Taking the subway from JFK Airport to Manhattan, New York is an easy two-step process.
First, follow signs in JFK Airport to the AirTrain. Once you get to the train platform, take a train going to Jamaica station or Howard Beach station. You do not have to buy a ticket before you board the AirTrain.
The station you should get off at depends on where in Manhattan you are going. Consult a map to see if the subway lines that Jamaica and Howard Beach stations connect to have stops close to your final destination in New York.
Once you get off the train at Jamaica or Howard Beach station, you can pay $5 for the AirTrain and $2.50 for your subway ticket to New York City. Alternately, you can pay a reduced fare of $7.25 for both if you purchase a combined ticket.
At Howard Beach station, you can connect to New York Subway line A, which runs to Manhattan. At Jamaica station, you can connect to subway lines E, J, and Z, which also run to Manhattan. Once you are in Manhattan, you can connect to other subway lines, buses, or taxis to get you to your final destination in New York City.
The total journey time on the subway from JFK Airport to Manhattan is around 80 to 100 minutes, depending on your destination in the city. The AirTrain takes around 15 minutes, depending on which terminal you board at, and the subway takes an additional 65 to 85 minutes. The journey can take longer if you have to wait awhile for the trains to arrive at the platforms.