Getting from Albany to New York City

rensselaer train station interior
Is this the best place to start your trip to NYC?

Update! We ran the numbers in 2010 with updated figures and even more detail!

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It's a pretty common trip for people in this area. But what's the fastest way? What's the cheapest? What's the best? We've done the math so you don't have to. The full details, including explanations, after the jump.

(All calculations are for one person traveling. Travel time is in hours one-way. Cost is calculated for roundtrips.)

Bus (Adirondack Trailways) $76 2:45
It's not glamorous, but it gets you there pretty cheaply.

Bus (Dragon Deluxe) $45 3:00
This is the cheapest option, but it's no frills and, um, we've heard stories about these "Chinatown" buses. Upside: you can say you were on The Dragon Deluxe.

Train (Amtrak) $98 2:30
This is probably the easiest option. Hop on in Rensselaer and get off right in the middle of the city at Penn. And it's not really that much more expensive than the traditional bus.

Driving and Train (MetroNorth) $52.39 3:10
Driving to Poughkeepsie and hopping the MetroNorth has been the savvy way to get to NYC for years. Bonus: MetroNorth takes you to Grand Central. There are complications, though. That 3:10 travel time is a best case scenario -- if you miss the train in Po-town, you have to wait.

Driving and Train (NJ Transit) $52.27 3:00
Here's one you maybe don't know about it. You can drive to Ramsey, NJ and take NJ transit into Penn Station (and it's ever-so-slightly cheaper than Poughkeepsie). The upside: it's super easy -- Thruway to Rt. 17, which literally goes right past the station in Ramsey. Downside: the travel time on the train varies. Sometimes its 40 minutes, other times it's 70 minutes. And if you miss a train, you gotta wait.

Driving $200.49 3:00
The cost and time involved with driving can vary wildly. It's theoretically possible to make it to the city in about 2:45, but that's with no traffic. And if there is traffic, it could be 4 hours. Also, gas and tolls are 50.49 for this method. The wild card is parking. We figured 10 hours of parking in Manhattan at $15/hour. You might be able to find cheaper. And you might also find it even more expensive.

Fly (to Newark) $348.00 2:30
We're not sure why you'd fly, but it's possible to take Continental from ALB to EWR. In that travel time we're counting an hour for airport security and whatnot plus another 35 minutes on NJ transit from EWR to Penn Station. It's also possible to fly into LGA and JFK, but the fares are even higher and you probably won't get to Manhattan any quicker.

Fine print: We used a number of assumptions in doing these calculations. We figured that the car being used would get 30 mpg for the trip and gas costs $3.30 a gallon. Tolls were counted using E-ZPass. Travel times were figured using best-case scenarios -- we didn't count missed trains or traffic. Also, most of the fares were off-peak -- if you travel during rush hour you'll pay more. Some of these options will also vary depending on the size of the travel party. As with everything like this, your mileage will vary -- in every sense of the phrase.

The Bottom Line

The Chinatown bus is the cheapest, Amtrak the fastest. If you're just one person headed for the City, take the train.

Comments

"We figured 10 hours of parking in Manhattan at $15/hour."

You can find parking for about $40 for the whole day on weekends, even in midtown. Since most people go to the city on weekends, I would take $110 off your driving estimate and make it $90.49

Great Job! I was always interested in comparing the methods. We have often parked in Poughkeepsie since they have a large ramp and plenty of room. We've also driven to Tarrytown and taken the Metro North from there. The train ride is much quicker. Is it more expensive? I never figured it out but it probably is since you are driving on the Thruway longer and crossing the TZ bridge. Plus parking is scarce in Tarrytown (we've also gone to White Plains too for the train).

Before baby, we used to get a hotel room in Hyde Park (Poughkeepsie) and go there each night and save a ton of money on hotels (about $80 in Hyde Park, $200 in NYC). Took a long time but when you're young it doesn't matter as much - sleep on the train, then right to bed in the hotel...

