The most important subway etiquette rules. How to behave in the subway. Avoid any embarrassments. Be a pleasant passenger.

subway carriage

What subway etiquette is

Subway etiquette is the set of rules to properly ride on the subway. It includes how to board, sit, and the appropriate behaviors.

General subway etiquette principles

Subway etiquette is based on two major underlying principles. 

  1. Facilitate transit.
  2. Avoid behavior that can disrespect others.

Most etiquette rules apply to any trip. However, circumstances may vary. Apply extra kindness on trips that can cause additional stress. 

  • Rush hour. 
  • Summertime and warm days.  
Subway etiquette.

How to board, seat, and leave the subway. Etiquette principles to interact with other passengers in the subway.

Subway etiquette rules

1) Etiquette to board a subway train 

Before boarding, you should wait for passengers to leave the train. Do not line up in front of the door. Otherwise, you risk blocking passengers that are leaving the train. Instead, wait on the side of the door.

Respect the line. Do not try to get ahead of other passengers. 

Be patient with other passengers. Do not pressure them and do not push. 

2) How to manage your belongings in the subway

The general rule is to limit the space you occupy. 

Take your backpack off your shoulders. Put your purse in front of you.

If there is an overhead bin, use it to store any bags or luggage. Otherwise, try placing any bags or luggage between your legs. 

Never place your belongings in front of a door. Also, it is not polite to occupy another seat with your belongings. 

3) Subway seating etiquette

Respect the personal space of the other passengers.

Keep your legs under control. Your legs should not occupy a space wider than your seat. Do not spread them. If you stretch them, make sure that you do not occupy other passengers’ personal space or the way out.

Never put your feet on a seat. 

Leave your seat to anyone who might need it more than you do. Pregnant women. Children. Elderly citizens. Persons with mobility issues. 

If you stand, hold on to handles or poles. 

4) How to dress in the subway

Keep your shoes on. It is not polite to remove them.

5) Respect others & their personal space

Do not occupy another passenger’s personal space. Keep your arms, legs, and belongings in the space delimited by your seat. 

Walk in the carriage carefully. Do not run. Walk at a slow but steady pace. Hold on to handles or poles as you move.

In some trains, it is possible to open the windows. Before opening a window, ask other passengers near you if they are ok with it.

Avoid bringing food or drinks on board. In any case, no alcoholic drinks. If you spill food or a drink, clean after yourself.

Limit noise. Listen to music or watch videos strictly with your headphones on. 

Be mindful of the content you watch. Do not watch videos that may disturb other passengers.

Smoking or vaping is usually forbidden. 

Do not escalate conflicts. If a conflict with another passenger arises, stop. Change carriage at the next station.

6) Subway etiquette for kids

Make sure that your kids follow the same etiquette as adults. It is never too early to educate our kids to respect others.

Keep your kids under control. Do not let your kids roam the subway train unattended. If you stand, keep them in front of you. Make sure they grab a handle.

Avoid toys or devices that are noisy or that can annoy other passengers.

7) Subway rules for pets

Check the subway operator in your city about their etiquette for pets. Some subway companies have strict policies, others don’t. Follow their guidelines.

8) Etiquette to leave a subway train

When the subway train is approaching your stop, start approaching the door. Do not leave any item or trash behind.

Let other passengers before you leave their seats. If someone is struggling with their luggage, offer to help. 

Try not to stop in the walkway. Otherwise, you risk blocking the other passengers. 

subway etiquette mistakes

Subway etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst subway etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Not respecting personal space.
  • 8/10. Pushing or pressuring others.
  • 7/10. Boarding without waiting for others to leave.
  • 5/10. Occupying another seat with your belongings.
  • 5/10. Obstructing transit with your belongings.
  • 4/10. Eating or drinking on the subway.


  • Etiquette of Riders on New York City Subways: