Over the Years, My Students Have Asked Me a lot of Questions about New York City and I have Compiled a List of Tips I Think any New-Comer Should Know Before Coming for the First Time.
1 Leave Manhattan
If you haven’t read our other blog post about 7 Off the Beaten Track Places to See in New York, then you should check it out. Manhattan is really awesome, but I think some of the best food in the city is in Queens. Also, there are far fewer tourists in other boroughs (there are 4 other than Manhattan!).
2 Taxis are Slow and Expensive
Don’t fall for the charm: they’ll gouge you. Also, traffic in this town is no joke. You’ll crawl at 5 mph and it’ll cost you .50 cents a minute. Ouch.
3 Take the Subway
I say this with a small grain of salt: The Subway is one of the most extensive and practical public transit systems in the world. That said, it’s also one of the oldest and has had a lot of problems recently. You’ll get where you are going, but expect delays and be aware of changes in service.
4 Don’t Bring your Car
Parking is insane. You’ll pay an arm and a leg for a garage! Take the train.
5 Avoid Times Square
It’s in a lot of movies, but this is a place locals hate and for good reason: it’s packed full of tourists, it’s noisy, and it’s over-priced. If you must see it, go at night.
6 Don’t Eat a Hot dog from a Street cart
One of the biggest mistakes my students make (I teach English as a Foreign Language to tourists and students) is eating a hot dog from a dirty-water cart. Locals don’t eat that crap. If you want a good ‘dog, go to a Papaya joint (Grey’s, Mike’s) and get a recession special (2 ‘dogs and a papaya juice for a couple bucks) there.
7 Stay Away From the Chain Stores!
New York City has no Walmarts and THANK GOD. Part of what makes this such a fantastic town is the diversity of shops, stalls and stores. For the love of local goods: shop there! You’ll find them all over the place, but especially in Brooklyn and the outer boroughs.
8 No, a Broadway Show is not Cheap
I hate this about Broadway, it can be prohibitively expensive. That being said, you can go see a show for as little as 30 bucks if you try to enter a lottery or get to the theatre really early to pick up rush tickets at the box office. It’s all a gamble, but worth saving your wallet $100/ ticket.
9 Buy Necessities at a Pharmacy
Pharmacies are more of a one-size-fits-all store in New York. You can get medicine, but also snacks, school supplies, feminine hygiene products, and beer. If you need something in a pinch, you should look in a pharmacy. (My students are perpetually baffled by this!).
10 Give NYC Enough Time
One week won’t even scratch the surface. I know a lot of tourists come into midtown, branch out and see some of lower Manhattan, and then go home. They’re totally bemused by New Yorker’s ability to live in a city like that. The truth is: very few New Yorkers do. You’re seeing one of the busiest places on the planet! I’ve lived here my whole life and still have more to explore. It’s a beautiful place, but it is HUGE.
11 It’s Possible to NYC Cheaply
Despite the stereotype, you can do New York on a relatively small budget. Take a look at my post about cheap nights out in New York to get some ideas.
12 Don’t Obsess Over the Touristy Things; You can’t See Them All.
Many of my students get CityPass and then rush around trying to see all of the sites before the expiry date. The sites are nice, but there are SO MANY OF THEM. Again, see #10.
13 Go to a Rooftop Bar
These are everywhere in New York and they provide spectacular views of the city for the cost of a drink. I highly recommend getting your beautiful butt to one of these and sip a martini and you contemplate the majesty of the skyline. Oh, and go at sunset: that’s the best time to see New York light up.
14 NYers Can be Nice
Lost? You can ask for directions. Forgot your bag at a restaurant? It’s likely still there. New York is safe and the people who live here are willing to help you. However, if you are an idiot… see below.
15 Be Aware of the Space you are Taking Up
Please DO NOT EVER STOP in a corridor of the subway. Don’t zone out on your phone as you cross the street. Don’t take up a sidewalk street with your friends with selfies. New Yorkers have very little space to share with each other and we will get nasty if you take up more than your fair share.
16 NY is Dirty
Like, super dirty. Get used to it and get ready to jump those nasty puddles.
17 The Real NY is not in a McDonald’s
I can’t stress this enough. Thou shalt not come to New York and then eat at Micky D’s.
18 Some Laws Apply, Some Don’t
I wish I had a better way to put this. Technically, you are not allowed to cross the street until the light says you can. But, like, everyone does. It’s more of a “if there are no cars, cross; if there are cars, cross faster”.
19 People Honk. A lot.
This place is super noisy. The sirens, alarms, honks and screeches can really get overwhelming. We still haven’t been able to figure out why people honk so much in this city. It’s aggressive and stupid and they do it all the time. If you need a break, go to a park and relax. Central Park is lovely.
20 People Assume you Speak English and You Live Here.
Act like you live here. Walk with purpose! And if someone asks for directions you know you’ve won.
Anything I left out? Any other pieces of advice you wish you had known?