Trip to NYC: checking in to the USA

So you’ve made it safe and sound onto the other side of the ocean. If you’re flying into NYC, you can go to Laguardia airport, Newark or – as we did – JFK. Doesn’t really matter which airport you fly to, I always select the flight with the best prices. Now, one thing you have to do before departure as a Belgian citizen: get yourself an ESTA-visum. Otherwise, you can’t get into the country. Apply for your ESTA via this link

ESTA visum


Another tip from me to you: don’t start laughing at the customs officers, don’t joke around. They take their job very seriously, and rightly so. Follow their directions and all will go smoothly. Now, US customs takes a loooooong time before you can actually go through. The lines are long and the place can be hot. So just be prepared. One thing that was completely new this time, was that people who were ESTA-holders, could move into the line of US citizens and check themselves into the country. You just follow a couple of easy steps on a touch screen computer, print out your application and you’re off to the security officer. Easy peasy! And it cuts your waiting time in half.

jfk us customs passport reader

Onto the baggage carousel to find your luggage, through bagage customs and you’re off.

Now, you have several options to get from JFK into the city. The cheapest one is via the subway. First, you take the air train from your terminal up to the Howard Beach station. There you can purchase your MTA-card and take the A-line subway into the city. One thing you need to know, is that the NYC subway system is not the easiest one … nor are there much lines that go from the east to the west side of Manhattan, they mostly go from north to south (and back) or from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx.


Second heads up: there are mostly stairs for entering or exiting the subway. Almost no escalators nor elevators. So if you’re traveling with lots of luggage or if this is your first time into the city, take a cab.

Once you exit JFK airport, you will see the taxi line on your left. Don’t be scared off if it’s a long line, you’ll get your cab in 5 to 10 minutes tops. A cab ride from JFK to downtown Manhattan will cost you a fixed rate of $52,50 + toll (around $7 extra). You can pay in cash or with credit card and the cab will take you right up to your hotel. No hassles. And yes, the cab driver will not speak too much English and no, he doesn’t really know his way around town either, but you’ll get there. If you don’t want to wait for a cab, you can also take a “black car” service. This is similar to a cab, but you’ll be driven around in an Escalade, a Mercedes, something like that. And it will set you back $70 + toll. Plus, you won’t get there any quicker … but it’s a nice way to drive around town.


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