The best way to get from Albany to NYC?

megabus rensselaer

The Megabus wasn't an option the last time we did the math on this.

To New York City and back is a pretty common trip for people in the Capital Region. So... what's the fastest way? What's the cheapest? What's the best?

We ran the numbers almost two years ago -- but things change. So we did the math again, this time with even more detail.

The full breakdown after the jump.

All calculations are for one person traveling. Cost is roundtrip. Travel time is one way. Ranges reflect differences in schedules and peak/off-peak pricing. More fine print below.

Amtrak $72-$102 2:30

The Amtrak train is our favorite way to travel to NYC and back. The train drops you off at Penn Station right in midtown Manhattan. It's not cheap, but it's easy and almost... relaxing. (Well, it is if it's running on time.)

Add on another $5-$8 if you park at Rensselaer station.

Megabus $20-$48 2:45

The Megabus wasn't an option two years ago, but we're glad it is now. This may very well be the best way to get to NYC from Albany.

If you book ahead time, it can be very cheap (round trip fares starting at $20 are a reasonable expectation -- but sometimes Megabus has special fares as low as $1 each way). And bonus: the buses have wi-fi (that kind of/sort of/usually works).

Add on another $5 if you park at the pick up point at the Rensselaer train station parking lot.

Drive $59.35 2:30-3:20

There are a lot variables for driving. We used the route through NJ and into Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. That's 155 miles. Cost includes gas (30 mpg at $2.90/gal) and tolls.

Then there's parking. You can get it for as cheap as $10/day (which is what we figured) if you plan ahead. Of course, it can be much more expensive. And there's traffic, which can tack on a lot of extra time.

But, if you have a bunch of people and don't mind driving, this could be the way to go.

Drive/MetroNorth $52.92 - $62.42 3-3:13

Driving to the MetroNorth station in Poughkeepsie is a popular option for people who don't want to drive all the way into the city because of parking or traffic hassles. Bonus: MetroNorth drops you off in beautiful Grand Central Station.

For just one person, this option can be cheaper than driving all the way. Our cost calculation includes gas, tolls, parking at the train station, and train fare.

The hitch: if you don't arrive just ahead of the train, you have to wait.

Drive/NJ Transit $52.23 - $55.48 2:46-3:19

Anecdotally, this option seems to be less popular/known compared to MetroNorth. But it can be cheaper and easier. NJ Transit's station in Ramsey, NJ is very easy to get to -- it's literally right next to Rt 17. And it's a nice station with plenty of parking.

Our cost calculation includes gas, tolls, parking at the train station, and train fare.

Like MetroNorth, there's the schedule hitch: if you don't arrive just ahead of the train, you have to wait. And there's an extra connection on this route -- you have to switch trains in Secaucus.

Adirondack Trailways/Greyhound $58 2:45-3:30

Taking the Adirondack Trailways/Greyhound bus is not glamorous, though it is relatively cheap. But if you're going to take a bus, the Megabus might be a better option.

Dragon Deluxe Bus $50 3:30

Or, as it's sometimes called, The Chinatown Bus. It's pretty cheap. That's probably the one thing going for it. But, again, if you're going to take the bus, the Megabus might be a better option.

The pick up point is at 128 Central Ave in Albany.

Fly $194.50 - $210 3-3:30

The last time we ran these numbers, this seemed like an absurd option. And now... it still seems crazy -- but not quite as crazy.

Perhaps because of competition from Southwest, prices on flights from ALB to LGA or JFK appear to have gone down (if you book a month in advance).

It's still not cheap. And it's not really all that fast when you take into account showing up to the airport early and then getting from the airports to Manhattan.

Our cost calculation included air fare (US Airways to LGA, Delta to JFK), parking at ALB, and ground transportation in NYC (SuperShuttle from LGA, shuttle to subway from JFK). Our time calculation included arriving at the airport one hour early, plus another hour for ground transportation in NYC.

The fine print: We did these calculations based on a one-person, one-day, round trip from Albany to Manhattan (either Penn Station or Grand Central) on a Wednesday. All prices are from the web sites of the respective transit modes -- except for air fare, which we got from Kayak. All riding times are from the respective transit schedules. All driving distances and times are from Google Maps. All tolls are from either NY Thruway or NJ Turnpike sites. Yep, we did use the EZ-Pass rates. We figured the hypothetical car got 30 mpg (which you should be able to get in a Civic, Camry, Focus or something similar on the highway). Based on the current average gasoline price from AlbanyGasPrices.com, we used $2.90/gal.

