A comparison of the different transportation options to get between New York’s JFK and LalaGuardia airports: via taxi, Uber, the NYC Airporter, and shuttle. Plus how long it takes, how much it costs, how to do it, and which one is best.
Whether you rebooked a flight that got cancelled or you found a great deal on a connecting flight, sometimes you need to get between New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA) airports. Luckily even though they’re on opposite sides of Queens, it’s really easy to do so long as you have enough time.
There are four main options: Taxi, Uber, the NYC Airporter (a private bus company), or a port of authority shuttle.
Option 1: Taxi
More expensive, but potentially faster
Cost: $40-$60 I took a cab from LGA terminal C to JFK terminal 5 this week for work. The total amount including tip was $45.36 So yeah, it’s expensive. And don’t forget to tip: a 15% tip is expected, plus $1/bag.
Pros: Taxis are potentially the fastest option because ideally there’s no line to wait in to get one, they run 24/7, and you don’t make any stops along the way. Plus, taking a taxi is a New York experience in and of itself as Yellow Cab’s new ad campaign suggests with the tagline, “Real New Yorkers ride yellow.”
Cons: But taxis are really expensive! And sometimes the queue makes the total time between airports comparable with other cheaper, options. I almost never spring for a cab unless I’m in a huge time crunch and there’s no line.
Time: 60-90 minutes. Even though they’re only 12 miles apart, without stops it generally takes 30-45 minutes curbside to curbside between JFK and LGA. However, give yourself at least an additional 30-45 minute wiggle room to account for cab lines and traffic.
Step-by-step how to do it: Follow signs for ground transportation/taxi. Once curbside, look for yellow taxi stands with long roped off lines. Get in line. There will be a worker at the front of the line in a booth who will assist you.
Two tips to save time and money: If there’s a long line to get a taxi, consider calling out to the crowd to see if anyone wants to split a cab to the other airport. That way you can jump in line to where they are and save money. Plus splitting a cab offers the potential for a more interesting experience than riding solo.
Also, there are multiple taxi stands at each airport and terminal. So if the first one you see has a long line, walk down to the next one. At LGA this week, the first taxi line I came to was overflowing and had well over 100 people in it. It was going to take forever. So after I checked to see if anyone was going to JFK (no one was), I quickly walked to the next stand (about 5 minutes) where there was literally no one in line, and hopped straight into a cab.
Option 2: Uber (and other ride sharing)
Generally a little bit cheaper than a taxi, with a little longer wait time.
Cost: $30-$80 According to Uber’s online fare estimate the trip between LGA and JFK runs $29-$39 dollars for an UberX (their cheaper option), or $62-$82 for an UberBlack (their luxury option similar to a private car service). Tipping is not required or expected.
Pros: Ubers are the taxis of the future in every major city, and that’s especially true of New York, which was the first city Uber expanded to after it initially beta tested in San Francisco. UberX also tends to be a little bit cheaper than taxis while still offering a 24/7 direct service with no stops along the way.
Cons: After requesting an Uber, you have to wait for it to drive to your terminal from where they wait in the cell phone parking lot. Plus it’s still pretty pricy, and surge pricing can make the cost of an Uber unpredictable and exponentially higher. The highest I’ve seen a surge in any city is 3.5X the regular rate, though it can be potentially more. Always do an Uber estimate first.
Time: 60-90 minutes. Like a cab, it generally takes 30-45 minutes curbside to curbside between JFK and LGA. However, give yourself at least an additional 30-45 minute wiggle room to account for your Uber getting from the cell phone parking lot to your pick up spot and traffic.
Step by step how to do it: Install and open the Uber app on your phone. Set pick up location by entering airport name and terminal into field with green dot. Tap black banner “set pick up location”.
The screen will prompt you with directions on where to meet your Uber driver. Walk to the meeting area. Select your terminal and pick up location from the drop down menu, then tap the black banner “confirm pickup location”. Wait for your Uber driver to arrive.
Two tips to save money and time: To save money, Lyft is another ride sharing app that I always check before requesting an Uber. As competitors, one is often cheaper than the other especially if one of them is surge prices while the other is not.
To save time, I always contact my driver once requested and let them know what I look like and what I’m wearing so it will be easier for them to spot me. There’s generally a lot of Ubers picking up, so I always check the license plate number and the name of the driver before hopping in.
Option 3: NYC Airporter
This private bus company is cheap and reliable, but takes a little longer than a nonstop service
Cost: $14/person. Each ticket is $14/person plus tipping. Industry standard is to tip $1 per person if you brought luggage. (This applies to hotel shuttles or any other type of driver that helps with luggage).
Pros: NYC Airporter offers frequent, reliable service between JFK and LGA at a fraction of the cost of a cab or Uber. It leaves about every 30 minutes from either airport with the first one at 5am and the last one at 11:30pm. There’s also free wifi on the bus and power outlets to charge your personal devices.
Cons: The bus makes multiple stops at each airport to accommodate all customers, which adds 15-25 minutes to the trip compared to a non-stop service. It’s also not a viable option after 11:30pm or before 5:00am.
Time: 90-120 minutes. Including the stops at each airport, count on it taking about an hour curbside to curbside depending on which terminal you are traveling in and out of. Plus give yourself an extra 30 minutes for waiting for the bus (in case you just miss one), and another 30 minutes for traffic.
Step by step how to do it: I haven’t seen signs specifically for the NYC Airporter at either airport. So instead just follow signs for ground transportation/baggage claim. Each terminal has handy tourist information desks on the baggage claim level. Check in with them first; they’ll be able to give you directions on where to pick up the bus.
Or go straight to the curbside and look for a NYC Airporter agent selling tickets. In the summer they wear white collared shirts with the NYC Airporter logo (a white plane inside a blue circle). During the winter months, they wear green blazers. They will be wearing a card charging device on their shoulder.
Buy a ticket from the agent. They accept cards of cash and will print you a ticket/receipt right there. Hold onto your receipt/ticket, they’ll check it on the bus.
The agent radios the bus and makes sure the next one stops by your terminal to pick you up. Wait for bus. When it arrives let the driver know which terminal/airline you’ll need, then take any open seat. At the last stop before leaving the airport, an agent will come on and ask for everybody’s tickets/receipts. They will tear it in half keeping the ticket and returning the receipt portion of the paper.
Option #4: shuttle
The shuttle is the cheapest option, but only departs from LGA upon availability — it’s never been available when I’ve checked
Pros: It saves you $4.
Cons: The schedule is erratic and only upon availability.
Step by step how to do it: Follow signs for baggage claim at LGA airport. Go to the NYC Port of Authority welcome center at baggage claim level, and inquire it the shuttle is running. They will call and check. If it’s available, pay the desk $10 cash or card for a ticket and follow their directions on where to pick it up.
It apparently runs sometimes (even though I’ve never been able to catch it), and can save you $4, so it’s worth checking out if you have the time.
And the winner is … NYC Airporter!
In the end cabs and Ubers don’t save much time and are only worth it in the tightest of time crunches, if you’re traveling with four or more people, or you need a transfer at a weird hour like 3:00am. Otherwise,the NYC Airporter is the clear winner with its frequent departures, free wifi, and inexpensive ticket price.
— Laura Rowley