New York City
New York City is the largest city in New York State. Generally, when travelers say they are from or going toward "New York", they are referring to this city, which is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan (an island), Brooklyn, Queens (both located on the western end of Long Island), Staten Island, and The Bronx (on the North American mainland).
One does not simply walk out of New York City.
Heading North (I-87)
Advice: Don't get stuck in Albany.
- Gerben took the subway out on line 2 to the last stop, and then walked to the commuter train at Mount Vernon East, direction Stamford, and got off at Rye (fare $3.25). A cheaper option is to ride the subway to Fordham Rd on the B/D, where if you have a Metrocard you can transfer for free from the subway to the Bee-Line #61 bus which runs to Rye and beyond. From Rye you can start hitching on the onramp of the I-287. Gerben used a sign saying 'Up North' and got picked up after 20 minutes and taken all the way to Albany.
- Lexande was able to get a ride north from the ramps where Jerome Ave joins I-87 in the northern Bronx, a bit north of the last stop of the 4 train. You may wait longer (Lexande waited about 90 minutes) but this saves the expense and/or time of getting a commuter train or bus further out. There may be legal issues (since this is still within New York CIty) but at least this far out enforcement seems lax.
Heading Northeast (I-95, toward New Haven, Providence, and Boston)
I-95 North runs along the Eastern coast of New York State and Connecticut at this point. Leaving New York City can be very complicated, especially getting past the Bronx, a borough full of decidedly "dangerous" low-income neighborhoods (especially in the southern half of the borough). When amylin was researching on ways out, she found this quote on a website: "A hitchhiker killed in the Bronx will be referred to, by police, as a suicide victim."
- amylin recommends taking the #2 subway train out to the last stop, Wakefield- 241st St. and walking about a mile from there to the Mount Vernon East Metro-North station, where you can take a local train a bit farther afield. To hitchhike to Providence, Rhode Island on a cold winter's day, she took the $5.50 train to Noroton Heights in Darien, CT, usually with changing trains in Stamford, and officially started from there. She recommends this route for hitchhiking North, especially if you don't want to spend a lot of money getting out of the city or time waiting outside. In Noroton Heights there is an on-ramp about 1km from the train station. There is a steady flow of cars who mostly have to stop before entering the on-ramp, and the area is suitable for low-key camping out. A local police patrol car passed her while she stood with her thumb out but did not harass her. (Whereas, if you take the Metro-North train from Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan, you'll pay more than double for the ticket, plus the $2.50 subway fare to get to the station. So, if you're already on the subway, you might as well get the most of your $2.50 (or free swipe, see below) and take it as far out as possible.) Zenit followed these instructions in July 2010 and highly recommends them as well. Also on the train his ticket was never checked.
- Stove recommends taking the "B" or "D" subway to Fordham, and walking the six blocks south ("right") on Fordham Rd to Metro North. This requires less walking, and the New Haven Line trains stop here more frequently on their way north. Fares from Fordham to Noroton Heights are the same as from Mount Vernon East, and it is much easier/quicker to access.
- Poster "Fruupp" on this digihitch thread suggests hitching along Bruckner Blvd near Brook Ave in the Bronx. (This section of Bruckner Blvd is used heavily by cars trying to get from Manhattan to the northeast-bound Bruckner Expressway without paying a toll.) Drivers may be less likely to stop in such urban surroundings, and you should exercise great caution as the levels of both crime and police presence in this neighborhood are relatively high, but this is at least one option that does not require a commuter train.
- There is a bus stop at the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge (below Lemoine Ave) where drivers pick up passengers to try to qualify for the carpool discount on the bridge toll, and hitchhiking at this location is reportedly considered legal. The vast majority of drivers will just be crossing the bridge to reach Manhattan, but as this is the main freeway route for traffic from the south crossing New York City towards Connecticut and beyond, looking for longer rides here may be worth a shot. It's about a 3km walk from 175 St on the A subway train to the New Jersey end of the bridge.
