Unlike a bustling city, the Hamptons doesn’t have a robust public transportation system. Getting there without a car is no problem, but it can be tricky to get by without one once you arrive, as most people drive. Here’s how to get there, and get around once you do, without your own set of wheels.
Arriving by train
During peak hours, the Long Island Rail Road (aka the LIRR) is the way to beat the traffic, but it runs with less frequency than the bus. Trains leave Manhattan from Penn Station, and most require a transfer along the way. There is, however, one magical train that runs direct: the Cannonball (this is its official name with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, not just some local nickname!). It departs Penn Station at 4:06 p.m. every Friday and Montauk at 6:37 p.m. on Sundays. (For diehards, there’s a service that allows you to reserve a seat on this unicorn train, but you need to be ready to commit to buying eight tickets—and it’s probably sold out for the season already anyway.)
Penn Station is, to put it lightly, a zoo. The train boarding system is for everyone to buy their tickets and loaf about the terminal until the LIRR announces the track number moments before the train is ready to depart, causing a near stampede of beachgoers, most of them with luggage in tow. You can take some pain out of the process by downloading the MTA eTix app and buying your ticket on your phone.
Getting from Penn Station to anywhere along the Montauk Branch (Westhampton to Montauk) costs $30.50 for a peak ticket and $22.25 for an off-peak ticket; you’ll pay an additional fee if you purchase your ticket on board.
Arriving by bus
Perhaps the most comfortable of the non-chopper options, the bus is a great way to get to and from the city. Generally, there are clean bathrooms, snacks, and Wi-Fi on board. The main bus to the Hamptons is the Jitney, and the less-frequent-but-fancier buses are the Ambassador (also operated by the Hampton Jitney Company) and the Luxury Liner. Buses depart from various locations in the city throughout the day. In the summer months, buses run almost hourly. You need to book your reservation in advance to guarantee a seat. You’ll save money by paying for your ticket when you book: The Jitney charges a premium for passengers who wish to pay on board—and you’ll have to have exact cash if you’re not paying by credit card (a prepaid ticket on the Montauk line is $29; on the Westhampton line, it’s $25). The cheapest option, which you’ll see all the old-timers employing, is to pre-purchase a booklet of 10 bus passes, which you can then use for all your future trips (you’ll still need to make your reservations online for each journey).
The Ambassador ($45 a ticket) offers slightly roomier seats, and they’ll give you a plastic party cup of drinkable-but-not-fine wine to enjoy on the journey (on the regular Jitney, you can expect a small bottle of water and a bag of chips or party mix). The Luxury Liner is even more, well, luxurious, but it’s pricier too. Unlike the Jitney’s two services, it offers seat reservations. The Luxury Liner prices vary by time of day and date of booking, and it’ll cost you $4 to reserve your seat.
The bus pickups begin uptown, move their way downtown, and get more crowded along the way, so if you are eager to sit with your pals, you may want to chose an uptown pick-up spot and endure a longer ride. The 40th Street stop is the farthest south of the Manhattan pick-ups. Know that in peak summer hours, like oh, say, 5 p.m. on a Friday in July, there are many buses departing at the same time—and your bus may be running late, so always double-check to make sure you’re on the right one.
Getting around town
Once you arrive in the Hamptons, a combination of these alternative means of transportation will make it possible to get around without a car.
At this time, Uber and Lyft are able to operate in both Southampton and East Hampton towns, but laws regulating ride-hailing services can be finicky, so make sure to look up the local laws to see if they’ve changed before your visit. Also know that cellphone service can be spotty to nonexistent in some of the more remote areas, like Montauk and the Northwest Woods, so calling a car can be harder than you think. Prices for ride-hailing apps are much higher in the Hamptons than in New York City.
Taxi services in the Hamptons are also expensive, and the prices will be highest during prime hours, like 1 a.m. on Saturday (at least if you’re in Montauk). But a lot of people from out of town don’t realize that you can usually negotiate the price with the driver. And if there are several taxis at your disposal, as at the train station when you arrive, don’t be afraid to ask what they’re charging—just because the first driver told you one price doesn’t mean that the car behind it will be as expensive.
Circuit (formerly the Free Ride) is a free shuttle service that operates in Southampton, East Hampton, and Montauk between Memorial Day and Labor Day. A small electric car picks up passengers and takes them to and from the beach along a designated route. Circuit gets all its profits from advertising, so riders don’t have to pay a dime. The service operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Biking is an ideal way to get from town to the beach (plus, bikes don’t have to pay the hefty parking fees cars do). However, because Hamptons towns are far apart, it’s not the best idea to bike from town to town. If you don’t have a bike of your own, some local bike shops, like Kahn Sports, will deliver bikes to your rental house for a fee, and a few hotels, like the Maidstone, have bikes for their guests to use.
You can take the LIRR trains from town to town for day trips—and rides between the towns on the East End cost just $4.25. Just be sure to double-check your times so you don’t get stranded if you miss a train and the next one doesn’t come for four hours.