This post lists the best apps to navigate public transportation in New York City. Most are free and it’s quite amazing how good they are. Visitors to New York often feel frustrated or confused navigating the subway system. Don’t feel bad – New Yorkers also get frustrated or confused especially when the train you are on suddenly is re-routed with no warning. Delays are the most frequent complaint and a good subway or bus app can help you avoid this problem.
These apps (for both iOS and Android) are among the best and can save you lots of time and confusion, leaving you more time to enjoy the city’s sights and join one of our free NYC tours! Before we get to the app list, you may also find these posts below very helpful.
Some of the best NYC subway apps are free and have been awarded prizes by the official subway system, the MTA. You can find apps that provide you subway maps and even city streets maps that will work even without wi-fi or data reception. Being able to access apps offline is essential for those visiting from overseas since roaming data costs can really take a dent out of your trip budget. Did you know that the New York City Subway now has free wi-fi in many subway stations now! Find out how to access it from our post Where to Find Free Wi-Fi in New York.
After trying many apps, we’ve narrowed the list down to these 8. These are the apps that we New Yorkers actually use!
Google Maps has come a long way in the past few years and its Navigation & Transit App has surpassed the usability of the Apple map that comes with your iPhone. It is also compatible with your Android phone. (Note that Android users will have to register for a Google account to use the Google Maps app for Android. But it’s worth it). A picture speaks a thousand words so after this basic feature description below, watch the video to see how Google Maps can help you plan your transit route in New York City.
Here are a few screenshots. It is an example of going from Lower Manhattan to the Empire State Building. (If you would like a video demonstration, click here.)
Screenshot #1 Enter your starting location in the top box. By default, the app uses your current location. By using the icons, choose the mode of transportation you want: Public Transportation, Walking, Taxi, Biking, and Driving (not shown). For this example, we have chosen Public Transportation/Subway icon. The app offers a few routes along with travel time, distance to/from subway stations, and any other important information.
Screenshot #2 If you prefer to find out about routes with less walking or one with fewer transfers, you use the Options function. You can choose also choose if you only want suggested routes with subways and not buses or vice versa. For this example, we went with Best Route.
Screenshot #3 Once we have chosen the route we want (see Screenshot #1), Screenshot #3 shows incredibly detailed instructions, such as the number of minutes it takes to walk to the subway station, what time the train is expected to arrive, and the number of stations in between your starting station and destination station. With the Google Maps Navigator and Transit app, you really don’t need anything else other than an itinerary of where you want to go.
Screenshot #1 Screenshot #2 Screenshot #3
Great feature Ideal for tourists because you don’t need to know the address for major attractions or destinations. Want to go to the Empire State Building? Just start typing in E-M-P and the app uses auto-predict to provide you with a choice of possible destinations, with Empire State Building coming up first. How easy is that?!?
TRANSIT Free – iPhone, iPad & Android.
This app keeps getting better and better. As the official New York City TransportatiDepartmentent, the MTA, catches up with technology, this app integrates these changes in a very efficient way.
Great feature You can set to alert you when you are nearing your destination, which is perfect for those who are unfamiliar with the city or who are prone to falling asleep on subways after a long day of walking around the city.
CITYMAPPER Free – iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Android.
This is an award-winning app for good reason (Apple’s 2014 and 2013 Apps of the Year; Winner of the 2013 MTA App Quest competition). An online reviewer said, “I’m practically married to this app.” Citymapper has many of the same time-saving, convenient features that non-free apps do. It also has some great features even fancier apps do not. You can use their homepage from your computer as it has the same functions as the app does. The app is constantly expanding to cities throughout the world, so keep an eye on this app, it is literally going places.
Great feature Let’s you choose your language! English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and more!
This instructional video uses Barcelona as an example but it works the same all cities. Since we now have tours in Barcelona, you can use Citymapper to help you find one of our tour starting points!
This is a fairly straightforward app that has many of the same features as other apps. Its user interface is not complicated but not as user-friendly as Google Maps or Citymapper.
Great feature It offers information about out of service elevators and escalators. This is very important if you are traveling with a lot of luggage, a baby stroller or need an handicapped-accessible station.
TIP: Speaking of luggage, if you are looking for luggage storage locations, read Where to Store Luggage in New York City?
Great feature The app includes an offline version of the official paper version of the NYC Subway Map which is about 2 feet wide by 2 feet long. With this app, you can see the subway map even when you do not have internet access. No more carrying around the giant NYC subway map.
iTRANS NYC SUBWAY $3.99 iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.
This app is for people who love information and simply must know the fastest route to their destination. This app has great features but isn’t really worth it if you are taking a nice relaxing vacation in New York City.
Great feature Comes with maps of NYC neighborhoods and you can use them without internet access. Never carry a paper map again.
KICKMAP $2.99 iPhone, iPad, iPod touch.
Why it is worth the money: Many a tourist and local alike have learned the hard way that not all subway stations have a crossover walkway to go in opposite direction. If you want to go uptown and enter the station thinking that once you are in the station and paid your fare that you can find the uptown platform. There are some stations in the city where there is no crossover option. Meaning once you’ve swiped your MetroCard and see you are on the downtown platform, the only way to get to the uptown platform that you need is to exit the station, cross the street and pay again to enter! Even if you have an unlimited card, once you have swiped it, you cannot swipe again for 18 minutes. KickMap will spare you the frustration and save you the money by telling you in advance which stations have crossovers and which do not.
Great feature 24-hour Day/Night maps – Automatically switches maps at 11 pm and 6 am
EXIT STRATEGY $3.99 iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry.
For people visiting New York, you may be surprised to find out that our subway stations are quite long and offer multiple exits. Leaving the station at the wrong exit can leave you blocks from your intended destination. This app tells you exactly where on the platform you should board the train so that when you arrive at your destination stop – voila! – the desired exit is right there!
Great feature: Time-saver and saves you some unnecessary walking which good for the weary traveler!
Written by Courtney Shapiro