This blog post was updated on July 21, 2021.
So, you’re finally visiting The Big Apple! The huge metropolis of New York, New York can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming to a first-timer. You might be worried about chatting with locals, anxious about the crowds, stressed about getting lost in the subway system, or just super confused about where your hotel is located, in relation to the Broadway show you planned on seeing. New York definitely isn’t a tourist destination for the timid, but you can feel a little more confident and savvy if you learn these important helpful tidbits before you travel:
1. Keep To The Right:
It’s a gross over generalization that New Yorkers are rude. But — specifically in Manhattan — between the hours of 7-9 AM and 5-7 PM, what they are is in a hurry! The population of Manhattan literally doubles during regular business hours due to working commuters. And they’ll be especially grumpy if you block their path. So think of sidewalks like you would car lanes. Keep to the right, whichever direction you’re going. (On double-wide sidewalks, your left side becomes your passing lane.) You’ll keep the pedestrian traffic moving, which will make everyone happier. This rule also applies to stairs and escalators. You’re on vacation, but they’re running to take a 90 minute train ride home.
2. Carry Some Cash:
Smart travel dictates that you carry as little cash as possible. And with credit cards being so omnipresent, who needs cash, right? Well, believe it or not, you will. Many convenience stores, bodegas, food trucks – even some restaurants and bars – are strictly CASH ONLY in New York. Most of the time, this will be displayed clearly and within walking distance of an ATM, but to avoid hassle, bring enough to cover the bill.
3. Boroughs Are Far Apart:
Brooklyn is far. Queens is far. Bronx is far. Staten Island is so far that it needs a ferry! Each borough of New York has its own special charm, and is totally worth a visit. But if it’s your first time in New York, you’ll likely spend most of your time in Manhattan. When you’re considering hotels and looking at a map, a cheaper room in, say, Brooklyn looks like a great deal. However, many areas of Brooklyn can take upwards of 45 minutes by subway to reach your Manhattan destination. The MTA fare is the same, regardless of distance, but consider the value of your travel time when making your accommodations.
4. No New Yorker Hangs Out in Times Square. Ever:
Not even for New Year’s Eve would an NYC resident willingly spend time between West 42nd and 47th Streets unless they’re seeing a show, or getting paid to be there. Now, they’re nothing wrong with experiencing this world-famous commercial hub, but if you want an authentic New York experience, go further downtown, explore the side streets, or even change boroughs. If you’re not sure where to go, refer to the final tip.
5. New Yorkers Aren’t As Mean As You Think:
To reiterate: New Yorkers aren’t rude, they’re busy — but they’re also very proud of their city. If you need to directions, want a recommendation, or opinion (the latter might even be given whether you want it or not) — just ask. Most people will be happy to point you in the right direction, or tell you if you’re getting ripped off, but they have to be invited. New Yorkers tend to mind their own business, so unless you specifically request help, they’ll assume that you want to be left alone.