New York City can be OVERWHELMING to say the least, especially for first timers. I wrote this post to give you all ins and outs to make your trip to the city the best it can possibly be! These New York City travel tips might include things you never knew you needed to know!
I remember when I came to New York City for the first time at 14 years old. I had no idea about anything because my friends parents planned everything for us, but it was an amazing trip! We went to Times Square, the Statue or Liberty, Rockefeller Center and all of the other classic NYC spots. Now, 11 years later I see the city a bit differently.
The city is still absolutely magical to me, sure people might pee on the streets or yell at you when you walk too slow, but besides that, I’m obsessed and I know you will be too!
GETTING TO MANHATTAN
Whenever I fly into any of these airports I normally opt for a Lyft to get into Manhattan. It’s just easier, but of course, more expensive. So if you decide to take public transportation, here is how you would get to Grand Central Station in Manhattan from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark.
JFK to Manhattan – Take the AirTrain JFK Red line to Jamaica Station, get on the green line towards Babylon 133, get off at Woodside, Take the 7 train to Grand Central. This usually takes about an hour.
Laguardia to Manhattan – Take the Q72 bus to the Junction Blvd/ Roosevelt Av stop. From Junction Blvd, take the 7 train to Grand Central. Also about an hour ride.
Newark to Manhattan – From Newark Penn Station take the North Jersey Coast Line to Penn Station. From Penn station you can get anywhere in the city so no need to go to Grand Central unless you want to! This takes about 40 minutes.
Beware of drivers offering you rides in cars that are not yellow taxis with meters. These are known as “gypsy cabs” and they will charge insane prices for a ride. If you are coming in through LaGuardia you are sure to be bombarded by men asking if you need a ride, politely decline and find the marked taxi area. I always opt for Uber or Lyft, this way I know what I’m getting, but of course, taxis (that are legit) are totally fine too!
NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL TIPS: TRANSPORTATION
Yellow Cabs: These cabs have a fixed meter so you are charged based on time. This can really rack up if you are sitting in traffic. I would suggest and Uber/Lyft over a taxi, but if you want that classic NY experience than go for it!
The Subway and Buses
Public transportation is definitely the best way to get around New York City. Between the subway, the bus and just walking you will be able to get anywhere in the city and at a much lower price than taxis or ride services.
There are a few things to know before riding the subway. First, if you are staying in the city for 4 days or more, I suggest getting the weekly unlimited pass. Next, be aware whether you are on a local or express train. And last, check out these apps that will help you with directions as well as train arrival times.
My MTA – First, find which line you will be taking and what station you are at. This app then tells you when the next few trains will arrive! This is super helpful when late at night some trains only run every 20 minutes.
Google or Apple Maps – Load your route before you go down into the subway and both of these apps will keep your little blue dot loaded even on the subway so you’ll never get lost!
Subway – This app has an interactive map of the subway system that is super helpful and easy to read.
If this is your first time using New York Public Transit, check out my guide on how to use the NYC subway. You’ll be riding like a local in no time!
Travel tips for the New York City Subway:
Safety: Be cautious of your surroundings and you’ll be fine! When I first moved to the city I was honestly really scared of the subway as a young woman, but I quickly got comfortable. If you feel weird about something, move train cars or sit near the front where the conductor is.
If you ever get a weird vibe, get yourself out of the situation immediately and make other arrangements. As one of my favorite podcasts often says “f*ck politeness” your safety and well being is more important than hurting someones feelings who is making you uncomfortable.
-Move ALL THE WAY IN when you get onto the subway. This is seriously one of the most infuriating things that people can do. Make space for everyone pls.
-If you have a backpack and the train is full, take it off and hold it.
– Ok, so many people say to not dare make eye contact with anyone in the subway, but I feel like that’s dumb. You’re allowed to look around and be a human, just don’t stare and you’ll be fine! haha
NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL TIPS: EXPLORE ALL AREAS
You haven’t seen all of New York City unless you get out of Midtown! Many people tend to stay in the midtown area of Manhattan because that’s where most of the touristy parts of the city are (which I recommend checking out on your first trip.) But walk a few blocks in either direction and you’ll get a whole new experience!
Here are a few areas to add to your itinerary. The West Village, East Village, SoHo, Williamsburg, Jersey City, DUMBO, Hells Kitchen.
These areas are also great for food! I highly suggest not eating anywhere in Times Square as prices are much higher and the food isn’t as quality as you can get elsewhere!
NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL TIPS: STICKING TO YOUR BUDGET
We are all aware that New York City is expensive. What most tourists don’t know is that if they leave Times Square, they’ll easily be able to find lower prices on food and drinks. There are also many FREE activities that people don’t take advantage of. If you are visiting in the summer, check out this post with 10 free things to do in NYC in the summer!
Another way to save is by going to happy hours. Cocktails in NY can go from $14 to $25 a drink! I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford that! Here are a few of my favorite happy hours. For a full list check out this post with my favorite happy hours in NYC by neighborhood.
10 Degrees – Located in the East Village this bar offers 2 for 1 drinks until 8pm daily! And not just G&T, but actual cocktails!
Rancho Tequileria – Located in Hell’s Kitchen, they offer happy hour daily from 12 to 7.
The Honeywell – This 70’s themed bar located in Harlem has happy hour on classic cocktails for $10.
If you’re looking to save money on your trip to NY, read my NYC on a budget guide!
Another way to save on your trip is buying a New York pass. This will help you save on almost all main attractions in the city. They offer 2,3,5,7, and 10 consecutive day passes with unlimited attractions per day. You can fast track entry to many of the them as well! A few of the attractions included are Empire State Building, State of Liberty, Circle Line Sight Seeing Cruises, Bus and Walking Tours, many Museums and so much more.
NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL TIPS: SAFETY
Before I moved I was fully prepared to buy pepper spray and take self-defense classes as if I would be attacked on the regular. We always hear about the bad stuff right? Of course things do happen here in the city, they also happen everywhere in the world.
So, if you are worried about safety in New York it’s best to stay in well-populated areas (which is like everywhere) and be aware of your surroundings. Pickpocketers are not as common, but don’t take the chance. Be aware of yourself and your belongings at all times and you’ll be good to go!
NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL TIPS: THINGS TO AVOID
Empty Train Cars: It’s a beautiful sight when you see a train car with a ton of empty seats, but pretty disappointing when you step on and realize why. Chances are the AC is out or there is someone in there you don’t want to be around. Avoid empty train cars!
Stopping in the Middle of the Side Walk: This just had to be in my guide to New York City because we need to spread the word! haha There is no better way of annoying a New Yorker than stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo or look at your map. Simply step to the side and all will be right in the world.
Don’t accept items on the street or take photos with characters: This is most common in Times Square, but if someone is selling CD’s or tries to hand you anything, do not take it. They will charge you if you touch it and I’ve heard of people buying CD’s and realizing there is nothing on them later. Also, the creepy costume characters that you see will bug you about taking a photo and charge you like crazy for them. Don’t do it!
What to pack for NYC
This will obviously depend on what season you are coming, but you can wear whatever you want in New York! I’ve truly seen it all at this point! Some nicer restaurants and bars will have a dress code, like no jeans or shorts so pack accordingly. Here are a few other things not to forget.
Good walking shoes : Chances are you’ll be walking A LOT on your trip to NY. I know how awful it can be when your day is ruined by sore feet. Take my word and wear something comfortable.
Hand Sanitizer: Trust me you’ll want this after you get off the subway!
An umbrella: Self explanatory, but I’ve gotten caught in the rain far too many times!
I hope that these New York City travel tips were helpful and give you a clear idea of what to expect when you get to the city!
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