La Guardia to Manhattan – it can’t be that difficult, right? Flying into New York City offers visitors three different international airports, each of which offers very different transportation methods into Manhattan. Having flown into JFK and Newark several times and found them both to be pretty easy to navigate into Manhattan, we recently headed to La Guardia (LGA) hoping for the same experience.
Unfortunately, we suffered the traumatic experience of a 3 ½ hour journey into Manhattan (more on that later). We wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone so let’s take a look at the best way to get from La Guardia to Manhattan…it shouldn’t be that difficult right?
New York Airports – Which One?
Booking flights and arranging accommodation may seem like the most important aspects of organizing an upcoming trip, but what about actually getting to and from the airport? It’s inevitable that the airport will be located quite a distance from the destination you are visiting and unless you are renting a car, it’s likely that you will be considering a myriad of options to get from the airport to your hotel.
As I mentioned, traveling to New York City offers three different options. Newark and JFK both offer direct methods of transportation into either Penn Station or Grand Central Station in NYC using the New Jersey Transit and AirTrain respectively.
Both of these airports are further out than La Guardia, so you would think that for convenience, LGA would be the best option. This will depend on the form of transportation you choose to take to Manhattan, so let’s go ahead and take a look at your options.
Prior to visiting New York City on our recent trip to experience the Millenium Memories package at the Millenium Hilton in New York City, we decided to book a Super Shuttle from LGA directly to our hotel. We made this decision hoping for a much smoother and efficient service.
It’s only 12 miles from La Guardia to Lower Manhattan, so we were anticipating a journey of maybe an hour at most. Perhaps we were being a little optimistic here but nothing could have prepared us for the journey that ensued.
I want to add a caveat here that our driver was awesome. He was incredibly friendly and apologetic but the reality is that the service was flawed. Our driver indicated that he was called in at the last minute to make an LGA pick-up because “drivers didn’t want to deal with the traffic caused by the La Guardia construction”.
We were the first passengers on the bus at 4:40PM and made several other pick-ups at various LGA terminals before our bus was completely full by around 5:30PM. That’s when the fun started. It took a little over an hour to actually get out of the airport and we arrived in Manhattan, specifically Broadway and Times Square at around 6:45PM. 2 hours later we arrived at our hotel at 8:30PM! By the way, we were the last passengers to leave the bus.
So the moral of this story is…if you are flying into La Guardia, do not use Super Shuttle, especially if you are staying in Lower Manhattan!
Best Way to Get from La Guardia to Manhattan
There has to be a better option…and thankfully there is! It’s called public transportation and involves two different methods. It is efficient and cost-effective…which I am sure is what you are looking for when visiting NYC because everything else is pretty expensive.
Let’s start with the M60 bus which is what you will use to leave La Guardia Airport. Be sure to purchase your tickets prior to getting onboard the bus. Ticket machines are available and LGA staff will be on hand to point you in the right direction if you need assistance. Tickets are only $2.75 for a one-way trip.
If you are ahead of the game and already have a Metro card filled with credit, you can utilize this in exchange for a bus ticket.
The above map shows a red star at La Guardia and then three alternative spots where you can alight from the M60 bus before heading on to the NYC subway.
Here are a couple of iconic locations around New York City that you may be heading towards from La Guardia and our recommended M60 bus stops.
- Lower Manhattan/Wall Street/Statue of Liberty – Astoria Boulevard (Yellow – N/Q line)
- Times Square/Broadway – 125th and St. Nicholas Av.
- Grand Central Station – 125th and Lexington Av.
A relatively new M60 SBS service now runs limited stops for transportation to and from the airport which definitely speeds up the service.
The journey on the M60 bus is pretty comfortable and efficient. If you are alighting at Astoria Boulevard, it will likely take about 15-20 minutes from La Guardia (or vice-versa) which is much quicker than the Super Shuttle route we opted for.
New York City Subway
You have a couple of options once you are on the bus. Depending on whether you want to stay on the bus for longer or spend more time on the subway will determine which route you take. It will also depend on your final destination in Manhattan.
Of course, our journey was reversed because we took the subway from Lower Manhattan (Fulton Center) to Astoria Boulevard on the N/Q Line (Yellow). From here, it is a short journey on the M60 bus to La Guardia. Alternatively, you could take the M60 bus to 125th street but again, it’s going to solely depend on your final destination and which is the most convenient subway station to board.
The subway system in New York City is undoubtedly the best way to get around the city. If you choose to take an alternative approach to get from La Guardia to Manhattan, you will soon realize that the subway is a cost-effective way to get around rather than the iconic yellow cabs that are cool but rather expensive.
We encourage you to refill more money on your MTA Metrocard because you receive a bonus depending on how much you add. Each ride will cost you $2.75 regardless of the distance you travel, so be smart and make the most of your journey. You will find that New York is a very walkable city, so use the subway wisely and you will have a great experience.
Traveling between La Guardia and Manhattan may seem like a trivial task but the reality is that unless you are familiar with the options, you may well end up experiencing a similar fate to our Super Shuttle experience. I want to reiterate that this was nothing against our Super Shuttle driver who did his best to alleviate our concerns and create a positive atmosphere, but over 3 hours on a bus for only 12 miles is a little excessive.
We hope that you will reap the benefits from this post when you next travel to New York City and are looking for the best ways to get from La Guardia to Manhattan. The M60 and subway combination is a simple and effective method. Just be sure to follow the directions and have $5.50 handy and you will be in downtown Manhattan in no time!
M60 Bus – $2.75
Subway (Metrocard) – $2.75
Do you have any handy tips to travel between an airport and downtown area? What are the common mistakes travelers make when arranging transportation from an airport?
Really informative post, that will help others have a less stressful experience.. Disappointing to start your trip this way, reminds us of a bus journey in Crete that from the airport to our hotel should of taken 2 hours but took 5 1/2, hate starting our holidays grumpy! Thanks for sharing.
I will be flying into La Guardia in a few weeks for a Christmas visit to my daughter in Queens. That should be a 10-minute taxi ride. But I have been hearing plenty lately about what a mess La Guardia is so I am planning to take a Super Shuttle just to get a cost guarantee. I’ll report back here later on how that turns out.
Great tips! I know that 3+ hour torture you speak of. I live in NYC and you could not pay me to drive near LGA. It’s an absolute disaster area. The bus to the subway at Astoria blvd is the way to go. I’d say that you shouldn’t even bother with heading to the subway at 125th st. It could take an hour to get there. Get off at Astoria blvd get on the N/Q and transfer from there. You can take that line all the way to Times Square. You could also hop on the 7 the last stop in Queens to help you get to some east side locations like 59th and Lex or closer to Grand Central. Seriously hope your readers take your advice!
Thank you for your such a full review on your trip to New York! It will be very helpful for those who is planning their trip to New York for holidays or just for fun. I enjoyed while reading your post! The photos are great, New York is a fabulous city! Great post!
Now that the Second Avenue Subway has opened, your post information should change a tiny bit The Q no longer goes to Astoria. The W now replaces it from Astoria to the Lower Manhattan / Wall Street / Staten Island Ferry. The N is express and doesn’t stop below Canal Street.
Also you should not be paying $3.50. If you already have a Metrocard, it would be $2.75 as the bus transfer would be free if it is within two hours. If you need to purchase a Metrocard, it is a $1 fee for just the card, in addition to however much you purchase.