15 Tips for Mastering Cabs and Public Transportation

The city is full of amazing places to go and things to do. My two main problems? Getting there, and affording it. Transportation is expensive and things really do add up over time, and if you're not used to living in a city, it can be intimidating. Whether you're in New York, DC, or San Francisco or any other public-transportation-centric city, you may want to read up on these tips.

  1. Take the subway. Sure, you could take a cab that would eliminate any need for navigational skills since they pull right up to the corner, but with a subway right being a few dollars and a cab ride being at minimum $10 and usually between $20 and $40 with tip, it really is worth it to grab a subway or metro card and end up walking a little more. Plus it's better for the environment to take masstrans.
  2. Buy the right subway card. Usually there are multiple types of subway cards and they don't all make sense for everyone. Get a prepaid card rather than a monthly pass if you don't use the train everyday. I reload my card in $40 increments as it runs out since I walk to work. If you commute to work everyday and even again to run your regular errands, get a card that will cost one lump sum for a month no matter how often you use it. 
  3. Sneakers. Wear dat. Walking places is a lot easier if your feet aren't killing you. It is much easier to either sit at home being a ball of goo or shell out for a ride when your blistered aching feet are screaming at you for wearing pumps to work. You know what else is not cool? Losing your balance on the subway in your stilettos and falling on a floor you know is no where near as clean as you'd pray for.
  4. Keep a pair of dressy shoes at the office. In a drawer, I have my black pumps. I wear my sneakers to the office, then switch upon arrival. Yay for happy feet.
  5. Do not take a cab at rush hour. It will take at least twice as long as you thought it would, and it will subsequently cost you twice as much fare. Just don't do it. It honestly is worth schlepping it through the crowded subway with the rest of us plebeians at <10% of the cost and half the time.
  6. Invest in a smart phone. Unless you've got a lot of great friends with an uncommon gift for giving clear directions or a photographic memory for maps, you're going to want a little help from some helpful map apps. Granted, maybe his isn't enough of a reason for you to make the leap, but you bet your buns you're going to want a smart phone when stumbling out of a party at 3am in an unfamiliar part of town and the person you came with is sleeping over with someone else. There are great apps like hopstop that will allow you to know where you are.
  7. Make it a point to familiarize yourself with the subway stops you are most likely to use. Know the general area, where they are in relation to other stops, etc. It saves you a lot of headache.
  8. Don't fall asleep on the subway. Just don't. Pay attention. A lot can happen on the subway, whether it's missing the last stop for the next 60 blocks (guilty) or criminal activities you could fall victim to or fail to witness.
  9. Don't get sucked into your iPhone games on the subway either. See the overshooting myself by 60 blocks story above. Damn you, Candy Crush.
  10. Plan to be early. Delays are not uncommon on mass transportation, and you might have to wait longer for a transfer than you expected. 
  11. Know exactly where you are going before getting into a cab. You would be surprised how many people think that "The East Village" is enough of a direction for a cabbie. Don't be a butthead. Have a specific location, hopefully a cross street or an address. Either the cabbie will take you for a ride (oh ho ho see what I did there?) and rack up your fare since obviously you wouldn't know any better or they'll try their best and you'll be that butthead forcing them to wander aimlessly since you have no idea where you're supposed to be. If your goal is to wander around and explore, find one specific location (restaurant, landmark, bookstore, whatever) whose address/cross streets you can direct your cabbie to and do your wandering on foot, or take a subway and wander starting from the station.
  12. Failing to tip is not an acceptable cost cutting method. Cabbies are trying to make a living and they definitely aren't living like rockstars. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to take a cab. 
  13. Have your subway card out as you approach the turnstyles. The people behind you have no patience for you and your fumbling fingers standing between them and their train.
  14. Carry hand sanitizer. Public transportation gets pretty nasty. You don't want to know where other peoples' hands have been and your body certainly doesn't need to be acquainted with that knowledge either. 
  15. Share cabs when possible. Have your friends meet up together and take a cab together. $25 is a lot less when split between two people.


  1. This is helpful for the upcoming conference! Thank you for sharing!


    1. No problem :) I've learned a lo since living in the city!