Trains run early. They run late. Sometimes there's traffic. And prices can change. Your mileage -- in every sense -- will almost certainly vary.

The Bottom Line

Amtrak can be the fastest (and easiest). Megabus is often the cheapest. The drive/train option is also often a good option. Unless you're traveling with more than two people, driving all the way is probably not worth it.

Comments

Megabus is definitely the best, the Albany - NYC buses are never very crowded, and plus they have electrical outlets at every seat and free WiFi.

i travel by bus and train quite frequently- at least once a month over the past four years. I used to hate taking Greyhound and would usually suck it up and pay the higher costs needed to take Amtrak, but they've gotten much better in the past month or two. They've finally got wifi (which the train still doesn't), outlets, and nice seats (we'll see how long those last).

I live in eastern Rensselaer County and it's a quiet, easy, and lovely drive with no tolls to Wassaic where I catch Metro North.

I enjoy the comfort of the train, but have come to prefer the timeliness of the bus. Ever since my Amtrak train was so late it got coupled to the next train (and I had paid $10 extra to take the earlier train), I've been taking Greyhound. Never been more than 10 minutes late. But I will definately try Megabus next time.

The biggest problem I've had with any of the buses is that you have to plan your schedule around the limited arrival and departure schedule. For instance, if the last bus leaves NYC in the early evening, you can forget going to a Sunday show. I prefer metro north which runs on a reliable schedule late into the evening even on weekends...and weekend parking in poughkeepsie is free.

Ah, there are several more, albeit crazy options.

1) Taxi - Pretty much every week as I drive the Taconic to/from my silly job in Ct, I see at least one NYC yellow cab north of Dutchess cty. Someone is doing it.

2) Limo - There used to be a nice airport limo from Albany to the NY airports. Dunno if it still exists, but it was only a $10-$20 premium over the Greyound/Trailways price. Was great if you were flying out of NYC.

3) Air charter. - Definitely the way to fly. The flight leaves when you get to the airport. No muss, no fuss, just great service that drops you off at Teterborogh Airport for a short limo ride into town. Cost - About a grand.

Dragon Deluxe? They changed the name from Double Happiness?! For shame!

I've taken the chinatown bus, it was cold. That's my only complaint.

Excellent roundup. I wrote up directions for getting from Albany to JFK (via Penn Station) since people ask about that a lot and I've fine-tuned my own routine. (I also talked about Megabus/Amtrak, but just added a link to this far more useful page.)

Can you do it by Bicycle? Has anyone done this? Talk about a leisurely ride...

I was going to comment with what Red above posted. We usually park on the weekend so it's free, and leave around 8 or 9--there is usually a train around that time that we can catch. It's kind of a pain to drive, but if you go with 2 or 3 people and split gas and the driving it goes pretty fast.

Last time we also tried getting on the metro north at Hawthorne. We followed the GPS and it took us over a bridge (Throggs Neck I think, but I always mix it up with the Tappan Zee because I hate driving), but you can take the Taconic to get there as well. Ends up not making a huge difference in gas, and chops about 20 minutes-half hour off the train ride.

The only problem now is that every time we plan a visit to the city, it snows, and we don't go. Ohh, dear.

I take the amtrak at least twice a month and find it a pleasant ride. I took the Megabus once and, although cheaper, decided never to take it again. The seating is very uncomfortable. I am 5'6" and there was very little leg room. Also, I felt like I was sitting on top of the girl, who was average sized, next to me. Thus, while the bus may have free wi-fi, it's difficult to even take out your laptop and position it in a way that is functional. Also, it drops you off at a random location in Manhattan (I think it was somewhere around 28th and 7th).

As far as driving goes (which I have done a number of times), I prefer to take 87S to the Palisades Pkwy, which brings you right to the GW Bridge.

Also, there are two competing chinatown buses- you named one and posted the address to another. The bus company on Central Ave is AABus/ Double Happyness [sic- I'm convinced they got their name from a Will Smith movie poster]. I think Double Happyness is a little nicer- I'll never forget the one time I took the Dragon and it pulled onto 34th street with smoke pouring out of the engine, and the driver rushed everybody off and away from the bus.

Finally, it is possible for Amtrak to reach prices much higher than that- if you wait long enough on a busy travel day, they can top $90 one way.

Beware the free parking at MetroNorth in Poughkeepsie. We had the gasoline siphoned from our car and a tire slashed. No gas and a flat tire when we returned late on a weekend. When we asked MetroNorth about security in the parking garage, they said it was responsibility of the city. When we called Poughkeepsie police, they said it was the responsibility of MetroNorth. In short, there's no security, and Poughkeepsie vandals must know this quite well. Anyone with similar stories?