If heading towards Vermont, take the Metro North all the way to Danbury, CT (Change in E. Norwalk). The fare is $7.75 from Mount Vernon East ($9 from Fordham). This puts one right on RT 7, which winds through the hills of Massachusetts and Vermont all the way to the Canadian border. Stove routinely takes this route, and can easily make it to Burlington starting from Danbury in the morning.
Heading West (I-80)
If you are trying to get to Pennsylvania or points West, your best bet is to take NJ Transit to Mt. Olive, New Jersey ($16 from New York Penn Station, or $9 (plus $2.50 for PATH) if you take PATH to Newark, walk to Broad St Station and catch NJT there). This will get you out of the suburbs, and thus increase the likelihood of getting a long-distance ride. From the Mt. Olive train station, you can walk to the on-ramp of I-80. Be advised that hitchhiking is illegal just about everywhere in New Jersey, including shoulders and on-ramps, so use caution.
Heading West/Southwest (I-78)
The Interstate I-78 is a road that more or less comes from NYC, passes through New Jersey and leads towards Harrisburg. Since New Jersey might be a little bit tricky and hitchhiking is kind of outlawed there, it can be best to take a bus ride. For $20.50 you can get to Allentown in Pennsylvania, hence bypassing New Jersey. The bus leaves New York at the Port Authority bus terminal. In Allentown you can walk or hitchhike (within the city) to the entrance of the I-78. (Of course, if you can book in advance then for that price you can get a Megabus all the way to Pittsburgh or beyond.)
Heading Southwest (I-95 towards Philadelphia and Washington D.C.)
Between the heavy suburban development along most of this corridor and the laws on hitchhiking in New Jersey and New York City, there aren't many great options. Reports from anybody who has successfully hitchhiked along I-95 south from NYC would be appreciated.
If you decide to give up and pay: Booking far in advance, you can get a Megabus all the way to DC for as little as $1.50. Without advance booking, the cheapest legal way across New Jersey is probably a Chinatown bus to Philadelphia for $12 (see gotobus.com for current Chinatown bus info; the walkup cash fare is usually the same as online).
Riding trains for free
New York City is a major hub for trains: freight trains, Amtrak, Metro-North, MTA, LIRR, NJ Transit, and PATH trains all pass in and out of this city.
The subway is of course by far the most common (and for many purposes best) way of getting around within the city. Many commuters have unlimited-ride Metrocards, and since a card is only required to enter the subway system (not to exit), it's possible to get people with unlimited-ride cards who are leaving the system to swipe you in for free (as there is no additional cost to them). At busier stations, just stand outside the turnstiles and politely ask exiting riders if they'll swipe you in. See this article for a discussion of the "free swipes" phenomenon.
Although riding passenger trains for free is illegal, it may be a viable way to get out of the city for free. In most passenger trains (NJ Transit, Amtrak, etc.), the only way to ride for free is to hide in a bathroom or display a "Seat Check" ticket found on the ground or from a previous ride. Generally speaking, if you are discovered to be riding without paying the proper fare, you will be asked to pay it. If you cannot pay it, then you will be asked to exit the train at the next station. As long as you remain friendly and cooperative, there should not be a problem with legal issues, arrest, or fines.
Hopping freight trains is another way to ride long distances for free. It may be practical to do if you have phone or internet access, because there are numbers and/or websites that will give you the direction that each freight is headed and its estimated time of arrival, based on that freight's identification number.
You don't have to take the $5 AirTrain to get there or to get from JFK to the city. Take a local bus from Terminal 5 (probably the Q10 to Lefferts Blvd, where you can transfer to the A subway train) for $2.50. If you have a Metrocard (more likely on your way from the city to the airport, though you can sometimes buy one in the airport terminal) then the transfer to/from the subway is free.
- Hitchhiking New York - digihitch World