I'm going this weekend actually. We always drive to Cold Spring and take the train. I don't know what round-trip is from Po'town now, but I think it's still $20 from Cold Spring. If you have more than one person, it gets progressively cheaper the closer the train station is to NYC, because your train ticket cost doubles, which makes driving cheaper.

This is a great, helpful post. Thanks! I used to take the MetNorth out of Poughkeepsie. But, being a communter train, it's not super comfortable and it can be kind of dirty (OK, just plain nasty) depending on the time of day.

Sometimes you pay for convenience, and amenities (aka cleanliness).In this case I agree, Amtrak is the best option.

Thanks again for this post, and the great site!

Great post!
I've frequently made these kinds of comparisons and found that driving to a Metro North/NJ Transit line is the most preferable, and that the closest you can get to NYC with the most parking/cheapest parking available is the best way to go (because the Metro/NJT trains are just so blasted slow).

Do your Amtrak numbers include parking at the Amtrak station, and if so, for how long? Similarly, do your Metro North/NJT calculations include parking and for how many days?

Also, the driving to Metro North/NJT option becomes substantially cheaper the more people you add to your party because you split the cost of the driving/parking.

If coming in the reverse direction, I found that it's definitely worth the extra money to have someone take Amtrak. It's easier and doesn't require you to drive down to Poughkeepsie to pick them up and drive all the way back up here. I had a friend come to visit from Austria and that's the route we decided on (she was going to NYC to visit someone first).

It's not NYC, but I used to live on Long Island and would come up to Albany to visit my wife (then, girlfriend).

There used to be small planes that would make the trip from Islip airport (near where I used to live) to Albany. I could get fares for these rather cheaply and in-air travel time was only about 40 minutes. Of course, this was pre-911 so security wasn't the nightmare that it is today. I also think that some of these routes have been discontinued.

Then I went with Amtrak. This was a good option, but it wound up costing quite a bit to make two round trips per month.

Finally, I just resorted to driving. This was cheaper than Amtrak at the time (might not be with gas increases though), but had the downside of being tougher on the person making the trip. With Amtrak you can catch some Z's, read a book, whatever. You can't quite do that if you're driving a car. (At least, you shouldn't. ;-) )

My wife and I still go for visits to my parents on LI and one of these days I want to turn a visit into a trip to NYC. There are so many places that want to see and/or miss seeing there.

I even, at one time, toyed with the idea of opening a shop that would import NYC goods to the Capital District. (Pickles from NYC Pickle Guys, Bagels/Bialeys from Kossar's, etc.)

@Spencer: That's a good point about parking on the weekends. We had to make some assumptions in doing these calculations, so there's going to be a lot variation in some cases.

@kmg: That's a great tip about staying outside the city during a visit there. Another place that might work well for that is Westfield, NJ -- there's a hotel right by the train station and it's just about a 30 minute ride into the city. And Westfield's a nice little town itself (it's where they shot the TV show Ed).

@Ryan: That's a good point about the cost changing as you add more people to your party. The drive and train option is probably the best for two or more people.

@SS: The NJ Transit/MetroNorth calculations do include parking (for one day). The Amtrak calculation does not include parking (maybe it should have). You'll pay as much as $6 and as little as $3 to park for the day at the Rensselaer station.


Great post. I love your blog.

If you have to drive to NYC (and it is the cheapest method with 1+ passengers), here is a link to a NYC parking garage finder where you can reserve your spot. The key to cheap garages in NYC is find the ones that are cash only, and closer to the rivers.

http://nycgarages.com/#1

you should update this posting. dragon coach is gone, in its place/renamed is aa bus ($50 roundtrip), greyhound is $60 roundtrip, and renting a car from enterprise can be as cheap as $80 with the 50% off weekend deal

Train is much better bet than Megabus. They leave customers stranded, desk help is anything but that, it was the worst experience of my life. Use anything but them.

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