I second what Patty says about the megabus: While it's cheap (if you book in advance) the seats are pretty tight (I'm also 5'6" and found the leg room lacking) and good luck using your laptop (no fold-down trays like airplanes). The pickup point in NYC for the megabus is also basically a side street next to Penn Station- no real cover if it's raining/snowing; however you can't beat the price.

Honestly haven't tried any of the other routes but I know that driving in/around NYC is a big pain in the ass with all the traffic.

I was doing the cost-benefit analysis myself on this recently. If you have Triple A, you can save a few dollars off the train fare with a few days' prior booking. Our one-way fares dropped from $59 to $44 each with AAA.

You forgot to factor in the 2 hours of airport nonsense on each end. And the underpants scan. How about a 2 day bike ride?

@Jack R - I used to live in Poughkeepsie, and myself and others have left our cars at the train station for up to a week without a parking permit, and never got ticketed. So I can attest, there doesn't even seem to be people giving out parking tickets. At Croton-Harmon however, my car was only paid for up to midnight on a weekday, and I got a ticket at 1:00 AM.

My preferred methods are Megabus and MetroNorth. Megabus advertised a deal for free tickets recently, so a few weekends ago my wife and I went to NYC FOR FREE (plus a 50 cent processing fee). I don't think you can beat that, no matter what you think of the buses.

For a more scenic ride with flexible schedules, I drive down the Taconic to Cold Spring. It's a cute town with a little Metro-North stop. With more than one person in the car, the farther you drive in the car, the cheaper overall it is, as those multiple train tickets decrease in cost farther down south. That way you can incorporate some place you would never visit into your trip. There are other towns on the Hudson Line that are fun to visit for a train stop: Beacon, Tarrytown...

I do the same thing to visit Boston. I'll pick a tiny town to pick up the train. Shirley, MA's train stop, for example, has a gravel lot with room for maybe a dozen cars. But I'll stop because this is starting to sound crazy.

This is a great list! I really need to try Megabus at some point. I used to take the Poughkeepsie MetroNorth train, but I've just been driving for the last few years. Street parking in NYC isn't bad at all if you have reasonable expectations. No, you aren't going to able to park next to Times Square... but you can easily park somewhere (for free) uptown near a 1/2/3 subway stop that will get you pretty much anywhere.

For people driving: Like patty mentioned above, 87S to the Palisades Parkway is soooo much nicer and faster than going through the Lincoln Tunnel. Well, maybe not faster if you're planning on going aaaall the way down the West Side Highway. Also, if you're looking for a scenic route with way fewer tolls, try the Taconic Parkway.

One last thing! If someone is able to get from Albany to Manhattan by plane in 3.5 hours, I will pay for their trip (offer void in NY). Seriously, its gotta be more like 6 hours total, including check in, security, cab/subway from JFK.... Unless you're David Patterson, it ain't happenin ;)

I've been asked to chime in on this, considering that I've been averaging about one weekend a month in the city. (I'm sorry, Albany, but you're still not *the* city.)

If I'm going to be down for any extended period of time (more than overnight) my initial reaction is to check Megabus and book ASAP. I've done the round trip for the $2.50 minimum price, and although having to be on a bus at 6:30 on a Sunday morning isn't this college student's idea of convenience, my overwhelming desire to shell out as little as possible went with it. You can always sleep on the bus. (The WiFi is a really nice perk, as well -- when it works.)

If I'm heading down overnight for a concert or something, though, I'll drive. I've tried the Metro-North strategy out of Poughkeepsie, and unless it's a weekend, it's really not convenient to have to find parking and make sure you catch the one train that leaves every hour, especially given that the trip from the Thruway to the Mid-Hudson Bridge is a total unknown in terms of time depending on who you're stuck behind. While this used to be my go-to option, I've set my sights further downstate.

While the NJ Transit option is appealing, the one thing that's important to note is that parking isn't actually free. You all may have been able to get away with it, but when I was looking into this option, parking is only allowed for town residents with valid passes. I didn't even see a paid parking option that lasted longer than 20 minutes at most stops along the state line, so that cut that option out for me.

One option worth consideration as well is driving to Hoboken and taking the PATH train over. Train fares are still cheaper than the MTA base fare, although overnight parking in the closest lot will set you back about $20. You at least get peace of mind with that option, although the same could be argued with parking in Manhattan. Once you factor in Hudson crossing tolls and the steeper price of parking there, it's not quite as nice as this.

