New York City, the city of dreams. As the largest city in the United States, NYC receives millions of visitors from all over the world every single year. If you have never been to this beautiful city, you are certainly missing out. One of my favorite things about New York City is the real sense of diversity you feel throughout the city. There is always something new waiting around each and every block. Traveling to such a large city can be rather intimidating, especially for your first time. I know I was nervous to make my first trip to the big city but after many times in New York City I definitely feel comfortable now. Hopefully these tips for New York City travel help with planning your first trip to the big apple!
Tips for New York City Travel
1. Wear Comfortable Shoes
New York City is a very large city and the best way to see it is on foot. While most people won’t be walking around the entire city on foot, it is best to avoid car travel while in the city if you can. Traffic in New York City can be an absolute nightmare.
Whether you are driving yourself or even taking a cab, getting just a mile down the street can take much longer than you would think. For this reason, wearing comfortable walking shoes to get walk to your destination is a great idea to not only save time, but to really experience city life. I usually avoid car travel in the city. Unless I am walking somewhere that would take over 30 minutes of walking to get to. Not only does this save time during your New York City travel, but you can really take in the city around you when on foot.
2. Be Prepared to Spend Money
New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the country. Even if you budget properly, prepare to spend more than your initial budget. Every time I visit the city, I think I’m going to save all this money in certain ways but end up spending it other ways. The whole point of being in the city is to enjoy everything that the city offers you can’t get in a rural setting. So allow yourself to spend the money to really enjoy your time in NYC. I always expect to spend around 30% more than my initial budget. This allows for a little wiggle room so that I am less overwhelmed by the cost of things. For ideas some money saving ideas check out my guide on free things to do in New York City.
3. Keep Alert for Pickpockets and Petty Crime
While New York City is in no way a super dangerous city, using general common sense street smarts is always a good idea when visiting. The best way to avoid being a victim of a petty crime is to not come off as a target. When walking in high traffic tourist areas like Times Square, make sure you have your wallets in your front pockets. Ladies should hold your purses in a manner that is not easy to snatch. While crimes like these do happen, don’t let it discourage you from visiting.
4. Explore the Entire City
Whether you are staying in Chelsea, Soho, Midtown or other areas, be sure to get out and explore. Manhattan has many different neighborhoods, all with different things to offer. You will be amazed at just how different of a vibe one area to another. Not only are there many different areas in Manhattan, New York encompasses 5 different boroughs! Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. While NYC is most famous for the attractions in Manhattan, don’t be afraid to get out there to some of the other boroughs. They are just as much a part of New York and all offer something different and special.
5. Stay outside of Midtown during your New York City Travel
Midtown is home to many of the major tourist attractions of the city. Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, and many more famous things to do are in this area. For this reason, Midtown hotels tend to be very expensive compared to some of the surrounding neighborhoods. Depending on how long you are visiting, consider staying a little outside of the main Midtown area. Not only will you most likely find a more affordable hotel, it will be less chaotic. Midtown, especially Times Square, can be an absolute madhouse with tourists. While that can be fun for a minute, your trip will probably be better if you aren’t staying directly in the madness. I suggest Chelsea, Soho or even the Upper East Side for a quieter location that is still somewhat accessible to Midtown.
6. Choose Accommodations Close to Public Transportation
Getting around New York City by car can get very expensive. As mentioned above, walking around the city is a great way to not only save money but a great way to see the city. But sometimes you can’t walk to your destination. If you are staying on the Upper East Side, I doubt you will be walking to Chelsea. Not only are taxis and Ubers expensive, you can sit in traffic for a long time.
A great alternative to this is to take the subway. While NYC doesn’t have the best subway in the world, it’s really not that bad. A great idea when choosing your accommodations is to try to be near a subway stop. This will make it super easy to get around and you won’t have too far to walk from the subway station. You can find all that information on the official New York City subway website here.
7. Take an official tour of the city
While tours can sometimes be annoying and super inauthentic, they can be a great way to quickly learn about the area you are in. Tours of the city range in prices from expensive all the way down to free or “pay as wish”. You can find tours for just about anything in New York City. Whether you are interested in a food tour, a neighborhood tour, a museum tour, or even just a tour of famous tourist spots, there is something out there for everyone. Don’t be afraid to give these a try.
