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20 Things you need to know before visiting New York City 

New York  is such an amazing place.

I recently visited New York for the first time and I fell in love with the city. Although it is a busy place there is so much to see, do and eat you will never be bored. There are a number of things I wish I knew before going to New York that would have made my trip even better. Here are 20 tips I am passing on to you so you have the best trip to New York ever.

If you want to know more about food, check out my blog post on the best places to eat in New York City

1.  New York seems quite big but it is easy to navigate.

The first thing you notice when you arrive in NYC are the buildings. They are so tall you spend most of your time looking up at them. You get a slight panic attack as to how you will ever manage to get around this bug city while you are there. In fact it is actually quite easy. New York was built like a grid. All the streets going across Manhattan are numbered. All the streets going linear are called Avenues. The lowest numbered streets are at the bottom of Manhattan where the financial district is. As you travel up Manhattan the numbers increase. If you need to get anywhere in a Taxi give the name of the street and the avenue its next to like 54th and 5th. This also means that if you look up an avenue you can see in the distance for miles and miles. It is one of the few places I have been on holidays where I did not get lost.

2. Do not get a yellow Taxi, Get an uber.

Yellow Taxi’s are extortionate. Plus they expect you to tip (more on that later). Uber is a lot more efficient, cheaper, and tipping is entirely up to you.

3. Tipping is mandatory.

Unfortunately the service industry in America is paidterribly. To be honest I don’t know how anyone can afford to be a waiter and live in New York. As a rule of thumb at restaurants you need to tip at least 15-20 percent, At a bar tip a dollar or two per round. If you plan on staying at the bar for a while open a tab. Once as you finish you can give a tip of the percentage of the price of drinks rather than paying each time. If you sit at a table at the bar and a server is taking your orders at the table you will have to pay a service charge. A way to get away with this it to drink at the bar or buy the drinks at the bar.

4. Make the places you really want to go to a priority.

My first trip I booked for 6 days. I thought that this would give me plenty of time to see everything I wanted. New York is so big it is so difficult to see everything and if you put them off you might miss it. Make a list of the 3 or 4 attractions you really want to see. Make sure to fit in time to see them. Anything you get to fit in after that is a bonus.

5. Go to attractions early in the morning or late at night.

Because of the time difference I was waking up at 5.30/6am most mornings. Rather than staying in bed I got up and explored the city. It was nice to take in all the touristy places without having to push through crowds. I didn’t appreciate this until I passed the Rockefeller  Center in the middle of the day where it was busy with people. I also visited the Empire State Building at 1am as the building is open until 2am. I was up and viewing the amazing cityscape within 5 minutes.

6. Get a 7 day metro card.

If you are there for a week, a seven-day metro card costs 30 dollars and it is worth it. I was under the impression that I was going to walk everywhere and would not be taking the subway that often. After a while your feet get tired and it is quicker to get the Subway. I ended up spending about 10 dollars more without the card.

7. Get a City Pass or a New York Pass

If you are going to New York for a week and planning on doing a lot of attractions get the New York Pass or City Pass. In a lot of places I was able to skip the queue and it was handy having all the attractions paid for in advance. The New York Pass also does one day passes but I don’t think they are as good for value for money. Before you purchase make a rough itinerary and check to see if those attractions are included in the Pass. Calculate the values of each and see if it comes out the same or more than the pass.

8. Do not eat in Times Square.

The price of food is expensive and isn’t great quality. There are so many places to choose from, pick a local place a few streets over away from times square. You may have to do a bit of research online but it will be more than worth it.

9. Be prepared to wait for dinner.

When your on holidays you don’t want to book a table at a restaurant as you don’t know what your plans will be. If you are one of these people be prepared to wait for dinner. Many of the places I went to for food I had to wait for 45 mins to an hour. When you are planning to eat go to the restaurant a half an hour before hand and reserve a table and then go for a drink nearby while you wait.

10. Don’t be afraid to eat different foods.

There is no place in the world where you can get such a mix of foods and restaurant styles. If you have ever dreamed of eating a type of food New York is the place to find it. Go outside your comfort zone and try something new.

11. Bring an Umbrella

When it rains in New York it pours. Bring a small umbrella with you and keep it in your bag just in case that thunderstorm hits. Accuweather is a great app to check out the weather before you go.

12. Don’t buy your tickets in Times Square, Get them in Juilliard instead.

The Big TKTS shop is the centre piece of Times Square. At around 3pm when the broadway show discount tickets go on sale, queues stretch around the building and down the street. Do what smart New Yorkers do and buy your tickets at the little known TKTS stall in Juilliard. They sell the same tickets and there is no queue. The building itself is quite beautiful. They have a lovely café next to it. It is  great to listen in on different people taking about theatre and eavesdrop on conversations of  up and coming productions.

13. Give yourself plenty of time to explore Central Park.

Central Park is huge. There are so many things to see and do there. Give yourself enough time to explore the park. Even pick up a hotdog or have a drink at the boathouse.

14. Don’t pay for a cruise. Get the Staten Island Ferry Instead.

Unless you have purchased a New York or City Pass, do not pay for a cruise. The Staten Island Ferry goes frequently back and forth on the two Islands giving you a great view of the Statue of Liberty. Best of all it is free.

15. Bring a good pair of walking shoes.

No matter how much or how little you plan on walking in New York, you will be doing a lot. Get a good pair of walking shoes to use during the day. You will thank me for this piece of advice.
16. Museums have suggested prices Museums have a suggested prices of 20 dollars but you can pay what you like. I was told by a New Yorker in strict terms to not pay this price and give them one or two dollars instead.

17. Internet is expensive and free wi-fi is not where you think.

I was shocked at how bad the access to internet was in New York. In my hotel the internet was only available in the lobby and you had to pay 25 dollars for 48 hours of internet access. Very few bars and restaurants had wi-fi. However most tourist attractions had free internet access which I found unusual. I had better internet access in Vietnam than I did in NYC! If you don’t want to have a colossal bill when you get home turn off your mobile data and save New York as an offline map on google before you go. If you have an unlocked phone, for 30 dollars you can get a sim card with unlimited data from T-mobile.

18. Give yourself plenty of time to get to and from the airport

While the trip should take an hour by car, during peak traffic times this could take a half an hour longer. Give yourself plenty of time to make sure you don’t miss your flight.

19. Make an Itinerary

If you plan on seeing EVERYTHING If you are one of those people who wants to see everything make an itinerary. Make a list of all the places you want to see. Work out where everything is and try to make a plan to visit attractions that are close together on the same day. This will cut down on travel time and you will get to see everything you want to see. I made an itinerary using Trip Hobo which was quite useful

20. Give yourself free time to explore.

Don’t get caught up in trying to see everything. Make sure you give yourself free time to just relax and enjoy the city. Time flies by so quickly in New York. Give yourself the chance to enjoy it.

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