Today, though, I've had enough experience driving around Manhattan and Brooklyn that I've found a few parts of town where I can leave my car in a relatively safe area with free on-street overnight parking, and the convenience and price of that can't be beaten for me. Unfortunately, I can't tell you where I park specifically (it's south of Midtown) because then you're going to come take the few remaining spots away from me, and I can't have that.

There's a special bonus of not having to pay any tolls if you take the Cross Bronx to the Taconic on the way out and wind around Chatham once you're back up here, although the expense then becomes travel time and the risk of a hefty ticket from the ever-present Taconic speed traps. Worth the risk in foliage season, though.

Hope this helped a little!

***Need Help***
Need to get from NYC to Albany before 9am - any ideas?

@Emer: Amtrak's 625am train from Albany gets in at 845am. There's also a 5am-ish train.

Do you have to book the train from Albany to NY in advance? We are travelling form Canada via Buffalo and not sure of our exact times... still we don't want to be caught out...

@Barb: you can buy your ticket at the train station when you get there. If it's not a holiday or otherwise busy travel day you shouldn't have a problem. Or you can buy a ticket in advance for a slightly later time, then change it when you get to the station. There's usually no fee for changing it, you would just have to pay any difference in price.

hi, do u have any input on Gotobus. How good is it to travel from NYC to Albany and back?

@anika, Gotobus is just the booking company - there are two competing bus companies that run Albany-NYC that can be booked through Gotobus. I've used both, but when they were running under different names. They seem to change names every few months (which is very suspect, but whatever...)

I've had no problems using 'Harmonious Grand Tour' AKA Double Happiness Bus AKA Xinnix Bus, and I've taken it a few times. The buses are fine, their service is fine, the bus station in Chinatown is fine.

The other company, 'LC Coach' AKA 'King World Bus' had disgusting buses, the driver refused to bring us to the advertised location and dropped us off a random exit off the FDR, their Chinatown bus station was permanently closed and the return bus never showed up. They've since changed names and list a new address for their Chinatown stop, but I will never again use that company.

If you can book in advance, Megabus is the way to go. About a week ago I purchased a round-trip Megabus ticket for September for $4.50. Total. With less notice, Megabus can be more expensive. If you book a bus through Greyhound at least 3 days in advance you can pay about $35-$40 for a round-trip ticket. For some reason Greyhound tickets are cheaper than Trailways tickets despite using the same bus pool. Almost every time I've purchased a Greyhound ticket I've been on a Trailways bus. Regardless, planning ahead will save you a lot of money if you are able to.

Megabus is more reliable and can be cheaper than Greyhound/Trailways. Trailways buses can be more comfortable because they seat fewer people, and if you get one of the newer buses, you'll be enjoying overstuffed leather seats, which are far more comfortable than the Megabus seats.

I love taking the train to NYC. The scenery door to door (especially on the river side) is really beautiful.

However, Greyhound takes a lot more daily trips than the train and the Megabus. And these days it seems much cleaner than it used to be. I used to give the seat a quick spray of Rosemary back in the day, to freshen and keep the cooties away.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Reaction to the reaction

Over at NYT, Anna Altman looks at the huge response generated by the display of Brenda Ann Kenneally's Troy photos on Slate. Much of the... (more)

Moules Frites at Brewery Ommegang

Ah, summer. What could be more quintessentially American summertime than baseball, beer, and moules frites. Yep, I said it. Moules. Frites. Okay, so maybe that's... (more)

The Legend of Major Duncan Campbell

Fun: Duncan Crary will be telling the story of Major Duncan Campbell of the Black Watch -- "New York's first world-famous ghost story" -- this... (more)

Morning Blend

No arrests have been made in the string of suspicious fires early Monday in Lansingburgh. Troy police have increased patrols in the area, and city... (more)

Coming up: Sarah Fish on the Food Network

Back in February Sarah Fish mentioned to us that she was lined up to be on the Food Network Show Guy's Grocery Games. And now,... (more)

Recent Comments

Although it's outside the Capital Region and so naturally isn't included in the AOA listing, as ever I remind everyone that the Dutchess County Fair is the biggest of all NYS county fairs and worth the trip to Rhinebeck.

Moules Frites at Brewery Ommegang

...has 1 comment, most recently from Rob

The Legend of Major Duncan Campbell

...has 2 comments, most recently from Paula

Photos from Rail, River, Hudson

...has 11 comments, most recently from laiskiainen

Directions in sculpture

...has 1 comment, most recently from Chuck

Road Trip: Great Barrington

...has 6 comments, most recently from Christina Gammon & Bill Walsh