"9 hour" Layover in NYC

Old Oct 11th, 2018, 04:23 AM
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"9 hour" Layover in NYC

We have a 9 hour layover in NYC. We land at 8:40 and depart at 18:30. I would just like some advise on where we can go and what we can see in this time period. I have never been to the US, so any info on the best public transport to use, as well as how long it will take and how long it takes to get through customs (we are coming from South Africa), would be of great help.
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Old Oct 11th, 2018, 06:08 AM
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First, I assume you'll be arriving at JFK Airport.

It's difficult to predict how long it will take you to clear US Immigrations & Customs sine it will depend on how many other international flights arrive around the same time as your's. However, if you plan on it taking about an hour (most of which will be waiting on line at Immigration as clearing Customs is usually quick) that will still leave you with about 8 hours of "free" time. If it takes you less time then so much the better.

There are several different options you can use for getting into Manhattan from the airport with range from taking the SkyTrain, buses, taxis and car services - all have their pros and cons. You can find out lots of useful information on the JFK Airport website (https://www.jfkairport.com) - click on the "To & From JFK" link on the top of the home page.

Most people will suggest you use the SkyTrain as it is quite efficient and fairly reasonably priced. Regardless of which transportation method you choose plan on it taking about an hour to get into mid-town Manhattan. You'll need another hour for your return trip to the airport.

Now, if you have only carry-on or luggage that was checked through to your final destination and you have your boarding passes for your connecting flight you are all set and you should plan on arriving back at the airport about 75 to 90 minutes prior to your scheduled departure so you can clear TSA Security and proceed to the Gate for your connecting flight. If not, you'll need to allow more time to check-in for your connecting flight an it is normally recommended that you arrive at the airport 2 hours before scheduled departure.
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Old Oct 11th, 2018, 08:01 AM
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It's not a lot of time (sounds like it should be but it's not).

Going:

customs and immigration and recheck your bags (1 hour)
Time to walk to the taxi queue or airtrain (15 min.)
Taxi (depends on traffic) or train into the city (45 min to 1:15)

Return (assuming you do not have to stand in line for a boarding pass or to check bags):

Taxi or train back to the airport
Security line
Walk to gate

That's 5 of your 9 hours and assumes you don't want to leave very much leeway for re-checking in and security (I agree with RoamsAround that 75-90 minutes should be fine, but some people can't breathe with that little time allotted).

On the other hand, that still leaves you 4 hours IN Manhattan, so personally, I'd still do it. I'd take a taxi into the city so you can see the city from "above ground" as you arrive (instead of underground in a subway) (all else being equal, meaning traffic on various routes, I'd want to take the route that goes over the 59th St. Bridge (also known as the Queensboro Bridge). I'd head straight for some specific area -- I think 5th Avenue and 59th Street would be a good spot to start, and I'd walk around for 4 hours -- north into the lower part of Central Park, south along 5th Avenue, cross over to Times Square, eat lunch at a great deli, keep walking past the NY Public Library and Bryant Park -- then I'd take the subway back from Penn Station (which is at 31st St. and 7th Avenue) or just hop in a taxi to return to the airport. Each 20 blocks is about a mile, so the walk would only be about 1-1/2 miles altogether and you'd see a LOT in that walk.

Last edited by sf7307; Oct 11th, 2018 at 08:04 AM.
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Old Oct 11th, 2018, 08:28 AM
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What type of visa will you have? You can use the automated passport control kiosk at JFK if you have a certain type of visa, otherwise you'll have to join the queue for an immigration officer. The kiosk makes the whole process alot quicker. Baggage can take quite a while to retrieve and sometimes customs lines can be very very long. I would not bother with the Skytrain and trying to get anywhere by subway/train or anything else, just take a taxi from outside the terminal and then get one back, leaving plenty of time as the roads are usually busy and it can take ages to get back to JFK. I've had several bad experiences on trains that are delayed or cancelled, especially at weekends, now I don't risk it unless I have loads of time. I've used Uber to/from JFK as well as official cabs. I go thru JFK at least twice a year.
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Old Oct 12th, 2018, 05:27 AM
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The date and day of the week are the crucial pieces of information here. You don't tell us that, but it will have a huge impact on how long your trip takes and whether it even makes sense to take a taxi (on a weekend it would save you more time than on a weekday, when it might actually take longer than public transportation, but it depends on where you are coming before or after Thanksgiving). And if you happen to arrive on NYC Marathon Sunday in early November, it won't even be possible to take a taxi. Also, if this is your first time in the US, it's likely that immigration will take longer than it might otherwise.

