Do you avoid flying into Newark Liberty International Airport because you think it will be time consuming and expensive to get to Manhattan from Newark?  Well, think again. Even with a large family, the trip into Manhattan from Newark (EWR) can be quick and surprisingly CHEAP. Using public transportation, you can get into the City in under an hour for only $13 per person.

Newark Airport AirTrain

AirTrain at Newark Airport: Photo courtesy of NJ Transit website.

Admit it: EWR isn’t as cool as saying “JFK” and doesn’t roll off the tongue like “La Guardia.” Plus, well, it’s Newark, right?

Believe me, I’ve heard it all before. But Newark Liberty has been my choice to fly in to New York City for years, primarily because I used to fly United a ton and EWR is United’s largest presence in the New York metro area. And it’s a pretty quick ride to midtown Manhattan if you’re willing to ditch the sexiness and cachet of apps like Uber, Lyft, and Via.

Clear directions to AirTrain in Newark Airport

Look for the AirTrain signs inside the airport. Photo credit: Boyd Rogers

As a dad, I have a thing for teaching my kids how to navigate airports, train stations, bus routes, shuttles, and other types of public transportation. Why? Because I was a clueless 18 year-old on my first trip to New York. I was completely unfamiliar with (and a little bit scared of) public transportation.  But with experience comes comfort and with education comes confidence.

Plus, I’m a cheap dad in addition to being a traveling dad.  And the last time I took a cab into New York City from Newark it cost me nearly $100 and more than 90 minutes with traffic and tunnel backups.

Tickets for NJTransit from Newark Airpot to NYC

Purchase tickets to New York Penn Station at a kiosk inside the Newark airport. Photo credit: Boyd Rogers

So how does it work?
How do you get to NYC from Newark International?

Take note: you’ll take two modes of rail transportation, first the Newark airport AirTrain and then a NJ Transit train to New York Penn Station after transferring at the Newark Liberty International stop.

FIRST: Stop at the NJ Transit kiosks at the AirTrain locations inside the airport to purchase your ticket to NY Penn Station (one ticket per person). The kiosks take cash and credit cards and are easy to use.

SECOND: Board the AirTrain and head toward the Newark Liberty International Airport stop, which is close to Terminal C, just after the P4 Parking Lot stop. (Don’t worry – if you go the wrong direction, you can get off at any of the terminal stops, cross the platform, and catch the AirTrain going the other way.)

NJTransit Kiosks easy to use

NJ Transit kiosks take credit cards and are user-friendly. Photo credit: Boyd Rogers

These are great teaching tools for kids – they need to know how to read and follow signs, how to use kiosks, how to guide themselves around train platforms, and how to navigate system interchanges such as the Newark Liberty International stop.  (And, of course, to learn that mistakes on public transportation usually can be fixed with a little patience and problem-solving.)

One terrific part of the AirTrain system is that there are uniformed personnel on every platform and at the entry to the NJ Transit system. These friendly folks communicate with passengers, direct people to the right platform, and help them navigate to the elevators and escalators. You really can’t get lost, and you’ll always have someone to ask.  Plus there are lighted signs, maps, monitors, and plenty of other visual helps.

On our recent trip, it was just me and my wife (yes, it’s true: Traveling Dads didn’t become dads through spontaneous combustion). We wanted to see just how long it would take a couple of fairly experienced travelers to get through the system.

 The Breakdown:

  • Our plane from Charlotte landed in late afternoon.
  • After deboarding, we reached the Terminal C AirTrain station at 6:13 pm and used the kiosk to buy two adult one-way tickets to New York Penn Station for a total of $26.
  • We waited a bit longer than usual for an AirTrain to arrive – probably 10-12 minutes or so – before catching the train for the two stops to the Newark Liberty International Airport stop.
  • We only waited about 5 minutes on Track A for an arriving NJ Transit train, and were physically on the NJ Transit train at 6:40 pm.
  • The NJ Transit train stopped at Newark Penn Station, the Secaucus Transfer Station, and then its last stop was New York Penn Station (basically 34th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues).
  • We arrived at NY Penn Station at 7:06 pm, for a grand total of 53 minutes of travel time but only 26 minutes from when we boarded the NJ Transit train.
Traveling with injuries still possible via NJTransit

Even with a leg cast, NJ Transit was still faster than road travel from EWR to NY Penn Station. Photo credit: Boyd Rogers

DISCLAIMER:  Due to my wife’s leg cast and her accompanying knee scooter, we were a bit slower than normal getting around the airport and trains. We may have been able to shave a few minutes off our time otherwise. However, both the AirTrain and NJ Transit were fairly easy to navigate despite the temporary disability.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Accept the fact it takes a few steps – it’s not beep-beep-boop on your iPhone and then going out to meet your personal driver.
  • There are snacks and vending machines at the AirTrain’s Newark Liberty International Airport station, and there is an indoor, heated waiting room on the NJ Transit platform for Track A, with restrooms.
  • HOLD ON TO YOUR TICKET. You will need it to get into the NJ Transit system AND will need to show it to the NJ Transit conductor on the NJ Transit train.
  • We had plenty of space in the overhead racks on NJ Transit for our luggage.
  • You will end up at NY Penn station, so you’ll need to be prepared to walk, take the subway, or grab a cab to your destination within the city. We took a Via ride-share to our hotel.
  • NJ Transit trains run seven days a week from 5 am to 2 am, but there is NO SERVICE during the three wee hours of the morn. (AirTrains operate 24/7.)

Our total cost for two adults from Newark Liberty International airport to Manhattan was $34.71 — $26 for train tickets + $8.71 for Via. Total time from EWR to New York Penn Station was 53 minutes.

Yes, there are other ways to get into the City from Newark International, and in my experience they can take anywhere from an hour to 2+ hours depending on traffic. At the time of this writing, the cost of a shuttle (such as SuperShuttle) was $21 per person one-way, and $90-100 for a taxi (including tip and tolls).

Would you try public transportation from Newark Liberty Airport to NYC if it was faster and cheaper?