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New York City: 5 Tips for Travel to the Big Apple

So you’re going to New York City – the big apple, the city that never sleeps, the Empire State – a mythical land notorious for its towering skyscrapers, yellow cabs, and Wall Street protests.

So what are you going to do? See the Statue of Liberty in all her resplendent glory? Catch a show on Broadway? Make a big sign, go down to the Today show, and wave it wildly outside the window?

Okay, that last one is a definite. Regardless of what you decide to do while you’re in NYC, there are a few things you can do to make the trip a little easier – especially if it’s your first time.

  1. Pick your ride.
    So you’re off the plane, you’ve grabbed your bags, you step outside the terminal – now what? Well, you’ve got to get to your hotel of course. If you look left or right, you’re likely to see the long line of people waiting for a cab. These lines move relatively quickly and the rate for the cab is right on the window. A lesser known option, however, is a car service. These are usually comparable in price and the cars are typically nicer. You’ll see the drivers lingering around the baggage claim or outside asking people if they need a ride. You could also arrange pick-up beforehand by calling. If you choose this option, make sure to settle on a price before you go. You’ll also want to be sure they accept your preferred method of payment (see tip #3). If you’re coming in from JFK, the train is also an option. Just don’t rent a car. You’ll never be able to park it, except for at the hotel…Maybe.
  2. Know where you’re going.
    Obvious, right? But knowing where you’re going in NYC is a little different than knowing where you’re going, in say, Tuscaloosa. NYC is big. Like, really big. There are bus lines, and subway lines, and after walking around for a bit, you’ll find all the streets start to look the same. Luckily, there’s an app for that. NYCMate is a good free option for bus and subway lines – showing you were they run and where there are connections. And its available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android Devices. iTrans for iPhone is used by many New Yorkers. It costs $5, but it gives up to the minute arrival times for subways. Any navigation app is suitable for on foot travel. Check your app store for all kinds of options. Whatever you do, just remember – the subway, while daunting at first, is ultimately your friend. Once you know that, you can get around no problem.
  3. Bring cash.
    People and businesses in New York City like cash – not credit. Don’t be surprised if you put down a credit card on top of your check only to have the waiter give you a confused look. Cash only restaurants are more common in NYC than in some other places, and in certain areas, they’re the only option. Cab drivers will also beg you for cash, though they’re not supposed to. Up to you if you want to be nice and give it to them. You’ll also want to be leery of who you give your card to, or where you swipe it. If you need to get more cash, use a secure ATM inside a bank, and not one on the street. Thieves can put readers on the ATM that steal your information.
  4. Do the free stuff.
    So now that you’ve got all your cash – do some stuff for free. For sightseeing, most of the ferries are free. The Stanton Island ferry is a good option that gives a great view of the Statue of Liberty. Then there’s parks – Central Park, Union Square, Battery Park, and High Line – an elevated park on the west side. Of course, you can always just walk around and take in the sights!
  5. Sleep.
    You’ve spent your money, you’ve seen the sights, you rode the ferry, you got on the wrong subway, you got on the right subway, and you’re back at the hotel. One thing left to do: Sleep. In the city that never sleeps, this is easier said than done. Construction crews work around the clock, and while the traffic slows, it never stops. If there’s a pothole outside your hotel, prepare to listen to the loud thud of trucks running over it all night. So bring earplugs or download a sleep machine on your smart phone. These are usually free and include soothing sounds like waterfalls, rivers, streams, or thunderstorms. Then wake up and do it all over again.

Tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below. Safe travels!


Roxanne Lucero

Great tips for first time visitors! I really love reading travel blogs. As a first timer in New York last year, I was able to come up with my itinerary by following the tips and suggestions from several travel blogs. They were very useful specially for travelers who are on a budget. I visited some museums, Time Square, Statue of Liberty and the High Line. I also watched a free concert at Central Park after checking out the NYC Parks website. By the way, I found a website listing free events in New York which is great because I didn't have much of a budget. I think might be useful to people also visiting New York who are looking for free things to do.

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