Frankly, I'd dismiss the suggestion that you take a $75 each-way taxi ride into the city since you will be coming to Manhattan and instead recommend a $7.75 to $15 each-way ride on the Airtrain plus the subway or the Long Island Railroad (plus $1 for the Metro card); the latter might save you 15 to 20 minutes each way, but the former is half the cost and takes less than an hour. But it matters on what you intend to do and where you want to go. Want to see Central Park? The Airtrain and subway from Jamaica to 50th Street makes more sense. Want to see the Empire State Building? The Airtrain to Jamaica and Long Island Railroad to Penn Station makes more sense. Want to see the Statue of Liberty? Then the Airtrain to Howard Beach and A subway to Fulton Street only makes sense. You can share a metro card if you are a couple to save $1 for a second Metrocard, and when you buy your fares, load an additional $5.50 per person so you can ride the subway somewhere and back to your point of entry.

You will have a limited amount of time (about 3 hours to do something in Manhattan, not including travel time), but that's plenty of time if you plan your day in advance and know the right way into the city. You basically have time to do one thing, walk around a little, and a quick bite to eat. FYI: You do not have time to go to the Statue of Liberty, but you do have plenty of time to take the Staten Island Ferry and see it while cruising.
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Old Oct 12th, 2018, 06:14 AM
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Thank you, this is very helpfull. We will arrive the Saturday the 3rd of November. Where do you buy a metrocard?
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Old Oct 12th, 2018, 06:24 AM
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You are lucky, the NYC Marathon is on Sunday, November 4 so you shouldn't't be affected by any street closings.

You can buy a Metrocard at any Subway Station entrance from either a vending machine or staffed ticket booth.
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Old Oct 12th, 2018, 09:45 AM
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You buy a metrocard at the station, if your non US credit card is accepted by the machine. You'll be asked for a zipcode. It's not validated so any old zipcode normally does the trick. Hopefully you'll find a person at the ticket booth and you won't have a long wait in line. The weekends are a bad time for public transport IME, this is the time trains seem to get cancelled the most and sometimes they put on a bus service between stations instead of trains which take forever. This is what happened on my last visit. Visit before that, trains were cancelled so had to take a huge time consuming detour to get to the Airtrain station and the time before that, a line was completely cancelled in Manhattan due to maintenance.
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Old Oct 13th, 2018, 04:48 AM
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I was concerned about the person who commented "if your bags are checked through."

It's my understanding that is impossible with TSA rules. You have to get your bags and then present them to customs. Don't leave your bags on a carousel in the secure area. You can't go back.

Last edited by 5alive; Oct 13th, 2018 at 04:56 AM.
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Old Oct 13th, 2018, 04:58 AM
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I was curious about the person who said their bags were checked through.

It's my understanding that is impossible with TSA rules. You have to get your bags and then present them to customs before a connecting domestic US flight.
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Old Oct 13th, 2018, 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by 5alive View Post
I was concerned about the person who commented "if your bags are checked through."

It's my understanding that is impossible with TSA rules. You have to get your bags and then present them to customs. Don't leave your bags on a carousel in the secure area. You can't go back.

I think you misunderstood the point of my comment. I wasn't implying you didn't have to claim your bags after Immigration (and before customs) but rather if OP already had his/her boarding pass for the connecting flight they wouldn't have to waste anymore time going to the Ticket Counter to check-in for the connecting flight. All they'd have to do is drop the bags (which will already be tagged to the connecting destination) at the luggage drop area just outside the Customs Hall and then they'd be free to leave the airport and make their way to NYC for a brief visit.
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Old Oct 14th, 2018, 04:03 PM
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If you take the Airtrain, then you will buy your Metrocard at the station immediately after you get off the train. Load the card with $5 per person for the Airtrain, $22 for 4 rides each, and you’ll be charged $1 for the card. After you exit the Airtrain station, walk to the far end of the walkway and take the elevator down to the E train station, or purchase your Long Island Railroad tickets from another machine (you will buy 2 “city tickets” ... discount weekend tickets that are only one way) for $4.25 each. If you take the LIRR, which makes more sense on a Saturday, then buy only $11 worth of subway rides.
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Old Oct 16th, 2018, 04:34 AM
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Thank you guys!
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