasantries or strike up a chat if you choose to but nobody does the eye contact thing much. Quarters too tight.
3: Use Deodorant
Rush hour sardine can like conditions demand the use of deodorant. But even if the train is not crowded, think close quarters with no ventilation, save some heat or air conditioning during seasonal extremes.
Please practice personal hygiene. Be kind to your fellow strap hangers.
4: Double Check Weekend and Holiday Schedules
I have found myself waiting for long periods of time at certain stations, only to realize that I didn’t know how the weekend schedule shook out.
This is code for: I waited for a train that would never arrive on the weekends.
Check weekend and holiday schedules for trains that may not be running. Seek a workaround – involving multiple subway transfers and even some bus riding – or simply release on your intended location. Or use those 2 things called “legs” to walk to your desired location. New York City is not that big.
5: Ask Around for Information
Ask a local about subway stops if you have a question.
Most New Yorkers will happily answer your query.
Just last week I spotted 2 tourists having issues swiping their Metro cards at the turnstile. After 2 failed swipes I intervened with a smile and showed how the quick, solid swipe yields a 100% success rate.
Said tourist smiled and then asked me with a heavy Fresh accent: “Does this train go to Times Square?”
I verified that yep, it does, and noted to get off at the 42nd Street exit.
OK; I am not a local. I am from New Jersey. But I have traveled into NYC hundreds of times. I am an honorary New York City resident.
Ask locals guys, whether you are unsure of stops, or whether a train heads Uptown or Downtown.
Note; look up while standing on the subway platform. Over the tracks. You will see a sign indicating whether the train goes Uptown or Downtown, aka, North or South. Even if the actual Uptown or Downtown words do not appear on the sign, use your phone to Google the section of town or street mentioned and map it out to determine if the train heads Uptown or Downtown.