10 things to know before you visit NYC

New York City skyline - water view from the South end of Manhattan Island

While there are countless tips on what to see, do and eat in NYC, there are also practical things to know before you arrive in the “City of Dreams”.

When you first set foot on the stained sidewalks of this fair city, glitter is tossed in your eyes as you float by dreamy store fronts on 5th Avenue and changing leaves in Central Park.

1) Allow yourself more time to get around

5th Avenue with yellow cabs in NYC.

New Yorkers will always say it takes twenty minutes to get just about everywhere in the city. With countless yellow cabs, Uber cars and subway options, getting around should be easy (and on some days it is). More often than not, prepare for subway delays, traffic, stalled lines and other mishaps that can derail your commute.

If it takes 20 minutes to get to that Broadway show in Times Square, plan for 30.

2) Avoid the empty subway car

empty subway car, NYC

The subway train arrives carrying passengers packed in like sardines with the exception of one mysteriously deserted subway car. Tourists will run to the car thinking they have hit the jackpot, while knowing New Yorkers will cram into the other train cars.

If there is one empty train car on an otherwise packed train, it is unoccupied for a reason.

Perhaps the air conditioning is broken on a 90 degree day or maybe a stench has rendered the car impossible to stand in. Whatever the reason, avoid it.

3) Keep on walking

There is one way to piss off a New Yorker and that is stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture. The city moves like a well orchestrated dance, so when tourists stop dead in their tracks to snap a photo of the Empire State Building, it can frustrate many. If a photo opportunity arises, step to the side of the crowds and then snap your photo. And please do this not just on the street – this rule applies to escalators and in buildings with breath-taking high ceilings too.

4) Know what to tip


Tipping is always a tricky question when visiting any new city. In New York, tipping is a must for cabbies, restaurants, bellhops and any other service.

As a general rule of thumb, tip between 15% to 20% percent of your bill for restaurants. Check your tab carefully because some places add a gratuity to the bill.  In modern times, a lot of service provider have an automated payment system where you can select a tip percentage to add to the fare.

5) Riding the NYC Ferry

NYC Ferry on East River

When sightseeing in New York City, a great way to get around and capture stellar skyline views is the NYC Ferry. The local ferries run down for example the East River with stops starting in Long Island City in Queens all the way down to the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. You can even go from Pier 11/Wall Street to Rockaway Beach.

Compared to the $2.75 MTA subway card, a one-way ticket on the ferry is slightly more expensive at $4. But the views, fresh air and minimal crowds will make up for the cost difference.

6) Know how to get from the airport

The three airports for tourist to visit New York City are Newark, LaGuardia and JFK.

Upon exiting the airports, you will be inundated with options for transportation to the city proper. Be wary of the “gypsy cabs,” which are unofficial taxi companies that charge higher rates to unknowing tourists. Instead, order an Uber or visit the yellow cab taxi stand for an official taxi. For an even cheaper alternative, you can take the AirTrain and the subway or train from JFK. There is a bus or a train from Newark to Penn Station in New Jersey and you can take the Path-train from there. You may take the M80 bus from LaGuardia, which offers service to Manhattan. Check on Google maps for the best way to your hotel.

7) How to hail a cab in the city

Taxi Cap in NYC

Movies and television shows alike make hailing a cab in New York seem like a glamorous affair. You simply step onto the street wearing towering stilettos, thrust your bangle-clad arm into the air and watch as three taxis screech to a halt at your feet.

The reality is much more frenetic. To hail a cab in NYC, keep an eye out for taxi tops with their lights on. If a taxi does not have his light on, then the cab is already filled. Likewise, if a cabbie has turned on his “Off Duty” lights, then he won’t be stopping for any passengers.

8) Save money on sightseeing

One World Trade Observatory, NYC

Living in New York City is expensive but visiting doesn’t have to be. Despite its reputation of being hard on the wallet, New York offers an abundance of deals for travelers.

The New York CITYPass is a great way to visit numerous city attractions, skip wait lines and save on admission prices. From the Empire State Building to the “Top of the Rock” Rockefeller Center observatory, having a pass that allows you to skip the wait is crucial.

Some New York City museums are either always free, free on specific days of the week or free for select hours. Find ones that interest you, and take advantage of their generosity. Note that this takes into account general admission only – certain events and special exhibitions may still require a fee. As well, some museums require advance reservations even for free admission – best to check the website of your intended destination before your visit.

9) See Times Square and move on

Times Square, NYC

When people think of New York, they often think of Times Square. The busy intersection is a historic place in the city and named as such after The New York Times headquarters moved there in 1904.

Overtime, Times Square has evolved from the seedy reputation it once held in the 70s to the commercialized epicenter it is today. Crowded, chaotic and dazzling are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when describing Times Square.

In other words, get your photos, take a walk around the intersection, enjoy the hustle and bustle and then move on to find a more silent, relaxed place where even a busy New Yorker finds a NYC minute of peace (trust your NYC guide on this and let me show you such magic places…).

10) Go beyond Manhattan

Brooklyn Mural

With rent increasing, small business owners and historic store fronts are being forced to shutdown or move to the outer boroughs. Charming shops and stellar restaurants are popping up all over Brooklyn and Queens as

New Yorkers head across the river to the more affordable land of rent.
While Manhattan will never lose its allure, it is worth visiting the other boroughs for the unique shops and flavors that make New York what it is.

More tips…

You want to the see the most important landmarks and sights but also hidden gems away from the common tourist path? Let me show you the city!

Reach out to me for a private customized tour that fits all your requests.

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