1. You have not seen all of New York City until you’ve left Manhattan.
2. NYC taxis are slow due to traffic and there is a proper way to call a taxi.
You know the movies where the hero calls a cab in New York and rushes to tell the one that he/she loves her/him? You won’t make it in time in real life. Taxis are generally very expensive in New York and if you’re in a rush, traffic will make it about the same speed (or slower) than the subway. Sometimes, walking is even faster.
Side note: When you’re walking, you’ll see metal grates and cellar doors. Don’t walk over them. There’s always some horror story about them. Urban legend? Probably, but better safe than sorry.
If you want to call a taxi in New York City, this is how to do it: Stand on the curb NOT by a bus stop, put your arm confidently UP and stand there intensely looking at the cars.
3. The Public Transit in New York is great, including the subway.
- Subway etiquette includes NOT making eye contact. Like, you’re allowed to look around ~subtly, but don’t be that creep who stares directly at someone the whole time. It’s weird and creepy. It’s only okay if someone has a kitten that they’re carrying on the subway. In that case, feel free to go crazy over it. (Thanks to Mae Ahern for this amazing photo.)
- Express v. Local Subway Trains (or Buses). Don’t get on the express subway or bus unless you’re sure that it’s going to stop off where you want it to. The regular train will stop at majority of the stops (with skipping some) while the express trains will skip on average half the stops. Don’t get on the local train because it will take twice the time.
- You need to know which entrance you need for the subway via the direction that you’re headed. Check before you pay to get into the subway station as you might need to exit to get to the other side. East Bound/ West Bound and Uptown / Downtown can be a bit confusing if the endpoint is in a different borough, but a good subway map should help you figure out the endpoint.
4. Should you bring your car to NYC? No.
5. Don’t walk everywhere.
6. Avoid Times Square unless you’re a Broadway fan.
7. Check if restaurants have an “A” rating from the NYC health department.
8. Eat all the delicious food in NYC! Don’t eat at chain restaurants and don’t feel like you only need to go to the ~instagram cool places.
9. Give New York enough time.
10. The holiday season in New York is magical, but expensive.
New Year’s Eve in New York City….is definitely something to experience once. Personally, it wasn’t for me between the waiting, crowds, and lack of bathrooms, but some people love it.
More generally, the holidays are a magical time in New York City due to the Christmas windows at the stores, but you’ll pay a premium to be in New York around this time. There is something about cozying up with a hot chocolate watching the Thanksgiving parade floats being blown up. Click for insider tips for visiting New York City for the holiday season, including Thanksgiving and New Years!
11. A cheap New York trip is possible if you do your research ahead.
12. Don’t obsess about the main tourist attractions in NYC; you can’t see everything in one trip.
13. Don’t waste your money on a view only!
14. New Yorkers are not that rude.
A lot of people that I meet expect New Yorkers to be complete a**holes, but like anywhere, you might find someone you don’t like. Maybe we’re a bit more brusque than Midwesterners or Kentuckians, but we’re 99% human underneath all those black clothes (I kid; I own a red dress). Maybe we’re a bit more paranoid and skeptical of strangers, but we’re good souls who will talk your ear off given the opportunity about how amazing (and expensive) New York City is.
Please don’t give a 5 minute explanation if you’re asking for directions. Just look for someone who isn’t in a rush (the biggest barrier to being able to help!) and ask your question, “Where is X?” or “How can I get to X using Y?” “Which stop do I get off at for Z?” Even I’m guilty of getting impatient with visitors who tell me that they’re visiting from _____ and it’s their first time in NYC, but you will always find people happy to help if you’re not taking up a lot of time.
Some other tips not to piss off the locals:
- Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up and/or take photos.
- Let fast people walk in the middle on the right side and if you’re going slow, stay on the edges away from the middle.
- If you’re with a group, do not walk all together in a group in a row blocking everyone from passing you.
- Don’t block the subway doors even if it’s crowded as people might be trying to get out of the subway doors.
- Let people exit the subway/bus before you get on.
- Asking me to say the word coffee a million times. Yes, I say it like a New Yorker and yes, people pronounce it like that in movies about New York.
I swear that we’re nice.
15. Be aware of yourself: Safety tips for New York
16. New York City is tough for solo female travelers.
NYC is not a cakewalk for solo female travelers. I love New York, but I’ve experienced some of the worst sexual harassment that I’ve ever endured anywhere…in New York. Even after traveling to almost 30 countries, I’m still shocked how many patronizing comments you’ll hear as a young woman just walking down a street by passing dudes. “Why don’t you smile?” “You look so sexy”
I once got harassed by a passing truck driver while I was wearing a puffy down jacket, baggy pants, and winter boots!? I take a strong stance that women should be able to travel without harassment, but still use your common sense. If you’re uncomfortable, don’t feel like you need to be nice. I find just walking away is very effective although putting in your headphones works too. For the record, it does NOT matter what you wear. If anything happens, find a nearby cop or call 911.
17. Avoid the tourist traps in New york and don’t buy anything off the street!
18. You don’t need to be fashionable in New York, but it can’t hurt.
Wondering what to wear for your trip to New York? Don’t feel like you need to be a fashionista and wear comfortable shoes. Despite its reputation, nobody cares whether you look fashionable OR cool beyond not looking sloppy.
You can look cool (and black is always in), but go for comfy cool. Think black dresses with white sneakers or chic comfy flats, however if you want to wear the craziest outfit you have, go for it. If anything, someone might ask you for a photo as they love your outfit. Uniqueness is valued, so bring some fun clothes with you (or buy them here).
That said: don’t wear heels if you can’t walk for miles in them. You can always carry them in your bag if you want them for photos, but if your goal is to SEE as much as possible, I recommend a comfortable pair of sneakers rather than heels. You’ll be walking miles.
19. New York is dirty.
After reading enough studies about subway handrails (touching one is like shaking hands with 10,000 people), I always carry antibacterial gel with me at all times and avoid touching the handrails/buttons everywhere. I strongly recommend that you do the same. Similarly, you will need to pay for a clean bathroom whether it’s by buying a coffee or a water or…just paying a fee. Starbucks is on every corner, but don’t use the bathroom of the one in Penn Station.
If you’re walking around, I generally do not recommend the public bathrooms and/or the bathroom at the local bodega (corner stone) most of the time. Pay for anything at a coffee shop or restaurant and trust me, it is worth every penny.
20. There’s not ONE New York culture; New York is ever changing
NYC might be famous for its skyscrapers, but at its heart New York is a city of immigrants. It’s estimated that more than 800 languages are spoken in New York and all that matters for being a New Yorker is that YOU call yourself a New Yorker. Most New Yorkers are not born in New York City (I’m an exception), let alone the United States, but this means that we have a common bond: our love of this gritty, dirty, noisy, iconic city that we call home.
If you come to New York looking for the New York that you see in movies/TV shows, you’ll find it. But, I think it’s far more important to see the real New York that inspired it. You’ll understand why people fall head over heels for this dirty city (I warned you), you need to experience the uniqueness that defines New York: the many different groups that coexist here side by side with their own distinct bits that they contribute to New York’s culture. Whether you’re after knishes, Chinese food from a region next to the Korean border, Colombian areas, Yemeni tea, Himalayan food, cannolis, or even New York cheesecake, you’ll quickly understand why we love this city before dinner time.
Have you been to New York? Did you fall in love with New York?
5 Days in New York: Your Ultimate Guide by a New Yorker
New York City on a Budget
The Best of NYC for the Holidays
Your guide to the New York City Subway by a New Yorker