Navigating the New York Subway like a Local | TopView Sightseeing

Navigating the New York Subway like a Local

When you embark on your New York travel, you have all sorts of expectations– all of which are positive. You expect to have the time of your life in the Big Apple, in the city that never sleeps. And with all the New York City attractions and landmarks that are available, it is expected that you would picture perfection for your travel. However, all the planning and anticipation and dreams you have for your New York travel up to this point is only on paper. Sure you might have a long list of all the historical landmarks to visit and all the best restaurants, clubs and bars to get into while you are in New York, but chances are, you have not taken into consideration how you will get around the city. By this I’m not talking about the cost of transport when cruising from point A to point B, because you haven’t yet figured out what mode of transportation you will use while in the city. In New York, you have the option to ride a bike, ride the bus, call a taxi or use the subway system. Oh and of course Uber and Lyft. Many, who are on their NYC trip for the first time and even those who have been there before are fascinated by the New York subway system. And who can blame them? With such sophistication, what’s not impressive about it? Well here are some tips to help ease the challenges of using the subway system.

Befriend the subway map

Navigating New York using its advanced subway system will be a whole lot easier if you have a map on you at all times. Consider using Google maps on your smartphone instead of the ol’ paper maps to avoid standing out as a tourist. Even those who consider themselves pros to the Subway system from time to time do refer to their map of the system. Maps are available at every station. There are also free maps for use on the go on every station provided by station attendants.

Use numbers and letters rather than colors

New York Subway system The subway map features different colors, numbers and letters to signify and denote different routes and stations. Many locals tend to refer to the green and blue lines on the map. This talk might get you to think that all green and blue routes will take you to your intended sightseeing New York destinations. And while they might and could, colors are not the best way to trace your route since the lines E, C and A at some point split up ending up in stations and areas you had not intended to travel to.

Express or local trains? White or black dots?

New York local map On your New York travel, do not make the mistake many tourists make on their first travel, do not hop onto an express train and miss your stop while you needed to be on a local train. Looking at the map, you will notice some stops with black dots and some with white dots, the white dots denote express trains and will only stop on stops with white dots. Black dots on the other hand represent local trains and stopover in all stops.

Going downtown or uptown?

Another thing you will need to figure out before you hop on a train on any subway station is whether you want to go uptown or downtown. Generally, downtown is south and uptown is north. For this, you will have to pick the right platform. Each platform has signage at the entrance to give directive on this. Also, a point to note is that some stations only have either downtown or uptown stations on the entrance of the street and as such you are required to cross the road to go in the direction you desire. Local stops are mostly the ones with this problem. Express stations have both uptown and downtown platforms.

Locating the right station

Train station in New York The names the stations were given make them pretty easy to locate them. You should however be careful with the Canal street stop if you have a meeting in the general area. Why? Well, Canal Street has five possible stations as there are five different lines passing through the street and bearing the name Canal St. also bear in mind that most stations have both back and front exits and entrances. Also, you probably might notice that there are some stations with a red globe and some with a green globe. Historically, these were designed to inform travelers of the stations that were open 24 hours (green globe) and those that were not (red globe). Simply put, stations with red globes at the entrance are not open in the evening.


It will not cost you a dime to ask for help in the subway. It is actually more convenient to ask for directions on which train to board and which to avoid in comparison to boarding the wrong train and ending up on the wrong side of the city altogether. If you are not sure if you are on the right or wrong side of the platform, ask the person standing next to you. You will be shocked at how ready New Yorkers are to help you get around. New York travel and vacation is bound to be super fun. But only if you do not get lost while navigating to and from New York sites. Learn the subway system and you’ll be just fine.