Expats will find that Manhattan, the largest of New York City’s five boroughs, is certainly foot friendly; and even if one does need to zip from point A to point B, there is plenty of public transport to assist. It's also not necessary to have a car in Manhattan, and can be more of a hindrance than a help due to limited parking.
It's more common to have a car if living in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx. Though these areas are covered by public transport, travel times can be long and tiring.
Public transport in New York City
New York City has an integrated public transportation network. To use the subway system, a smart contactless card known as a MetroCard is needed. These smart cards can also be used on buses. Users can load credit or unlimited travel passes onto them, which saves commuters time and money. MetroCards can be purchased and reloaded online, at selected grocery stores, station booths or vending machines at the station. Bus fare can also be paid for in exact change.
The subway in New York City operates around the clock and is by far the fastest way to get around the city. New York's subway network is extensive and efficient, covering over 400 stations across the five boroughs. Services run every few minutes, so there's no need to spend time studying the schedule in detail. There are also express subway services which do not stop at some of the smaller local stations.
The subway is generally a safe and comfortable way to travel. However, services do become crowded during rush hour periods and passengers should use common sense when travelling alone in the night. Violent crime is rare, but petty theft does occur. Using busier stations and keeping valuable items hidden are good basic precautions.
Despite New York's dense subway network, buses remain a good alternative when it comes to getting across the city. Furthermore, buses are an ideal way to comfortably travel around the city at a more leisurely pace while taking in some of New York's great sights. Naturally, this is best done outside of peak hours.
There are express buses that travel between Manhattan and the outer boroughs and often serve areas which aren't sufficiently covered by the subway network. Express bus services are slightly more expensive than regular services.
The major downside to using buses in New York is that they are often delayed as a result of traffic congestion.
New York City is served by three commuter railroads which operate through the major hubs of Penn Station and Grand Central station. These train lines serve destinations further away from Manhattan and are a good option for regional travel.
Taxis in New York City
The fabled yellow taxi cabs are one of the many little pleasures of New York City life. These famous icons are omnipresent and ready to whisk people off through the avenues and streets to their next appointment, without the stress of an around town subway ride. They operate on a running meter that charges per mile and can be the most efficient and reasonable option when travelling in groups, but expensive if travelling alone. Always ensure the meter is reset at the start of a journey.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are also operational in New York City and may be cheaper than using a yellow cab.
Cycling in New York City
While cycling often beats most other forms of transport when it comes to getting around New York, it's certainly not for the faint-hearted. New York's busy traffic, aggressive taxi drivers and jaywalking pedestrians make cycling in the city quite difficult. Despite these hazards, it's common for New Yorkers commute to work by bike on a daily basis and the city is taking steps to improve infrastructure for cyclists. The network of cycle lanes in continuously growing, as are cycle storage facilities. There is also a bicycle-sharing scheme in place, known as Citi Bike.
Driving in New York
While it really isn't necessary to drive in New York, a number of people still choose to own a car. Those who opt to drive in New York City should be aware of some of the finer details of driving in the Big Apple. While expats are initially allowed to drive in New York with an international driving licence, foreigners must apply to exchange their licence for a local one after becoming legally resident in the state.
It is important to be aware of parking restrictions in New York because fines are hefty. Worse still, if a vehicle is impounded, the driver will have to pay a large fee to have it released. Parking in New York often involves renting a space in a parking garage, many of which have long waiting lists and charge huge fees, so it's well worth researching parking options to find something suitable. Parking on the street usually requires paying at a parking meter.