Philadelphia to New York City on the Cheap

View inside a metro station with the station name painted on the wall.

Suburban Station is one of the stops where you can catch the SEPTA. Photo © Dmitry K., licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Locals and visitors alike regularly make the short trip to our nearby neighbor, the Big Apple. The most luxurious way to get there in a hurry is to take the Amtrak train. With trips just 1-1.5 hours, tickets start at $36 each way and are much higher at peak times, so the only people who regularly use Amtrak are those with business accounts and the wealthy. The good news is you can get to New York for as little as $20 round-trip by bus in about two hours.

The cheapest way to go, and the method preferred by many locals, is to take “the Chinatown bus,” starting at just $10 one-way and $20 round-trip and taking about two hours depending on traffic.The cheapest way to go, and the method preferred by many locals, is to take “the Chinatown bus,” starting at just $10 one-way and $20 round-trip and taking about two hours depending on traffic. Originally used primarily by Chinese food purveyors buying products in New York to sell in Philly, today it is used by commuters, students, and just about everyone on a budget. Service is from Chinatown in Philly (most buses depart 55 N. 11th St., between Arch and Race Sts.) to Chinatown in New York. Service to Washington, D.C. ($15 one-way/$28 round-trip, 2.5 hours) and Baltimore, Maryland ($16 one-way, $28 round-trip, 2 hours), is also offered. The buses are run by a variety of different companies, and you can find schedules and buy tickets at the following websites: chinatown-bus.org, 2000coach.com, and gotobus.com.

Another option is the BOLT Bus (877/BOLTBUS), or the Megabus (877/462-6342). Both depart from outside Amtrak’s 30th Street Station (30th and Market Sts.) and drop off near New York’s Penn Station. Tickets start at $10 each way, and the buses are definitely nicer than the Chinatown buses, but often sell out, so be sure to book a few days in advance. In an effort to compete, Greyhound (10th and Filbert Sts., 215/931-4075 or 800/231-2222) offers $12 web fares (standard fare is $17) and drops off at Port Authority and Penn Station.

If you’d rather travel by rail but can’t afford Amtrak, another option is to take a local SEPTA train to Trenton and connect with the NJ Transit light rail. SEPTA departs from the major downtown stops, including 30th Street, Suburban Station, and Market East; once in Trenton, you’ll wait about 20 minutes and transfer onto NJ Transit’s light rail to Penn Station in New York, for a total travel time of about 2.5 hours. The trip costs around $20 one-way depending on the time of day—a bit more than the bus, but the advantage, aside from being on rails (which means no traffic and no bumps), is more flexibility in departure stations and times and arriving in Penn Station.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Philadelphia .

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