I’ve been lucky enough to have visited NYC twice now, and over those visits, and lots of research online, I’ve managed to pick out some key top tips for your first visit to the big apple. If you want to see what I got up to while I was there, read all about it here and here.
My first tip has to be use the subway. Both times travelling to NY, we used the Subway for all mode of transport, even to and from JFK airport! A subway trip costs just $2.75, but the best tip I have is to get a 7-day long metro card. These cost about $30 each and can be bought on any of the machines dotted around the subway stations. This way it’ll last you the whole of your trip and you won’t need to worry about travel anymore on your trip!
Subway is super easy, you’ll get one of your MetroCards, swipe in whenever you enter the station and that’s all you need. Unlike in the UK, you don’t need to swipe out to exit. Just make sure you don’t lose it!
One thing that’s expected far more in NY than the UK is tips. Workers are considered to get a poorer wage over the pond, and many consider tips as part of their wage. Some restaurants will add this as gratuity onto your bill, but many won’t. Some will suggest a percentage of between 18 and 25% in which you can choose to pay. A general rule is to pay 20% of your final bill.
99 cent pizza is the ONE. Lucky for us, this was just around the corner of our hotel at 1723 on Broadway. If you need something quick and cheap to eat, definitely head here for a slice of pizza bigger than your face!!
On the discussion of food, definitely download the Yelp! App. This is a bit like Tripadvisor for food and will show all the best food local to your area at the time, including photos, reviews and the cost range. We used this a few times to find some great spots!
Another app you should get your hands on the Citymapper app. This will save you countless times when getting around the city. It’ll show you how to get from a to b using the subway or any other mode of transport, tell you how much it’ll cost and even where the best spot on the subway is to get on.
If you’re spending some time in New York, a pass is definitely worth looking into. This is a pass which will allow you free entry and some queue jumps into a lot of the main attractions and sights. We bought ours through Virgin before heading out and definitely got our money’s worth. We had free entry into places like Empire State, 9/11 Museum, Top of the Rock and the Natural History Museum, as well as free bike rental and a bus tour. This makes your trip a lot easier, without having to worry about buying tickets and carrying lots of money around. We found ourselves doing more things than we thought we would too, just because they were included on the pass.
If you’re lucky enough to do both the Rockefeller and the Empire State Building, I’d definitely recommend Rockefeller in the day and the Empire State at night. The reason for this is that from the Rockefeller you’re able to see far more, including the iconic Empire State Building and Central Park. The view here is definitely the better of the two. Seeing the city in the night is beautiful too though, so choosing to do this from the Empire State building is a great idea.
A lot of sights in NYC cost, but the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Skyline are two you can get for free on the Staten Island Ferry. This is a completely free ferry running every 30 minutes from the Whitehall/South Ferry Terminal which gives you some fantastic views of both the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Just make sure you get back on the ferry at the other end!
A key part of NYC, you can’t miss Times Square, but there are a few traps to be aware of. There are hundreds of Disney characters looking to take photos with you, but beware they will expect payment if you do! Likewise, don’t accept any leaflets off anyone, they’ll be trying to sell you something and taking these leaflets will get you trapped into paying for something you might not actually want.
You’re likely to want to visit plenty of popular spots in NY, but if you can, do them early! We visited both Top of the Rock, 9/11 Museum and Brooklyn Bridge early. The bridge we even did at sunrise! These will ensure less queues and much better photo opportunities.
Times Square has lots of food spots, but they can actually charge 30% onto their bills because of their rent, so eat elsewhere! Hell’s Kitchen is just one avenue over and full of New York-only restaurants for far cheaper, and far better quality food too.
My final and the best tip has to be to get up early and seize the day. We set an alarm every morning and packed so much in every day. New York is the city that never sleeps after all…