8. Choose a Taxi over Uber or Lyft
While in many parts of the world ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft are usually cheaper than official taxis, in New York City traditional taxis are still more affordable. I personally used to always avoid taxis because for all I knew, they only dealt in cash. But most taxis nowadays not only accept credit cards but some even take Apple Pay or other digital payment methods. The city of New York has placed mandates to keep the ride sharing industry from completely destroying the taxi industry. This is why taxis are always cheaper. While I still suggest trying to avoid car travel in the city, if you must take a car always go with an official taxi.
9. Eat at Local Restaurants
Although you will be able to find many chain restaurants in the city, the best food scene in New York is all the local restaurants. From local coffee shops and cafes to fine dining restaurants, the food scene in the city is incredible. For this reason many New Yorkers don’t ever even eat at home. If you are on a budget, a great way to try a bunch of different restaurants in the city is to just have appetizers at many different locations. Not only is this a fun way to bounce around in the city, you get to try many different flavors all while supporting local small businesses. While you’re in the city, skip that Starbucks and try something local. I guarantee it will be much better than some corporate company.
10. Allow Yourself Plenty of Time for New York City Travel
New York City is huge. Like really huge. You don’t want to miss out on any of it by not allowing enough time to explore. I know that sometimes short trips are all that some people can afford, but if it’s feasible a longer trip is definitely recommended. I suggest giving yourself at least a week but at the worst minimum of 5 days. This way your New York City travel not only allows you to see all the sights, you have some down time. Some of the best and most memorable travel moments are during those slow moments.
Trust me, you’ll want some time to relax as well. The city is extremely fast paced and if you aren’t used to this speed of travel, it can be extremely exhausting. By allowing yourself more time in the city, you alleviate some of these pressures to get out every second to see everything. Some of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had where just slowing down and people watching. You really get a great sense of what living in New York City is like when you just slow down. This really is one of my biggest tips for New York City travel.
11. Don’t Expect to See Everything
One of my biggest tips for New York City travel is to have realistic expectations. With a city of this size, don’t expect to see everything you want to see during a short trip. People live in this city for years and still never see everything. Not only are tourist attractions expensive, depending on when you visit the waits to get into places can take a while. It is better to have lower exceptions for what can do, and be surprised if you have extra time. I personally suggest only trying to see 2 or 3 tourists spots per day you are in the city. That way you allow yourself some room for error or room to have some down time.
12. Carry Hand Sanitizer
While this might be obvious because of the coronavirus pandemic, bring some hand sanitizer around the city with you. New York City is notoriously an extremely dirty city and you will want to be able to clean your hands often. From street garbage to dirty bathrooms to filthy hand rails, the city dirtiness is no joke. It is always a good idea try to stay as clean as possible when in the city to avoid getting sick. There is bacteria that lives on the surfaces of these public places that can definitely get you sick. The last thing you want is to pick up some sickness and have your entire trip ruined.
General Safety Tips for New York City Travel
While New York City is a safe enough city, there are definitely some things you can do to make yourself less of a target for a petty crime. The crime in New York City has been steadily decreasing for years making the city a much safer place. But of course there are always things that happen in every city.
My main tip for safety is to just always be aware of your surroundings. Many tourists when they first visit the city will be in awe of the high skyscrapers and are constantly looking up. This is a great opportunity for pickpockets to steal things from your pockets and bags. Always be aware of who is around you and look like you are aware. Pickpockets are just looking for the easiest chance they can find. If you appear to be in control of your situation then you are much less of a target.
Another safety tip is to never bring out expensive items in crowded areas. While most people nowadays have expensive cell phones, I suggest keeping it in your pocket unless you are directly using it while in super high traffic areas like Times Square. In a quick confusion, you can easily get your phone stolen out of your hands. I have seen it happen in person. Things like this happen very quickly so it is best to just keep your phone away until you are in a less crowded area.
Final Thoughts and Tips for New York City Travel
As an avid fan of the great city of New York, my final tips for New York City travel are to just enjoy yourself. You are visiting one of the greatest cities in the world. The amount of history and life and culture that exists in this city is incredible. From Central Park to Broadway to all the small boutique stores and restaurants, you will never be bored when visiting this fantastic city.
New York City is certainly my favorite city in the United States and I hope during your visit you see why. The people in NYC have a reputation for being blunt and cold but I’ve always found them to be enjoyable. It is such a unique city with some incredible people and amazing opportunities. I truly hope you have learned something from this New York City travel tip guide. If you found any of this information useful please share it with your friends.