As a tourist in New York City, I entered the subway system with some trepidation. Whilst it seems to be one of the more complex subway systems I have encountered, it was an interesting experience and I think I enjoyed it!
On the first day my family and I arrived in NYC, it was a Sunday, and too late in the evening to do the typical tourist thing and get tickets for the hugely popular hop-on hop-off buses. We decided to be brave and ride the subway. Fortunately there was a station relatively close to our hotel and what a busy station it was too!
New York City (well, Manhattan anyway) seems to have less lines and possible routes than other cities I have been in (London, Berlin, Paris etc) and although you might think this would make it easier to navigate, it sort of makes it worse, which was surprising as it was in my own native language as well. There were only 3 possible trains we could take, and although they were labeled differently (A, C and E) they appeared to all end up in pretty much the same place.
The first problem we encountered was actually using the machines to buy 6 single tickets. There were too many different machines, too many possible routes and far, far too many people! The first lesson my mum and I learned that day was “do not trust young Spanish students who appear to be helping you out of their sheer kindness” – they are not, they want a fee at the end. But then if said young Spanish student hadn’t helped us, we might still be standing there now.
Once we had a ticket and found a platform, apart from all the confusing signage, getting a train was fairly quick, easy, and painless. What I really enjoyed about the subway experience was just being on it. The people, although not dissimilar to Londoners I am sure, seemed so completely different and exciting and American. I could have people watched for hours on there. There were perfectly dressed businesswomen in smart dresses and heels, skateboarders in beanies and battered trainers, and a blind man singing his way through the carriages trying to make a living.
I also love how when you walk out of the subway in NYC, the buildings are so tall when you get outside, that you still feel a bit like you are underground!