Scared of the New York Subway? Me, too!

I can remember hearing horror stories of the New York Subway when I was younger, long before I even thought about visiting the city myself. Was it really as bad as people said it was? Surely it couldn’t be that dangerous and intimidating, especially in the daytime? LOL!

The New York Subway map, 2016 (click to enlarge)
An updated New York Subway map (click to enlarge)

Most of my adventures on the NYC subway were in the area between Harlem in the north, Times Square in the south, and Grand Central in the east. I did venture further east on two occasions (once even across the water and all the way to Flushing), but soon began to realise that this was going to be a bad idea..


While buying tickets and riding on the subway is easy enough (although let’s face it, it’s no Singapore MRT), as soon as you venture down underground things start to get scary. “How hard can it be?”, I asked myself, as I saw a few teenage girls begin their journey (much braver than me, obviously). As I stood bemused above ground, pondering if I should do this or not, a group of school children, no older than 6 years of age, were frogmarched past me by their teachers, and they, too, all went underground to board their train. This is getting embarrassing…


Unlike the chaos of Grand Central Terminal, which was probably too busy, I was always slightly unnerved by the often-quiet nature of the NYC subway system. Sometimes, you can stand on the platform on your own for a while, with nothing but the whistle of the wind to keep you company, and all the while try not to make eye contact with any rough-looking New Yorkers…


Eventually, I am happy to hear and see the train arriving at the station. All of the sudden the platforms come to life and it doesn’t seem like such an intimidating place any more. Still, you have to keep your wits about you. Although NYC is not quite as dangerous for violent crime as it once was (i.e. 10 years ago), I heard that petty crime is actually on the rise, and tourists on the subway system are probably prime targets.


I always preferred to do short journeys on the subway. It made me feel slightly better than I knew I would be back on street level ASAP, rather than have to sit there for 45 minutes to reach the end of the line (like at Flushing or Harlem). Although using the yellow taxis are not an economical way of travelling, it must be said that the Hollywood movies of my childhood didn’t quite make taxi drivers as scary as the vagabonds and thieves of the New York Subway…


3 thoughts on “Scared of the New York Subway? Me, too!

  1. How is it compared to say, the Rome and Paris subways? I’ve never been to NY but the Rome subway was the dingiest one I’ve ever been on. Some of the platforms were kind of dark and there was a sketchy vibe.


    1. As a native New Yorker, I have to say I felt safer on platforms in NYC compared to Rome! Yes we have the huge rats you’ve heard about but in Rome I felt as if I was constantly watching my back for pickpockets and purse snatchers. Most stations in Manhattan are nice the other boroughs are more hit and miss. The most common crime on public transport that I’ve seen/been victim of is phone snatching. Usually if you’re on your phone close to the door of a subway or bus and someone is interested in it, they might try to snatch it and run at the last minute. As always, it never hurts to be cautious.

      I also couldn’t get totally comfortable with the whole “push the button to open” doors on the subway cars in Paris. Also the fact that they don’t run for 24 hours. However, we do get a fair share of delays during peek travel hours.


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