Getting Around NYC: Yellow Cabs & Common Destinations

Getting Around NYC: Yellow Cabs & Common Destinations


Sometimes, usually at night/weekends, taking a cab can be easier than the subway. This usually depends on how tired/drunk you are. Here are some ins & outs about the various Car travel in the city plus a little bit about common destinations.

Yellow Cabs

There is only one actual taxi company in Manhattan, the infamous Yellow Cab. These taxis run on a fare clock. During the day in Manhattan, taking a cab might not be the most efficient travel (depending on where you’re going). At night they can be much easier. Yellow cabs do accept credit cards and are required to take them as payment for your fare.

Yellow cabs don’t like to go to the outer boroughs. Legally, a cab driver has to take you to your destination as long as it is within the five boroughs, Westchester, Nassau, or EWR (NJ). Legally, they cannot refuse. But they try to.

If you are going to a borough from Manhattan, get in the cab first then tell them your destination. As Lauryn puts it: They have to take you to Brooklyn. Even if they don’t want to. Even if they say they don’t know where it is.

Car Services

In the outer boroughs, private car companies are much more common. Referred to as car services/town cars, these are usually black town cars. Their rates are often negotiable and they don’t run on a clock so the rate is set initially regardless of how long it actually takes (sometimes). Discuss rate first. These are usually cash only and the drivers can refuse to take you somewhere (since it’s a private company).

It is illegal for the car service company to pick up street hails, though they certainly doand I doubt this is enforced. Ideally, you’re supposed to call the company directly to schedule a pick-up.


RightRides is a free service maintained by volunteers to provide free rides at night to women and the LGBT community.

From their website:
We offer women and LGBTQGNC individuals a free, safe, late night ride home on Friday and Saturday nights from 11:59 PM – 3 AM, (early Saturday and Sunday mornings) in 45 NYC neighborhoods across four boroughs. To call for a ride, the dispatch number is 888-215-SAFE.

I have yet to use this service but it is great knowing it is out there. If you plan to use it, keep track of them on Twitter as sometimes they don’t have enough volunteers to run on a particular night.

Common Navigation Tips in Manhattan

  • Uptown (north), Downtown (south) are used when getting around Manhattan (doesn’t work as well in the outer boroughs)
  • Streets run east to west and increase in number heading north. So 3rd st is 10 blocks south of 13th st. The higher number the street, the more Uptown (north) you are
  • Even numbered streets run east, odd numbered run west (for one way streets only)
  • Avenues run north to south and increase in number heading west. The higher number the Avenue, the more West you are. The farthest west Avenue is 12th Ave (West Side Highway)
  • In length, 1 avenue = ~2.5 blocks.
  • In the east village heading East, the avenues count down from 3rd ave, 2nd ave, 1st ave, then start descending the alphabet with Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C.
  • Above 23rd st heading East, the avenues temporarily switch to names instead of numbers like: 5th Ave, Madison Ave, Park Ave, Lexington Ave, 3rd Ave

Dual Named Roads

  • Heading North, Chrystie St turns into 2nd Ave
  • Heading North, Allen St turns into 1st Ave
  • Heading East, Kenmare St turns into Delancey St
  • Heading North, Centre St merges into Lafayette which merges into 4th Ave which merges into Park Ave (fun!)

  • Navigating the Outer Boroughs

    New York City is made up of 5 Boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island

    The outer boroughs (not Manhattan) have their own scheme, do not mix that up with Manhattan’s. Brooklyn also has numeral and alphabet Avenues. For example, there is a 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, so be sure to specify the borough in Google Maps otherwise it will default to Manhattan.

    Guide to Common Destinations via Subway

    • Times Square (42nd St & 7th Ave): 1,2,3,S,7,N,Q,R with an underground walkway (free transfer) to Port Authority
    • Penn Station (32nd St & 7th/8th Ave): 1,2,3,A,C,E
    • Herald Square (32nd St & Broadway/6th Ave): N,Q,R,B,D,F,M
    • Port Authority (42nd St & 8th Ave): A,C,E
    • Grand Central (42nd & Park Ave): 4,5,6,7,S
    • Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge: R,2,3,4,5 at Court St/Borough Hall
    • Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Manhattan Bridge: F at York St
    • Statue of Liberty: 1 to South Ferry (now open!)
    • Union Square (14th St & Broadway): L,N,Q,R,4,5,6
    • Williamsburg, Brooklyn: L at Bedford Ave, G at Lorimer
    • Prospect Park, Brooklyn: 2,3 at Grand Army Plaza
    • Brooklyn Botanical Gardens: 2,3 at Brooklyn Museum
    • Bronx Zoo: 2,5 at Bronx Park

    It’s Not That Complicated

    If I got anything wrong or you have any other questions, let me know in the comments below!


    4 Replies to “Getting Around NYC: Yellow Cabs & Common Destinations”

    1. Only marginally related, but I love listening to 2+ NYC residents argue with one another about most efficient ways to get from point A to point B on public transit. Pure entertainment. :)

    2. If you find yourself somewhere in an outer borough and need a car service, the bar or restaurant you’re at will probably have a suggestion. Make sure to ask the dispatcher (not the driver!) how much the ride will cost and don’t let the driver tell you it’s more. Most rides in livery cars will start at $6 or $7 minimum and go up from there, depending on the neighborhood you’re going to.

    3. I like how you end with it’s not that complicated! lol! What surprised me most about visiting last year was how easy it is to walk the island part of the city, and you get to see how the neighborhoods change as you go. I’m not sure I could ever live there, but the city is so alive!

      1. Honestly, the best way to get a feel for the city is just to walk everywhere! It is amazing how the neighborhoods have fairly fixed boundaries in some places and they seem to change almost instantly.

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